Gypsy Wanderer Husky
Gypsy Wanderer Husky

Story of the Famous Newfie Screech

Long before any liquor board was created, the Jamaican rum that was eventually to be known as Screech was a mainstay of the Newfoundland diet. Salt fish was shipped to the West Indies in exchange for rum; the fish became the national dish of Jamaicans and the rum became the traditional drink of Newfoundlanders.

Not being overly concerned with alcohol content, the early fishermen tended to drink the rum at incredibly high strength with no attempt made to temper the taste. When the Canadian government took control of the alcohol trade in the early 20th century, they put the rum in a sophisticated, unlabelled bottle and fortunately did not alter the rum itself. This delightful product may have continued indefinitely as nameless rum except for the influx of American servicemen to Newfoundland during World War II.

As the story goes, the commanding officer of the first detachment was taking advantage of Newfoundland hospitality for the first time and was offered a drop of rum as an after dinner drink. Seeing his host toss back the liquor with nary a quiver, the unsuspecting American adhered to local custom and downed the drink in one gulp.

The look of shock and the glorious shades of color on the American’s face were overshadowed by the bloodcurdling howl made by the poor fellow as he managed to regain his breath. Sympathetic persons from miles around rushed to the house to assist the poor man in such obvious agony and of course to satisfy their curiosity as to what was going on. Among the first to arrive was a garrulous old American sergeant who pounded on the door and demanded “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?” The taciturn Newf who had answered the door replied simply, “The screech?” ‘Tis the rum, me son.”

Thus was born a legend. As word of the incident was passed around, the soldiers determined to try this mysterious “screech” and finding its effects as devastating as the name implies, adopted it as their favorite. The liquor board immediately pounced on the name and reputation and began labeling Famous Newfoundland Screech. Over the years, the alcohol content of Screech has been toned down and the flavor mellowed, so that in 2003, Screech Rum won a gold medal for excellent taste at the International Rum Festival. Today, Screech remains a Newfoundland favorite. (NLLC)

Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.
George S. Patton