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Old christening dresses are special to Northern Peninsula families

Bill Payne holds his great-grandson Max Caines while his wife Lorretta holds Max’s twin Sophie after the babies’ baptism in Rocky Harbour on New Year’s Eve. Max is wearing the same christening dress that Payne wore some 78 years ago. Sophie is the third generation of her mother’s family to wear the dress she had on.
Bill Payne holds his great-grandson Max Caines while his wife Lorretta holds Max’s twin Sophie after the babies’ baptism in Rocky Harbour on New Year’s Eve. Max is wearing the same christening dress that Payne wore some 78 years ago. Sophie is the third generation of her mother’s family to wear the dress she had on. - Submitted

Having her twin babies baptized at home in Newfoundland was something that was important for Kelly Adams.

To have them wear christening dresses that have been in both her and boyfriend Darren Caines’s families for many years just made it all the more special.

Adams is originally from Rocky Harbour and has been living in Fort McMurray for four years. Caines is originally from Cow Head and has been there for 13 years.

Now seven months old, their twins Max and Sophie Caines were born two months early in Edmonton.

When they were ready to have the babies baptized both wanted to do it at home.

“All our families are here and we wanted them to be baptized around family,” said Adams by phone from Rocky Harbour on Friday.

So the couple decided to do it while they were home for Christmas.

Max and Sophie were baptized on New Year’s Eve during a service at Wesley United Church in Rocky Harbour.

Max wore his great-grandfather Bill Payne’s 80-year-old christening dress.

Sophie was not left out of the tradition and became the third generation to wear a family christening dress that is at least 50 years old. It’s the one that Adams and her own father, Michael Adams, wore when they were baptized.

“It was a really special feeling to see them in those dresses and be able to tell people where they came from," said Adams.

Sophie’s dress was store bought and over time the silky gown adorned with scalloped lacy details had yellowed a bit. The family thought dry-cleaning it would brighten it up a bit, but Adams said everyone they told their plans to said not to do it as the colour showed its character and age.

While the story of Sophie’s dress is really just beginning, Max’s dress has a bit more history to it.

Bill Payne is Darren Caines’s grandfather.

The hand-made white linen gown that he wore so many years ago was stitched with a blue trim by the Cow Head man’s aunt in Daniel’s Harbour.

There is a bit of sadness around the dress as his aunt made it for her son who wore it for his baptism. But the boy, who was about two years older than Payne, later died and the woman sent the dress to her sister, Payne’s mother.

“The dress can go back to 80 years,” said Payne, 78, of the garment that has since brought a lot of happiness to his family.

“A whole family got to use it after.”

Payne was the first, followed by all nine of his siblings, his children, later several grandchildren and a few others. The last one to wear it was baptized 28 years ago.

The dress had always been kept in a trunk along with his mother’s wedding dress.

After she died someone had a loan of the dress and it went missing.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to surface — and it did.”

He also never thought Adams and Caines would want to have one of the babies baptized in it, and he’s pretty moved to have been there and get to hold Max while he was wearing that same dress.

“You’re not going to see this everyday,” he said. “It was an honour.”

Now that the baptism is over, Payne said the dress will be returned to him in Cow Head. He’s not sure if it will be worn again, but “you never knows.”

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