Saturday, December 30, 2006

Author Guest Blog: 'Fluffy Jesus' a Christmas story from David Weale

It's the sixth night. Cold and calm here in Tors Cove after a day of feasting with good company and skating by the sea. And now an evening Christmas story from David Weale.

Fluffy Jesus

The night of the Christmas concert arrived at last. As I walked along the dark, snowy road with my family I could see the school in the distance, shining like an eye on the top of Greenmount Hill, and it seemed a grand novelty to be going there at night with my mother and father and little sister. Indeed, because of my enthralled state of mind almost everything that happened during those approaching hours seemed uncommonly delightful, and I had the strong urge to compliment everyone and everything I encountered. A bird landing on a branch, or flying away, or the sun slipping behind a cloud or appearing suddenly, all were revelations and signs of the great and billowing goodness of everything.

That year I was to play the part of a doctor in one of the sketches, and was carrying a pair of glasses made out of wire, and a top hat and valise fashioned out of cardboard and darkened with stove black. My father had made them for me that very afternoon and I was expecting to carry them home with me when the concert was over. I had no way of knowing that a surprising turn of events would make that impossible, and if I had guessed for a year, or a lifetime, I could not have predicted what that turn of events was going to be. There were no stars out to guide our journey, but somewhere behind the clouds they were lining up portentously.

The school that night was a magical place, like something just touched by the end of a wand. And I was that wand. The nickering of horses, the glad ringing of sleigh bells, the shouts of greeting -- how splendorous and complete it all was! Each stepping horse seemed a darling creature, and the sight of each man and woman, boy and girl, a cause for rejoicing. The school itself was bursting with light from the gas lanterns brought from homes and hung along the walls, and in the yard fat, falling snowflakes, in slow descent, were being picked out of the darkness by the window brightness.

Inside was a small, improvised stage, built that week by some of the fathers, on which had been set an asthmatic pump organ, lugged to the school on a wood sleigh for the night’s entertainment. There were two white sheets, strung across the front on a piece of number nine wire, with a big, self-conscious boy at either end for opening and closing, and crepe streamers hung diagonally across the room, with a large, red, accordion bell at the centre that sank down slowly as the school warmed, and rose back up as it cooled. Or was it the other way around?

It was a full house, with the young men of the community standing side by side in a bachelor pack, leaning along the back wall. I presumed they had come for the concert, but now understand they had gathered, not to be entertained by callow youngsters, but to be in the same room with the eligible, Christmas virgins of the community. They had lines of their own to deliver that night, and were watching for an opportunity.

Strangely, I can’t remember anything of my own performance, but I do recall the little brown bags of homemade fudge that cost ten cents; the Christmas apples; the large yellow and red barley candies, shaped like animals, that would linger in your mouth for hours; and the little, wooden pencil-box, with the sliding top that I received from the teacher. One other year I received from her a small number of pencils, with my very own name, DAVID WEALE, emblazoned on the side in gold letters, which seemed to me at the time one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. The teacher, I reasoned, must have had some very powerful connections to be able to get specially stamped pencils for every child in the school. In that porridge and potatoes world of hard-scrabble subsistence, when some people were still dropping pennies into the collection plate, and frugality was a virtue that ranked right up there with faith, hope and charity, it didn’t take a very great present to fill a child’s heart with delight. It’s why that Christmas for me was so spectacular. I was joyous as a carol with my pencil-box in one hand, a royal, red apple in the other, and my cheek bulging with a barley shape, and had no idea the best, by far, was yet to come.

As the concert drew to a close the intensity heightened as every child in the school waited for the heavy THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! on the school door. “ He’s here, he’s here,” we all would cry out, and with that Santa would step through the door, from the outside to the inside, and from his world to ours. I think I understood at the time that he wasn’t in the same league as God, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was supernatural, with great and incomprehensible powers. He also showed up. The heavenly father was a distant figure who was often talked about but never seen, whereas Santa arrived every year, on schedule, at the door of the Greenmount schoolhouse -- with treats. Eventually we were all informed that he wasn’t real, and that we were too big to go on believing, but that was just another adult ploy to remove us from childhood and direct us into their world of reference. I’ve since discovered that adults, even the smartest ones, don’t actually know what is real. Most of them imagine that they do, but it’s precisely what they’ve forgotten. They talk all the time about truth, but don’t seem to realize it’s just their replacement for the Santa story.

Appearance wise, the Greenmount Santa was not at all like the stylish, perfectly turned out, mall-Santa of today, with his red suit, immaculate white trim, and designer boots. The Santa I remember was more earthy than that -- a peasant -- wearing a large, scruffy racoon coat, upon which the moths had obviously feasted, with a string of sleigh bells around his waist, held in place by a coarse length of binder twine. He also had a stocking cap pulled down over his ears that helped hold in place his absurd shag of a beard that looked like it had come off the sheep’s back just that morning. The only thing new or shiny about him were his calf-high, black rubber boots that had never seen the barn or the potato cellar, and doubtless had been purchased especially for the occasion. And there was no red whatsoever, save for the red of his nose. He looked, in a word, like a slight variant of any one of the old men who could be sighted in the barnyard of almost any farm in Greenmount. But it didn’t matter. Neither the high drama of his arrival, nor the grand effulgence of his presence, was diminished a whit by his rustic, rag-tag appearance.

It was alleged that one year, before my time, Santa entered and passed right out from the heat in the school, and, I suspect, from the Christmas moonshine he had been sampling to ratchet up his courage. I’m glad I didn’t witness that as I don’t know how the sight of a supine Santa might have affected my very great reverence for a figure who was, in my mind, as invincible as he was good.

The year of the supernatural surprise we all noticed immediately that when Santa arrived he was carrying not one, but two bags over his shoulder. That was different, and promising. Then, as he made his way through the crowd toward the tree we all observed, with almost hysterical glee, that one of the bags was wriggling with some form of concealed life. There was definitely something alive in Santa’s sack, and as the silent guessing spread across the room in a wave, he arrived at the front, held the mysterious, moving bag out in front of him, and announced, “Ho! Ho! Ho! I’ve got a present here for you here, but you’ll have to catch it.” And with that he dumped out onto the floor a little toffee-brown puppy, with long fur and three white feet.

It was a birth.

A portal from the other world had opened right before our eyes, and when that little, blinking creature came sliding out of Santa’s sack it was as though joy itself, on padded feet, had been delivered miraculously into our midst. The frightened puppy began immediately to run through the crowd and, incredibly, headed straight in my direction, attracted doubtless by the powerful magnetism of my heart’s desire. For a moment I was certain I was to be the lucky child, but just then a farmer, Marshall Rayner, stooped over and grabbed that little, headed-straight-for-me puppy in his thick, sausage fingers.

The night shattered, like a dropped dish. How was it possible to be so close to something so perfect and have it snatched away in the blink of an eye. I looked over at my father for some kind of comfort, or understanding, but he was laughing along with all the others. It was terrible, but just before the big tears began to roll I heard Marshall say, “David, do you have a dog at your place?”

“Noooo,” I stammered.

“Then here’s something for you.” he said, as he placed the puppy in my outstretched hands. Immediately, the night flew back together again, like a movie played in reverse.

The room didn’t suddenly go quiet, and I believe a choir of homespun angels was probably singling hallelujahs somewhere on the side of Greenmount hill, but there was a very great hush came over me as I stood silently, in speechless awe. I suppose I could say I was grateful, or surprised, or pleased, but the great and weightless wonder of the moment left no room for any of those lesser emotions. The Almighty had done it again; become flesh and bones and a hank of hair -- not in a cattle shed, but in our crude little schoolhouse, and walking home that night in the snow, with that puppy cradled in my arms, with me looking down at him, and him up at me, I had some inkling of what the Virgin Mary must have experienced. She could not have felt more blessed.

For obvious reasons I wanted to call him Jesus, but that wasn’t very well received by my parents. My mother said she didn’t want to hear me out in the yard calling, “Here Jesus. Here Jesus,” or saying, “Jesus, get off that couch.” Said it wouldn’t be right. So I called him Fluffy, and thereafter he became my constant companion and bounding co-adventurer. But though I never told anyone, at least not until now, in my own mind he was, and continues to be, Fluffy Jesus.


David Weale is also the author of our favorite Christmas story The True Meaning of Crumbfest. The unabridged Earphones Award winning audio edition of which is available from Rattling Books (print edition available from Acorn Press).

Friday, December 29, 2006

Author Robin McGrath on CBC's Weekend Arts Magazine, Dec 30

Robin McGrath, author of the recently released Coasting Trade, will be heard on the CBC Radio (Newfoundland and Labrador) Weekend Arts Magazine, December 30, around 7:30 AM.

Listen to a clip from Coasting Trade.

Coasting Trade, published by Rattling Books is distributed in Canada through House of Anansi Press by HarperCollins. It is also available online from

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Author Guest Blog: 'Charlie and the Paper Boy' a Christmas story from David Weale

As we head for the second in the twelve nights of Christmas we figure it's a good time to bring you a story from David Weale.

Charlie and the Paper Boy
He grew up dirt-poor in a large family of brothers on the Miramichi. When he was old enough to work he became a lumberjack, and with his thick, tree-trunk of a body, and large, powerful hands, he looked every inch the part. But when he was still a young man he gave up the life of the woods for another vocation. He became an entertainer, and by the time his life was over he had become one of the county’s best loved troubadours.

His name was Charlie Chamberlain, and during the 1950s and 1960s he became famous across the country as the lead male vocalist in the “down-east’ band, Don Messer and his Islanders, and there are old-timers yet alive who still haven’t forgiven the CBC for cancelling their weekly TV show in the mid-1960s. Charlie’s heartfelt, even maudlin, renditions of traditional Irish folksongs, favourite hymns, and popular ballads endeared him to an entire generation of Canadians. He touched them in deeply familiar places, and they loved him for it. Some critics questioned his sincerity, but someone told me a story a few years ago that indicated he was just as sentimental and soft-hearted in life as he was on stage.

In 1953, before they were famous, Charlie and the rest of the band were living on the Island, and on the afternoon of the day before Christmas Charlie put in a call to his old friend, Russell Downe, and invited him over to his house for a few tunes, and a little Irish dew. Russell, happy to oblige, grabbed his guitar and headed over, and it wasn’t long before the two were seated, one on either side of the Christmas tree, having their own little Christmas concert. According to Russell they were right in the middle of Down in the Little Green Valley, when the doorbell rang.

It was the paper boy, from a couple of streets over, who was there to collect his paper money. “Come on in,” shouted Charlie, as he fumbled in one pocket after another for change. While this was happening the boy, wide-eyed, was staring at the tree. Charlie noticed his wonderment and asked, “Do you like my tree lad?

“Yes sir,” replied the boy.

“And do you have a tree like that at your house,” asked Charlie off-handedly, as he continued his search for the paper money.

“No sir,” was the soft, flat reply.

“You don’t have a Christmas tree!” exclaimed Charlie incredulously.


“What about a turkey, and presents? You got those?”

“Not this year,” replied the boy.

“What do mean, ‘not this year?’” demanded Charlie incredulously.

“Me father’s not workin’” answered the boy. “He said we’re going to have Christmas next year.”

“Do have any brothers and sisters?”


“Well now,” proclaimed Charlie emphatically, “you must have a Christmas tree. That’s all there is to it,” and then he went into action. He laid his guitar on the couch and walked over to the tree. As Russell and the boy stared in amazement he proceeded on a course of action that was so unexpected, and so impulsively rash, that they could scarcely believe their eyes. He unplugged the lights, then reached through the branches with his big right hand and picked the tree right off the floor – lights, ornaments, tinsel and all. Tree in hand he then marched down the hall to the kitchen where a big turkey was lying in the sink, its neck flopped out over the side. With his left hand he latched onto the bird and headed back down the hall. “Open that door Russell,” he cried out, “we’re going to make a little visit.”

“Show me where you live young fella,” he said as he stepped through the door, pulling the tree through behind him, as ornaments and tinsel went flying in every direction.

“It was quite a procession,” recalled Russell, shaking his head. “The boy was ahead, and behind him marched Charlie, carrying the turkey and the tree, with the cord from the lights dragging in the snow. And I was bringing up the rear, picking up ornaments, and laughing at the look of Charlie. When we arrived at the paper boy’s house his mother came out on the porch, and just stood there with her mouth dropped open.”

“Open your door wide missus,” shouted Charlie, “we’re comin’ in.”

“Oh my Lord Jesus,” she replied.

“No, not the Lord Jesus,” he laughed “just Charlie and Russell,” as he swooshed into the house, set the tree in the corner, then strode out to the kitchen at the back of the house, and deposited the massive Christmas bird on the counter. “Merry Christmas,” he cried out as he exited the house as abruptly and flamboyantly as he had entered.

“Mr Chamberlain,” called out the boy, “you don’t need to pay me that paper money.”

“Oh Christ,” replied Charlie, out of breath, “ I forgot all about it. “Russell, pay the lad for God’s sake.”

As they walked back to Charlie’s place through the snow Russell reminded Charlie that he had neither tree nor turkey at his house, and that the stores would soon be closed. According to Russell he just grinned and said, “It’ll all work out Russell. It’ll all work out.”

When he was done with the story I asked Russell just how much Christmas cheer he and Charlie had had by that point. He didn’t say anything for a moment, then replied with a soft look on his face, and a twinkle in his eye, “Just enough I would say; just exactly enough.”


Prince Edward Island author David Weale has been most generous in sending us several Christmas stories for the Blog. David is also the author of our favorite Christmas story The True Meaning of Crumbfest. The unabridged Earphones Award winning audio edition of The True Meaning of Crumbfest as performed by Antonia Francis is available from Rattling Books (print edition available from Acorn Press).

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Three Web Sources)

Twelve Days of Christmas (Source 1)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Twelve Days of Christmas and the associated evenings of those twelve days (Twelve-tide), are the festive days beginning the evening of Christmas Day (December 25) through the morning of Epiphany on (January 6). The associated evenings of the twelve days begin on the evening before the specified day. Thus, the first night of Christmas is December 25–26, and Twelfth Night is January 5–6.

Twelve Days of Christmas is also an English Christmas song which enumerates a series of grandiose gifts given on each day of the festival. It is one of the most popular and most-recorded songs in American history.

The Twelve Days (Source 2)

The "12 days" originated when days began at sunset. They went from sunset on Dec 25th to sunset on Jan. 6th. Because days now start at midnight, in some places the 12 days start on Dec. 25th, in others on Dec. 26th.

Sometimes Christmas is reckoned as one of the Twelve Days, sometimes not. In the former case, of course, the Epiphany is the thirteenth day. In England we call the Epiphany Twelfth Day, in Germany it is generally called Thirteenth; in Belgium and Holland it is Thirteenth; in Sweden it varies, but is usually Thirteenth. Sometimes then the Twelve Days are spoken of, sometimes the Thirteen. "The Twelve Nights;" in accordance with the old Teutonic mode of reckoning by nights, is a natural and correct term.

Whatever the limits fixed for the beginning and end of the Christmas festival, its core is always the period between Christmas Eve and the Epiphany - the "Twelve Days." A cycle of feasts falls within this time, and the customs peculiar to each day will be treated in calendarial order. First, however, it will be well to glance at the character of the Twelve Days as a whole, and at the superstitions which hang about the season. So many are these superstitions, so "bewitched" is the time, that the older mythologists not unnaturally saw in it a Teutonic festal season, dating from pre-Christian days. In point of fact it appears to be simply a creation of the Church, a natural linking together of Christmas and Epiphany. It is first mentioned as a festal tide by the eastern Father, Ephraem Syrus, at the end of the fourth century, and was declared to be such by the western Council of Tours in 567 A.D.

While Christmas Eve is the night par excellence of the supernatural, the whole season of the Twelve Days is charged with it. It is hard to see whence Shakespeare could have got the idea which he puts into the mouth of Marcellus in "Hamlet":-

"Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."

Against this is the fact that in folk-lore Christmas is a quite peculiarly uncanny time. Not unnatural is it that at this midwinter season of darkness, howling winds, and raging storms, men should have thought to see and hear the mysterious shapes and voices of dread beings whom the living shun.

Throughout the Teutonic world one finds the belief in a "raging host " or "wild hunt " or spirits, rushing howling through the air on stormy nights. In North Devon its name is "Yeth (heathen) hounds"; elsewhere in the west of England it is called the "Wish hounds." It is the train of the unhappy souls of those who died unbaptized, or by violent hands, or under a curse, and often Woden is their leader. At least since the seventeenth century this "raging host " (das wuthende Heer) has been particularly associated with Christmas in German folk-lore, and in Iceland it goes by the name of the "Yule host."

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Source 3)
Dennis Bratcher

The Twelve Days of Christmas is probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th but the following day is considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th).

The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures (see Christmas). In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Traditionally there were three Magi, probably from the fact of three gifts, even though the biblical narrative never says how many Magi came. In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings (Span: la Fiesta de Reyes, el Dia de los Tres Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.

By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.

The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day. Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King's Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some cultures, the King's Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Writer demands to be unlisted from Amazon

Writer demands to be unlisted from Amazon
Nick Tanner
Wednesday December 20, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

A children's author has drawn attention to the plight of independent bookshops by demanding that his book be removed from sale on Amazon's UK website.
George Walker, author of Tales from an Airfield, was horrified to find that his new title was featured on the site without his permission, following good sales in bookshops...

read the rest here

Support your local Independent Book stores and Record Stores this Christmas and in the New Year!

