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How Stag Harbour got its name


It is my intention to let you all know out there how the places, ponds, hills, etc on Fogo Island came by the name that we now know them by. Now, since Stag Harbour in the next week or so, is having a 'come home' festivity with all kinds of activities, I thought that I would fast-track my essay on how Stag Harbour got its name. Now, let me tell you there are any number of speculative theories, and one of the most intriguing was that Stag Harbour got its name because it was intended to be a community for men only, hence Stag Harbour, much the same as some places got started for religious groups. I have searched the literature on this, and there doesn't seem to be a shred of evidence to give credence to this. I must say it is an interesting concept. Let me tell you what is most likely the explanation of how Stag Harbour.

The View From Fogo Island - It is my intention to let you all know out there how the places, ponds, hills, etc on Fogo Island came by the name that we now know them by.

Now, since Stag Harbour in the next week or so, is having a 'come home' festivity with all kinds of activities, I thought that I would fast-track my essay on how Stag Harbour got its name. Now, let me tell you there are any number of speculative theories, and one of the most intriguing was that Stag Harbour got its name because it was intended to be a community for men only, hence Stag Harbour, much the same as some places got started for religious groups. I have searched the literature on this, and there doesn't seem to be a shred of evidence to give credence to this. I must say it is an interesting concept. Let me tell you what is most likely the explanation of how Stag Harbour.

Many, many years ago, Newfoundland was inhabited by animals alone. It explains why so many places in Newfoundland salute animals. I am referring to Dog Bay, Cat Harbour, Cow Head, Pig Gut, Horse Islands, Trepassey, Mouse Island, Herring Neck, and there are many others. Fogo Island was then known as Bird Island.

Now for my story as to how Stag Harbour got its name. It was a nice warm summer's day, and again many, many years ago, and the ocean was as calm as glass. An extended family of deer and hares were having picnics somewhere in the vicinity of Dog Bay; now known as Stoneville. Just by the way, there were two picnics; one for the hares, and one for the deer. A male deer, that is, a stag, made a bet with a strapping young hare to have a swim to Bird Island that is Fogo Island. The bet was that whoever lost the race would have to give two bucks to the other. Now this was before money had been invented, so we can only guess what it actually meant. It is a fact that a male hare is a buck, and so is a male deer, so it is confusing, but you can be sure it had something to do with that. I am sure you are aware of this, but I'll say it anyway: animals everywhere back then spoke English, and perfect English at that. I am sure you are aware of the bears in the 'Three Bears' talked, the big bad wolf talked, and even goats, for God's sake. As I said, they all spoke perfect English. They would not allow split infinitives or dangling participles, and the like. One outspoken young hare said that if he had his way, dangling carrots would not be allowed. It seems that one of his uncles would dangle a carrot in front of him, before he actually gave it to him. Enough of that nonsense. The hare was excited and said crisply, "The bet is on."

Some of the hares and some of the deer tried to dissuade the two from going on such a hazardous trip, but to no avail. So after the two jumped in the water, there was much weeping, and many fond farewells, and to this day, the place where this race started has been called Farewell. For a mile or so the two were neck and neck, but it must be noted that the stag has a longer neck than the hare. I am not sure if a hare even has a neck. After they had been in the water (and it was much colder than either of them thought it would be), the wind veered to the east, causing a bit of a lop. As a result of this, the hare started to go in a more northerly direction, but the stag held the course. Both of them forgot all about the bet, and started to worry if they'd make the trip or drown in the attempt.

Let me tell you just a little about the hare first, and what happened to him. Around 6 o'clock in the evening he came ashore on dry land but wasn't sure where he was. If he had known about it, he might have thought that he was in Timbucktu. Anyway, to make a long story short, he called it, (what else?) Hare Bay and it should be still called this. It had been known as Hare Bay for years and years, and then some, until some misguided person thought that they'd rename it Deep Bay. Now the only reason they did this was that they wanted to tease the residents of that other bay, Shoal Bay, saying such mean things as. "We live in Deep Bay (stressing the word 'Deep'). What is the name of the bay in which you live?" Now I think that Deep Bay should go back to its original name if for nothing else but out of respect for that hare that was the first to visit there.

Now, as I said, the stag maintained a rather straight course and after eight or nine hours and feeling a little numb, and since he had nobody to talk to, a little dumb as well. Well, after coming ashore, and taking a little rest, he called all the birds together and said that he was going to make a proclamation. (One old gull muttered to himself, "What is a proclamation?") This stag then in a deep, strained voice declared that from now on, and until perpetuity, this harbour is to be known as Stag Harbour. Incidentally, he even pronounced the word perpetuiy correctly. But to make sure the birds would not object, he further declared that the island itself would still be known as Bird Island. It is believed that this stag lived in Stag Harbour for 70 years, but that, most likely is an exaggeration. He lived a rather comfortable life, even if he was a little lonely. Stag Harbour provided for his many wants, except for a shortage of lichen. Occasionally, when he'd want a lichen fix he would walk around four or five miles outside of Stag Harbour just to get some. He forgot all about the hare and the bet, and I suppose that is how life is sometimes. I am sure that if he knew that the hare was living in what was now called Hare Bay, he would have visited him on some long weekend.

What I have written took place hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and today you'd be hard-pressed to find any evidence of it, except for the name, that there was a time when Stag Harbour's only inhabitant was a stag. But I have some important news for all of you - those living in Stag Harbour, the rest of Fogo Island, and places overseas, especially Lewisporte. From June 30-July 6 has been declared as Stag Harbour's first 'Come Home Year', with all kinds of activities taking place during this week. On June 30 there will be a 'meet and greet' featuring a slide show of the families and history of Stag Harbour. On Canada Day there will be a mini regatta. On July 2 a boat trip is planned to Indian Islands. Perhaps the climax of the week events is July 5 which will be Stag Harbour Day. Throughout the week there will lots of food, especially traditional, a dance, and a concert. So why don't you mark the week on your calendar and help the people of Stag Harbour celebrate.

benson.hewitt@nf.sympatico.ca

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