Collection Offers Glimpses of St. John's Society

From the files of The Gazette October 17, 1996.

A statue of Peter Pan stands in Bowring Park, in the west end of St. John's. It is a copy of the original statue in Kensington Gardens, London, by British sculptor Sir George Frampton. It was commissioned for the park by Sir Edgar Bowring "In memory of a little girl who loved the Park" and unveiled on Aug. 29, 1925. The little girl who loved the park was Betty Munn, daughter of John Shannon Munn and Alice May McCowen. Betty and her father were lost in the wreck of the Florizel, a Bowring Brothers ship which was destroyed on the rocks off Cappahayden during a winter's storm on the night of Feb. 23-24, 1918. They were on their way to New York to rendezvous with Betty's mother who was already there. Betty Munn was three and one-half years old.

Cassie Brown has eloquently told the story of the wreck of the Florizel in her book A Winter's Tale (1976). There is a picture of Betty Munn in Brown's papers in Archives and Special Collections. There is a also a picture of her parents wedding, an elaborate affair which united several prominent Newfoundland families: the Munns of Harbour Grace, the Bowrings (Sir Edgar Bowring married John Shannon Munn's mother, Flora Clift Munn, after her husband died), McCowens, Nettens (Mrs. McCowen), Clifts (Mrs. Munn) of St. John's and probably many more. That photograph is reproduced here; the description of the wedding is from the St. John's Daily News for Jan. 13, 1908.

Munn Family Wedding
Munn Family Wedding
A high society St. John's wedding in 1908.
Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections (Coll - 115, 16.05.115), Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL.

At 2:30 Saturday afternoon, Miss Alice May McCowen, daughter of Inspector General McCowen [commanding officer of the Newfoundland Constabulary], and Mr. John Shannon Munn, one of the directors of Bowring Bros., Limited, of St. John's, were united in the holy bonds of matrimony. The ceremony was at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Lord Bishop of Newfoundland [Right Reverend Llewellyn Jones] officiating, assisted by Rev. T. G. Netten, uncle of the bride, and Rev. Canon Dunfield, Rector of St. Thomas's. The ceremony was performed in the presence of more than two hundred guests, and several hundred spectators, who helped fill the spacious Cathedral.

At the Church, Dr. Rendell acted as master of ceremonies; the ushers were: Messrs. Herbert Rendell, E. F. Harvey, Norman Outerbridge and Gerald Harvey. The bride was attired in a beautiful gown of ivory duchesse satin, made in empire style, with a long train. The front panel of her skirt was veiled in real duchesse and point de gaze lace, falling to the edge of the skirt over a frill of chiffon. The corsage and sleeves of ruched chiffon and satin bertha over the shoulders, were also draped with real duchesse and point de gaze lace, and fastened with orange blossoms. The corselet belt was caught at the back by motifs and tassels of pearl and chenille. She wore a coronet of orange blossoms and veil. She wore a diamond and sapphire pendant, the gift of her brother and sister-in-law, Lieutenant J. Wallis and Mrs. McCowen.

The bridesmaids were Misses Mary Shea and Muriel Winter, who were dressed in white spot net over taffeta silk, beautifully trimmed. The train bearers were Master Arthur Gosling and Miss Jennie Job. Mr. Arthur Donnelly attended the groom. The bride, owing to the illness of her father, was given away by His Excellency, Sir William MacGregor [the Governor]. As the procession passed up the aisle, the choir sang 'The Voice that Breathed o'er Eden.' Organist [Alfred] Allen presided at the organ.

While the wedding party were signing the marriage register in the vestry, the band of the Church Lads' Brigade rendered a beautiful wedding march. After the ceremony, Mr. and Mrs. Munn drove to the residence of Inspector General McCowen, and later to Government House, which was placed at their disposal for the reception. The vice-regal residence was beautifully decorated for the occasion, and the newly wedded couple received the congratulations of their guests while standing under a floral wedding bell in the ball room. After the reception the happy couple drove to the Bungalow, Topsail, the summer residence of Hon. E. R. Bowring, where the honeymoon will be spent.

The little girl who loved the park
The "little girl who loved the park"
Betty Munn, daughter of John Shannon Munn and Alice May McCowen
Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections (Coll - 115, 16.05.039), Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL.

The newspaper goes on to relate that in honor of the wedding, Bowring Brothers held a soiree for their employees and guests later that night at Donovans. The place was festively decorated; the food was unequalled in quality and quantity; toasts were given and responded to; there were speeches, songs, music and fireworks. The party lasted until midnight when a chartered train returned everyone to St. John's. And it was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended.

The wedding picture was taken by photographer R. T. Parsons at Government House. The bride and groom are in the centre, with the train bearers directly in front of them. The gentleman between the bride and groom is Gov. MacGregor; the gentleman to the groom's left is his step-father, Edgar Bowring. The bridesmaids are seated far left and second from the right. Other family members, attendants and friends are present. The scene is typical of weddings involving the prominent families of St. John's and some of the larger outports during the early years of the 20th century.

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