In St. John's Newfoundland that would include places like:

Bennington Gate, Terrace on the Square, Churchill Square, Ph: (709) 576-6600
Granny Bates Childrens Books, 2 Bates Hill, Ph: Ph: (709) 739-9233
Fred's Records, 198 Duckworth St., Ph: (709) 753-9191
The Travel Bug, 155 Water St, Ph: (709) 738-8284
O'Brien's Music, 278 Water St., Ph: (709) 753-8135

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Link to CBC Radio Archive Page (Andy Jones speaking with Shelagh Rogers)

December 20, 2006 conversation between Shelagh Rogers and Andy Jones on Sounds Like Canada, CBC Radio is archived, atleast for now. So if you missed it and want to hear it here's your chance.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Andy Jones on CBC Radio's Sounds Like Canada today

Andy Jone on CBC Radio's Sounds Like Canada today.
Listen to a couple of Letters from Uncle Val here:
Listening Clip 1
Listening Clip 2
If you're interested in what's been on this Blog relating to Andy Jones and Uncle Val up to now here are the permanent links:
Andy's Saltfish Valentine recipe:
A brief history of CODCO:
Who was CODCO?
Dr. Andy's convocation address:
and there's more if you look ...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rattling Books audio edition of The True Meaning of Crumbfest serialized on CBC Radio in PEI

The True Meaning of Crumbfest by David Weale, performed by Antonia Francis (Rattling Books, 2005) will be broadcast over the next three days: Wednesday - Friday (December 20 - 22) on CBC Radio's Mainstreet program in Prince Edward Island.

So tell your Island buddies to listen up. Or check out a clip here.

Available from and in Charlottetown from the BookMark book store.

And if you prefer the printed edition, Acorn Press.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where to get Rattling Books

In St. John's, Newfoundland:  

Fred's Records downtown

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Icelandic Writers Union site notice regarding Rattling Books

Rattling Books Author Agnes Walsh and Narrator Anita Best recently performed in Iceland. Rattling Books ran a Translation Contest for Icelanders to translate a poem by Walsh into Icelandic. We will post the winning translation separately in a future blog. Here is a page about this story on the Iceland Writer's Union website. Of course we have no idea what it is saying. Do you?

Úrslit kynnt í þýðingarsamkeppni Rattling Books frá Nýfundnalandi:
Þýðing Aðalsteins
þótti öðrum betri

Aðalsteini Ingólfssyni voru á laugardaginn afhent verðlaun í þýðingarsamkeppni Rattling Books frá Nýfundnalandi. Þýðing hans á ljóði Agnesar Walsh, The Day I Married Halldor Laxness, þótti öðrum innsendum þýðingum betri. Rithöfundasamband Íslands annaðist framkvæmd samkeppninnar og dómari var Ingibjörg Haraldsdóttir.

Það var Agnes Walsh sjálf sem afhenti Aðalsteini sigurlaunin, iPod spilara (spilastokk), að Gljúfrasteini. Við það tækifæri las Agnes upp nokkur ljóða sinna jafnframt því sem Aðalsteinn las eigin þýðingu á ljóði skjáldsins.

Þýðingarsamkeppnin var haldin í tengslum við komu fjölmennrar viðskiptasendinefndar frá Nýfundnalandi til Íslands í síðustu viku. Á meðal gesta í sendinefndinni voru fulltrúar frá Rattling Books. Þetta er lítið útgáfufyrirtæki á Nýfundnalandi sem hefur m.a. sérhæft sig í útgáfu hljóðbóka. Agnes Walsh er kunnur höfundur á heimaslóðum og hefur frá barnæsku haft dálæti á verkum Halldórs Laxness.

Heimsókn viðskiptasendinefndarinnar var skipulögð af viðskipta- og fjárfestingadeild Innovation, Trade and Rural Development (INTRD) stofnunarinnar á Nýfundnalandi í samvinnu við Newfoundland and Labrador Organisation of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE). KOM almannatengsl höfðu milligöngu um útfærslu heimsóknarinnar í samvinnu við kanadíska sendiráðið á Íslandi.

Excerpt: The Last Voyage of the Karluk by Captain Bob Bartlett, setting: Dec. 16, 1913

... On the sixteenth I had the Eskimo dig out the seal meat which we had kept in the "ice-houses" near the ship and put it on deck, so that we could have it handy in case the ice broke up around the ship. Furthermore, I wanted to see how much we had accumulated. I found that we had forty-one seal, about 1600 pounds, enough to last twenty-five people sixty-seven days. Not every one on board liked seal meat but all could eat it. I had Mamen at work these days making up a list of things required in case I went on another Arctic drift some time...
This excerpt is from The Last Voyage of the Karluk An Epic of Death and Survival in the Arctic, 1913-1916 as related by her captain, Robert A. Bartlett and here set down by Ralph T. Hale (published in 1916 by Small, Maynard and Company, Inc.; unabridged audio edition narrated by Frank Holden published by Rattling Books).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Author Guest Blog: 'Wrapped' a Christmas reflection by David Weale


Feeling constricted, or trapped, is a universal human experience, and every culture has symbols, or figures of speech, that allow it to express the condition. One of the most powerful metaphors for me is that of being swaddled or wrapped, like poor old Lazarus in his winding sheet when Jesus called him back to life, or Harry Houdini, wrapped with chains inside a sealed box, attempting to rise like a god from beneath the dirty waters of the Hudson River. Legend and myth are rife with evocative images of that kind, and for me there is something about the way we celebrate Christmas that inspires a similar meditation.

Like it or not, Christmas has become, more than anything else, a lavish festival of wrapping and unwrapping, and when we participate in the ritual I suspect we are all unconsciously acting out the central drama of the human condition. I know this will sound far-fetched to the symbolically challenged, but I think there’s something to it, and what intrigues me most is not our enthusiasm for exchanging gifts in an extravagant, sometimes impoverishing, potlatch of generousity, but the curious insistence that all the gifts be wrapped, so they can then all be unwrapped. I could be completely wrong about this, as I am about many things, but have concluded that the most important part of the ritual is that of unwrapping, and stripping away, as a necessary prelude to joy. It’s why it would be unthinkable for most of us to give a gift unwrapped, and why it’s not prayer that puts so many of us on our knees on the floor at two o’clock on Christmas morning. In wrapping we replicate our ego-confinement, and in unwrapping, our desired emancipation.

What put me on to this way of thinking was an exchange I had with a woman in a department store when I was in my early twenties. I don’t know her name (it probably one of those sweater-girl names from back then like Wilma, or Arlene, or maybe Sandra), but I do remember that she was attractive and flirtatious, and probably around thirty-five. She was wearing a shiny white blouse, unbuttoned to cleavage, ornamented by a Christmas corsage big enough to serve as a table centrepiece. Her friendly smile was framed by lots and lots of holly-berry lipstick, and her straw-blonde hair teased up into some kind of indestructible hairdo. All of that doesn’t sound so great to me now, but at the time I thought she was quite something.

She worked in the department store every Christmas wrapping presents for busy shoppers, and on the wall above her table was a sign that declared, IT’S NOT A GIFT UNTIL IT”S WRAPPED. And that’s just the spirit she brought to her work. Wrapping for her was a passion, and the way she shook loose the ribbon, spread the paper, and then picked ever so carefully the final sprigs of green or silver, reminded me of how a great chef might garnish a meal, or a famous artist finish off a canvas.

On the day of my recollection she was wrapping a gift I had bought for my girlfriend, and to pass the time I asked her what was the biggest wrapping challenge she ever faced. She said it was a toboggan. “I don’t do those anymore,” she added with a smile. I also asked her if it bothered her that within a few days all her work would be torn to shreds. “Oh no dear,” she replied as she folded under the edge of the paper, “that’s the whole point isn’t it -- to get to the gift.” I liked her reply, and the confidential way she phrased it, but it made me wonder why, if the whole point is to get to the gift, we expend so much time and effort concealing it in a box beneath layers of tissue and seasonal paper, and then wrapping string and ribbon around the whole business.

We both were enjoying the banter so, when she was almost finished, I informed her teasingly that if she did much more to beautify my package my girlfriend might not want to unwrap it. Without missing a beat she smiled provocatively and responded, “Well then, I guess she’ll just have to unwrap you,” which made me blush a little because I realized she was probably reflecting back what I had been thinking about her.

Arlene, or Wilma, or whoever she was, was wiser than she knew on that Christmas Eve Day afternoon, for I have discovered over the years that getting unwrapped is exactly what I want for Christmas, and what I wish for all my friends. In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing I want. If I can also get disrobed that is a bonus, and another powerful metaphor, but it’s my eyes I want unwrapped, and my heart, so I can once again glimpse the infinite in every brown nut and piece of hard candy, and feel the presence of the sweet eternal vibrating in everyone I meet, and in myself.

Unwrapping presents doesn’t do that for me anymore, but in the removing of layers of concealment, and the cutting of strings, I am at least reminded of what I really desire, and that I already have it.

And by the way, if I was making the sign it would read, IT’S NOT A GIFT UNTIL IT’S UNWRAPPED.

David Weale

David Weale's children's story The True Meaning of Crumbfest is available in an unabridged audio edition from Rattling Books. Narrated by a five year old Antonia Francis it recently garnered an Earphones Award from AudioFile. Several of David's books are available from Acorn Press in Prince Edward Island where David makes his home.

Excerpt: Coasting Trade by Robin McGrath

She loved him with a fierce appetite
Patting and prodding his flesh
Like a reliable, well-trained chef
And once, while they embraced,
She pinched the tender meat behind his hip,
Said “If we were stranded on a desert island,
And I had to eat you,
This is where I would begin.”
Over the years she tasted every part of him,
Sleepily chewed the lobes of his ears
In bed in his arms on cold winter mornings,
Licked the jam from his fingers at breakfast,
Then nibbled the tips to still her hunger,
And often she told him he was so sweet
That she could eat him alive.
When he died she
Feasted for the last time,
Spit up bones and hair like an owl pellet
And slept with it under her pillow for luck.

