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100 Years Ago
(Tragedy Came to Kitchuses)

by Rev. C.S. Costello
Monitor April 1978

v, Charles Costello, Kitchuses

Rev, Charles Costello, Kitchuses



The name Kitchuses seems to have originated in a rather unique way. A lady, by the name of Kit Hughes, owned and operated a public house in which she sold hard liquor. When the people of the town would be questioned as to their whereabouts, they would invariably answer! "I was down to Kit Hughes's." By running the names Kit and Hughes together, it developed into Kitchuses, now an accepted name, which has come to stay. Kitchuses is an extension of Conception Harbour, it is not a separate mission.

One hundred years ago on the 11th of March 1878, my grandfather, Martin Costello and his two sons, Patrick and John, ages 16 and 14 respectively, together with my grandfather's two brothers and their two sons and also a Mr. Welch, were drowned off Brigus Point. The boat in which they were traveling, loaded with lumber, was swamped and went to the bottom taking the eight men on board to a watery grave. My father, Timothy Costello, the only surviving son of Martin, was 8 years old at the time. To add to this tragedy not one of the bodies was ever recovered. The death of 8 people at one time in a small community was a great tragedy, indeed, as well as a severe shock to all its residents! Their deaths meant leaving behind four widows with very young families, practically helpless. At the age of 10 my father was on the Labrador trying to do a man's work. Those were days when men had to work long hours under trying circumstances. A day's work ran from 14 to 16 hours depending on the catches of fish and the distance covered in locating them. Apart from fishing there was little else to do. So in May 1888, my father entered upon a new career. He started deep-sea sailing and joined the barque "Meteor" owned by J & W Stewart, of St. John's. This new way of life took him away from home for many months at a time. It included trips to Spain with cargoes of fish and then returned with a cargo of salt consigned to St. John's. A trip was made to Naple's with a cargo of fish; also a trip to Rio De Janerio in South America for a cargo of cows hoofs and horns. Such materials were used in the production of mucilage or the more common name "glue". On another such voyage his ship was disabled in the Indian Ocean and the crew were forced to abandon ship and were placed on a raft in the ocean where they remained several days until rescued. It was quite an experience for a young man but not altogether a wasted experience. While going to sea he had to study in order to obtain his first mates ticket. This he did and was successful in qualifying for that ticket. During one of his visits home in Kitchuses his mother prevailed upon him to give up the sea. She feared his lot may be similar to that of his father and brothers. To please her he promised he would. He then went back to St. John's and asked leave of his Captain who very reluctantly allowed him to sign off. So my dad packed his belongings and went to a boarding house in Town. After a few days wandering around looking for a job, which couldn't be found, he ran into the Captain of the ship he had left a few days before. The Captain was quick to inform him that no one could be found to replace him as first mate. He actually begged my father to come back with him on the ship. My father naturally pitied him and fully realized his plight. Finally, he agreed to return. When back on the ship for a few hours he began to realize the solemn promise made to his widowed mother that he would quit sailing once and for all. So back he went to the Captain and said as a matter of principle he just couldn't remain on ship. He picked up his belongings and departed the ship at once. The said ship sailed the very next day and was never heard of again. In the year 1893, my father bought a fishing room from Scully's of Hr. Grace at Brig Hr and went into the fishery business. The late Fr. John Scully, formerly a pastor of this parish, was a member of the said family. As a small boy he spent a number of summers with his parents in Brig Hr.

