Showing posts with label oral tradition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oral tradition. Show all posts

Monday, May 28, 2018

Transformation and Talking Tigers: Tales from Afar at The Rooms

This Wednesday at The Rooms, join folklorist Dale Jarvis as he chats with storytellers Zoe Wu (Taiwan), Tanyan Ye (China) and Jae Hong Jin (Korea), about dangerous dried persimmons, fiendish tiger grandmothers, mysterious snail maidens, and the folklore and stories of their respective childhoods.

Tales From Afar: Old Stories from New Residents is a collection of world folktales, myths, and legends, collected by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in partnership with the St. John's Local Immigration Partnership.

Time: 7:00pm
Date: Wednesday, May 30
Where: The Rooms Theatre
Cost: Included with the cost of admission to The Rooms

Friday, April 21, 2017

Riddle Me This! Riddle Night at The Crow's Nest Photos

Terra Barrett and Dale Jarvis hosting Riddle Me This!
Photo by Kelly Drover.

We hurt without moving, we poison without touching. 
We bare the truth and the lies. 
We are not to be judged by our size. 
What are we?
(Answer below)

This week our office hosted Riddle Me This an open mic night of traditional riddles at the Crow's Nest. Dale and I came prepped with a selection of riddles from online sources, friends and family, and Memorial University's Folklore and Language Archives. Several audience members also brought riddles to puzzle the audience. It was a great evening of brain work outs and we had requests for a repeat session. We even had one audience member who came decked out in a riddler inspired outfit.

We recorded the riddling session and are working on a list of the traditional and contemporary riddles rhymed off  on Tuesday night. Stay tuned to the blog updates where we will post the completed list and let us know if you would like to see this event again!

~Terra Barrett

Sara Anne Johnson, in her riddler dress, and Dale Jarvis at Riddle Me This!
Photo by Terra Barrett.
Answer: Words

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep066 The Writer of Riverhead

Dale Jarvis and Patrick Collins, photo by Kelly Drover.

Patrick Collins, born and raised in Riverhead, Harbour Grace, is a retired educator who taught in various communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. He finished his teaching career in education as a Curriculum Program Specialist, working in Avalon Peninsula School Districts. He is also a writer of historical fiction and has published five literary works. Currently Patrick teaches at The Canadian Training institute, Bay Roberts.

We chatted with Patrick Collins about where his interest in history started, the 1871 murders of Jane Sear Geehan and Garnett Sears on the southside of Harbour Grace which Collins wrote about in his book Belonging, railway memories and his work as a station operator, writing historical fiction, and his next book What Lies Below.
Listen on the Digital Archive:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Big Black Bull of Hollow Tree - a Newfoundland Folktale. #FolkloreThursday

In July of 2010, we recorded traditional storyteller Alice Lannon sharing her story, "The Big Black Bull of Hollow Tree" at the 18th Annual Conference of Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada, in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Alice Lannon was well-known and highly respected on the island as a teller of traditional and community tales. She told stories at festivals, workshops and special heritage events, and credited her gift as a storyteller to her grandmother Mary (Strang) McCarthy. Her grandmother retold the stories she had been told by an elderly aunt, who was born in Lawn around 1820. These stories were passed on orally in the family for about 175 years. In 1991 some of these stories were preserved in a book which Alice co-wrote with her brother Michael McCarthy “Fables, Fairies & Folklore of Nfld.” Alice went on to co-author two more books with Mike "Ghost Stories from Newfoundland Folklore" and "Yuletide Yarns."

Alice passed away March 28th, 2013, but you can listen to her fabulous telling of The Big Black Bull of Hollow Tree on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Ghost of the White Elephant, Makkovik. #ShareNunatsiavut

(photo: Dale Jarvis and Joan Andersen, standing on the White Elephant's famous staircase)

I'm currently fogged in, in Makkovik, where I just overheard a man at the hotel say, "Man, the fog is thicker than day-old pea soup!" He isn't wrong, but the fact I'm likely to be stuck here for a few more days is actually just fine! I'm here for the annual Nunatsiavut Heritage Forum, the first time I have been to the forum for several years. I always love it when I get a chance to come to Labrador, and I was delighted to be invited to come talk about intangible cultural heritage and oral history.