Coasting Trade by Robin McGrath is a performance for three voices recorded and produced by Chris Brookes as an audio CD for Rattling Books. It is voiced by Anita Best, Rick Boland and Robert Joy.

Listen to a clip from Coasting Trade.

Author Guest Blog: Robin McGrath concerning her newest title, Coasting Trade

Coasting Trade

Coasting Trade started out as a series of six linked poems about various places around Newfoundland, which I wrote and submitted to what was then the CBC/Saturday Night literary competition. This was years ago, and I didn’t win, of course, but much to my surprise I made the shortlist and got a very encouraging letter from Robert Weaver. He told me just to keep going with it, that it wasn’t finished.

Every now and again I’d go back and add another visit to another community, but I knew It needed some unifying element for it to make sense to a listener from outside. Then one day I came across an old book of sailing directions for the island, dating back to 1865, and the voice of the navigator was so strong I could almost hear it. Except for the occasional church steeple or flagstaff, the directions for entering the bays and inlets of Newfoundland and Labrador were exactly the same more than a hundred years later.

My mind played one of those funny tricks of the imagination, and I thought of this man, Hobbs, sailing in an out of time, landing in various outports at different times in history. I made him a coasting trader because at the time I was working on the history of the early traders who came up from New England, and it seemed to fit.

I had intended from the very start to make this a performance piece. I wanted the voices to resonate literally just as they had imaginatively in my head. Some of the narratives went on to become free-standing poems, and found their way into print, but they still had a strong vocal element, which I think is evident in a lot of my poetry. Is this poetry or prose? A bit of both, I think. David Ferry once said that performance poetry is “just a free-form of theatre” so perhaps it’s drama as well.

Robin McGrath

Coasting Trade, a performance for three voices, by Robin McGrath is hot off the Audio CD press from Rattling Books. Recorded and mixed by the incomparable Chris Brookes and voiced by Robert Joy, Rick Boland and Anita Best - Coasting Trade is a feast for the ears.

Announcing the Release of Coasting Trade by Robin McGrath

Award winning Author Robin McGrath and radio producer Chris Brookes team up with actors to produce Coasting Trade: a Performance for three voices with soundscapes.

Rattling Books is proud to announce the release of Coasting Trade by Robin McGrath. This newest Audio CD release from Rattling Books is the product of a collaboration between author Robin McGrath, radio producer Chris Brookes and actors Robert Joy, Rick Boland and Anita Best.

Coasting Trade follows the voyage of a Yankee trading schooner, circumnavigating the island of Newfoundland sometime after 1865. As the vessel puts in at various ports, lyrical narratives weave back and forth through a century of change while the 19th century sailing directions remain timeless.

A smuggler who studies angels, a woman who knits a stove, green martyrs, a homesick immigrant, and a biologist studying the sexual characeristics of caplin all come to the attention of the navigator before he turns southward, to the joy of glad returning.

Coasting Trade, a performance for three voices by Robin McGrath with navigation notes adapted from Sailing Directions for the Island of Newfoundland by J.S. Hobbes (1865) was produced for Rattling Books by Chris Brookes and performed (in order of appearance) by Robert Joy, Rick Boland and Anita Best. Voices and soundscapes recorded and mixed by Chris Brookes.

Robin McGrath is the author of fourteen books, including Trouble and Desire, a collection of stories; Escaped Domestics, a volume of poetry; Hoist Your Sails and Run, a children's book; and the novel Donovan's Station which Rattling Books produced as an unabridged audio edition in 2003.

Chris Brookes is an independent radio producer whose award-winning programs (eg. Peabody Award 2006, Prix Marulic 2006, Prix Italia 2005, Gabriel Award 2003) have been heard on public radio in the U.S.A, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, England, The Netherlands and Canada. He runs Battery Radio from the Narrows of St. John's Harbour. Chris also produced and narrated Adrift on an Ice Pan by Wilfred Grenfell for Rattling Books.

Robert Joy is an actor and writer and the principal narrator of The Big Why by Michael Winter (Rattling Books upcoming 2007).

Rick Boland is an actor, director, producer and dramaturge involved in stage productions, film and television.

Anita Best is a singer of traditional Newfoundland ballads and a narrator of several Rattling Books projects (Merrybegot by Mary Dalton, In the Chambers of the Sea by Susan Rendell).

Listen to a clip from Coasting Trade.

Rattling Books are distributed in Canada through House of Anansi Press by HarperCollins. They are available online from

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dictionary of Newfoundland English: Gud

This photograph of Razorbills was taken by Dave Fifield. If you've visited our Blog before or know anything about Rattling Books you may recognize the Razorbill as the inspiration for our logo. We knew the Razobill by it's Latin name (Alca torda) and the local term Tinker but according to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English the Rattling Books logo is also known as a Gud.

Here is the Gud entry which you can find in the online edition of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English.

gud n Northern razor-bill (Alca torda); TINKER. 1884 STEARNS 235-6 I have often seen the water covered with a clustered flock [of puffins], all engaged in making a hoarse, rasping sound, not unlike the filing of a saw; this is also done both by the 'murre,' and the 'turre,' and at such times, which ever species is present, they receive from the sailors the name of 'guds,' from a fancied resemblance to that sound.

So that's what people have been saying all this time about Rattling Books!

"Some gud logo you got there b'y."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ottawa Citizen review of Rattling Books' The True Meaning of Crumbfest by David Weale, performed by Antonia Francis

The following is an excerpt from a regular audio book column in the Ottawa Citizen by Janice Kennedy.

The sounds of Christmas: Kids should be encouraged to read themselves, but sometimes it's OK to let a CD read to them instead
The Ottawa Citizen Sunday, November 26, 2006 Page: C6
Section: The Citizen's Weekly Arts & Books Byline: Janice Kennedy
Column: Reading Out Loud
Source: The Ottawa Citizen

.... One of the most engaging such recordings is the work of a small company in Tors Cove, N.L., a short drive out of St. John's. Rattling Books produces a variety of engagingly unusual Canadian titles, many of them with a Newfoundland-Labrador connection, in unabridged audio format. (And unapologetically, too. Says founder Janet Russell to anyone who thinks audiobooks "are some form of cheating: If you want to be like that about it, writing it down in the first place was cheating. What's wrong with you, can't tell a story or what? In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was Spoken.")

One of the most engagingly unusual of its titles is a kids' audiobook with a festive-season theme. And it has recently been honoured with an Earphones Award from the U.S. magazine AudioFile. The True Meaning of Crumbfest (22 minutes unabridged/1 CD, $9.95) Written by Prince Edward Island history professor and storyteller David Weale, this story has become very popular since it first appeared in print seven years ago. It is the adventure of a small mouse who tries to discover why something wonderful happens once a year, after the extended mouse family moves from their beloved Outside to the between-walls darkness of the Inside.

Sweet and delightfully tart at the same time, and perfect for kids four to nine, the story is narrated by Antonia Francis. And that's one of the surprising appeals of the recording. At the time the story was recorded -- in 2001, for her mother's community radio show -- Antonia was only five years old. Young Antonia turns her little voice to a genuinely impressive range. She is as cheery, apprehensive, sad or triumphant as the narrative occasion demands, and she is eminently listenable. The 22-minute recording is the original radio presentation, rough around the edges, but still a joy. AudioFile called Crumbfest a "special treat." And so it is.

So there you have it. You can read the Earphones Award review elsewhere on this Blog. The unabridged audio recording of The True Meaning of Crumbfest by David Weale performed by Antonia Francis is available online from Rattling Books.

Listen to an excerpt of Antonia's Crumbfest narration.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

John Steffler is Canada's new Parliamentary Poet Laureate

On December 4, 2006 The Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, and Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable Peter Milliken announced the appointment of John Steffler as the Parliamentary Poet Laureate.

John Steffler will be the third poet to hold this office and replaces Mrs. Pauline Michel.

The Job Description:

The Poet’s role is to encourage and promote the importance of literature, culture and language in Canadian society.

Federal legislators created the position in 2001 to draw Canadians’ attention to poetry, both spoken and written, and its role in our lives.

As explained in the Parliament of Canada Act, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate may:

write poetry, especially for use in Parliament on important occasions;

sponsor poetry readings;

advise the Parliamentary Librarian regarding the Library’s collection and acquisitions to enrich its cultural materials; and,

perform other related duties at the request of the Speaker of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Commons, or the Parliamentary Librarian.

The term of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate is two years.

The current Poet Laureate, John Steffler, will serve until his term finishes on December 3, 2008.

An unabridged audio edition of The Grey Islands by John Steffler (narrated by John Steffler, Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins) will be released by Rattling Books in March, 2007 . The printed edition of The Grey Islands is published by Brick Books.

Excerpt from The Last Voyage of the Karluk by Captain Robert Bartlett (early December, 1913)

This excerpt is from The Last Voyage of the Karluk An Epic of Death and Survival in the Arctic, 1913-1916 As related by her captain, Robert A. Bartlett and here set down by Ralph T. Hale (published in 1916 by Small, Maynard and Company, Inc.; unabridged audio edition narrated by Frank Holden published by Rattling Books in 2005).

