MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

Tors Cove

The Wharf at Tors Cove in the 1950s: phto from the Leach collection, P10741Tors Cove is a community located approximately forty kilometres south of St. John's, the provincial capital, on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland. Prior to 1910, the community appeared in records as Toad Cove or Toad's Cove, a name that probably derives from an old English word, "tode" meaning "fox."

As in many Newfoundland communities, most of the early settlers were migratory fishermen. Most of the fish were sold to the merchants of nearby St. John's. A thriving cod fishery existed there by the late 19th century.

Early settlers to the region including the earliest, John Rolson, in 1675, were English, but Irish settlers arrived in large numbers in the 19th century. When the restrictions placed on permanent settlement were lifted in the 1820s, a more stable community developed: a school was constructed in 1844 and a Roman Catholic church followed in 1869. Settlement began in earnest, with Humphrey Smith, L. Fortune, S. Driscoll, Edward Keefe, Thomas Luby, and Matthew Whelan settling here in the 1860s and 70s.

In 1945 (the census year closest to Leach's visit of 1950), the population of Tors Cove was only 266, although it had previously peaked at 389 in 1884. However, during the programme of resettlement in the 1950s and 60s, six more families moved to Tors Cove. A fish plant operated in the community until it burned to the ground in 1982. In recent years a new company, SeaLink Ltd., which offers ship-to-shore communication networks, has opened in the community, but, since the moratorium and the collapse of the fishery in the 1990s, most of the residents are forced to seek employment in nearby St. John's.

Tors Cove was one of the communities that MacEdward Leach revisited when he returned to Newfoundland in 1951, in some instances collecting new songs from the same people he had collected from the year previously. In 1950, he collected from a number of people, including: Mrs. Mary Dunphy; her daughter Helen; Mrs. Maggie Luby; Margaret Luby (who also went by Patsy, and who may have been Maggie's niece); and Alphonse, Clare, Lou and Mrs. L. O'Driscoll.

Photo from MacEdward Leach collection.

Calvert | Cape Broyle | Cape Ray | Curling | Flatrock | Port au Port | Port Aux Basques | Pouch Cove | St. Georges | Tors Cove

photo: The wharf at Tors Cove in 1950. Leach Collection, MUNFLA, P10741.