Out along the Kelligrews beach in what is now Conception Bay South, there stands a magnificent rock close by the water’s edge. Everyone calls it the Devil’s Jackstone, or at least they did in my day eons ago in the mid-20th century. Young people, and many of their elders as well, loved to walk out to see it along the railway track, usually walking on the tracks, a balancing feat often achieved by holding hands. You just had to keep an ear out for the steam engine whistle as Newfoundland Railway trains would often come by. It was just a short walk around the corner from the Pond Road and the then very scenic Cronin’s Head.
It was always said that this huge beach rock was one of the five Devil’s Jackstones in the Kelligrews area. But I could only find one of the others. This was a considerably smaller boulder resting by the side of a house fronting on the highway near Hennessey’s Bus station, across from what we called Red Bridge Road. It was about the size of the two storey house, and was partly surrounded by trees, so that it wasn’t particularly impressive. There was a sizeable rock by the side of Ledrew’s Lane, near our summer home, and we used to climb on it to soak in the sun, but it was surely too small to rate the Devil’s attention.
None of us roused enough interest to look for the other three jackstones, but I have since learned about two of them. One, I am told, is located on Seal Cove beach, further along the shore toward Holyrood. Maybe someone has a picture of it?
Number four, apparently, nestled on property my brother Brian built a cabin on in what we used to call Lower Gullies, a few miles west of Kelligrews. I have not seen it but my niece Marie Wadden vouches for it, and she worked for CBC so she must be right! It is on wooded land behind today’s Holloway Place.
So the question remains, where is the fifth Devil’s Jackstone?
Jackstones, as perhaps not many know nowadays, was a popular game young people – mostly girls – played back when entertainment involved nothing electronic. Of apparently ancient origin, it was a one handed game played with a set of five “stones” which looked and were shaped like Xes. The trick was to toss the stones in the air, turn over your hand, and see how many of them you could catch on the back of your hand. Doing so, because of the odd shape of the stones, was harder than it looked, so it took a fair bit of skill and practice to be good at it.
Just how long these great rocks of Kelligrews had been called the Devil’s Jackstones is a bit of a mystery, but the term was so common that it must have gone back quite a few years.
Writer Susan Flanagan celebrated the Kelligrews jackstone in a Newfoundland Quarterly on-line article a year ago, and please note some interesting images found on the web by photographers Greg Noel and Craig Dwyer.