The Karluk has been frozen into the ice of the Arctic Ocean. She and her crew who are still living aboard are drifting with the current.

The first few days of December were cold and stormy, with very high winds. I made up my mind that we were in the place where all the bad weather was manufactured, to be passed along to Medicine Hat and thence distributed to Chicago and Boston and points south. We got a little twilight from ten to two on pleasant days, so that the men could see to work out of doors. The health of the party throughout our drift was excellent. Every one had plenty of vigourous, outdoor exercise and slept soundly, though the incessant howling of the wind was not always conducive to a feeling of carefree contentment.

There was considerable pressure early in the month at a point about a mile from the ship, which tossed the ice into rafters, but we did not feel it on board. On the tenth a ribbon of water about a foot wide showed in the ice about two hundred yards from the ship, opening and closing off and on for several days. The temperature was getting pretty cold now, down in the minus thirties, yet the air was clear much of the time and we were not uncomfortable out of doors, even in American clothes....

You can listen to an excerpt of Frank Holden narrating Rattling Books audio edition of The Last Voyage of the Karluk by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Excerpt: "The Lure of the Labrador Wild" by Dillon Wallace, setting: early December 1903

The following excerpt is from Dillon Wallace's classic story of the fateful canoe trip which Wallace, Leonidas Hubbard and George Elson made into the interior of Labrador in 1903 (The Lure of the Labrador Wild originally published in 1905 by Fleming H. Revell, New York) . The photo to the left shows Leonidas Hubbard (with bag) and Dillon Wallace in Rigolet in the spring when they were still enroute to Northwest River from the US. From Northwest River they would set off by canoe. The image is from the original glass slide collection housed by the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, University of Newfoundland.
Jump to early December (so that we can atleast share a seasonal perspective with the storyline). At this point (early December, 1903) Leonidas Hubbard has died - cold, hungry and alone in his tent. George made it out to get help and Wallace is now safe in Northwest River where he is recuperating from exposure and making plans to retrieve Hubbard's body.
It was my plan to engage dog teams and start with the body for the coast so soon as it could be brought to the post. Everybody agreed that it could not be recovered before January, and Mackenzie argued strongly against the practicability of transporting it with dogs, suggesting that we place it in the old post mission chapel until navigation opened in the spring, when it could be sent home on the mail steamer. But I knew I must get home as soon as possible, and my mind was made up to take the body with me, if I had to haul it all the way to Quebec.
The great toe on my left foot growing steadily worse, it became necessary for me again to see the doctor. Groswater Bay and Goose Bay by this time were frozen solid, and on December 4th I travelled to Muddy Lake, where Dr. Hardy was stationed, by dog team and komatik, Willie Ikey, an Eskimo employed by Monsieur Duclos, the manager of the French trading post across the Northwest River, acting as my driver. Upon my arrival I was cordially welcomed by Mr. Sidney Cruikshanks, the lumber "boss"; Mr. James McLean, the storekeeper, and Dr. Hardy. It was arranged that I should stop and sleep with the doctor at McLean's house. The doctor did some more cutting, and under his careful treatment my foot so improved that it was thought I could with safety return to the post on December 15th, to prepare letters and telegrams for the winter mail, which was scheduled to leave there by dog team for Quebec on the 18th...
In 2005 Rattling Books released an unabridged audio edition of The Lure of the Labrador Wild by Dillon Wallace, narrated by Jody Richardson and directed by Janis Spence.
You can hear an excerpt of Jody Richardson's narration by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Michael Crummey's "Wreckage" wins Heritage & History Award

Congratulations to Michael Crummey, whose novel The Wreckage (Doubleday Canada)
was awarded the Heritage & History Award last night.

The Historic Sites Association & The Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador (WANL) made the announcement at WANL's annual Chistmas Party in St. John's. The award is intended to celebrate work "that exemplifies excellence in the interpretation of the history and heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Michael Crummey is also the author of Hard Light. In 2003 Rattling Books released an audio edition of Hard Light: 32 Little Stories narrated by Michael Crummey, Ron Hynes and Deidre Gillard-Rowlings.

You can give a listen to Ron Hynes reading from Hard Light by clicking here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Excerpt from upcoming work by Agnes Walsh: Longevity and Guts from Going Around with Bachelors coming 2007 from Brick Books

The following is from Agnes Walsh's upcoming book of poems with Brick Books, Going Around with Bachelors, edited by Stan Dragland and slated for release in spring, 2007. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of Kitty Lewis (Brick Books) and the author.

The selection presented here was made with fond memories of Rattling Books recent visit to Brooklyn in mind.

The photograph is from the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL).

Longevity and Guts
The Grandparents

Patricia and Thomas

The trader anchored in the harbour and the packmen came out on deck. They spread their wares: Gerald S. Doyle products, jewellery, boots, and clothes. Men rowed out standing up. Since it was a short row, to sit down would look too leisurely. Women never went but only hoped the men got right what they wanted. Tom wasn’t sent but he went. He picked out a ring, a thin gold band, paid in coin and rowed back to the creek half-grinning. Patsy was turning fish in the hot August sun. Her stomach was swelled only slightly, maybe she could get away with it. Anyway, there was Tom rowing towards her looking cocksure and full of purpose. Winter wouldn’t be so hard after all.

The Aunts


When Aunt Peg came back home she wanted to be called Margaret. I said ah, but I love the sound of Aunt Peg. She pulled back, set her shoulders just so and exhaled sharp and quick through her nostrils. I never said Peg again. She threw a glass of beer onto my fifth cousin Anthony’s chest, telling him she would not let the Americans be talked about like that. I hear she squared her shoulders, pushed back from the table, went over to my mother’s house and changed her airline ticket to get the hell out of Newfoundland and home to Brooklyn. It irritates my mother to no end that Margaret is so goddammed proud. She won’t return. Aunt Lil says she never will. They talk about her in the parlour, I listen from the kitchen. There’s more to it than Anthony and the Yanks. That priest on Jude Island who tried to haul her into his bed. She went home, didn’t say a word to anyone. He got up at the pulpit the next morning, scared to let another minute pass, and denounced her as a liar who should be tarred and feathered. She hadn’t told a soul, though by then it was too late. No one believed her. Her own mother turned away. Aunt Margaret came back when Grandmother was in the ground. Proud and fierce, she walked through our town butting invisible enemies. I became her silent bodyguard. I wanted her honored here... but too late, too late, it was far too late. Now she’ll never come back. She’ll be buried in Brooklyn, New York.


The family says, “Well sure everyone knows Sis is an alcoholic. She can’t get herself to bed without staggering, would get lost if she had to follow a straight line.” Sisley came home once but I never saw her. “Mom, how come I never met Aunt Sis?” “Your Aunt Sis? I’ll tell you why. Because she landed into town, went to Jimmy’s, drank gin day and night and then flew off back to New York again. Why she spent almost a thousand dollars to come home and drink the same brand of gin she could get there is beyond me.” I wondered if Aunt Sis ever went to the corner store for mix, ever looked at the Southside Hills from Jim’s kitchen window. Jimmy says she still had her black and orange hair, down to her waist, but that she always wrapped it up before coming out of the bedroom where she slept with her ninety-year-old mother. Wish I could have seen her, cigarette between her lips, the curling smoke making her eye pinch up as she folded out the cards in solitaire, and sloshed the plastic stirrer into gin and ice.


Everyone wanted to get away. There was a whole slew of us lined up, signing our name on visa applications. Above all else, get out. Why turn over one more maggoty fish, iron one more shirt, scrub one more floor for two dollars a month? Give me a warm Jewish restaurant on Eighth Avenue where you get respect and tips. Aunt Lil worked hard, married Pete Wasinski. I remember him in the grass, under the dogberry tree, coins falling from his pockets like bread crumbs, laughing as the wind stood his hair straight. Mom said that when he died the shoes blew off his feet from his massive heart attack. Well, he did have such a big heart, making sure we kids found the silver in the grass. Aunt Lil married again, a man from home. Came back to Newfoundland saying she could never stay in the States anymore: “All the small town feel is gone from Manhattan.” Lillian, oldest daughter, never had children or a pet, but has a full-length sealskin coat. “The only thing your grandmother gave us,” she told me, “was longevity and guts. That was all she gave us.”


In the snapshot she has her sweater pinned at the neck, but her arms aren’t in the sleeves. This strikes me as unlike her so I look for more. It is some sort of courtyard where she stands, drooping veronicas lined against a black fence. Her smile is a question of delight, like when someone says, “You are beautiful,” and you say, “Pardon?” because you want to hear it again. The wind is blowing in the photo, her skirt tail is kicking up behind her. At her feet a small dog barks silently and she leans into a man who looks like Trotsky (he stayed at the Cochrane Hotel on his way to Mexico, and she worked next door). I asked her about this once and she gave me that smile again and brushed her fingers across her lips as if the room was bugged. “Facts,” she said. “Oh my, why do you always need the facts, you with all these photographs?”


Agnes Walsh is currently the first Poet Laureate for the City of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. She recently gave readings in Iceland with Anita Best and forged the beginnings of an Icelandic presence for Rattling Books which you can read about elsewhere in this Blog.

Agnes Walsh's title In the Old Country of My Heart was recorded with Rattling Books and is available as an audio CD or MP3 Digital Download online from

Friday, December 01, 2006

Andy Jones, Uncle Val, Tiffy and Tuffy and show held over

Apparently Tiffy and Tuffy (the two poodles with whom Uncle Val (created by Andy Jones) has the pleasure of living) are named after once-living-actual-live-poodles.

Story goes that Mary Walsh had a boyfriend, fiance even, from the States.

And his parents had poodles.

And those poodles were named Tiffy and Tuffy.

And An Evening with Uncle Val, the current stage show written and performed by Andy Jones has been held over and will play throughout this weekend (Dec 1 - 3) each night with a matinee on Sunday afternoon.

And Andy is going to be cooking salt fish with Angela Antle on CBC Radio's Weekend Arts Magazine this weekend.

And, and, and if you live in the wrong place and have to miss all of the above Uncle Val has a CD, Letters from Uncle Val you can get from Rattling Books.


A Snow Covered Old St. John's in Judge Prowse's Time

With snow in the forecast and Judge Prowse Presiding just released I wondered what Daniel Woodley's winter days in old St. John's would have looked like.

This undated photograph of Duckwork St., St. John's, Newfoundland which I'm going to assume was taken during Judge Prowse's time (1834-1914) is housed online by the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador

The Geography Collection
Coll - 137
Arranged and Described by Linda White and Claire Jamieson
Archives and Manuscripts Division, Memorial University of Newfoundland, September 1999

The photo is labeled as follows:

1.03.004 View of the east end of Duckworth Street, P.F. Moore plumbing on the left, with several horse drawn carts, winter scene plus enlargement

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Announcing the release of Judge Prowse Presiding, written and performed by Frank Holden

Now an Audio CD from Rattling Books, Judge Prowse Presiding by Frank Holden brings a vital character and a near-forgotten frontier world of outport Newfoundland in the 1890s back to life.

Daniel Woodley Prowse (1834-1914), police magistrate, journalist, sportsman, historian and champion of the common man, was a "cross between Dr Samuel Johnson and Falstaff." As he rails at both plaintiffs and felons in his jokes and yarns he revives the excitement and the agonies of his time.

Judge Prowse was born in Port de Grave, Newfoundland in 1834. He is best known as the author of A History of Newfoundland, first published in 1895. A History of Newfoundland, is widely hailed as one of the finest histories written about Newfoundland and Labrador.

First performed by Frank Holden in the mid 1980s, Judge Prowse Presiding was adapted from the stage and performed for Rattling Books in 2006 by Frank Holden.

Words and melody of the song "Greedy Harbour, " composed by Jack Maher and Stephen Mullins, 1929, (Greenleaf's Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland, Harvard University Press, 1933, page 256, Library of Congress card catalogue # 68:20767).

Listening time: Roughly 75 minutes ADAPTED FROM THE STAGE © Frank Holden 1987, Rattling Books 2006 $19.95 - An AUDIO CD ISBN 978-0-9737586-6-5

Available online from Rattling Books


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kathleen Winter wins 2nd Annual Metcalf-Rooke Award

It was only the other day that Kathleen was saying how her first collection of short stories was going to be published. And now there she is after winning an award before it's even out.

Go Kathleen Go!

2nd Annual Metcalf-Rooke Award Announcement

Judges Comments:
We have awarded the 2006 Metcalf-Rooke Award to the stories of Kathleen Winter. The stories delighted us for various reasons. They have a clarity and lucidity of thought and language which is rare. They offer a portrait of small-town and rural Newfoundland life in a mixture of stories and sketches and in language electric.We enjoyed the gritty detail in which all the stories were grounded; we enjoyed her quirky eye; and we revelled in the humour which lights up even the grimmest of her stories.We are pleased to welcome a new and distinctive voice in Canadian writing.- Leon Rooke & John Metcalf ...

Read the rest at the Bibliosasis site.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Simon Houpt article on Mavis Gallant in recent Globe and Mail

Simon Houpt wrote a long article in the Globe and Mail this past Saturday (November, 26) about Mavis Gallant and the New York tribute to her earlier this month.

Rattling Books attended the same Tribute event in NYC covered by Houpt's article - with Mavis Gallant's latest release: an unabridged audio edition of Montreal Stories (a collection of short fiction by Gallant selected by Russell Banks and known in the US under the title Varieties of Exile). Narrated by Margot Dionne, the audio edition of Montreal Stories is available online from Rattling Books. All eleven hours of it on a single MP3 CD or as an MP3 Digital Download.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Excerpt from the upcoming play, Say Nothing Saw Wood by Joel Thomas Hynes

The following is an excerpt from Say Nothing Saw Wood, the upcoming play by Joel Thomas Hynes set to premiere at the LSPU Hall in St. John's, Newfoundland, May 2007.

Lost Cause – (excerpt)

Fourteen years old I was, first time I got a bit of skin. Whiskey had nothing to do with it either. Teresa Bennett. Me and Harold and another few b’ys were jiggin sea trout down off the breakwater when she come trudging across the beach. Sixteen, I s’pose she was. Heavy too. She used to call me the lost cause.

-- Here comes the little lost cause.

The big manly roars out of her then. It was a couple of years before I figured out she was just pokin fun at me name. And by that time she was dead. Killed. Loaded drunk and fell out the back of a truck near Bay Bulls somewhere. All of a sudden then everyone loved her.

That day on the beach she up and starts tossin rocks and chunks of driftwood out at our lines. Lookin to piss someone off. Askin for it. Harold called her an old slut and fired a rock at her. She slung one back, a big one, caught me right in the corner of the goddamn eye. An inch closer and I’da been the real hard ticket, right out of the movies, with the black eye-patch and the empty socket to show around at dances and shit. I never see it comin of course. I woulda got out of the goddamn way sure. But it knocked me down and the blood started streamin down me face. She laughed first. She did. Clear as day. But when she see the blood she got flustered a bit, started runnin towards me. I picked up a handful of rocks and let drift at her. She took off back up the beach and I took off after her. She was quick on her feet though, considering the size of her. But I s’pose she knew how cracked I was, split open and bleedin. I kept drillin rocks at her while I was runnin. She screamin back at me that she’s sorry, that it was an accident, pleadin with me to fuck off. Blood runnin into me eyes, blindin me, the world coated muddy red. Cracked I was.

Teresa lumbers up the bank at the end of the beach, busts into the Reddy’s old stage. No one’d used it in years, ‘cept for storin nets and gear. That’s all anyone used ‘em for since the plant opened up. Time I gets to the door she has it barred off. She’s all out of breath, I hears her tryna steady her lungs. I keeps heavin me shoulder into the door till I breaks one of the boards. I gives it one last go, exactly the same time she steps out of the way. I lands in on the floor then, and drives a fuck of a nail into me hand. That hurts worse than the rock in the face. She darts off to the other end of the stage but the backdoor’s boarded up. I got her cornered. She knows she’s in for it. Me there with me face all bust open and me hand gushin. She keeps on blubberin about how sorry she is and not to tell no one.

-- C’mon Jude, please…

And I realizes then and there that I’ve no clue what I’m plannin to do with her now that she’s caught. I was just chasin her ‘cause I was cracked. But now, when I sees her there like that with her big jugs heavin up and down and the sweat runnin off her forehead and her hair all plastered to it. And maybe the smell of the place too; fishy and damp and musty. And the dark of the room, little cracks of sunlight through the walls. I don’t know, it’s exciting. I picks up the handle of a gaff, holds it up to her face. She goes right quiet then. Just her breathin there. Dark patch of sweat on her chest. She makes a run, tries to get around me. I just shoves her down on top of the nets. I got a bit of height on her. One of her big jugs flops out of her bra. She looks back and forth from the gaff handle to me bloody head to the fresher blood drippin off me hand. She lies back, and don’t think I’m not quick about it either. I got me lad out and in her before she can say me name. I’ll give ya a lost cause missus.

She never made no fuss, just lay there lookin’ at the wall. I got blood all over the side of her face and neck but she never made a peep. I got up then and I let her go on. I wasn’t so cracked with her no more. Few days after I seen her walkin into her house and I went up and knocked on the door but she wouldn’t come out. I s’pose where she was a bit older she didn’t want no one getting the wrong idea. Fuck her anyhow. Say nothing, saw wood.

‘Bout a year after that I started knockin around with Margie Ryan. She was never with no one before me though. No. And of course I never let on about what Teresa Bennett went and done with me. Far as Margie was concerned, her first time was a first for me too. Still, I felt a bit cheated by the whole Teresa thing. And, to be honest, when she was tossed outta that truck down in Bay Bulls that time and cracked her neck and the whole Shore was getting on about what a lovely girl she was and how she never said boo to no one, well I’d just have a glance in the mirror and I’d see this little scar in the corner of me eye and I remembers thinking to meself, well everything comes back to haunt you. She got hers, just like everyone else.

