As promised, more photos from my experience of the Port Kirwan Come Home Year:
From Port Kirwan, here’s part of the 1 Km road that leads to Clear’s Cove and to the 540 km Newfoundland East Coast Trail; it wasn’t that long ago that there were no trees here, all the land was cleared.
About halfway to Clear’s Cove, maybe 300 meters north of the road, is the foundation to the house my grandfather, Jim Aylward, built when he was newly married to my grandmother, Mary Ellen O’Neill, and I’d guess it was built a bit before 1920; Pat Aylward showed me the foundation, and it took a small bit of exploration to find it, the new growth of spruce and pine is quite dense and has taken over the ruin, the foundation is on the right-hand side:
I made a few trips to this site, including one trip with Monica O’Brien, Barry Trainor and Monica’s young friend from Labrador, Juliette; here we are holding chunks of slate from the foundation of the house:
In my grandparents’ time, the view of the cove would’ve been unobstructed by any trees.
Here’s Clear’s Cove:
As you hike up the spur of land the juts out to the south-east, and look back to Clear’s Cove, this is the view; the land with the red hay barn belongs to Pat Aylward, and has been in his family for a long time: I imagine that’s what the cleared land in the area used to look like. Apparently, the cod fishery was extremely active in the Clear’s Cove centuries ago, with many people living in this small area:
I apologize for not remembering the name of this bluff that is at the top of Clear’s Cove; everything has a name, but not names that I can easily remember. Isn’t this a terrific view to the north? The Ferryland Lighthouse is also visible here, though it’s not on my photo:
To the south, the view is of the opening of the 2 km long Fermeuse Harbor, home to various coves, nooks and crannies with the local–and long-ago–names such as Trixie’s Cove, Blow-Me-Down, Kingman’s Cove, Riverhead, Northside, Admiral’s Cove (now Port Kirwan) and Clear’s Cove:
One of the highlights of my trip was the view from the top of Clear’s Cove; this was the view of the vast North Atlantic from my relaxed perspective:
I saw lots of whales from up there–not sure what type, but they were big, humpback perhaps–and seals.
I later met several folks, well into their 70s, who told me how they remembered running around up there and playing in the tidal pools that formed just over the cliff’s edge….which would’ve been excellent fun, for a child, but in these days I just can’t imagine any parent allowing their child the freedom to run around a place where they could possibly fall and be killed.
Later that night I returned to the cove; part of the scheduled events for the Port Kirwan Come Home Year was a bonfire at Clear’s Cove: here are some kids on the beach at twilight getting ready for the fire, which was quite large:
I spent a bit of time at the bonfire, then headed back; and the best music of that night was in front of Pat’s meat-locker, where I first met a lot of the Brophy clan. Here’s me vamping a bit while Tommy and Daisy Brophy sing (lovely harmonies) either a great Irish ballad….or in my opinion a more questionable Jimmy Buffet song; it seems both are equally popular along the southern shore. I will say that Tommy and Daisy made even a dreadful Neil Diamond song sound….really good.
There was a bit of a cold wind that night, hence the fire….built in an old steel and enamel washing machine basket; I’m quite certain I saw the northern lights that night, too.
The BEST part of the musical get-together was this fellow, who’s name I’ve forgotten–I’m sure someone will help me out here–who’s married to….Charlene Brophy….I think I’ve got that right: he sang the Russian National Anthem. In fake Russian.
You would’ve had to have been there. Someone said they were putting it up on Youtube but I can’t find it:
Pat Aylward was clearly enjoying the music….he was up just a few hours later to make a Jigg’s Dinner (here’s one–but not the only!–explanation for how the name came about).
Here he is–does he look like he was up till 3:00AM the night before?–serving up Jigg’s Dinner with Catherine Brophy, the dinner was superb:
Here’s Charlie Brophy and my Aunt Mary:
And after our Jigg’s Dinner here is Mary trying to convince little Patrick about something….and clearly he’s already got his mind made up:
If you look in the background of this photo you’ll see a red tractor; after the Come Home Year was over, Pat cut the hay on his land at Clear’s Cove; here I am in the freshly mowed paddock with little Patrick:
Some of Pat Aylward’s cabbage; his vegetable garden is amazing:
And, finally, towards the end of my stay I went up with Pat to his land above Port Kirwan; this is a truly magical place. You see all those white granite boulders in the background? That’s just one of the many rock piles on the periphery of the property, all of which were cleared from the land to make this beautiful place, truly a labor of love over many generations:
So, it should be clear why I had such a fantastic time in Port Kirwan! I want to thank everyone I met there for their graciousness and hospitality.
I’ve recently received some lovely photos from Ed O’Neill from the Come Home Year; I’ll re-size them shortly and post them soon.
