I think the term is a little too wide spread to be of Newfoundland origin (no offense).

Oh, I never thought that! I just wondered if there was some other common origin for both Newfoundland use and the person-of-Italian-origin-derogatory use. There was a large Portuguese presence here at one time, and that is reflected in some of the place names.

When did the word enter common use? It's possible that Newfoundlanders at the time heard it being used elsewhere for immigrants and applied it to the workers (who seemed to be brought in From Away) referred to in the Nfld. dictionary definition. Really, the dictionary isn't much help on the etymology of that one.