Yeah, I remembers thinkin that way alright…

This excerpt from Say Nothing Saw Wood also appeared in Lust for Life, an anthology published by Véhicule Press (2006). The photo of Joel Thomas Hynes reading in a Brooklyn Bar was taken by Scott Walden.

Joel Thomas Hynes is the author and principal narrator of Down to the Dirt (Rattling Books, 2006, six hours on an MP3 CD or as Digital Download from
You can listen to an excerpt of Joel's reading of Down to the Dirt HERE.

Behrens and Anansi (Rattling Books' Distributor) win Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

Rattling Books would like to congratulate our Canadian distributor House of Anansi Press and Peter Behrens for their recent win of the 2006 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dictionary of Newfoundland English : Merrybegot

The following entry is from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English and includes reference to "merrybegot":

merry a OED ~ a B adv b ~ begot (1785, 1890), EDD (2) (a); OED dancer n 5, EDD ~ a 1 (6) ~ dancers, DC (1946). Comb merry-begot, ~ me-got: bastard; MOSS CHILD. 1924 ENGLAND 183 'The merry-me-got!' exclaimed the Cap'n, wrathfully. To call a man a merry-me-got seriously reflects on the legitimacy of his entrance into this sorry world. T 222-66 This child is not simply an illegitimate child, but a 'moss child' or a 'moonlight child' or a child that is 'merry begot.' 1968 Nfld Qtly Christmas, pp. 5-6 They often lived together without benefit of clergy and children born out of wedlock were called by the delightful name of 'merrybegots.'

merry dancers, dancers: northern lights, aurora borealis (1937 DEVINE 33). C 65-2 The northern dancers or merry dancers are really going it tonight. We're going to have a nice day tomorrow. C 66-18 Extra brilliant light of the northern lights is a sign of good weather. They are called dancers in Bonavista. 1981 HUSSEY 62 The merry dancers were northern lights but they looked a bit different and were a bit more lively ... always in motion and continually dancing,

Another use of the word Merrybegot: a collection of poems by Mary Dalton, the audio edition of which was narrated by Anita Best with Patrick Boyle on trumpet and flugelhorn; published by Rattling Books in 2005.

A Brief History of CODCO (Background for an appreciation of Uncle Val)

The following text is quoted from The Papers of CODCO (Theatre Company) COLL-121 Arranged and Described by Gail Weir, Archives and Manuscripts Division, Memorial University of NewfoundlandDecember 1998

A Brief History of CODCO

David Weiser and Dudley Cox, co-founders of the Newfoundland Travelling Theatre Company (NTTC), played a significant role in the history of CODCO in that they hired all of the performers who would later form the CODCO troupe in the early 1970s to tour small communities on the island portion of Newfoundland. Taking part in NTTC's first production, the British farce "See How They Run," June 27 - July 26, 1972, were Tommy Sexton, Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Diane Olsen and Bob Joy, among others. NTTC's second tour in August 1972 was with the play "Pools Paradise," and featured Greg Malone, Mary, Diane, and Tommy. Cathy Jones, Tommy and Diane toured with "Starrigan" in 1973. They travelled the back roads of the island in two Volkswagen vans and slept most nights on school gymnasium floors. They were paid $40 a week plus meals. This experience not only exposed the group of "townies" to outport life first hand, providing them with grist for their creative mills, but gave them a taste of the precarious life of acting, and prepared them for the provincial tour of their own show "Cod On A Stick" in the summer of 1974.

In a very real sense, the life of CODCO as a working theatre troupe began and ended with Tommy Sexton. His influence on the group was summed up by Sandy Morris: "Tommy was one of those great personalities who dictates so much of how you lead your life. He had so much energy that you just got sucked along with whatever he wanted to do." He had quit school after Grade 10 and, against his parents' wishes, went to Toronto in late summer 1973 with Diane Olsen to pursue a career in acting. He and Diane tried out for a show with Paul Thompson, director of Theatre Passe Muraille. They did not get the parts because of their accents, but Paul was impressed with them and gave them $300 to write their own play. They recruited their roommates, Cathy Jones and Paul Sametz. The plan was to do the "Punch and Judy" show they had worked on at NTTC along with some other pieces they had written, but they needed direction, which they sought from Greg Malone. He agreed and ended up writing himself into the show. White helped with the writing but did not want to be on stage, so she talked Mary Walsh into joining. Thus CODCO was born. The name CODCO was not used until they had to design a program, at which time Greg came up with CODCO (Cod Company), which referred to the fact that they were codding people. The space in which they were to perform was the annex of a small church, a tiny area with steps to sit on and a main door which opened right onto the little stage. Their first show, "Cod On A Stick," debuted in October and, although a brief 30 minutes, it was a hit. In it, they made fun of the way mainlanders see Newfoundlanders. They expanded it to 45 minutes and ran it again during November and December and again in January 1974. CBC Radio paid their way home in February so that they could record it live in front of a Newfoundland audience. It was an even bigger hit in St. John's. 1974 was the 25th anniversary of Newfoundland's confederation with Canada and grant money was made available to bring outside performers into the province. CODCO lobbied for a share and received $8000 with which they bought a van to tour the show around the province. Christian Decker was hired as driver and manager for this tour. Mary returned to Ryerson and was replaced on the tour by Maisie Rillie. Cathy was working with NTTC for the first few weeks of the tour, so White filled in for her. Bob Joy returned from Oxford to join the tour. Andy Jones joined in time for the August 1974 filming of the show which was staged at Memorial University's Little Theatre. For the next nine productions, the troupe consisted of Andy Jones, Cathy Jones, Bob Joy, Greg Malone, Diane Olsen, Tommy Sexton and Mary Walsh, collectively referred to here as "all seven members," with Maisie Rillie as business manager and White performing technical duties. When Bob and Diane left the troupe in 1976, the remaining five members decided to retain CODCO as a limited liability company, under the aegis of which they worked individually and in various forms of togetherness over the next 10 years. In 1986, the CODCO television series brought these five back to work together on a stable basis for the next five years and, when the show went national in 1988, they began renting office space in St. John's, first above the Ship Inn bar on Duckworth Street, and from May 1989 at 177 Water Street on the third floor of the London, New York and Paris building. Andy Jones left the television series in October 1990 after a dispute with CBC about some of his material being censored, but the remaining four members stayed together for another two seasons.

In November 1992, The Plays of CODCO, edited by Helen Peters with the co-operation of all seven original members, was published by Peter Lang. This is the definitive version of their five major stage shows and, for the members of CODCO, represented the pinnacle of their careers. It legitimized them as writers and guaranteed their work would survive for posterity. The launch of the publication was the only time after 1976 they all appeared together in public, this time to sign copies of "their" book. Then, in December 1993, Tommy Sexton died and the troupe disbanded. With the culmination of the television show and the publication of The Plays of CODCO, the individual members of the troupe no longer felt the need to maintain an office. The office had served as a resource centre for the troupe, a place of their own where they could consult old scripts for reworking into new material and where the notes and working papers of their early stage shows could be housed during the editing process leading up to publication. In April 1994, the contents of the office were transferred to the Archives and Manuscripts Division at Memorial University and the lease was cancelled. The remaining members of CODCO went their separate ways once again: Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones began work on a new CBC national television comedy series, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which is still (in 1999) one of the highest-rated shows in the country; Andy Jones continues to write, perform and direct for stage and television, locally and nationally; Greg Malone has branched out into more dramatic roles and social activism, writing, performing and directing stage shows locally and nationally, doing a video using his comedy to teach medical students about AIDS and, most recently, a docu-drama on the women's suffrage movement in Newfoundland.

Source of the above: The Papers of CODCO (Theatre Company) COLL-121 Arranged and Described by Gail Weir, Archives and Manuscripts Division, Memorial University of NewfoundlandDecember 1998

Andy Jones, the member of CODCO responsible for depositing the above papers with the Archives, is currently appearing on stage in St. John's, Newfoundland in An Evening with Uncle Val in which he threads some of his asides through the history of CODCO.

Letters from Uncle Val is a Rattling Books Audio CD written and performed by Andy Jones. It was released this past week with the stage show. Available online from Rattling Books, the best places to find it in St. John's are Fred's Records and the Travel Bug.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Who was CODCO? Background for an appreciation of Andy Jones and Uncle Val

Andy Jones is well known to many through his association with the Newfoundland comedy troupe CODCO and later more so for his one man shows and the character Uncle Val who is the core of Andy's current show at the LSPU Hall.

For those who don't know who CODCO is we will start by simply naming the names.

The following is quoted from the Memorial University of Newfoundland Archives:

Who was CODCO?

CODCO (1973-1993) was made up of the following writers / performers:

Tommy Sexton (1973-93) Mary Walsh (1973-93) Diane Olsen (1973-76) Bob Joy (1974-76)Cathy Jones (1973-93) Andy Jones (1974-90) Greg Malone (1973-93)

Paul Sametz played "the neighbour" for the original Toronto run of "Cod On A Stick." When the show was brought to St. John's, Scott Strong replaced Sametz, but he also left before the show toured Newfoundland. Maisie Rillie and Mary White, known simply as White, performed with the troupe on occasion and both also served as manager, White for the Toronto run of "Cod On A Stick" and the television series in the 1980s and 90s, Rillie for the other stage shows in the 1970s. Greg Thomey occasionally worked with the troupe on the television series as both a performer and writer. Guitarist Sandy Morris composed the theme music for the television series and became musical director when it went national.