The past week has been rough: I had so much fun in Newfoundland, and then I had to come back home, get back in the saddle and back to work. I will admit to feeling a bit down this past week. Newfoundland is a special place, and I feel a bit cheated now that I’ve spent 40+ years on the planet and have only now figured out that Newfoundland is really that special.
The other day I even calculated the cost of applying for a Canadian residency/work permit ($550 CDN) plus the mandatory medical exam ($560 CDN). Plus a few extra bucks for a criminal background check. That, and no guarantee of a permit after months and months of waiting.
Enough, though, of my wishful thinking…. here are about 10 photos to start with. Get ready to scroll; it should be clear by now that I’d just fail at micro-blogging!
I arrived in Newfoundland at 1:30AM local time on August 4th; I spent my first night in a dump of a hostel, not knowing it was a dump ahead of time (looked good on-line when I booked). When I arrived at the hostel, the odds of finding another bed in the city the day of the Royal St. John’s Regatta were slim: I knew that even as a newcomer. So, I prayed for no bedbugs and then fell asleep for 10 hours.
Later that day I went to the Regatta:
This jumping castle amused me:
Newfoundland 1000 years? I’m guessing this is Viking-related.
Anyway, all that was a pleasant distraction and a way to get oriented after 4 flights and a whole day of travel. The REAL reason I was in Newfoundland was to visit Port Kirwan, known as Admiral’s Cove back in the day of my grandparents: Adrian Fennelly, also headed to the Port Kirwan Come Home Year, arranged ahead of time to pick me up at the hostel in St. John’s (he’s the one who first called it a dump) and take me down the coast. Though it should be said that no-one says “down”, even when you’re going south; no matter where you’re going in Newfoundland, you’re always going “up”. So even though we were going south an hour to Port Kirwan, we were really going “up” the shore.
I should mention that I purchased a Newfoundland dictionary during my trip.
Thanks, Adrian, for the ride!
This is the view from the road right before it goes downhill into the cove where Port Kirwan is located:
And this is by and large Port Kirwan, with the little wharf off to the left:
I was present for–and properly registered to attend–the Port Kirwan Come Home Year: here are all the welcome bags for attendees, each with a brochure with the event calendar and a t-shirt:
On the opening day there was a big Mass, and here are folks outside the church; I stood a bit of a distance away:
The next day there was a regatta; which sadly was a bit forlorn looking due to what I’d call inclement weather but which the locals would likely call summer:
One of the themes of the Come Home Year was “Christmas in the Cove”: many people who used to live there, or who grew up there, can’t come “home” for Christmas but would like to, so, hence, the Christmas-in-August theme, which explains the Santa Claus at the regatta:
There were Mummers, too (which is apparently still a tradition up there) but I missed them…..because what happened, inevitably, was that I stopped attending most of the events because I got very happily wrapped up with my relatives:
That’s me with my lovely Aunt Mary, from Boston, who was born in Port Kirwan 87 years ago and was back for a bit of reunion, and her second-cousin Pat Aylward. I’m not sure what that makes me to Pat: a second cousin once removed? I don’t know. The relationship is distant, but it sure felt like we were from the same family! You can’t see it, but I’m sure we’re each holding a glass of screech:
All activities from that point forward seemed to center between Pat’s house (foreground) and the delightful rental holiday cottage (Ballygall Cottage) his daughter owns (the red one in the background, where I stayed with my Aunt Mary and Evvy); the metal Quonset hut in the middle is Pat’s licensed meat-processing facility:
Here’s a close-up of the exquisite Ballygall Cottage which is just a great vacation rental, I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of a Newfoundland holiday; between here and Pat’s home next door, we spent all hours telling stories and trying to figure out how everyone was related.
Here’s Mary and Evvy one morning behind the cottage, Pat’s cows in the background; at this stage, we’re all drinking tea…no screech…yet.
Part 2 of the Newfoundland Photo Marathon tomorrow; because this is just the beginning! Looking at all these photos makes me want to head back there…soon!
Hard to believe, but it was just yesterday late afternoon I was in St. John’s! I’m very tired from 4 flights home today and running through airports to make connections. And given the speed with which US Customs officials work, believe me, I ran to make my flight.
Above is a snapshot of St. John’s harbor; it’s a general shot so you can see neither the business district or the industrial shipping areas. Or “the bubbler”; which is where lots of the city’s raw sewage enters the harbor. I was told “you need a shot” if you fall in the harbor. That is encouraging.
This is the narrow entrance to the harbor; I’ve read it’s about 11 meters deep:
And then looking out from the harbor, nothing but the endless North Atlantic; here’s a windswept shot of me and Deanne Aylward, one of the many gracious Aylwards up there you’ll hear more about in the coming days (as I edit my photos!!):
The first time I caught a glimpse of the massive sea past the harbor entrance I stopped in my tracks. That was my first day in St. John’s. It’s not just because of I’m a desert-dweller; anyone with any sense should be sensibly awe-struck by the raw power of the ocean up there, and it’s influence on human imagination, narratives and commerce.
