The Newfoundland and Labrador Historical Society has lost a generous patron, a compelling lecturer, a disciplined historian, a patient researcher, a wise advisor, a determined and creative advocate, an avid reader, and an attentive and engaged audience member at NL history events.
The NL Historical Society has always enjoyed the support of the sitting Lieutenant-Governor, but during the tenure of Edward Moxon Roberts, CM, ONL, QC, he was the formal Patron of the Historical Society, and Government House became a showcase for Newfoundland and Labrador history.
His historical interests included many other heritage and historical organizations and institutions. He, for example, chaired the Historic Sites Association’s pan-provincial Celebrating Captain Robert Bartlett event in 2009. He contributed much time and energy in support of the work of The Rooms, particularly its multi-year First World War commemorations.
As The Telegram (Saturday, January 15, 2021, pp. A1-A2) stated in considerable detail, he was the honorary colonel and a member of the advisory council of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. He used his considerable energy and strong will to arrange for the regiment to attend the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel in France in 2006. He also worked tirelessly to have a replica at Bowring Park of the substantial Beaumont Hamel plaque naming all of the fallen.
One of his most treasured gifts to NL history, and certainly not the only one, was his financial gift to the Memorial University Centre for Newfoundland and Labrador Studies. This gift permitted the digitization of all documents for the years 1696 to 1844 in one of the primary government sources, the Colonial Office Records known to all NL historians as “C.O. 194.” Now, 121 years of invaluable historical correspondence and other documentation is available to researchers online. This was certainly a legacy achievement.
He has also deposited with Memorial University’s Archives and Special Collections his political papers and manuscripts. He donated, as well, unique government documents, and rare books and navigation charts to the Centre for Newfoundland and Labrador Studies.
Edward Roberts was a compelling lecturer, when called upon to speak. For example, at the NLHS Symposium “To Each His Own: William Coaker and the 100th Anniversary of the Formation of the Fishermen’s Protective Union,” at Port Union in May of 2008, he delivered a lecture under the title “The Regulations and William Coaker.” At the NLHS Symposium “ ‘The British Empire is at War!’—Mobilizing Newfoundland, 1914,” at St. John’s in October 2014, he delivered a lecture under the title “The Blue Puttees, September 1914 to August 1915: Stories You May Have Never Heard.”
Edward Roberts’ publications, consisting of books, articles, and newspaper writings, included three well-reviewed books: Peter Cashin: My Fight for Newfoundland—A Memoir (St. John’s, NL: Flanker Press Limited, 2012), edited and annotated; How Newfoundlanders Got the Baby Bonus: Stories from Our Imperfect Past (St. John’s, NL: Flaker Press Limited, 2013), authored; and A Blue Puttee at War: The Memoir of Captain Sydney Frost, MC (St. John’s, NL: Flanker Press Limited, 2014), edited and annotated.
He, during his term as Lieutenant-Governor, enrolled as a history graduate student and in 2006 received his M.A. degree with the completion of his dissertation “Nothing Venture, Nothing Have: Mr. Coaker’s Regulations.” At the time of his death, he was engaged in researching and writing on other NL history topics.
As one of our board members commented on first hearing of his death “he gave generously of his time. Edward was a fine and remarkable person.” The Newfoundland and Labrador Historical Society will greatly miss Edward Roberts for all of the qualities expressed in this tribute. We assure his family, his political, legal, and scholarly colleagues, his friends and the public at large that his memory will live on among us as a fine example to inspire historical research, writing, publishing, symposia, andlectures, as well the other volunteer attributes necessary for a vibrant appreciation, discussion, and debate of NL history.
Rest In Peace, Dear Friend.