Random Passage’ was a TV series about settlers on the Newfoundland Coast in the early 1800s. The set built for filming near New Bonaventure, was authentic in virtually every detail.
Locals were involved in the construction of the set and the interest generated was such that it was left standing after filming and is now open to tourists as a heritage site run by volunteers. Whilst many people go there because of the film it is also an excellent place to visit if you are interested in how people lived here 200 years ago as the guides are well informed and helpful. Sadly it is likely to experience maintenance difficulties given the ephemeral nature of its construction materials as, being a ‘replica’ rather than an historic site, it fails to attract any government support, a most short-sighted policy to our way of thinking.
The ticket Office is across the road from New Bonaventure church in the old school building which has a small craft area and excellent cafe.
It is a nice 5-10 minute walk along the track built for the movie set. This goes past a large pond which would have been the water supply for the old settlement of White Cove. The populace was moved out and resettled elsewhere 50-60 years ago when the government decided it could no longer afford to support isolated rural settlements which did not have road access. The setting of White Cove was used for the film set.
There are several wooden houses built round the site. Three are open to the public plus a church, school and the agent’s house. Others are now used for storage. There is also a large mansion house. This would not have been found in the 18thC fishing village but was built specially for the film, as the house where the local merchant lived.
The early houses had turf roofs. Later, sawn logs were used with the rounded outer section on the outside. Underneath the log roof was a layer of canvas for insulation and the inside was lined with boards.
Damp moss was collected and pushed in between the logs to windproof the walls. This was a continuous job as the wind blows out the moss as it dries. Originally the houses had a beaten earth floor but later this was replaced by boards. All the furniture would have been handmade as well as plates, mugs etc. All cooking was done over an open fire surrounded by large stones and a chimney above. Mattresses were stuffed with straw.
Outside, clothes similar to those worn in the 1800s were hung out on line. Visitors can unpeg them and dress up for photographs.
There is a wooden wharf with a stage (the name used for the building) which was used to gut, clean and salt the cod fish. This is surrounded by staves used for drying the fish. It wasn’t possible to use real fish during filming, so plaster of paris models were used. When the film was first shown there were protests that the fish were all exactly the same. Real fish vary slightly in size and shape.
A guided tour is included in the price and the guides, who are all locals, wait at the start of the village. We were the only two people in our group and explained we hadn’t seen the film so weren’t interested in the story or who had lived in the different buildings. We wanted to know how people lived. Our guide, Marie was excellent and very knowledgeable, answering all our questions patiently. We weren’t rushed, even though we spent nearly two hours going round with her, whereas the usual tour normally takes an hour.
We found this a fascinating place to visit and highly recommend it.
Rugged Beauty Boat trips in New Bonaventure run trips to the deserted communities of Kerley’s Harbour and Ireland’s Eye. We didn’t do these but talked to other visitors who had done the boat trip and recommended it.
The website for Random Passage Film Set can be found here:
The website of our photographs of Random Passage is here:
The website for Rugged Beauty Boat Trips is here: