Finishing Touches – Floor Plans and Interviews

Joey's shed.

Joey’s shed.

As has previously been written on the blog this last week is hectic.  More hectic than the last and the one before that.  At times it seems like we won’t finish all our projects and work on time but right now there is a quiet determination throughout the convent.  This quiet an interesting change as the convent is usually bustling with conversation and cooking.  With eight “sisters” living in the space there always seems to be something going on.

Inside Joey Yard's Shed.

Inside Joey Yard’s Shed.

It is also a bittersweet week as it is our last in Witless Bay.  I’ve certainly enjoyed the convent life although at times we’ve questions whether we enjoy it too much (is listening to Gregorian chants during meal time taking it too far?).  The communal way of living – cooking, cleaning and living together has been a great experience and I know I’ll miss my sisters when we return to St. John’s (although we’ll see each other four days a week in our two remaining classes when we return).  I’m looking forward to presenting our work to the community on Saturday at 5:00 at the Recreation Centre.  It’ll be great to be able to show what we’ve learned and who we’ve talked to.

Jacquey  climbing around the shed.

Jacquey climbing around the shed.

This week I’ve learned a number of things from different people.  I’ve had four interviews – including Bonnie’s which I posted about on Monday.  Tuesday I had an interview with Vicki Walsh of Burnt Cove who members of the Fifty Plus club recommended I interview.  It was a great interview and we discussed everything from her family in Witless Bay and her great-grandfather’s house close to Lower Pond to rug hooking and Newfoundland Ponies.  Vicki was even kind enough to join Dena Wiseman and do an impromptu rug hooking workshop last night.  I picked Dena’s brain on heritage while everyone practiced the techniques.  I think we may have a few new rug hookers on our hands.  The people here have really been wonderful – inviting us in to their homes, sheds, stables, root cellars, asking us to join them for bingo, craft nights and cards and dropping by the convent with gifts of fresh vegetables or bottled preserves.  I really wish we had more time in the community to enjoy the warmth of the people.  My last interview was this afternoon with the Mayor of Witless Bay Sebastien Despres.  We discussed heritage in Witless Bay while his daughter Amelie explored the chapel in the convent.

Claire hanging out and measuring the shed.

Claire hanging out and measuring the shed.

Other than interviews my week has also been filled with finishing up a floor plan of Joey Yard’s shed.  This shed has two parts – the rear part which was built by his father Henry in the 1930s or 1940s and the front part which was built by Joey in the mid 2000s.  Joey said the shed once housed hay which had been cut in the nearby meadows to feed the Newfoundland Pony their family owned.  The rear part of the shed now contains disused fishing gear such as caplin traps, a squid roller, handmade swivels, gill nets, and piles of rope.  The front of the shed is used more frequently and has barrels of diesel for Joey’s boat, tubs for fish, and containers for lobsters.  It was interesting drawing the inside building with all its studs but even more interesting watching Claire and Jacquey climb around the shed.

Caplin trap.

Caplin trap.

To clue up my last blog post and write what I’m sure we’ll all say on Saturday – thanks to the community of Witless Bay!  It has been an incredible and packed three weeks.  I’m thankful to everyone who made this experience as amazing as it was and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Joey Yard

Joey Yard

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Today was a breath of fresh air from slaving away in the convent all day.

….continued from sharnabrycki’s post

Bonnie Johnstone with a piece of her work felted from a common scene in her meadow.

Bonnie Johnstone with a piece of her work felted from a common scene in her meadow.

After we interviewed Bonnie on felting we shifted the topic to the heritage of Witless Bay.  As a member of the Witless Bay heritage committee and an avid supporter of the arts and heritage in the area Bonnie had an interesting perspective on its place in the community.  Bonnie described a game developed by the heritage committee and played during the puffin festival this past summer.  The game involved several tools used in the community’s history however for many people the objects were hard to  identify.  Bonnie said this was a great way to engage with the community and the committee hopes to further develop this sort of game to keep this knowledge alive.  One thing which stood out most during this conversation was the idea that our parents and grandparents may not always pass down their stories and traditions for a variety of reasons.  Modern conveniences may replace many traditional practices and if those practices are not taught or discussed they could be lost.  This is one of the many reasons heritage committees are so important across our rich province.  These committees provide a voice for the past and help communities preserve and celebrate their past and present traditions and customs.

Petting Boo and Bobby.

Petting Boo and Bobby.

IMG_8363

BFFS with Bobby.

After our interview we trekked back through the woods to Bonnie’s home where she showed us several more examples of her work including felted boots, rugs, a wrap and a necklace.  Then we got to meet the adorable source of Bonnie’s wool themselves.  Boo, Sparrow and Bobby grazed in a large meadow set against the backdrop of the ocean and the North Side of Witless Bay.  At first the sheep didn’t know what to make of us but once they were comfortable with our presence they came over and wanted to be nuzzled and have their chests scratched.  We sat in the field with the sheep and chatted with Bonnie about their different breeds and different personalities.  Bonnie even pointed out the architectural clues of an old walk in hearth all that remains of an old house on the property.  Although the rain and winds set in it was a magical morning with many memories.

Architecture clues: outline of walk in hearth.

Architecture clues: outline of walk in hearth.

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