I was doubly delighted to come to Makkovik. I've been to a few places in Labrador over the past 21 years, but this was my first trip to Makkovik.  It is a town I've always wanted visit, and I got a great tour today of the White Elephant Museum, which has been a highlight of the trip for me so far.

The White Elephant is a building which was constructed by the Moravian Church in the early part of the twentieth century. The building was used for many purposes over the years. It served as a boarding school, nursing home, and as a clinic. In 1959, about 30 families were resettled in Makkovik from Hebron.

The carpenters involved in the resettlement project were Newfoundlanders, brought in to build new houses. They lodged in the White Elephant. The same year, it also served as the residence for the first full-time nurse. Since it was rarely used for its original purpose but still required maintenance, the building was often referred to as the "White Elephant." The name stuck, and remains to this day.

Back in December 2000, the White Elephant was officially designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the community began the work of restoring the building back to its original condition. Today it houses over 200 artifacts, including fishing and hunting gear, old photos, kitchen utensils, tools, family Bibles, traditional clothing, mission diaries, and much more. I was the registrar for historic places at the Heritage Foundation when the building was designated, an although I've known of the place for 16 years, today was the first day I got to step inside, with Joan Andersen as guide.

Joan is one of the Heritage Foundation of NL's board members, and has been one of the key people involved with the White Elephant Museum Committee for decades.  She is also the one who first told me about the building's resident ghost.  I went back through my files today, and dug up my old notes on the White Elephant's ghost story, and will share some of them here.

The ghost of the White Elephant is a somewhat shy creature, and has never actually been seen. The origins of the spook are also a bit of a mystery, but stories about the ghost have circulated for well over 30 years. In the 1960s the building served as a teachers’ residence, until a new teachers’ home was constructed in 1971. While no one is certain exactly when the ghost arrived, by that point the spirit was already a firm part of the local folklore.
Joan was one of the teachers who stayed in the building. Even though she lived there, she did not meet the ghost personally.  When I interviewed her years ago for an article on the ghost, she told me, “I used to live there when it was a teachers’ residence, and never blinked an eye. But other people who have lived in there said ‘oh yeah we could hear footsteps on the stairs’ and things like that.”

Teachers living in the building in the 1970s heard ghostly goings-on from time to time. They would be in the kitchen or living room, and hear someone come in and go up the stairs. They would go upstairs to see if there was anyone there, and there was never anyone to be seen. No one ever caught sight of the mysterious visitor. All that was heard was the sound of someone going up the stairs.

“I asked some of the older people and they said they think it was because the building was left dark, especially in the time when there were no street lights around, and it was empty a lot of the time,” Joan told me in that old interview.

“The people, especially kids, didn’t like to go by it. And you know how stories get told, and kids think it is haunted.”
There is one theory on where the ghost story may have come from. In the years before Confederation, the Moravian Church missionaries played the roles of ministers, traders, social workers, and medical personnel. “They would give you salves, give you the occasional needle, pull teeth and whatnot, deliver babies,” Joan told me.

In the 1930s or 1940s one of the missionaries attempted an emergency surgery. The operation failed and a teenage girl died in the building. Could this be the source of the rumour that the White Elephant is haunted?

In 2002 the museum started off their summer season with a student who quickly realized that she could not work in a haunted building. As Joan told me, “there was just one student working down there at a time, and I guess she just could not stand the quiet and stillness and the talk of ghosts that she had heard... and so she only lasted a week!” 

Today, I got to meet that same former employee, who was participating in the heritage forum. I met her in the museum, so she must have gotten over her initial fear of the ghost!

