It was January 25, 1979, when members of the St. John’s Rotary Club announced the formation of the Codpeace Foundation following the club’s weekly meeting. It was led by businessman and former city councilor
Miller Ayre (afterwards known as the Codfather) and John McGrath, plus Craig Dobbin, Bora Merdsoy, Burf Ploughman, Clarence Button and others. They had had enough. Anti-sealing protesters, such as Greenpeace and celebrities like Brigitte Bardot, had pushed too many culturally sensitive buttons by maligning the province and its people. It was retaliation time – with satire.
Codpeace became hell-bent on making a mockery of anti-sealers and even high-minded mainlanders. The cod was held up as a cultural image against the cuddly seal and those who vehemently objected to seal hunting as inhumane. Members pledged they would not rest as long as one cod life was in danger. The cod warriors’ motto was “In Cod We Trust,” and “Newfoundland is Cod’s Country” was often used as a slogan.
In a recent phone conversation with Miller Ayre, now retired and speaking from Florida, he recalls his Codpeace days and how the foundation and his fiery speech that spawned it were really “accidental.” The designated speaker that day, Premier Frank Moores, had bowed out at the last minute and Ayre was called upon to fill in. The topic he chose just happened to be top of mind.
“My friends and I had been chatting about how to respond to all the activities thrown at us by Greenpeace and other animal rights groups; and hav- ing watched the serious academic responses going nowhere, as it wasn’t dealing with emotional concerns,” he explains. What was intended as a frivolous satirical response, however, grew into a grander plan and Codpeace became a household name.
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Excerpt is from The Downhome Magazine March 2018. Thanks to the Downhome Magazine for republication permission!