From it’s squid jigging grounds to its majestic, lighted cross, Holyrood boasts a number of unique features. Now it can claim one more: It is home to perhaps the youngest historian in the province.
Earlier this month, Holyrood council thanked that young scholar, Joshua Linehan, for taking on a recent research endeavour and let him wear Mayor Gary Goobie’s chain of office. Linehan’s parents Laura and Ronnie, a long-time volunteer with the Holyrood Fire Department, were on hand to witness their son briefly assume council duties.
Mayor Goobie was the catalyst for Linehan’s research project.
“Every day, for months and months and months, I’ve been going on my daily stroll over on the boardwalk,” said Goobie. “Those of you who have ever been over that way (know) there’s a memory bench just past the Marine Institute and on that bench it says, ‘In Memory of Peter and Lucy Barron.”
Peter Barron was long associated with the Newfoundland Railway, which maintained a tool shed near the site now occupied by the bench. The tool shed served as a headquarters for Barron and his work mates, who worked a trolley from it to make repairs on the tracks.
One day after seeing a picture of Linehan sitting on the same bench, Goobie twigged to the idea of giving the 13-year-old, Grade 8 Roncalli student an assignment to be done in time for the town’s looming Come Home Year celebration in honour of Holyrood’s 50 anniversary of incorporation.
“Myself and Josh go back a long way,” said Goobie. “He’s very articulate, loves to read, loves history, loves biographies - he just can’t get enough reading, a very knowledgeable young man.”
In his report to council, it was clear Linehan had conducted plenty of research on the history of the railway in the town, including interviews with people who had worked with Barron and were associated with the service.
“We did a lot of digging,” Linehan allowed.
It turns out Barron and his colleagues worked the track, in four-man crews, as far as Kelligrews in the east and Placentia in the south using the tool shed to start their day and finish it that evening.
“The backbone of the railway were the tool sheds that were spread across the island near the railway, such as the tool shed in Holyrood,” said Linehan. “The tool shed was used for storing the spare trolley, or ‘punk car,’ and all the tools for repairing the railway. The tools were spikes, rakes, shovels, planks, railway ties, rails and detonators.”
The detonators were placed on the rails a mile each way from where the trolley crews were working to alert coming trains of their presence. “The sound to some people was similar to a shotgun, like a 12-gauge,” said Linehan. “This warned everyone, even those out for a stroll, to get off the tracks.”
Some of the Holyrood employees who worked on the rails with Barron, Linehan said, included Ned Maloney, William Furey, Frank Barron, Pat Kieley, foreman Thomas Hynes and later his son Gerard Hynes, as well as Bill Nugent from Kelligrews and Max Morgan from Seal Cove. “They received $90 pay bi-weekly back in 1954,” Linehan added.
Gerard Hynes once got stuck on the track for three days somewhere between Holyrood and Whitbourne because so much snow had fallen that neither the train nor the trolley could push through it, Linehan said.
“The tool shed was a vital part of Holyrood’s industry,” said Linehan. “It gives me pleasure to tell you about the beating heart of the Newfoundland railway in our town of Holyrood... These were one of the many jobs that were given to residents of Holyrood... that helped Holyrood become what it is today.”