Unconventional Use of a Convent

Left to right: Statue in our room, confessional, wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom, and the outside of the convent.

Left to right: Statue in our room, confessional, wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom, and the outside of the convent.

We arrived in Witless Bay on Sunday afternoon after a quick stop for groceries at Foodland in Bay Bulls.  There are seven new MA students – all female so we’ve been dubbed “the sisters”.  We are staying in the old convent beside the church and our classes are being held in the small convent chapel.  Sunday afternoon after unpacking groceries we had a chance to look around the building, unpack our suitcases and make our beds.  The building itself is beautifully restored on the outside and the inside is under construction.  This means there are still many touches from its time as a convent such as statues, stained glass windows and even a confessional box.

Left to right - top then bottom: Priest's house, ceiling vaulting in chapel, close up of stained glass, front porch of the convent, the stained glass window of the chapel, and the church.

Left to right – top then bottom: Priest’s house, ceiling vaulting in chapel, close up of stained glass, front porch of the convent, the stained glass window of the chapel, and the church.

After exploring the building and drinking several cups of tea and coffee from our welcome packs we piled into two vans and set off for the community hall.  Here we were greeted with an enormous pot luck put off by Witless Bay’s Fifty Plus club.  We ate everything from cold plate foods such as turkey and potato salads to cod au gratin and meatballs.  After everyone was served we introduced ourselves to the community and explained what we were interested in – which at this point in our folklore careers is pretty much everything.  There was tea and desserts which was accompanied by an accordion, guitar and mandolin.  We were invited to dance and several of us waltzed, step danced and learned part of the running of the goat.  When the music finished there were several games of cards played.  The game was 120s (otherwise known as growl) and while my table didn’t finish Andrea and I learned quite a lot about the rules and the community.  The evening was a fantastic introduction to the community and I’m sure the club will see us for a scattered craft, bingo or dart night.

Cards (120s) at the recreation centre.

Cards (120s) at the recreation centre.

This morning we had a lecture from Dr. John Mannion who explained the basics of migration and fishing methods in Newfoundland.  He also explained the importance of topographical maps and family names and how it gives insight into the community.  Dr. Mannion described the population growth on the southern shore and some of the changes it has seen.  We learned about the spacial structure of Newfoundland outports and property inheritance.

Some day on clothes - Newfoundland clotheslines.

Some day on clothes – Newfoundland clotheslines.

After lunch we walked around the community and saw several of the places described by Dr. Mannion and Dr. Pocius.  It was a beautiful day in Witless Bay – I’d go so far as to say it was some day on clothes.  We learned more about the community and saw everything from architectural changes to folk art.  We visited several of the buildings we will be measuring and documenting and took tonnes of pictures.

Architecture of Witless Bay.

Architecture of Witless Bay.

We saw several people who we met last night before and they stopped to talk to us.  The community has been extremely welcoming so far and we’ve already been told we’ll receive a large pot of turkey soup early next week.  I was wondering how it would be as a Newfoundlander doing a field school in the province (and not far from my hometown – St. John’s) however I’ve learned a great deal in the short time we’ve been here!

Left to right - top then bottom: Display of tools, bucket once used for the fishery is now a planter, wriggle fence beside the elementary school, mother and baby ducks, fish chairs, and fishing gear display.

Left to right – top then bottom: Display of tools, bucket once used for the fishery is now a planter, wriggle fence beside the elementary school, mother and baby ducks, fish chairs, and fishing gear display.

Simply judging from the past thirty hours it seems like our time in Witless Bay will be a blast!  Looking forward to meeting more people from the community and the interesting classes we’ll have this week.

Folklore MA students 2014 - Hard at work!

Folklore MA students 2014 – Hard at work!

Terra

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