Flying the Flag

Years ago, I was leading a service at the Roberta Place Retirement home in Barrie.  I asked those who were there to raise their hands if they were from a country other than Canada.  About 10 hands went in their air.  There was a small contingent from the UK, a woman from Greece, a man from South Africa, and a woman from Newfoundland.  That’s right, a woman from Newfoundland raised her hand and said she was from another country.  I laughed, guessing it was her way of saying how proud she was of her province, but she was deadly serious. It turns out she was born in 1931 in Bonavista Newfoundland, a full 18 years before Newfoundland joined Canada becoming its 10th province. 

She was born an independent Newfoundlander, and she will die the same way.    

In an earlier blog I wrote about pride of place. We all feel deep connections to the places we call home.  What I have learned from my few days in Newfoundland, is pride for their island runs particularly deep.  The smaller the community, the deeper it runs.  It’s hard to find Newfoundland’s official flag flying in the tiny fishing outports on the Avalon peninsula, instead the flag of choice is a flag of three colours; pink, green and white.  I had to ask someone what the flag represented, and I discovered that it is the flag of choice for those who believe Newfoundland should never have joined Canada, but should have remained a separate nation.  The flag represents their British roots; pink for England’s roses, white for Scotland’s thistles, and green for Ireland’s fields.  Who knew there was a small but mighty undercurrent of independence running through the province (it shouldn’t be a surprise given that only 52% of Newfoundlanders voted to join Canada back in 1949)?

On the same day I learned about the flag, I forced myself to eat one of Newfoundland’s delicacies, Cod Tongues.  It sounds unappetizing and be honest, I didn’t’ love it, but I’m glad I tried it.  It is another example of what makes this place stand out.

And then there is the language.  Newfoundlanders of course speak English, but have developed phrases that are all their own:

“I’ll drop over ‘round by and by” – “I’ll come over to see you”

“Who knit ya?” – “who are parents?”

“Long may your big jib draw” – “may you have good fortune for a long time”

“I’m gutfounded.  Fire up a scoff” – “I’m hungry, please make me some food”

I’ve only been her a short time, but It’s hard to argue with anyone that Newfoundland is a unique place within our nation.  There is something about it that quickly burrows its way inside of you.   It is not a place that forces itself upon you, but rather it graciously invites you in.  There is a quiet confidence to Newfoundland. It doesn’t seem to suffer from an identity crisis that often defines the rest of Canada, but it knows what it is all about.  It won’t tell you who it is with giant billboards, or slick advertising campaigns, but instead it entices from within its visitors the spirit of an explorer.  It wants you to discover what makes it tick. It wants you to wander off it’s highways, and out of it cities, and discover in its coves and harbours and outports its hospitable, adventurous, and bold spirit. 

It is proud province.  From some, it is a proud nation.