The White Elephant Museum is open to tourists from July to August, or by appointment. If you visit, listen carefully. If you hear the front door open, and the sounds of footsteps climbing the stairs, you might be in the presence of Makkovik’s famous ghost.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Living Heritage Podcast Ep041 The power of storytelling, with Dennis Flynn

Dennis is a freelance writer/photographer/storyteller and a native of Colliers, Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2003, he received a National Writing Award of Excellence from the Canadian Community Newspapers Association. His photographs and articles have been featured in various museums, magazines, books, newspapers, websites, and other publications. Dennis enjoys gathering and sharing stories and images that celebrate Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique people, unusual places, and the particular insights, and local humour.

In this podcast we talk about giant squid, lobster raffles, connection to place, grandfathers, hunting the wren, writing, the Hindenburg,  Dennis's life-long love of tales, and the power that storytelling has for us all.

Recorded on 3 March 2016

photo courtesy Dennis Flynn (


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Local researcher looking for stories about the taverns of old St. Johns

Local author Sheilah Roberts is looking for stories about one of our oldest traditions - hanging out in St. John's pubs and taverns! She writes:
Does anyone have any memories they'd like to share about the old taverns in St. John's? Their physical appearance, the people that used to frequent them, events that occurred in them. Perhaps you were a bartender or a server in the Belmont? The Green Lantern? Or perhaps you were a policeman, a medical person, who had to deal with the results of the frequent altercations that occurred in these establishments. I'm writing a book about our colourful drinking history and would love to included some 'real life' flavour. You can contact me through email at

Photo via  - for all your historic Newfoundland and Labrador beer trivia!

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Woody Point Summer Excursion

Woody Point is a registered heritage district located within Gros Morne National Park. The community is near the tablelands, which offer the region a different kind of physical landscape than other place in Newfoundland. It is a popular tourist destination in the summer, particularly around the time of the Woody Point Writer's Festival, but many people might not know that it has heritage district status. To help promote the district, I recently visited Woody Point to get to know its history, its historic buildings, and some of its residents.

It was a fruitful trip: I returned with 500 archival photographs as well as 100 pages of handwritten local stories, all of which were collected by local heritage enthusiast Charlie Payne. I also gained access to 52 archival interviews (belonging to Parks Canada) from the 80s and early 90s,  and did a number of interviews with residents on my own. Over the next few months, I will slowly be cataloguing all of this data for permanent storage in MUN's online digital archives. As this work is completed, I will be posting links so that it can be viewed by anyone interested.

The Tales of Gros Morne storytelling event at Lobster Cove Head.
 One other thing that came out of my time in Woody Point was a storytelling event held in collaboration with the HFNL and Parks Canada at the Lobster Cove Head lighthouse. This event was a celebration and discussion of some of the superstitions and ghost/fairy stories from the region. We had a good turn out, with lots of stories shared and exchanged -- I hope to do similar collaborations in the future. Thanks to Parks Canada for helping to make this event happen.

Some Parks Canada employees and a few parks visitors sitting around the campfire.

 Please scroll down to see a number of photographs from this field excursion: look at all of the amazing and generous people that I was lucky enough to spend time with and learn from in Woody Point!
Nicky and Mackenzie give amazing tours of the historic Roberts house.

Margarete Sheppard, long time resident of Woody Point, shared with me her life story.

Charlie Payne, a member of the HFNL board of directors, showed me the root cellar he recently made.

Ella Moores, Woody Point's oldest living resident (almost 100!), with Shelley Roberts.

Jack and Sue Parsons in their home near the lighthouse, after sharing their knowledge of the local history.

Brenda Young telling me tales about working at Aunt Jane's Bed and Breakfast in the heritage district.

Robert and Jeanette Rowsell after a wonderful tour of the Prebble house, a municipally designated building.
Thanks for viewing this and please stay tuned for more of what I learned and experienced in Woody Point.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pouch Cove Heritage Committee launches new book

Guest blog post from Dan Rubin

On Sunday, May 4th at 2 PM, the Pouch Cove Heritage Committee will launch a newly published book of local stories and images, Pouch Cove – Our Home by the Sea, at All Saints Anglican Church in Pouch Cove. Everyone is invited to attend, to help us celebrate this major achievement.

The book was developed and designed by six members of the heritage group, who have assembled material for a 186-page, richly illustrated history of the communities of Pouch Cove, Shoe Cove and Biscayan Cove from the time of their founding up to the present. More than fifty people contributed photographs, stories and documents for inclusion in the book. With more than 230 illustrations and a comfortable spiral binding, the book is being hailed by readers as a major accomplishment and a milestone for the community.
Pouch Cove – Our Home by the Sea has sections about Early Settlement, Fishing, Sealing, Local Merchants, Losses and Tragedies, Local Agriculture, Veterans, Women’s Lives, local groups and associations, the Pouch Cove Public Library, Schools, Churches and Church groups, The Pouch Cove Volunteer Fire Department, Sports and Recreation, Holidays and Celebrations, Health and Healing. In addition, the Cape St. Francis Lighthouse, Shoe Cove Satellite Tracking Stations, East Coast Trail and Marine Drive Park are highlighted. Collected Stories and Poems and a section of 22 pages of photographs of local families complete the collection. Introductory sections written by Pouch Cove Mayor Joedy Wall, MHA Kevin Parsons and Dr. Edgar Williams set the tone for the rich collection of information in the book.

As Kevin Parsons observes in his Preface, “This book does a wonderful job of highlighting the resilience, kindness and rich history of Pouch Cove and its residents. It is so important that the stories of our rural communities continue to be told, so that our children can know and understand how their parents and grandparents lived, how they persevered as a community through the hard times and how they also enjoyed the good times together.”

Copies of the book are available at local outlets and can be ordered online from

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Finding Folklore in Foxtrap

Today the ICH office visited Queen Elizabeth Regional High School in Foxtrap to talk about local folklore and supernatural belief. Dale and I visited with Lori-Ann Ash and Darrell Sneyd's grade ten English classes to discuss local superstitions, charms, ghost stories, fairy stories and urban legends. We also explored oral tradition, the transmission of folk belief and offered advice about collecting oral histories. To help the students out, we developed a one-page questionnaire for them to take home and use while interviewing parents, family members, friends, or neighbours.

During our visit the students told us some great stories of the supernatural. The following is an urban legend recalled by a female student:
In grade three or four the older girls at school would tease the younger girls about a monster in the toilet. The legend is that one stall, identified with a mark of red spray paint, has a creature living in the toilet and if you flush it, a green slimy hand reaches up, grabs you and pull you down. When I got to grade six, I realized this was made up but by that time we used it to scare the younger girls too, and kept it going. My younger sister goes to that school and that urban legend is still told today.

Another young woman, whose mother is from Denmark, told a Danish folktale about a man who was plaqued and tormented by the nisse, which are elves. The story the student told is as follows:
An old man was out in his garden, smoking his pipe and tending to his horses, when the nisse began to torment him. The nisse stole his pipe and used it to fill his home with smoke. The old man,thinking his house was on fire, called for help. Firemen arrived to put out the fire but they couldn't find any flames. When the old man suggested it was the nisse and that 'the fire was in his mind', the firemen promptly dowsed the man's head with a bucket of water.
We were also very excited to receive a little narrative regarding fairy belief in the area. According to one student, "in the elementary schoolyard there is a fence and we were told that if we went near the fence while wearing green, the fairies would take you away."

We are heading back to Queen Elizabeth Regional High School tomorrow afternoon to see what the students collected and to help them write up their folklore findings.

Here are the questions the students are using:

  1. Is there a place in your community that people say is haunted? ....a haunted cemetery, a haunted walkway, a haunted cliff or rock, a house, or other building? What are the ghostly stories connected to these places?
  2. When you were growing up, were there any places you were told not to go because the fairies would get you? Where was this and what are the stories you were told?
  3. What are the local stories about shipwrecks? ...buried treasures? What about ghost or weather lights seen on the water?
  4. Are there any people who are believed to be witches in the community? Why do people think this? What kind of powers does this person have? 
  5. Have you ever had a visit from the Old Hag while you were sleeping? What happened and do you believe that this experience was real or just a dream?
  6. Do you know of any special charms, superstitions, cures or remedies that are used in your community?

Teachers, librarians or museums: you can download a pdf of these questions right here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stories and Superstitions of Bay Roberts

Throughout the month of October I spent a great deal of time working on our current collection project on the folk culture and beliefs of the Bay Roberts area. This involved traveling to and from Bay Roberts to visit and interview long-time community residents. During these visits I queried them on everything from what it was like to live there in the old days, the remedies they used when doctors were scarce, and some of the unusual or ghostly stories they were told as children. Needless to say, while the project is not yet complete, the people of Bay Roberts have been so enthusiastic and welcoming that our growing body of material is already richer than I could've expected.
Mr. Gerald French of Bay Roberts, in his home behind Cable Ave.
My most recent visit was with a man named Gerald French who was born and raised on a property just behind Cable Avenue (which is now a registered heritage district). His father was a caretaker for the Western Union Company, so Gerald had many memories to share about what life in and around the cable office was like. He is also a great storyteller and recalled a few ghostly tales he was told as a child. One of which took place on the dark streets of Bay Roberts, Barnes' Road to be exact, before the days of the street lamp. A man was out walking and it was very dark, so he cursed out-loud, wishing for a jack o'lantern to appear and light his path. All of a sudden, a large light appeared in front of him. It gave him such a fright, that he ran the rest of the way home. I've now heard many such stories, most taking place in the days before the street lamp came to town. As Wilbur Sparke's explained, "A man once said to me: 'I'll tell you about the ghosts. All the ghosts left when the electric lights came.' Now that's an interesting bit of psychology."

Despite the apparent demise of the ghost story telling tradition (due to the proliferation of the street lamp), a recent trip to Ascension High School offered us many a spooky tale. Indeed, of 35 students in Mrs. Welsh's grade 10 English class, most had a ghost story to share with us that they had heard from friends or family. Below is a story told by Jesse Rideout about a ghost-fisherman giving his friend a helping hand from a watery grave. 

I've also been interested in collecting superstitions from the people I visit. Mr. French offered this one, which he still believes in to this day: "You didn't like a black cat crossing in front of you. And the crows, even now if we're driving, we'll cross at the crows. Just put your finger like this..." He then took a finger and crossed the air in front of him. "Lots of time when we're out I'll say, 'They'll say we're nuts, b'y!' " His wife Eliza assured me that it's true. When he's driving in traffic he'll say to her, "Eliza, cross out that crow will you?" He says it every time, he doesn't miss a crow.

Another superstition that involves making a cross with your finger came from Greta Hussey's book "Our Life in Lear's Room, Labrador." Greta is another person that I interviewed for this project and her book is filled with old superstitions, remedies, and traditions. The one I found most fascinating is that in the Hussey family, when a hand or foot would fall asleep, they would make the sign of the cross on the bottom of the foot or the palm of the hand. I suppose it was meant as a cure for numb appendages.

A few other good luck/bad luck superstitions were offered by Olivia Bradbury from Ascension High. She said: "Cross your socks when you take them off before going to bed to prevent bad dreams."  And: "Exit through the same door you entered from on Fridays, or bad luck ensues." Olivia also reiterated Mr. French's belief that crows are indeed, very bad luck to see.

This project is going very well, and I hope to find more stories, cures, remedies and superstitions before the fall season is up. Please feel free to be in touch with your own, no matter where you are from in the province:


 Paula Roberts wrote in and said that she too crosses out single crows. It seems if just one crow crosses your path it's considered bad luck, but two or more have a whole different meaning. Here is a rhyme she learned as a child about crows and luck:
"One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a kiss,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a story that's never been told." 

Thanks Paula!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Documenting and celebrating the voices of seniors

The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador administers the province’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Strategy, working to safeguard traditional culture. The ICH Strategy provides opportunities for community members to come together to share their ideas, experiences and traditional knowledge. Through sharing knowledge, it hopes to open up intergenerational and intercultural conversations about shared values and experiences.

The provincial ICH strategy recognizes, as a guiding principle, that the inclusion of multiple voices, including those of seniors, is important in all work relating to Intangible Cultural Heritage. ICH is kept alive and is relevant to a culture when it is regularly practised, and learned within communities and between generations. In many instances, elders in our communities are the bearers of much of our traditions and customs.

The ICH office has been working closely with Memorial University’s Digital Archives Initiative to store and showcase a number of oral history collections, many of which feature the voices of seniors. Collections are organized thematically or by community. Over the past year, a number of new community collections have been created, notably for Registered Heritage Districts in both Heart’s Content and Bay Roberts. These specific collections focus heavily on the reminiscences of seniors in those communities.

ICH thematic collections cover a number of topics, ranging from calendar customs such as mummering, to craft traditions like rug hooking. Almost all the collections include the voices of seniors, but there are a few collections of note which are particularly excellent examples of the documentation of the voices of elders. Some of these collections include:

The Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery -116 audio interviews
The daily work of the fishery had a profound impact on the culture and history of Newfoundland and Labrador. The particular method of curing fish in Newfoundland (and Atlantic Canada)--soaking in brine and sun- drying on stretches of coastline--led to the development of specific architectural forms, language, and many different aspects of occupational folklore. This collection showcases the history, hard work, and lifestyle of many Newfoundland fishing families.

Voices of Nurses -119 audio interviews
In the mid 1980s Marilyn Marsh interviewed a group of Newfoundland nurses who graduated between 1918 and 1949 and worked in a variety of nursing settings and locations in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) and in several cases internationally.The nurses' stories capture what life was like for women and nurses during that era. Women in the 1920s and 30s had few career options. Most chose to stay in their community, marry and have families. For those wishing to pursue a career, to travel or were adventuresome, nursing provided the greatest opportunities but for many also their greatest challenges. These interviews reveal their lived experiences and provide insight into who they were as women and nurses.

Boatbuilding - 63 audio interviews
This collection of audio recordings highlights the stories, knowledge and skills of Newfoundland boat-builders, several of whom who have passed away since the time of recording. For much of their history, the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador enjoyed a reputation for making fine boats. Using only hand tools and local timber, they built skiffs, punts or "rodneys", motor boats and schooners, and a variety of other small wooden boats. While the principle focus of these recordings center around the materials and methods used in the construction of inshore fishing vessels, often those being interviewed will provide personal narratives about their lives in early twentieth century Newfoundland and Labrador outports.

Photo: Wilson Hayward showing tourists the art of mending nets, 
at Ryan Premises National Historic Site of Canada. Photo courtesy Parks Canada.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Quidi Vidi Village Oral History and Folklore Project Launch

Memorial's Department of Folklore, Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, and City of St. John's, in cooperation with The Quidi Vidi Village Foundation, invite you to the launch of the

Quidi Vidi Village Oral History and Folklore Project
Wednesday, May 8th, 7pm
The Plantation

Starting this summer, MUN Folklore and the Heritage Foundation will be researching the folklore and oral history of the Village. On Wednesday night, folklorists Jerry Pocius and Dale Jarvis will be presenting on this exciting project, and who will be involved.

Hope to see you there!

