The or­ange and the green

A look back at New­found­land’s colour­ful sec­tar­ian trou­bles


As ado­les­cents, David Dawe of Bay Roberts and his Un­cle Tom Lawrence of Car­bon­ear rou­tinely wrote and ex­changed short sto­ries with each other.

The ex­pe­ri­ence held Dawe in good stead, last week cul­mi­nat­ing in the of­fi­cial re­lease of his book, “ Ri­ots and Re­li­gion in New­found­land.”

“ It’s a topic I’ve long been very in­ter­ested in,” he told The Com­pass last week. “ You might even say pas­sion­ate about.”

He be­gan his re­search a dozen years ago, but there were fre­quent work stop­pages.

After all, his wife, Corinne, and their chil­dren, Mea­gan and Aaron, de­served some at­ten­tion from their hus­band and fa­ther.

Then, h i s stu­dents at Holy Redeemer Ele­men­tary in Spa­niard’s Bay de­manded noth­ing less of their teacher.

Dawe ex­plains: “ It was some­thing I’d take up for a cou­ple of months and then some­thing would come along ... and I’d have to put it down and prob­a­bly wouldn’t touch it for an­other cou­ple of months.”

Two years ago, he set his mind to com­plet­ing the work.

Now, he can tell you all about the clash be­tween Protes­tants and Ro­man Catholics in the early set- tle­ment of New­found­land.

“ I was al­ways aware of the bit­ter- ness be­tween the re­li­gions in the old days,” he says.

Un­set­tling re­search

Some of the re­search he un­cov­ered was a tad un­set­tling, and he ad­mits he “ was very sur­prised with the level of vi­o­lence that ac­tu­ally oc­curred.

“ I al­most look at it as New­found­land’s ver­sion of the Wild West.”

Dawe relives his­tory in chap­ters with tit­il­lat­ing ti­tles like A Flame Not Eas­ily Sub­dued; The Ex­hi­bi­tion of the Body of a Male­fac­tor ; A Wretched, Sin­ful Woman; and A Pure Love of Dis­sen­sion.

Dawe hopes the fact that he’s Protes­tant — Angli­can — hasn’t skewed his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the facts of his­tory, es­pe­cially his un­der­stand­ing of Ro­man Catholi­cism.

“ I don’t want the gen­eral pub­lic think­ing I was try­ing to ... make cham­pi­ons of o ne ( side) and vil­lains of the other,” he says with a smile.

Civil war?

In his fi­nal chap­ter, Dawe makes much of an al­lu­sion in his sources to a threat of civil war in New­found­land dur­ing the turbulent elec­tion of 1861.

“ I’m not sure how se­ri­ous it was, but ... if peo­ple were ac­tu­ally say­ing it in print, peo­ple were prob­a­bly talk­ing about it in closed cir­cles,” he states. “ Maybe peo­ple were just us­ing scare tac­tics.”

The New­found­land of 1754-1861 — the scope of Dawe’s book — is a far cry from the New­found­land of the 21st cen­tury.

“ Back 150 years ago, the Church had a lot more au­thor­ity and power than it does to­day,” he says.

“ We’ve be­come more of a sec­u­lar — and tol­er­ant — so­ci­ety than we were back in those days.”

Dawe is ex­pect­ing mixed re­ac­tion to his book.

Re­li­gion “can be some­what of a touchy sub­ject, es­pe­cially for the older gen­er­a­tion,” he ad­mits.

Re­gard­less of pub­lic re­ac­tion, “in all hon­esty, (ri­ots and re­li­gion) are as much a part of our his­tory as are the first and sec­ond world wars,” he says.

“ It’s some­thing we shouldn’t brush un­der the rug.”

David Dawe lives in Bay Roberts and teache s at Holy Redeemer El­e­men­tar y, Spa­niard’s Bay.

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