Nfld. & Labrador

Renewing the old: Renews-Cappahayden museum reopens after years shut

For at least 12 years the museum has been shuttered, keeping hidden away the history of the small fishing community.

Local history of outlaws, privateers and battles depicted at museum

Renews-Cappahayden has a lot more to offer than just beautiful scenery. The town's museum has reopened after a dozen years and illustrates the area's rich history. (Submitted by Ayla Lawlor)

The museum in Renews-Cappahayden tells the history of outlaws, battles and the defiance of Roman Catholic settlers. And for at least 12 years the museum has been shuttered, keeping hidden away the history of the small Southern Shore community.

Until now.

"From the windows of the museum you can not only see the mounds where the fortifications are, and the ancient writing that has drawn attention lately, but you can also see the Butterpot Hills where the Masterless Men held out," Loyola Hearn told The St. John's Morning Show.

"They were there for about 50 years."

Loyola Hearn says there is a lot to see within a short walk around Renews-Cappahayden. ((CBC) )

Hearn is a former provincial and federal cabinet minister and served as Canada's ambassador to Ireland after he left politics. Today he's chair of the Renews and Area Irish Historical Preservation Society, which operates the museum.

The Masterless Men he refers to is not the contemporary band of the same name, but rather the outlaw society of Royal Navy deserters founded in the late 17th century and led by folk hero Peter Kerrivan.

Hearn said the murals which fill the walls of the museum, a former school, tell the area's story.

There are illustrations about the early days of the fishery, the conflicts between the French and American privateers and of local Captain William Jackman who was called a hero after saving 27 people from a sinking ship on the coast of Labrador.

Roman Catholics defied the law to worship their faith

The murals also depict the Mayflower which reportedly took on fresh water from Newfoundland as it carried the first Puritans to the New World, as well as the tragic sinking of the S.S. Florizel nearby, and the history of the Roman Catholic church in the area.

"We sort of forget our history if we don't do something to remind people of who we are and where we came from," he said. "The museum basically depicts the whole history of Renews."

They used to have to smuggle in a priest basically under the cover of darkness.- Loyola Hearn

Early Catholic settlers in the area had to defy the law to worship their faith. They would hold secret ceremonies on what is called a "mass rock" which is newly restored today.

"In the early days the Catholics were not allowed to attend mass. They used to have to smuggle in a priest basically under the cover of darkness," Hearn said.

Newfoundland's best kept secret   

According to Hearn, visitors to the area always stumble upon something of interest, often to their surprise.

"It's unbelievable. I've been on tours everywhere, I don't think in a short walk I have ever seen such interesting stuff or certainly saw such history all in front of my eyes," he said.

"We don't know how old the ancient writings are [on the mass rock]. A researcher has spent a lot of time on this … certainly it goes back hundreds of years."

The museum is open three days a week, from 1-4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 1-5 p.m. on Fridays.

Hearn says they will do their best to accommodate tour groups outside of business hours if they call ahead.

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