The World

Dec 7, 2012

On the Newfoundland rock, where federation didn’t go smoothly

For nearly 100 years, Newfoundland was a place apart. Then in 1948, it joined the federation. Its history has been as afterthought, the only colony that went in reverse. The federation that didn't go smooth.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


My America, My newfoundland — John Donne

Brick front of old shops on one side of Water Street, cafes, winter wear stores, a mandolin shop, and on the other, a couple of boxy modern offices, one with a multi-storey car park at its base. St John’s Newfoundland’s capital isn’t one of those cities that is going to open itself to the harbour anytime soon. But that’s understandable, for the harbour faces out onto the raw North Atlantic, and the rain, sleet and snow comes right into the bay, changing hourly with the moods of the ocean.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

8 thoughts on “On the Newfoundland rock, where federation didn’t go smoothly

  1. billie

    Do you mean Mayflower, 1620, not Mayfair?

  2. Guy Rundle

    yes yes i do damn

  3. paddy

    Fascinating stuff. Thanks.

  4. Moving to Paraguay

    Going up to Canada? This is seems a characteristic of the vertically assertive Newfoundlanders. According to Melvin Baker and Robert H. Cuff (‘”Down North”: A Historiographical Overview of Newfoundland Labrador’ Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXXVIII, no. 2, Summer/Fall 1993, pp. 2-12), locals talk about ‘going down north to Labrador’, never wanting to look up to their neighbours.

  5. Migraine

    Another lovely piece. I can understand why the place called to you, to answer that mystery of national or regional identity and how it can be used, abused, transformed – in this case with the twist of a nation negating itself. This is what I find fascinating about meeting and talking to people from the old eastern bloc, from the once-upon-a-time Czechoslovakia and the former Yugoslavia: trying to understand not only what it was like groeing up in an occupied state, under a monolithic government, but also how it felt to wake up one day in a different country, with everything changed and not necesarily a good idea of how all of this happened … Alien thoughts in Australia, which has never known a real threat to its singleness. Not even from the crazy seccessionist bastards up north and out west.

  6. Jackol

    Nice article.

    Small quibble:

    The sheer length of the process, the confusing first result — no one cause got a plurality of the vote…

    It’s almost impossible to not “get a plurality of the vote” – presumably you meant majority.

  7. Bob the builder

    That was a nice nostalgic trip back to Newfoundland. In the late ’90s I hitched up from Montreal to North Sydney and got the ferry to Port aux Basques and hitched around to Argentia, past St. Johns over a fortnight.
    Time didn’t permit more lingering, but I’ve always wanted to go back and spend more time. A place that was the first European contact with North America, modern-day Saint Anthony, still has significant parts accessible only by boat and has a beguiling mix of west country and Irish linguistic influences. A place without fences, with houses placed higgledy-piggledy, a kind of friendly frozen exception to Canada – but in its uniqueness, a place that epitomises Canadian diversity, a diversity so different to Austalia’s grudging celebration of multiculturalism as a bringer of good restaurants, where English, French and Scottish co-exist within a few hundred kilometres, where Irish was still spoken a few decades ago.
    Perhaps that’s all a bit florid, but it was nice to reminisce about a special place!

  8. Bob the builder

    Oh, and Saint Pierre and Miquelon, part of France, lie 20km off the Newfoundland coast!

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details