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Restoring three historic cemeteries

The project included removal of top layer of vegetation, which left formal headstones and fieldstones visible. Temporary fencing was also installed – Courtesy of Bruce Livingston


ROSE BLANCHE – HARBOUR LE COU – Impressive work has been done as restoration of three Anglican Cemeteries, part of a larger Heritage Recognition Initiative. Town council passed a new Heritage Recognition Regulation this fall and the local trails have been collectively designated as the Rose Blanche – Harbour Le Cou’s first Municipal Heritage Site.

Bruce Livingston, Chair of the Heritage Advisory Committee, explained that the trails historically connected the five coves that comprise the town, particularly when water access was not possible or safe. The trails also connected the town’s three Anglican cemeteries in the Parish of Rose Blanche. They are the Harbour le Cou Cemetery, the Old Harbour le Cou Road Cemetery, and the Diamond Cove Cemetery. The restoration of these cemeteries is a part of the committee’s efforts.

“The Town and the Anglican Parish of Rose Blanche both support the designation of these three cemeteries as the Town’s next Municipal Heritage Sites. The Town’s Heritage Advisory Committee is currently in the process of seeking the consent of the Anglican Diocese of Western Newfoundland,” said Livingston.

Various initiatives are underway, with key support and participation from members of the community.

“The restoration of the Anglican Cemetery of Harbour le Cou started in July 2021. This initial phase involved identifying the locations of the visible headstones, removal of the top layer of brush and weeds from the cemetery site, recording of the names of the deceased from the headstones, and installation of a temporary fence around the perimeter of the cemetery. The visible progress of this first phase has been shared with the community through word of mouth, and through periodic posts to the Rose Blanche-Harbour le Cou-Diamond Cove History Facebook page. Support and encouragement from the community for this project has been very enthusiastic. Local residents have supported the work and relatives and friends have been supportive through the Facebook page,” said Livingston.

Livingston had been in consultation with Black Cat Cemetery Preservation in St. John’s prior to starting work on the site. The organization specializes in historic gravestone and monument conservation.

“Preliminary advice was received on how best to approach the project, and advice was also received on how to best approach the clearing work without further damaging the headstones,” said Livingston.

Livingston and his wife, Janet, along with residents Linda and Gord Edwards, have worked hard on this first phase of the project.

“The second phase of this project involves securing the consent of the Diocese to the Heritage Designation of the three cemeteries, and if that is successful, recommending this Heritage Designation to Council. Ongoing with its second phase is the identification of all deceased in the Harbour le Cou Cemetery. Rev. Diana Fry of the Parish of Rose Blanche is assisting with this, as is Nadine Osmond, President of the Southwest Coast Historical Society in Port-aux-Basques. That Society, as part of this phase, (the genealogy, i.e., the family histories of those deceased in the cemetery), is being researched by my wife, Janet, whose work will be helped as those church and other records are reviewed, and relatives are interviewed,” shared Livingston.

A restoration report will be prepared by Black Cat Cemetery Preservation on the first phase of the project.

“The next phase of this project will involve further clearing of vegetation, particularly the layer of brush roots, restoration of the 10 formal headstones, fencing the site with a historically-accurate design, and installing appropriate signage,” said Livingston.

The work for the project is delicate and takes careful planning.

“It is important to understand that while there are 10 formal headstones in the Harbour le Cou Cemetery, there are several more gravesites marked with simple fieldstones. With the Church records, others buried in the cemetery, whose graves may have only been marked with wooden markers, will be determined and, through signage, identified,” explained Livingston.

“It is also important to understand that work with these old headstones and gravesites has to be done carefully and properly,” added Livingston. “They have been very damaged already, and are in a delicate condition. Hasty or improper attempts at restoration of these markers, well-intentioned as they may be, and even as simple as pulling moss from them, can cause further irreparable damage. With proper advice and guidance from Black Cat Cemetery Preservation, hopefully on-site next year, this restoration work will proceed.”

Completing the project depends on several factors.

“Timeline for completion of Harbour le Cou Cemetery depends on cost of headstone restoration work and fencing, funding sources and further community support. Then, an assessment of the Old Harbour le Cou Road Cemetery and the Diamond Cove Cemetery, would be reviewed. The preliminary assessments will be done in the Spring of 2022. In an ideal world, the Harbour le Cou Cemetery project would be finished by this time next year,” said Livingston.

There is also a renewed interest in the community in building on this foundation, said Livingston.

“The Rose Blanche Lighthouse is an important symbol of the heritage and history of this community. Its restoration and accessibility is a huge attraction for local residents, and visitors. Other heritage initiatives in the community will support and enhance the great work done to date, and ongoing, on the Rose Blanche Lighthouse Project, and will contribute to the Town of Rose Blanche – Harbour le Cou being ‘Newfoundland’s Best Outport Experience.'”

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