Coffee, tea and conversation to follow.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

In Requiem: Alice Lannon, Storyteller and Tradition Bearer

It is with great sadness that I have to report the passing of one of Newfoundland and Labrador's treasures, Mrs Alice Lannon. Alice passed away this morning at the Palliative Care Unit of the Miller Centre here in St. John's.

Pat, Alice's daughter, emailed me today with the news. Pat writes, "She had been diagnosed with cancer in the fall. In the past few months all the medical people who have treated her were exposed to a few stories along the way. A week ago today she was admitted to the Miller Centre with her health deteriorating rapidly. She amazed everyone on Friday and Saturday and was obviously delighted to tell stories to everyone."

Alice was one of the last great tellers of traditional Newfoundland fairytales in the province, who learned many of her stories orally from her grandmother. In 2010, when Newfoundland hosted the Storytellers of Canada/Conteurs du Canada national conference, Alice was one of the gems of storytelling we chose to highlight. She was a regular performer at the St. John's Storytelling Festival, and someone we all loved. We were fortunate enough to have recorded her session at the SC-CC conference, and the stories she told that day are part of the permanent collection on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative.

To better understand her important place in the oral traditions of the province, listen to her introduction by the Department of Folklore's Dr. Martin Lovelace.

Or, better yet, stop what you are doing for the next 17 minutes, and listen to Alice tell one of my favourite Newfoundland folktales, "Open, Open, Green House."

We've lost a treasure today. I'll miss you Alice, very much.

Alice will be waked on Fri. Sat. and Sun. at Maher's Funeral Home in Placentia with her funeral on Monday morning @ 11:00 am from the Our Lady of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Placentia.

Condolences can be sent through their website:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lloyd and Pat: Heart's Content Heritage

Lloyd and Pat Smith live within the Heart's Content Heritage District. They also happen to be on the local heritage committee and have knowledge on the history of this region. I was lucky enough to spend the day with them and learn about their life experiences here. Lloyd was born and raised in Heart's Content while Pat is initially from Carbonear, yet both of them consider Heart's Content home. Lloyd showed me a photo of the house he grew up in. His family home, which is no longer standing, was built in the 1920s. It was a duplex that functioned not just as their home, but as a boarding house as well. Lloyd told stories of his mother feeding the 10-child family as well as multiple boarders at the same time. She would make sure that the people living under her roof always had something to eat--including a packed lunch for the boarders who would go off to work during the daytime. Lloyd and Pat recalled just how busy she was, and how she never seemed to need to take any naps. She worked very hard in her life and lived to be over 90 years old. "Hard work doesn't kill anyone," is a phase that came to mind for all of us.

A framed photo of Lloyd's family home, brought down in the late-1980s.
Two more images of Lloyd's family home--same house, two different eras, particularly noticeable from the vehicles parked alongside the building.
After living and working away, Pat and Lloyd came back to Heart's Content to settle down. They built a house across from the cable company staff houses in a spot that has a view of the harbuor. Right where their house is now, there used to be a car garage that people would have their cars serviced in. This is not the only building that is now gone: also gone is the Anglican church that was once in behind where they live, the hospital in the corner lot, and the Parish Hall across the way. Lloyd and Pat were able to tell me many stories about the people and places in their community. They added some of this information to a map--a collection of important memories that I will using while doing a few different Heart's Content community mapping projects this winter/spring.
Memory aids for/from my interview with Pat and Lloyd.

Pat and Lloyd allow me to photograph them (in front of Lloyd's giant record collection).

Thank you for inviting me into your home to share so many lovely photos and stories. And to everyone else in Heart's Content that I've visited, thanks for welcoming me into your community. I hope to speak with many more people over the next few months, so please stay tuned.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Making Memory Maps Workshop with Marlene Creates

Memory maps are subjective drawings based on personal experience in, and perception of, a specific lived place. This is a device Marlene Creates has used in her teaching and in her own artwork for over 30 years. Drawing memory maps can help you remember, record, interpret, investigate, and communicate both present and lost attributes of local places and everyday life –– ones not normally registered in the larger historical record. This is an excellent device to stimulate conversation for anyone doing oral history research.

