Profile: Harbour Grace Grammar School, 1845-1902


In the spring of 1843, an act was passed establishing a Grammar School at Harbour Grace. A grant of £400 was allocated to support the school. A Board of Commissioners was established as well, consisting of three members from the Church of England, three from the Roman Catholic Church, and three from other denominations. The chairperson was Dr. William Archibald Stirling, the prominent local surgeon.

For the position of headmaster, twenty-three applications were submitted, including one from Thomas Talbot, who would later become an MHA, Sheriff of the District Court, and teacher at St. Bonaventure’s College, St. John’s. However, John Irving Roddick, of Jedborough, Scotland, was chosen as headmaster. Roddick’s grandfather, Martin, had considerable interests in Newfoundland, owning a fleet of ships which traded in the colony. Roddick had originally trained for the ministry, before settling on teaching as a profession. Notably, he was a friend of the eminent Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle. Roddick’s salary was one hundred and fifty pounds per annum.

Built by Thomas Kitchen, the Grammar School officially opened on February 3, 1845, with fifty-five students registered. The school was located near the courthouse, a little west on Harvey St. Families paid seven and sixpence for their children’s registration every quarter. Students had three weeks vacation in the summer, three weeks at Christmas, and a week at Easter. Many Grammar School alumni went on to become prominent members of Newfoundland society, notably William Azariah Munn and the headmaster’s own son, Sir Thomas Roddick. Unsurprisingly, the Grammar School was considered one of the best schools in Newfoundland at the time.

James D. Munn succeeded Roddick as headmaster. The school was closed briefly but reopened in 1898 as a boys school, with Levi Thomas Chafe as principal.

The school operated until 1902, when the school’s committee decided to close the institution, citing its unfavourable location: most pupils lived in the town’s west end, and a school on Downing St was more convenient.

Chafe and his family continued living in the building and its attached dwelling, formerly a dormitory for out-of-town students, until 1906, when he left to become manager of Murray & Crawford at Harbour Grace. The adjacent homeowner, E.B. Thompson, then purchased the property, took down the schoolhouse and dormitory, and sold the land to R. Morrison.

Sources & Further Reading

Davis, May. “Harbour Grace History.” Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. 57, no. 1, 1957, pp. 21-22.

Fawkes, Marion Elizabeth. In Search of My Father: One Woman’s Search for the Father She Never Knew. Dundurn, 1994. Print.

Munn, W.A. “Harbour Grace History: Chapter Sixteen.” Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 3, 1937, pp. 9-14.


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