The Writing on the Wall

We’re moving into the last week of our time out here in Witless Bay. Of course, every passing day brings us a little closer to our deadlines, and we’ve begun to focus more intently on our individual projects. This week, we’ll be scurrying around the community looking for interviews, measuring frantically, and wrapping our heads around the stories we’ve found in Witless Bay.

All of us are focusing on particular local traditions in the community. My goal is to learn about the practice of writing on walls in Witless Bay. I felt fascinated by the writing in both Sheila Ryan and Joey Yard’s sheds, and I was told several times to speak with Jacqueline Mair about this phenomenon. Jacqueline kindly agreed to meet with Sharna and I today for an interview.

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Jacqueline has lived in the Bahamas, Scotland, PEI, and Witless Bay throughout her adult life, and in each place, she’s written on the walls of her shed. Jacqueline formerly resided in Sheila Ryan’s house, and she’s the one responsible for much of the writing there.

Words and expressions have always captured Jacqueline’s interest. When she finds a good word, she’ll “pluck it and put it on the wall.” In her words, “expressions will come in, and they’ll visit for awhile, and then they’ll go on their way again. Some other words will come and take their place, and it’s ever evolving.”

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Jacqueline invites everyone to leave their mark on her shed. Her current shed wall is mostly a combination of Newfoundland and Scottish expressions, but there’s a little bit of German and French thrown in there, too. She told me that most of the writing has come out of social occasions, and usually as the evening comes to a close.

“I just think that it was something that came out of an expression of people feeling, maybe full bellies, and a full glass, and celebration, and coming together. I think all of those words are representative of a time and an occasion. And none of them- it’s not like any of them are dated, ‘this happened on such and such, and this happened on such and such-‘ I wouldn’t be able to say one word went down, and when another word went down, but I’d say they all came out of a place of occasions, and celebrations.”

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Jacqueline’s shed writing seems infectious- her son invites people to leave their mark on the walls of his shed, and now Sheila Ryan has taken up the torch as well. Has shed writing travelled further afield in Witless Bay? I’m so curious to find out!

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