Church History

The text below comes from the book Resounding His Praises on Islands, In Coves by Naboth Winsor.

The settlement of Safe Harbour, which was at first called Pudding Bag Cove, does not appear in the census until 1874, when it had a population of 98, all of whom were Church of England. Ten years later the population was 200, of whom 81 were Methodists. In 1901 the population was 313, -106 Church of England, 207 Methodists. By 1891 the Methodists had erected a building to be used as a church and a school. In 1902, the ladies who had been ‘toiling for the good of the cause raised $56.35. Out of the proceeds, $30.00 went to finish paying for the organ, and $10.00 for a new stove for the church, the school-chapel. Very soon a church building was needed.

Three years ago a gracious revival came to this community. The hearts of the people were warmed and their characters refined by the touch of the Divine Spirit. The attendance at the various services increased to such an extent that it was deemed necessary to build a new church to meet the needs of a growing congregation. A year ago last November (1905) the sills were laid. The school chapel which had been ceiled and nicely decorated in 1894 was too small for the fast growing congregation. Three years after the sills were laid, the church was built and dedicated. We are fortunate to have the account of the dedication.

December 13,1909, was an auspicious time for the Methodists of Safe Harbour and neighbourhood, the occasion of which was the dedication of the new Church, commenced during the year 1905, under the superintendence of the Rev. J.J. Durant, who saw the building well nigh completed before his departure from the mission. What he did, the dear brother must have worked hard to accomplish. The closing down of the whale factory, followed by a succession of poor cod fisheries, causing poverty and general financial depression, greatly hindered the work. However, with careful economy and patient perseverance the church has been finished and furnished. It is now ‘a thing of beauty’, and if not, joy forever’, the prayer is, that it may be so for a long time to come.

The interior woodwork is all done in hard pine, including ceiling, rostrum and pews, furnished by Horwood Lumber Company. The work is of beautiful design and tasteful proportions, reflecting great credit upon Mr. K. Atwood and all who assisted him. The chandeliers, lamps, carpets and matting were furnished by Ayre & Sons, and are in keeping with the rest, giving the building an attractive and cosy appearance.


The Church is 55 feet long and 35 feet wide; has a gallery at the front end, and at the rear end a class room 11 feet by 21 feet. Seating capacity 400. Cost $2,800. The amount of free labour, $800, included in cost. Present indebtedness is a little over $600. This, however, will be easily managed, as the building will require little expense for the many years to come.

The dedicatory service took place in the afternoon and was conducted by the pastor, the Rev. James Pincock. The Revds. A.A. Holmes, Wesleyville, and J.J. Durrant, Grand Falls, assisted. The latter, as was most fitting, preached the dedicatory sermon. The subject was the parable of the Hid Treasure’. The night subject by the same, was the parable of ‘The Goodly Pearl’.  The style of treatment was analytical, and showed careful study, deep thought and evident conviction.

The day closed with an earnest and wholesome prayer meeting. The attendance at all the services was good, but would have been better had it not been for the high wind which prevailed at the time, preventing many who would have been there, crossing the water. The day was a good one, and many hearts are grateful to the God of all mercy and goodness for this much needed and better provision for the worship of His Name.

Less than fifty years after the Methodists of Safe Harbour had erected a beautiful church, the settlement was vacated. In the Fall of 1956, the Bonavista Presbytery offered the church to the Valleyfield congregation. (Some of the members of the church had moved to Badger’s Quay and Valleyfield, and were now members of the Valleyfield congregation.) The Trustee Board agreed to accept it, and to sell any of the contents they did not want. The contents were disposed of as follows: The seats and bell to Valleyfield; the Pulpit and Communion Rail to Pound Cove; the lighting plant to Hare Bay; the stove and organ to Greenspond; Charlie Gillingham bought the Hymn Board and Collection Plates to be placed in another church in memory of his father.

On March 18, 1958, the Valleyfield Trustee Board decided to sell the church for $1,000, the proceeds to be applied to building a manse at Valleyfield. On November 3,1959, Hubert Granter was given permission to take down the church on a 50/50 basis. The church was taken down by Edgar and Samuel Knee and Hector and Walter Dyke; half the material was brought to Valleyfield.

Members of Safe Harbour Church who became ministers

Rev. Dr. Lester Burry was a missionary in Labrador for more than twenty years, rendering a full and rich ministry to the residents and to the hundreds of fishermen from Newfoundland who fished there every summer.  In 1937 he built a radio broadcasting station, which he operate to broadcast to the trappers who spent three or four months each winter ‘in the country’, tending their trapping lines, Evening Services from the Church in North West River and messages from their families. He built receiving sets for the trappers. At that time there was no other broadcasting service in the area.

The other ministers have served not only in the Newfoundland Conference, but also in other Conferences, and Rev. George Davis has served in the United States of America. In Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, Portia a rich heiress, walking up the avenue to her house one  night, upon seeing a light burning in the hall window, says: How far that little candle throws his beams… Far indeed has spread the influence and ministry of the Safe Harbour Church.

Below we include pictures of six more ministers who were born and raised in Safe Harbour.

Ralph Garland Gillingham, 1920-2005
Martin Bourne
Jacob Bourne
James (Jim) Gillingham, 1933-1993
George Stratton
Gordon (Gord) Maxwell Gillingham 1930 -


Sunday School Anniversary

A Sunday School Anniversary was held on Feb.5,1913.  The programme was quite interesting, consisting of singing, dialogues, and recitations. The scholars did remarkably well in the rendering of their pieces, and the singing by the school, led by Mr. Ernest Burry, went with a swing. There were one or two items that should have special mention, viz., a duet by Mrs. Ernest Burry and Mr. John Burry, which was beautifully rendered; also a trio by Mr. Ernest Burry and his wife and Mrs. John Burry, which was an inspiration to all who work in the Master’s vineyard. Much credit is due to our esteemed Superintendent, Mr. Ernest Burry, and his amiable wife for their painstaking efforts in training the scholars and making the anniversary the success that it was.

Young People’s Convention

The first week in December, 1936, a full one week Convention was held at Safe Harbour, when the young people of South West Arm and Safe Harbour, gathered each night at 7.30. Miss May Field, the Young People’s Worker for the Presbytery was welcomed by the president Mr. Harry Granter. Each meeting opened with a period of Community Singing. The devotional Service was conducted by different members of the group Miss Field spoke on the organization of the Young people’s Society On Wednesday evening all members of the Society hiked to the next community, Port Nelson, where a Young Peoples’ Service was held, with Miss Field as the speaker. The last gathering on Friday evening took the form of a practical Literary and Social program, in which many members of the Society took part. At the conclusion of the program, the president, on behalf of the Society, presented Miss Field with a souvenir of Remembrance, who thanked them for the kind thought and gift.

As well as enjoying the fellowship and service of the Society, the members are sharing in the Sunday School work of the Church, and anticipate a good year of work together.