Listen to key BCN moments of the National Convention

We've selected some audio excerpts from the National Convention, which was held between 1946 and 1948 at the Colonial Building in St. John's.
Bert House was the chief operator of the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland, which carried extensive coverage of the National Convention. (The Rooms, Provincial Archives division)

The Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland carried radio coverage of the National Convention from 1946 through 1948, giving audiences an unprecedented access to the most important debate in the dominion's history.

We're pleased to present archival recordings of some of the key moments through this timeline.

W.F. Galgay, seen here with colleague Cecil Penney, reported from the National Convention in St. John's. (CBC)

Sept. 11, 1946: BCN broadcast the opening ceremony from the Colonial Building in St. John's. Click here to listen to an excerpt from a report by William Galgay, setting the scene.

Over the next six weeks, BCN broadcasts daily reports between 9:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., except Sunday.

Oct. 28, 1946: The microphones are back as BCN begins recording the proceedings for broadcast each evening, starting at 9:15 p.m. through to midnight.

Dec. 12, 1946: Delegates have a discussion of the Report of the Transportation and Communications Committee, specifically on broadcasting. Listen here to an excerpt thanking BCN for broadcasting the proceedings, featuring Michael Harrington (District of St. John's City West), Charles Ballam (District of Humber), and Joseph Smallwood (District of Bonavista Centre).

April 18, 1947: Following Peter Cashin's (District of St. John's City West) Supreme Court acquittal of libel charges for comments he made during debate, BCN asks the Convention whether it wants to continue broadcasting the proceedings. Listen to this excerpt featuring Gordon Higgins (District of St. John's City East), Isaac Newell (District of White Bay), Reuben Vardy (District of Trinity North), Thomas Ashbourne (District of Twillingate), Albert Penney (District of Carbonear), Albert Butt (District of St. John's West Extern), and chairman Frederick Bradley.

Aubrey MacDonald's lengthy broadcasting career included reports from the National Convention. (CBC)

Nov. 25, 1947: BCN carried a discussion of the report of the Ottawa delegation, specifically the proposal that with confederation, BCN becomes part of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "There is no intention of trying to Canadianize us," Smallwood told the convention.  "They are quite happy for us to remain Newfoundlanders.  We will have our own programmes, our own local news, our own Newfoundland broadcasting."

Jan. 6, 1948: As debate continues on the report of the Ottawa delegation, Peter Cashin accuses the Convention of sowing discord and criticizes BCN for spreading it. Listen to this excerpt.

Dick O'Brien of the BCN. (CBC)

Jan. 29, 1948: The convention's final resolution is to thank BCN for broadcasting the proceedings. The motion is passed unanimously. Listen to an excerpt featuring Joseph Smallwood.

Jan. 30, 1948: BCN broadcasts the closing of the convention. Listen to this report by Dick O'Brien.

A note on preserving these recordings

In 1968, CBC Newfoundland and Labrador deposited 635 16-inch discs (transcription discs) containing 254 hours and 38 minutes of the proceedings of the Newfoundland National Convention with the Public Archives of Canada, now known as Library and Archives of Canada, or LAC, in Ottawa. LAC dubbed the recordings to 10.5" reel tapes, copies of which were subsequently sent back to CBC in St. John's and the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1974. 

A 1999 CBC preservation project transferred the audio content of the recordings to DAT (digital audio tape) from reel. In 2012, CBC initiated yet another preservation project (spearheaded by Christine Davies in St. John's and Tammy Moorse in Toronto) to digitize the material as data files. CBC is sharing these files with the Provincial Archives Division, The Rooms Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Centre for Newfoundland Studies (Queen Elizabeth II Library) and the Folklore and Language Archive — both at Memorial University.

The original transcription discs are housed in a vault at LAC's Preservation Centre in Gatineau, Que.

We are grateful to the Provincial Archives Division of The Rooms for permission to use photographs in this feature.