Conception Bay Newfoundland
(inc. 1962; pop. 1981, 1789). Holyrood is located at the head of Conception Bay, about 48 km (30 mi) southwest of St. John's. The community is spread out along the southern shoreline of a deep, well-protected, 7.25 km (4.5 mi-) long inlet of Conception Bay, known as Holyrood Bay. Settlement has always been concentrated along the shores of one of the two arms of the inlet, the South Arm, although North Arm has always been the site of a few homes as well. Good anchorage is provided by the waters in South Arm in depths of 16 to 18 fm (29.3 to 32.9 m) and in North Arm in depths of 9 to 10 fm (16.5 to 18.3 m). The port of Holyrood, which is controlled by Canadian Immigration and Customs personnel, is normally ice-free year-round.
The origin of the name Holyrood is somewhat obscure. According to M.F. Howley (n.d.) the name is from Old English and originally meant ``Holy Cross.'' According to E.R. Seary (1971), the application of the name was probably not religious; rather, the name was probably transferred to the area from Holyrood House in Edinburgh by either John Mason qv or one of his business partners in the early 1600s.
Although local tradition maintains that Holyrood's first settlers arrived in the late 1600s, evidence of an early steady occupation does not exist. Rather it appears that until the late 1700s such activity in the area was virtually confined to nearby Harbour Main, a cove which was not set back as far inland as Holyrood and was therefore somewhat more accessible to crews from Great Britain. When settlement of Holyrood Bay did occur, in the last three decades of the Eighteenth Century, it was Irishmen who made up the majority of the immigrants. According to local tradition, a small number of Micmac from Placentia Bay and a few Portuguese also settled in Holyrood. Some of the earliest names recorded in the settlement were those of J. Healey, W. Hickey, William and Thomas Hawco, J. Barrett, F. Benson and Thomas Farrell, all of whom received property grants for land in Holyrood in the 1780s and 1790s.
The number of settlers swelled in the early 1800s, and by 1836 there were 470 inhabitants; by 1857 there were 980. Thereafter the population increased rather slowly and by 1891 there were 1185 people living in Holyrood. Throughout that century and the next virtually all the inhabitants were Roman Catholic. Throughout the Century fishing was a very important source of income, although the inshore cod fishery, which was a mainstay elsewhere, was not important in Holyrood. Instead, the Bank, Western and Labrador fisheries drew most men from the settlement each summer, and the seal hunt off the northeast coast of the Island occupied them again in winter. What inshore fishing there was, was done for bait, since capelin, squid and herring were abundant in the waters of the bay. Later in the Century and during much of the next, bait was sold in large amounts during the early summer to bankers which sailed into Holyrood Bay expressly for that purpose.
As well as the fishery, agriculture was an important undertaking. In the 1850s it was said that many in the area depended solely upon it because of a drop in the fishery and for that reason area residents petitioned government to improve the roads in the area, presumably so that markets would be more accessible. Over twenty years later agriculture continued to be an important source of income in the area: Lovell's Newfoundland Directory (1871) listed seventy-eight of the 103 heads of households in Holyrood as farmers, but only six as fishermen and thirteen as planters. According to the Census the common crops of Newfoundland were grown as were oats, and sheep, poultry, horses, hogs, goats and cattle were raised.
Near the end of the Century the economy of Holyrood began to change markedly. In 1892 the railway line from St. John's passed through Holyrood. As well as improving transportation and communication links with the capital and later with the rest of the Island the railway also offered alternative employment for a small number of people in Holyrood. (In 1898 eight people were reportedly working on the line.) The new railway also helped to make Holyrood something of a vacation spot. As early as 1812, Holyrood and the surrounding area had been noted as a beautiful scenic area:
[In the area are] several considerable settlements, formed on the borders of deep bays, which are separated by high perpendicular rocks of two or three leagues in length, and scarcely more than a mile in breadth. The scenery here surpasses any thing that can be conceived of wildness and confusion, through an extent of several leagues... (L.A. Anspach; 1819, p. 300).
As early as the 1830s a road connected St. John's with Holyrood, and by the 1860s two boarding houses were reported in the settlement as was a hotel. When the railway reached the settlement the number of tourists from St. John's who vacationed in Holyrood increased, and as well as new summer homes a new hotel was constructed in the community. Since then tourism has continued to play a part in the economy in the Twentieth Century. In 1982 recreational facilities provided by the municipality and a privately owned motel attracted people to the area.
