Memorial's Archival Treasures


(Gazette, March 20, 1997)

Who was Margaret Mayo?

By Bert Riggs

One afternoon in late July 1994, a young women came into the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives carrying a rather slim journal which she said was a diary. It had been kept by her great-grandmother and covered the year 1897. She asked if we would be interested in acquiring it. In light of the scarcity of primary source material about the lives of Newfoundland women, especially young women in the last century, it was a document which we were delighted to acquire.

The diary was roughly 8" x 12.5" (20 x 32 cm) and consisted of 36 pages. Each page contained short entries for 10 days, beginning on Jan. 1 and ending on Dec. 31, 1897. On the cover was the name Margaret J. H. Mayo and the address 31 Cookstown Rd. I set about trying to discover who this woman was.

Margaret Jane Hill Mayo was born in St. John's in 1871/72. She was the youngest of three children born to William Mayo (1829-1904) and Rebecca Butler (1833-1912). William Mayo's grandfather, also William Mayo, came to Newfoundland from Great Britain with the Royal Newfoundland Company, a military force stationed in St. John's in the 1790s. He married Frances King in St. John's in 1796 and they had four children, one of whom was James. James May married Mary Dagwell of St. John's and the eldest of their four children was William, father of Margaret.

Very little could be found of Margaret Mayo's life. The Mayo family attended Gower Street Methodist Church, so it would seem likely that Margaret and her siblings attended the Methodist Academy on Long's Hill. There is no indication from her diary that she worked after finishing school, but this is possible. In 1901 Margaret married Lloyd Tocque Chancey (1865-1931) of St. John's, at Gower Street Church. The ceremony was conducted by the groom's uncle, the Rev. William Rice. Chancey's family had been resident in Newfoundland, mainly Harbour Grace, since the late 1700s. Lionel was the youngest son of William George Fletcher Chancey (1820-1895) and Eliza Chancey Rice. Lloyd's middle name, Tocque, is probably after the Rev. Philip Tocque (1814-1899), an author and clergyman of Carbonear, who married his father's sister, Eliza.

Margaret Mayo and Lloyd Chancey had four children: one daughter, Pearl, and three sons, Victor, Reginald and Roy. Lloyd was a barber by profession. The family lived first at Richmond Cottage on Freshwater Road, but sometime after William Mayo's death in 1904, they moved in with Margaret's mother, Rebecca, at 31 Cookstown Rd. One can assume that Margaret spent most of her married life raising their children and being a homemaker. After her marriage she began attending her husband's church, the Queen's Road Congregational Church, where she sang in the choir. Lloyd Chancey died on Sept. 26, 1931. Margaret survived him by 10 years; she died Sept. 19, 1941 after a lengthy illness.

Margaret Mayo's diary contains nothing spectacular. In it she records the weather, what she did each day, shopping expeditions, church services, visiting friends, tea parties, staying at home with her mother. She writes well, both in style and in script, indicating a formal education. The diary is an important document, however, as it provides first-hand insight into the everyday life of a young woman living in St. John's as the end of a millennium approached.

Bert Riggs is the archivist for the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives, located on level one of the Queen Elizabeth II Library.