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Women's History Walking Tour of
St. John's
Military Road Area
(Tour Part 1)


Waterfront Area
(Tour Part 2)

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5. Turn right at the corner of NONIA, up George Street, and up the stairs to Duckworth Street Look across the street and up Bates' Hill to the top corner with Queen's Road and Carter's Hill.

Above: Site of Nancy Coyle's home.
Photo by Duleepa Wijayawardhana, 1998.
(20 kb)

Nancy Coyle (1840s)


There were no morgues in St. John's during the 19th century. In the 1840s the Government paid a standing salary to Nancy, who kindly and skillfully cared for the unidentified dead, preparing their bodies for burial.

During those days rum was a penny a glass, wharves were well greased with seal fat and cod oil, and the harbour was filled with foreign vessels.

St. John's Harbour, pre-1892.
View from the Basilica of St. John the Baptist looking towards the Narrows.
Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Geography Collection 137, Photo 2069),
Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
(25 kb)

Many unidentified bodies were found in the harbour. Nancy was said to have "brought many a corpse back to life in her time." One Dutch sailor was being nailed up in his coffin at Nancy's when he suddenly revived. After a drink or two of rum, he was his own man again.

Nancy's house also served as a refuge for locked out tradesmen who boarded above their merchants' shops. A light in her window let them know they could get shelter for the night at her house.


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