By Staff/August 26, 2021
Topsail Road was down below connecting St. John’s with the communities dotting both sides of Conception Bay, but not much else was around when Mike and Kate Farrell set up a homestead on the hill overlooking Octagon Pond back in 1884.
Over a century and more since, through successive generations of farming andlandscaping and toil, the land has remained the home of the Farrell family and their successors as the Town of Paradise grew up around them.
Now on the same section of hill, near the top of a subdivision called Tilting Place, the council in Paradise has cut the ribbon on a “natural park” and lookout for its residents and visitors alike to unwind and take in the panorama below.
Mayor Dan Bobbett and members of council were joined by representatives of the Farrell family for the official unveiling of the lookout and park this past Friday.
“What was an open space in a neighbourhood has been transformed into a needed community park, and council is pleased to be able to invest in these types of recreational areas for our town,” said Bobbett.
The mayor said Farrell’s Lookout offers something for users of all ages and was designed to utilize the natural grades and landscape of the area. The play area is built into the hill, the picnic area is situated to give a picturesque view of Octagon Pond, and the park ties in with existing green spaces and the trails from Adams Pond and Octagon Pond.
A storyboard was created for the park to tell visitors about the history of the area.
Pat Burton, the oldest living great-grandchild of Mike and Kate Farrell, said the family is honoured by the Town’s gesture. Her great-grandparents raised eight children on the hill, Burton said.
“Of these eight kids, two of them remained on the farm and one was our collective grandfather, James. The other was our Aunt Maggie. And Maggie married later in life and that brings in another branch, which would be the Daleys and the Davises. Mary was the only sister in my father’s family and she married John Davis, and she remained on the farm. Her and her husband built a house here, the two-storey house that’s still down there, and raised their three children there. Joe and Ned, two of our grandfather’s sons, never married, but they continued to reside here on the property and again, their house is still there.”
Burton said her Uncle Joe is the only living member of that generation. At 86 and living in St. Pats Nursing Home, Joe wasn’t well enough to attend the ceremony, Burton said, but was there in spirit. A relative was taping the event to share with him later.
“My father built a house on the farm, just directly down from here on Topsail Road,” said Burton. “There was only 17 of us. Not many at all. And prior to this subdivision being built, there was five of us who built our homes on the farm and raised our families here.”
Burton said while her grandfather worked with the railway for 41 years, farming on the hill in Paradise was his “real life.”
Pointing to the acres of cleared land around them, Burton asked those in attendance to think about how hard the prior generations of Farrells worked to get it that way. “Everything is rock here, but yet they farmed and we had cows and we had pigs and some of the guys who are here today can remember the pigs that Dad and them would have especially on Boxing Day,” she added.
Burton agreed with Mayor Bobbett that the family barn was always a focal point in the area. She thanked fellow Paradise native Carmel (nee Griffiths) Power for the painting of the barn and poem that she contributed to the storyboard.
“It so talks about who we are,” said Burton. “Dot Crocker, who is Carmel’s sister, is here today and I truly hope Dot you will tell Carmel how much we love the barn picture and all of us have a copy of it. We’re so grateful.”
In an interview later, Burton said the storyboard is located just above where she and her husband lived in their own house for 38 years. Essentially, she was looking at the same view she saw when she lived there herself. Burton said at 71, she doesn’t often get emotional, but when she stood at the podium for the ceremony and looked out and realized how hard her father and forebears had worked over the years to eke out a living on that hilly ground, she couldn’t help welling up. They would have been so proud, she reckoned, for the honour of having the lookout named after them.
Mayor Bobbett said an important feature of the celebrations this year marking Paradise’s 50 anniversary of incorporation is an emphasis on gathering and celebrating the town’s history.
“The area that is now a park is an important piece of our town’s history, so it is only fitting to name it Farrell’s Lookout to recognize the heritage of the land and to honour a long-standing and well-known Paradise Family,” said Bobbett. “When visitors come to the park, along with enjoying the amenities here and the breath-taking view, they can also learn a small piece of our town’s history – and that’s a great way to capture our history and a wonderful added benefit for a recreational area.”
The design and construction of the park were completed by Mills and Wright Landscape Architecture and O’Neill’s Landscaping.