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Report 1901: A Month on the Rock

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 24 of 31: To Bonavista Peninsula and the Ryan Premises

photo by Michael

Trouty Harbour - two days before Hurricane Igor devastated the area

After Eastport we had intended to spend time around Terra Nova National Park but it was raining steadily with cloud well down on the hills. We drove straight through on the Trans Canada Highway. On a Saturday morning, it was very quiet with little traffic around.

In view of the weather we decided to drive to Bonavista and do the Ryan Premises. As we had plenty of time we took route 235, which is a fairly slow drive as there is quite a bit of settlement along it. On a clear day this would have been a good drive as the road roller coasted over several headlands with good views of the coast. It is a rocky coastline and in one place a waterfall was tumbling down the cliff into the sea. Kingís Cove and Knightís Cove were an attractive area and would have repaid exploring on a nice day.

Bonavista was the principal mercantile centre for the north east coast and at the start of the 20thC was the second largest town in Newfoundland after St Johnís. It is a large sprawling settlement around a well sheltered harbour with fish flakes on stilts with wooden ladders up to them. The main economic centre was along the harbour front and Church Street. The harbour is overlooked by the Courthouse and the Orange Order Hall. This has six members now and the youngest is 78. There are a lot of 19thC wooden houses scattered round the settlement which has considerable character, but you do need to explore on foot to appreciate it.

Parks Canada signing is terrible and we ended up in the park for the Old Peoplesí Home. The park for the Ryan Premises is on the left of the road just beyond the Premises. It has a small grey sign with yellow writing which is difficult to read.

The Ryan Premises are a restored 19thC industrial salt fish complex. There are several Information Boards around the site, which spreads across both sides of the road. The buildings look smart with their white painted wood and brown window frames and trim.

On the water side are the Retail Store and Retail Shop with Fish Store and Salt Store behind. Across the road is the Proprietorís House and the Tenement House. This does not belong to Parks Canada, and was where the book keeper would have lived. You can wander freely around the site but pay to go in the buildings.

Staff were excellent and friendly. The pay desk is in the Retail Store which has an exhibition on fishing with many old photographs. There is further, more general information, in the Fish Store behind. The Salt Store had information and examples of outport furniture. This was made by local craftsmen with whatever wood was available. Packing cases were often used and case labels can be seen on the back of drawers and cupboards.

The Retail Shop building is now a gift shop with the local Museum above which has artifacts given by the community and a very enthusiastic volunteer custodian.

We had to ask to be let into Proprietorís House as they were short of staff that day. Entry is through the lean-to area at the back. Usually this was built first and lived in while the rest of the house was built. Here it was added later. On one side was a brick and stone meat cellar which was used to store vegetables and meat. On other side was the well house which had a hand pump. The dining room was furnished with furniture belonging to the Ryan family, although the crystal came from elsewhere. Wallpaper and carpets are modern replicas. The rest of the rooms had old photographs (interesting) and modern paintings (pretentious) of salt cod. We enjoyed the visit.

We took route 230 back to Trinity which was a much faster run than the 235, through low forest with good views inland, which was flat and boggy. Route 239 to Trouty is a roller coaster ride. Trouty is in the bottom of a steep wooded valley which is what caused all the problems from Hurricane Igor. We stopped in Top of the Hill Housekeeping Units, which were two flats in an old pepper pot house.

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