Sir Edward Patrick Morris
In 1908, it came to the attention of Newfoundland's Prime Minister, Sir Edward Morris, that all the North bank of Quidi Vidi Lake was to be converted into a housing development. That large grassy incline was then privately owned, in lots, by approximately 15 different people who apparently planned either to build on it themselves or to let it out to others for the same purpose.
The whole property, as Sir Edward described it himself, consisted of "the North side of Quidi Vidi Lake between the main road and the water, from Walsh's to the foot of the Lake."
If the owners carried out their plans, he knew it would mean the end of the Regatta, so he decided to do something about it. He would buy the property himself and safeguard it for the people and for future generations of St. John's.
On July 17, 1908, at the regular weekly meeting of the Regatta Committee, a letter from Sir Edward was read in which he outlined the conditions under which the property had been acquired on behalf of the Regatta Committee and the public.
The land was on the North side of the lake, running East and West 1,570 yards, and had been purchased for $11,129. In today's figures that would be nearly $500,000. The purchase money was raised from the Royal Trust Company, Montreal, through the Bank of Montreal, St. John's, at 5% interest. The guarantors were Honorable J.S. Pitts, Honorable John Harris, Honorable S. Milley, Honarable John Harvey, Honorable R.K. Bishop, Messrs. W.C. Job, W.B. Grieve, D.M Browning, and C. MacPherson.
Sir Edward had great pleasure in being able to hand the land over to the Regatta Committee for private use and to the community as a park. His commitment was such that he mortgaged his home, "Beaconsfield" (still standing on Topsail Road) to provide security to close the deal.
And he did not stop there. A newspaper clipping from later that year speaks of
"the new boulevard on the South side of the Lake which we owe to the energy and perseverance of Sir Edward Morris, whose interest in our annual derby is well known."
The Regatta, Unknown newspaperWriting on the subject of a park for the Quidi Vidi Lake area, the great Newfoundland historian Judge D.W. Prowse wrote,
August 4, 1909
August 4, 1909
"Every important city has its park. Thousands and thousands of dollars have to be spent in creating artificial lakes and in giving a rural air to the scene. At Quidi Vidi, within, as it were, a stone's throw from the City, we have a park made by nature - beautiful surroundings, a lake for bathing, boating, fishing and delightful promenades and views. It only requires a small expenditure on trees and shrubs and walks to create perfect pleasure-grounds where all our toiling population may enjoy innocent amusement. The plan for such a park and the drive around the South side of the Lake, so admirably set forth and arranged by Sir EP Morris, should receive the hearty support of every intelligent man in the community. The miserable attacks that have been made upon this public-spirited proposal, off-spring of political animosity, hatred and malice, and beneath contempt."
Lord Morris was perhaps Quidi Vidi's first man of vision and took the first concrete steps to achieve his dream and the dream of others. And they were costly steps, both financially and politically.
In 1914, Sir Edgar R. Bowring took over the property and agreed to build a new boathouse for the T.A. and B. Society at his own expense because their existing boathouse cut the property in two.
In a letter to M.J. Malone, Chairman, T.A. & B. Society's boat club, Sir Edward Morris details the whole story:
September 26th, 1914Dear Mr. Malone,
In reference to the conversation I had with you the other day concerning the boat-house of the T.A. & B. Society at Quidi Vidi, I now desire to put in writing for the information of your Committee just how the matter stands.
About six-years ago I purchased the whole of the property on the North side of Quidi Vidi Lake between the main road and the water, from Walsh's to the foot of the Lake, paying for it somewhere in the neighbourhood of $12,000. I did this in order to prevent it being built upon by private parties who owned the land in several lots and in the hope that some day I would find a person who would take it over and convert it into a public park for the citizens of St. John's.
For the purpose of this I borrowed the money from the Bank of Montreal with my own house as security and the property itself. I was able to get a number of friends in St. John's to assist paying the interest on the amount. I am still further fortunate now in having been able to get Honorable E.R. Bowring to take the property over, paying the Bank of Montreal the full amount paid for it and it his intention to lay the ground out and convert the property into a park for the people of St. John's.
His solicitor, Mr. W.R. Warren, K.C., has written me to the effect that as your boat-house cuts the property in two parts with no passage between the boat-house and the road, Mr. Bowring is anxious, before taking over the property, to have an understanding with the Club, and he suggests the boat-house might be removed from its present position to the head of the lake and for that purpose he is prepared to build another boat-house for your Club at his own expense.
I would be glad if you would make some proposal in relation to dealing with the matter so that I may submit it at an early date to Mr. Bowring. He has satisfied me that he is ready and willing to deal generously and liberally with your Club, and I have already assured him that I felt certain you would take up the matter in the same public spirit.
An early reply will oblige,
(Sgd.) E.P. Morris
M.J. Malone, Esq.
Chairman of the
T.A.& B. Society's Boat Club.
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