I’m off to Newfoundland in about 8 hours, for the Port Kirwan Come Home Year, which I’m posted about here before. I usually don’t sleep well the night before a big trip. I doubt I’ll spend any time updating this blog while I’m there; but in a little less than 2 weeks I’ll be back with lots of photos to share.
See you then!!
When I came home from Boston last April, my insufferably long and cramped flight (and I had an aisle seat!) was made infinitely more bearable because I had half a dozen of my Aunt Mary’s super-fresh biscuits in a Ziploc bag.
Recently I tried making these biscuits. Now, I’m a competent cook, but a good biscuit is not easy to make and I think I’ll need some more practice after this.
The recipe is: 2 cups white flour, 2 cups whole-wheat flour, 2 Tbsp (yes) baking powder, 2 sticks butter, and about 1 3/4 cups milk (exactly how much milk will depend on the type and grind of flour) and 3 Tbsp sugar. Mary said the recipe calls for some salt, but she never adds it. There’s probably enough sodium in the leavening.
Here’s how you start: flour, sugar and leavening a bowl with the butter cut in:
I used my pastry cutter and my fingers to get the butter/flour mixture to have the consistency of coarse crumbs, then made a small “well” in the middle, where the milk went:
The secret to biscuits, scones or pie pastry is simple: hardly mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones, just barely toss dry and wet together to combine, and handle the dough as little as possible. In this case, I poured the milk in the well, and just “folded” the ingredients together (this is my aunt’s word); I then turned the (sticky) dough out on the lightly floured counter top and kneaded just 8 times (this exact number is per my aunt); after that, I rolled out the dough; you can see the pale bits of butter in the dough, evidence of the dough being handled minimally:
I rolled it too thin, though; I guess I was instinctively thinking I was making pie crust. Anyway, I cut biscuit-shapes with a mason jar lid, and slid them onto a greased cookie sheet, not realizing the biscuits were too thin until they were done:
The biscuits bake for 12 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 425; though my 1978 model electric oven runs hot and I set my oven to 375 and baked for 12 minutes. Every oven is different, so…..Know thine oven!
My biscuits tasted good, but since I rolled out the dough too thin, I wound up with a shape more reminiscent of Eucharist than biscuit; flat, but tastier than any religious wafer (thankfully!). Next time I’ll make my biscuits twice as thick and resist the urge to roll out the dough much. One day I’ll have this recipe down!
I got a lovely email the other day from Adrian Fennelly; he saw my post on the Port Kirwan Come Home Year member’s page, and he had this to say:
“I was born and raised in Port Kirwan and now live in Oshawa, Ontario. You mentioned in your intro. that you play the Irish fiddle. I have a cousin (by marriage) named Belle Fennelly who lives in Port Kirwan, who is a fabulous Accordion player, she is in her 90s and still going strong. In August we must get you and her together and make some great music.
Hoping to meet you in August.”
I’ve since written Adrian back; he has a huge collection of Irish song recordings and is sending me some. In exchange I’ll surely buy us a round or two at the CHY this summer in Newfoundland. I’m really looking forward to meeting his cousin!
My Aunt Mary of Hingham, Massachusetts, who I hope will be joining me in Newfoundland this summer for the Port Kirwan Come Home Year (she was born there) sent me the following joke last week:
During a recent Password Audit at the Bank of Ireland it was found that Paddy O’Toole was using the following password:
When Paddy was asked why he had such a long password, he replied: ”Bejazus! are yez feckin’ stupid? Shore Oi was told me password had to be at least 8 characters long and include one capital”
I’ve always thought it a bit bizarre that I have relatives–and quite close ones at that–who are from Newfoundland. I mean, how many people can say that? It’s a small, isolated part of the world and a largely misunderstood one at that. Rachel Maddow’s mother is from Newfoundland; so that’s already a very positive indicator.
Anyway, I’ve always wanted to go there. I think I’d really like it; I love austere landscapes. I’m less fond of the cold and damp but can make due for a short period of time.
Looks like 2010 is going to be my lucky year because in the little village where my grandparents–and my very favorite aunt–were born is having a reunion: it’s called the Port Kirwan Come Home Year.
I contacted a distant cousin, Deanne Aylward, who lives in St. John’s and who has a rental home in the village; she says she’ll rent it to me for the reunion and I’ve already offered to provide a deposit. My Aunt Mary says she’ll make the trip, if she’s still alive and kicking (she’s in her very youthful mid-80s); she was born in Port Kirwan, and if she can make it, so can some of my other kin: and that means you, O’Neil and Aylward cousins: you know who you are!