During the same time that the railway line was being extended across the Island in the 1890s the fisheries of the Colony went into a serious decline. Holyrood did not escape from the effects of this decline and the numbers of those involved in the Labrador fishery and seal hunt decreased steadily. At least partially as a result of this, emigration from the area to the eastern coast of the United States occurred, and many sought, and found, employment at the large iron-ore mines on Bell Island qv in Conception Bay. Of those who remained in the community to work, many took part in the capelin, squid and herring fisheries. At first, these bait fishes were sold, apparently with tidy profits, to bankers from other parts of the Island and the mainland. In 1916, however, the Carroll family of Holyrood opened a bait cold-storage plant which thereafter bought much of the bait and shipped it to fishermen around the Island. By 1935 ``Holyrood [was] the most famous harbour for bait in Newfoundland, and in a good season, a fishermen, at twenty cents a hundred, [would] earn enough to buy the necessaries of life for the winter'' (W.J. Browne: 1935).
The bait fishery, supplemented by small-scale agriculture, however, was not sufficient to sustain a growing population. Emigration continued as before and within Newfoundland jobs were found at Buchans after 1925 and at the United States and Canadian military bases after 1939. As a result the population of Holyrood declined in the first half of the Twentieth Century. In 1921 there were 1050 people in Holyrood and area; by 1935 there were 951 and by 1945, 707.
Following Confederation the Newfoundland Government initiated a programme of industrialization in the new Province. As part of this general scheme Holyrood became the site of a rubber-manufacturing plant in 1954. The enterprise encountered serious difficulties from the beginning and in the same year the factory was closed. In the following decade the factory was taken over by a private concern to house facilities for retreading tires. It reportedly employed seven men for a short period of time before closing down as well. In 1960 a third attempt to establish a major industrial project in the community was started. In that year construction was begun on a Golden Eagle (later Ultramar Canada Limited) oil refinery on the shores of the South Arm. When completed one year later it was the third refinery to be built in Atlantic Canada. With initial capacity of 8,500 barrels a day, the operation eventually grew to a capacity of 15,000 barrels a day. It employed about seventy people until it closed in 1983 as a result of decreased demand for heavy fuels.
Eight years after the beginning of the oil refinery, the Provincial Government authorized the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Corporation to begin construction of a thermal electric generating station in Holyrood. The plant was initially equipped with two 150 MW turbine generators with two furnaces; the fuel used was Bunker ``C'' oil which was delivered to the site by way of a large marine terminal built expressly for the hydro plant. By 1980 the plant, with a capacity of 450 MW, supplied almost fifty per cent of Newfoundland Hydro's annual electricity output.
In addition to these industrial enterprises Holyrood has been sustained to a degree by its traditional pursuits. In the early 1980s the fishery annually employed a few men. In 1982 Fishery Products Limited operated the cold-storage plant once operated by Carroll's, and continued to process bait fishes. Agriculture was also pursued on a small scale. The railway, which had once been a notable employer, was of little or no importance in the 1980s. The paved Conception Bay Highway from St . John's through Holyrood to the north shore of Conception Bay brought tourists and supplies to the town in 1982.
Formal schooling must have been one of the first services provided to the inhabitants of Holyrood, for a school was reported there in the first Census of 1836. Little is known of this school, however. In 1839 yet another school, which was Roman Catholic, was established and taught by a Mr. Woodford. According to the Journal of the House of Assembly (1859, pp. 351-352), the school was ``furnished with four desks and forms, but these are not sufficient .... [The teacher] teaches spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic and grammar.''
By 1866 there were three small Roman Catholic schools in the community. During the rest of the Nineteenth Century each school had only one teacher, but by 1911 there were a total of eight teachers at the schools. In the 1940s all three buildings were demolished and replaced by three new structures. The school built in the centre of the community had three classrooms, modern heating and indoor bathrooms, while that on the North Arm had two classrooms and the structure on the south side had only one. In 1957 a central high school was constructed and the three old schools were transformed into elementary institutions. In the late 1960s high-school students began attending classes in nearby Avondale. In 1982 one elementary school, Holy Cross Elementary School, operated in the town.
Church services in Holyrood were begun quite early as well: the first church, which was Roman Catholic, was constructed in 1830. A second structure, also Roman Catholic, was built sometime later in the Nineteenth Century or early in the Twentieth Century. Around the same time, in 1891, the Parish of Holyrood was created and the first parish priest, Rev. Michael Hanley, was appointed. The second church burned down in 1918 and in the same year, a third church building was built; it was this building which was still standing in 1982.
In 1961 Holyrood was first incorporated and shortly thereafter a Board of Trustees was appointed to run the municipality. Eight years later the area was incorporated as a town and its first elections were held. In 1982 town services included a water and sewer system, recreational facilities at the Municipal Centennial Park, a fire hall, garbage collection and street lighting. The federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police maintained a detachment (established in 1967) in the town, and a provincial magistrate held court there.
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