What is screech? And what exactly is a screech in? And what’s the procedure? Well, having gone through the Screech In process, I can proudly tell you all about it! I was recently in the gorgeous small town of Twillingate, the infamous small port town in North Central Newfoundland. It was there, with the help of Candice, a true blue Newfoundlander, and Riley of Riles for Miles, that I became an honourary Newfoundlander. Let’s start from the top!
What is Screech?
I’ve heard stories about it’s origins, my favourite being that way back, when the cod fisheries were still a lively part of Newfoundland, the Newfoundlanders would trade their skunky gross cod to Jamaicans, while Jamaicans, would trade their skunky gross Rum. Both thought they were getting a helluva deal, thinking “We’ve just scored some exotic Rum or Fish“. Needless to say, they were both giving eachother the shaft.
Hypothetical history aside, Screech is very strong, often strong tasting rum. While it was originally conjured up in the Jamaican islands, it’s now produced locally in Newfoundland, and served with everything from 5 star meals, to ice cream, and of course, to show CFA’s (Come from aways) how strong & prominent the Newfoundland drinking culture is.
The taste of screech has changed significantly in the past years and is now considered a sought after rum in the rum drinking scene. So keep an eye out for it at your local liquor stores.
But what is a Screech In?
The Screech In is a Newfoundland custom, whereby local Newfoundlanders encourage those not from Newfoundland to become an honourary Newfoundlander. The steps for a screech in vary from place to place, but the typical way goes as such:
- The Screecher Inner asks the CFA (Come From Away) “Is ye an honorary Newfoundlander?“
- The CFA replies “Deed I is me ol’ cock, and long may your big jib draw!“
- CFA hammers back a shot of Screech
- CFA kisses a slimy cod fish on the mouth
- CFA Receives a certificate indicating he or she is an honourary Newfoundlander.
The process reminds me a bit of the Sourtoe Cocktail, only with a little more of a party culture surrounding the process. Screech in’s typically finalize with a few (or a dozen) more drinks, lots of cheering, and a bit of a headache the following morning.
Getting Screeched in at Twillingates Anchor Inn
While many have the screech in ceremony performed in St Johns, we were given the opportunity to have the ceremony performed somewhere a little more small, a lot more quaint, and in a true blue old fashioned kitchen party. The city & region surrounding Twillingate is simply stunning. Tourists from all over the world visit these parts in search of icebergs, picturesque panoramas of the Newfoundland seaside, and to experience the warm & welcoming culture that encompasses every Newfoundlander to the core. I had spent days thinking about the screech in and how it would happen, but something I hadn’t even considered was how much I would fall in love with the place I was to be made an “Honourary Newfoundlander”.
Delicious Food at the Anchor Inn
After enjoying a delicious meal at the Anchor Inn, we proceeded downstairs to the Pub, where local musician Karen Churchill was putting on a bit of a shindig. Walking into the kitchen party, we noticed that we were by far the youngest people at the kitchen party. Most were well into their 40s, 50s, and 60s, while were were considered the youngin’s in our mid 20s. One might think that we’d be ostrasized from the baby-boomer party-goers, but rather, they embraced us with open arms and practically shoved insturments in our hands.
We were handed a wood clacker, a tamborine, and an ugly stick. What is an ugly stick you may ask? Well, it’s a Newfoundland instrument, made up of an old mop, a bunch of jangling beer bottle caps, a couple old soup or tomato cats, and stick to beat said ugly stick with to produce noise. While rocking out to the awesome Newfoundland folk tunes of Karen Churchill we were slamming back some tasty Newfoundland beers like they were going out of style.
The Twillingate Kitchen Party
After my 12th beer, my liquid confidence meter had been filled, and I proudly accepted an invite from Karen Churchill to rock out with her on the small little stage in the corner. I grabbed the acoustic guitar, and followed the lead of the local legend herself, rocking out while she was on the banjo. It was an experience that I’ll never forget!
What might have been a few beers later, the official designated Screecher Inner showed up on stage in full yellow mariner weather suit with a slimy frozen cod fish and a bottle of Screech. Shots were poured as the CFA’s lined up in front of the kitchen party. Riley, myself, and a couple from Quebec nervously awaited the shot that is meant to be feared so much. We stood wobbly, and announced in a slurred fashion “deed I have me old cock” – “No no no!” the Screecher Inner announced. “Did I is my ol’ cock, everyone start all over“. A back and forth of misprounced Newfoundland english went on until finally we all nailed it. “Deed I is me ol’ cock, and long may your big jib draw”. We hammered our shot of Screech, kissed a slimy cod, and laughed as a crowd of cheers erupted the small hall of the Anchor Inn hotel.
A trip to Canada wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Central Newfoundland to see & experience this quirky tradition.
The screech in has been criticized by some as being a terrible thing, some sort of monstrous atrocity that Newfoundlanders should be ashamed of. To that I simply say “Psssh!” You can’t fight a tradition that fun! Embracing the quirky and often times humourous parts of your culture is the best way of showing a CFA a good time. The entire ceremony is done tongue and cheek, and nobody is forced to participate. It’s this type of custom that people will go home telling friends and family, which will no doubt encourage many more to visit the province of Newfoundland & Labrador and experience this initiation themselves. Harmless fun with some of the friendliest people in Canada. What more could you ask for?
Special thanks to the folks at Adventure Central Newfoundland for the help arranging the trip. Extra big thanks & a high five goes out to Karen Churchill for the awesome performance and the warm & friendly staff at the beautiful & cozy Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites.