The Twillingate Sun – A Brief History

Twillingate once had its own newspaper, the Twillingate Sun. Its first issue appeared on 24 June 1880, as the Twillingate Sun and Northern Weekly Advertiser; the name was shortened in 1912.

The Sun’s founder was Jabez P. Thompson (1857-1938), a onetime manager and foreman printer with the Harbour Grace Standard. When Thompson moved to Twillingate people in the outlying bays and communities of Newfoundland lacked even basic information about important events. Although isolated from centres like St. John’s and Harbour Grace, Twillingate was an important regional entrepôt, and the hub of Notre Dame Bay. Thompson resolved to start a newspaper there, an effort he hoped would be a means of “diffusing rays of intellectual brightness.”

Thompson had two employees, and all his print was hand-set. He used an old Washington press which produced about 200 copies of the paper an hour, but which needed the attention of all three staff. The paper was normally four pages in length, with the first given over to outside advertisements; the inside contained news centring on the town and local area. The paper sold for three cents a copy for its entire seventy-three year run; its main revenue came from advertising.

In 1896 Thompson sold the paper to George R. Roberts (c.1845-1920), a vessel owner and trader based at Twillingate. The paper claimed to be politically neutral, but both Thompson and Roberts were supporters of William Whiteway, and sat in the House of Assembly as Liberal Members of the House of Assembly. Roberts, who also served as a Magistrate in later life, continued to edit the Sun until 1910.

In that year Roberts sold the paper to its third editor, William B. Temple, Son of Canon Temple. A forward thinker, Temple played a role in bringing the first telephone service to Twillingate, helped form a fire insurance company, and was involved in founding Twillingate’s hospital. He was also forward looking in his operation of the paper, replacing the outdated Washington press that produced the Sun for three decades.

In August 1921 Stewart Roberts, Son of former owner George, took over the newspaper. The younger Roberts guided the paper for a quarter century, taking it through the lean years following World War One and the Great Depression. The Sun office was located at Path End, near St. Peter’s Church. In 1928 Stewart Roberts purchased a new building. The structure was hauled onto the newspaper property and the equipment was transferred into it. A second small building was used as a business office, and the original Sun office was later torn down. When Roberts died the Sun’s future was uncertain, and a notice of sale was published in its own columns.

In 1946 the Twillingate Sun was acquired by its final editor Ernest G. Clarke (1917-1967). Clarke served for a number of years with the Newfoundland Ranger Force before taking over the Sun. In later years he ran a movie house at Twillingate, and was a charter member of the Twillingate Lion’s Club branch (1953). Clarke was also involved with municipal politics, and sat on the Board of the NDB Memorial Hospital. As proprietor of the Sun, Clarke employed five men, all of whom were typesetters. Although using his more modern press for the newspaper, Clarke still found work for the ancient Washington press in “job printing,” which involved such items as flyers, letterheads etc. Paper for the Sun in this era was provided by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development (AND) Company of Grand Falls, and was shipped to Twillingate via coastal boat. The Sun’s last issue appeared on 31 January 1953. At the time it was one of Newfoundland’s oldest published weekly papers, and the last in Canada to be hand-set.