On May 25, 1898, T.M. Costello joined the H.M. Customs Service in St. John's and on July 9 that same year he moved his family from Conception Hr. to St. John's, having bought a home on Prospect Street. At first Dad worked in the "Lockers" for a short time before being assigned to assist Inspector O'Reilly on the revenue ship, the S.S. Fiona. On that ship he did duty in Placentia and Fortune Bays, and then on the Bay St. George with headquarters at Sandy Point. Rum running and smuggling were quite common around the turn of the century. As a result the revenue ship was in constant demand around our busy ports and key places. For the people concerned it was a case of eternal vigilance. After the appointment of Bishop Neil McNeil as Vicar Apostolic of St. George's Vicariate, my father, met His Lordship on his arrival at Sandy Point. Out of courtesy to the Bishop he was sent by the Inspector to assist in doing what he could to make the new Prelate's arrival as easy and as pleasant as possible. This my father did. Three days after his arrival, the Bishop sent for him, and said he wanted to see him. In fear and trepidation he hastened to answer the call. The good bishop reassured him everything was in order and that he was just anxious to talk with him. He said: "Young man when I arrived here 3 days ago you showed great respect to my office as Bishop. Had I come here as a blacksmith like when I worked with my father in my student days, and you examined my chattels, you would be doing your duty. Seeing I came as a Bishop, you did the right thing and I won't forget you. At that time and day, as a rule, no civil appointment was made by government without first consulting the Bishop of the diocese. When it was decided to appoint a Sub-Collector of Customs to Woods Island in Bay of Islands, which was the center of the fishery in that area, three names for the position were put forward. Bishop McNeil recommended my father. On the 26th of September 1905, T.M. Costello received his Commission as Sub Collector at Woods Island, granted and signed by Governor, Sir Michael McGregor, Government House, St. John's. In May 1906, the Costello family moved to Bay of Islands and took up residence at Woods Island. This position my father maintained until his 69th birthday in the year 1938. The last eleven years of his life were spent in retirement at Curling. The orphan boy of 100 years ago, became the father of seven children, one boy dying in infancy and another died another died while still in High School at the age of 15. Today 28 years after his death, three of his children are still living. The eldest of the Costello family, Martin now 82, lives in Philadelphia, a daughter, Mrs. James Furlong lives in Curling and another son Rev. C.S. Costello, Administrator of St. Anne's Parish, Conception Hr. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our parents who made such a heroic effort to educate and prepare their children for life. In my own case I did both high school and an arts course at St. F.X. University, Antigonish, N.S. During my University years I did courses in Latin and scholastic philosophy as a preparation for the Seminary.

The name Costello, or as it is commonly spelt in Ireland, Costelloe, is truly Irish name. It did not originate in Spain or in Italy as some would have us believe. The name Costello has been in Ireland for 1500 years or even longer. Irish history refers to "the lands of the Costelloes in the 5th century." It is likely that the Costelloe's like many of their countrymen were driven out of Ireland in the eighteen hundreds. The country had suffered and dwindled greatly from famine and other causes. Geographically a small country which suffered much from British domination and subjugation Ireland had to fight for what may be called peaceful co-existence and had to contend and live with a sort of forced and undue tolerance. However, she has survived over the centuries and we have no reason to believe that she will ever cease to exist.

Kitchuses is still a vital part of this parish and Community. I'm sure many changes has taken place there during the past 100 years. Although death by drowning wiped out a large portion of the Costello clan, we still find the name to be quite common not only in Kitchuses but throughout the entire parish. About 150 years ago, 3 Costello's, two brothers and a first cousin arrived in Conception Bay from Ireland. Two of them settled in Kitchuses and one settled in Avondale. After a year one of them said "this is not for me" and so he left Newfoundland and went to the Ottawa Valley. The name Costello is still to be found around Ottawa and throughout certain parts of Ontario. The mother of the present bishop of Calgary is a Costello from Peterborough. I had the pleasure of meeting Bishop Paul P O'Bryne while visiting Msgr. Smith in Antigonish prior to his Episcopal ordination. The Bishop's brother, Father Pat is a classmate of mine and a graduate of St. Augustine's Seminary. Bishop Paul asked me if I knew anything of the history of the Costello's. I told him I did. I also told him that it is very likely he is a descendant of the Costello man who left Newfoundland well over a 100 years ago and settled in the Ottawa Valley. It is interesting to note that the Costello name is not confined solely to the laity of Ontario; it is to be found in ecclesiastical circles as well.



Page contributed by: Barbara McGrath
Page revised: Sept 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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