Marlene will show examples from her own works based on memory maps that were drawn for her by elders in various areas of the province: Inuit and Settlers in Nain and Hopedale, Mushuau Innu in Davis Inlet, and her own elderly relatives in Lewisporte and Joe Batt’s Arm, as well as from some of the multi-disciplinary place-based projects she has done with other adults and over 2,000 schoolchildren in the province.

About the instructor
Marlene Creates is an environmental artist and poet who lives in Portugal Cove. She was born in Montreal and in 1985 she moved to Newfoundland, the home of her maternal ancestors who were from Lewisporte and Fogo Island. Her artwork, spanning more than three decades, has been an exploration of the relationship between human experience, memory, language and the land, and the impact they have on each other. Since the 1970s her work has been exhibited in over 300 solo and group exhibitions across Canada and internationally. She has been a guest lecturer at over 150 institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Oxford, the University of Kent at Canterbury, the University of Hartford, and many Canadian universities. This year, she was a plenary speaker at Space + Memory = Place, the biennial conference of the Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada.

Workshop Details

Saturday, 10 November 2012, 1pm-4pm
MMAP Gallery (Old Art Gallery Space)
Arts and Culture Centre, St. John’s, Newfoundland
Workshop fee: $20
Pre-registration required.
Contact Nicole at or call 709-739-1892 ext 6

Materials list for the participants to bring:
  • plain HB pencil
  • colour pencils
  • white art eraser
  • glue stick
image credit: Memory map of Freake land in Joe Batt's Arm drawn by Bert Freake for Marlene Creates, 1989; excerpt from where my great-grandmother was born, in the series Places of Presence: Newfoundland kin and ancestral land, 1989-1991.

Monday, March 19, 2012

ICH Roadtrip Day 3 - A Corner Brook Mill Recitation by Terry Penney

Yesterday was the first of our two "Tea 'n' Baskets" events, where we invite owners of traditional mill lunch baskets to come out and share their stories.  One of the participants was Mr Terry Penney, who brought along a vintage mill lunch basket (which he still uses to carry his lunch).  Mr Penney also shared a recitation he wrote, entitled "Continuous Production." Give it a listen!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tales of Town at Christmas. Wed, Dec 7th, 7pm

Working on History - Tales of Town at Christmas: 
Wednesday, December 7th, at 7:00 p.m.
The Rooms Theatre

Christmas in St. John’s is a very special time. Join folklorist Dale Jarvis as he sits down to chat with author Helen Porter about her memories of Christmas in Southside St. John’s, and with local businessman Bruce Templeton, who for the past three decades has been a very special assistant to Santa Claus himself!

This presentation is part of a series of programs connected with the Working on History exhibition at The Room. 

Tickets $5, free for members; a cash bar will follow the presentation.

SPOILER ALERT: may not be suitable for young children, or those not initiated into the mysteries of Santa Claus!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In the hills above town: Tea and tales in Pippy Park

Thursday, November 3rd
North Bank Lodge, Nagle's Place
Pippy Park, St. John's

The Pippy Park Heritage Committee and Friends of Pippy Park have organized "Tea and Tales in Pippy Park". Join them at North Bank Lodge to hear stories and remembrances of life, living, and working in Pippy Park.

I'll be moderating the event, and there will be opportunity for you to share your own stories of Pippy Park. Or you can just relax by the fire and enjoy the tales!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tales of Town, this Wednesday night at The Rooms

HFNL and The Rooms kick off the Tales of Town series this Wednesday night, at 7pm. I'll be sitting down with three engaging locals: businesswoman Margaret Dunn, music shop owner Gordon O'Brien, and author Lisa Moore. We'll be sharing memories and stories about growing up in St. John's, and hope you will join us!

The Rooms, Wednesday, October 5th
Tickets $5, free for members