Source of the above:

The Papers of CODCO (Theatre Company) COLL-121 Arranged and Described by Gail Weir Archives and Manuscripts Division, Memorial University of NewfoundlandDecember 1998

Friday, November 24, 2006

Listen to a Letter from Uncle Val from his new Audio CD

Andy Jones has just released Uncle Val's first Audio CD entitled Letters from Uncle Val (Rattling Books 2006).

Listen to the first letter in this collection of nineteen letters.

Letters from Uncle Val is available online from Rattling Books. If you're lucky enough to live in or around St. John's, Newfoundland you can grab it from Fred's Records or the Travel Bug (who also have it in their new Corner Brook store).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Anita Best: one of many tangents in "An Evening with Uncle Val"

Anita Best as a tangential story in "An Evening with Uncle Val" by Andy Jones

In An Evening with Uncle Val currently playing at the LSPU Hall in St. John's, Newfoundland, Andy Jones is regaling audiences with a labyrinthic tour through the letters of Uncle Val. Uncle Val is a well loved old slipper of a character that anyone who has followed Andy Jones in the theatre over the years has come to cherish. Modeled on the story teller Francis Colbert, Uncle Val is a subtle commentator on the shifting sands of tradition - a chuckle machine that warms your heart while stretching your brains reflection muscles.

Several of the asides in the evening pertain to Anita Best and in fact in several ways and places Andy Jones pays homage to Anita Best. The Internet being what it is - you can read an interview with Anita Best that covers some of the same ground alluded to in An Evening with Uncle Val - a 2001 conversation that Elinor Benjamin' had with Anita Best that was published in the Canadian Folk Music Bulletin is available for the reading, if not the telling, online. In this conversation Anita recalls the story telling talents of Pius Power and a version of Cinderella he told her young daughter Kate wherein oversized feet are shaved down with pocket knives and Cinderella herself opts out of the race.

Anita Best is the voice of Mary Dalton's poems on Rattling Books audio edition of Merrybegot. Along with poet Agnes Walsh she recently represented Rattling Books in Iceland.

Listen to the voice of Anita Best reading a poem from Merrybegot.

Gordon Jones reviews "An Evening with Uncle Val" (The Telegram)

Move fast to see Uncle Val

Theatre reviewBy Gordon Jones

... An Evening with Uncle Val" is a double narrative. The letters of Uncle Valentine Reardigan to his friend back home around the bay are intertwined with the metatheatrical Andy Jones narrative, in which the author-performer comments on the Uncle Val component and also provides a good-humoured, anecdotal account of becoming a performing artist in Newfoundland, while paying tribute to the traditional story tellers in whose footsteps he is walking.

... Tales and yarns are generally extremely funny, as Jones and Uncle Val philosophise and fabulise, and as the narrative is extended to include the denizens of Jones's imagination - dead parents, Queen Elizabeth, the Beatles, President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.

Performance feats include mimicry of Kennedy and Smallwood, miming a codfish and a whirling dervish of a dance performed in the persona of a werewolf. Quips and comic trouvailles include a throw-away line about zen driving licences for the legally blind and a running joke about Danes.Sometimes impishly mischievous, sometimes earnestly intent; now straight-faced, now wild-eyed, Jones's performance is versatile, but always open and candid...

(For the full review click here)

Memorial University of Newfoundland Convocation address by Dr. Andrew Jones in 2000

This week Andy Jones' current stage show An Evening with Uncle Val plays in St. John's. With Andy Jones on the stage as Uncle Val and remembering thirty years of theatre it's not a bad time to reflect on the contribution to our culture and society that artists like Andy Jones make.

Like many artists and professional funny people through time Andy Jones is one of our society's most serious assets. Memorial University of Newfoundland recognized that by bestowing Andy and three of his comedic colleagues with Honourary Doctorates in 2000. The previous post on this Blog was the Public Orator's speech concerning Andy. Now here's what Andy said.

Memorial Univeristy of Newfoundland Convocation address by Dr. Andrew Jones in 2000
"It's hard to be the last person in a series of CODCO people because usually they say before what you meant to say. We used to have a thing one time in CODCO where we all had to vomit onstage. And I was the last vomiter. And of course I had to do the best one. It was very dangerous because Tommy Sexton used to go before me and sometimes if the crowd really loved him a lot, he couldn't help, he would do my vomit too. And then I had nowhere to go.
I'd like to tell you a little story. Once upon a time not so very long ago, in fact on the 31st of March of this year, I performed in a children's show in Buchans at Lakeside Academy — we dramatized two Newfoundland folktales: Jack and the Three Giants and Little Jack The Little Fisherman.

The eight members of the company all agreed that day in Buchans, that that particular performance had been very, very, very special. It had been a magic 45 minutes. Those moments do happen occasionally in the theatre and do happen occasionally in life, and the 100 or so adults who were in the audience and 200 children seemed to agree by their obvious surrender to the seductive charms of story telling.

I should point out that this show that we were doing was not part of the curriculum, was not a profit making venture and was not designed for tourists. It was a magic moment totally without agenda ... and without Walt Disney. Just a bunch of Newfoundlanders listening to our own stories and enjoying our own particular take on what it is to be human.
It takes a lot of work to produce 45 minutes of magic. Two years of planning, writing, rewriting, rehearsing, designing and building — but more important are the cultural threads that led to this human connection in Buchans on March 31.

I'll just list some of them, and they're probably the same threads that run through your lives: the stories themselves were originally told by Mr. Freeman Bennett from St. Pauls on the west coast of the island, part of the rich oral tradition of Newfoundland; they were collected by Herbert Halpert and John Widdowson, whose life's work was supported by the people of Newfoundland through Memorial University; the actors themselves were from all over the province — Stephenville, Corner Brook, Badgers Quay, Kelligrews, Merasheen Island, Mount Pearl, St. John's and Clark's Beach; two of the actors were graduates of the Grenfell College, one was an alumnus of Figgy Duff, one from CODCO — where we stole stories, phrases, characters, and even lines from our parents who were from Conception Bay, St. Mary's Bay, Notre Dame Bay, Bay of Islands, Carters Hill and Gower Street; another of our actor's beginnings in the theatre go directly back to the Jack tales as told by Mr. Pius Power of South East Bight in Placentia Bay and heard on the school broadcasts as collected by Anita Best, our wonderful singer/storyteller — an alumnus and bright light of Memorial's Folklore Department; another actor started his career because his community was doing a project based on Bernice Morgan's novel Random Passage — which is probably the best story of how we all got here in the first place; another career in our group started because of a high school teacher in Kelligrews who loved the theatre.

I've only just scratched the surface of all these threads — cultural threads that were there at that moment in that magical 45 minutes in Buchans. We do really have something very, very special here and we all know that. But we must tell our fearless leaders that it didn't come about because it made a profit or because it was for tourists. It was generated by human beings — together in our complex, evolved, and still very dynamic Newfoundland culture nurtured by the people of Newfoundland in institutions such as the university and the school system. And the art that comes from that culture should be available to our own people first and later on for the tourists.

And that's just a story and I'll end it the way Mr. Pius Power ends all his stories, by telling you that when we finished the show in Buchans we all sat down to a meal at a tin table, but the tin table bended so my story's ended. If the table had been stronger my story would have been longer, and if the people in the story don't have good luck then may all of ye. "

N.B. Letters from Uncle Val, a Rattling Books audio CD written and performed by Andy Jones is now available from

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Oration honouring Andrew Jordan Jones (Creator of Uncle Val) by Shane O'Dea in 2000

Shane O'Dea has been the public orator for Memorial University since 1995. In this capacity he delivers public orations on Honour Roll recipients during the annual convocation ceremony.

In 2000, Memorial University of Newfoundland bestowed Honourary Degrees on a quartet of Newfoundland actors and Codco members: Andy Jones, Mary Walsh, Greg Malone and Cathy Jones.

Here is what Shane O'Dea wrote in his Oration honouring Andrew Jordan Jones:

"To speak of fools is to step into a world of paradox, a world of distorting mirrors. And for those of us who hold seriousness and wisdom in high esteem, to take such a step is to hold ourselves open to reproach. Chancellor, on this stage we commonly, or uncommonly if that would be your preference, honour philanthropists and those who have served their communities, scholars and those who have accomplished great things. To be a fool is to be none of these, yet all. However, if we do not honour fools we are but fools ourselves for we fail in our fooling to recognize the folly of our foolishness. Thus needs we be careful and move only at a snail's pace, to use an old analogy, or picosecond by picosecond to use a new — a new analogy that is precisely of the precision we would achieve in uniting our wisdom with the candidate's accomplishment.

And so, these words disported, we proceed to the dissection of merit. This man was last in and first out of this quartet. Entering late, he left early because of a dispute on a matter of principle with the CBC. He felt that the CBC was censoring him while he savagely censured an institution that had cultivated him. But he had done this earlier with the vehement madness of Father Dinn, who preached to little children on the sinfulness of little children. And here lies the paradox, for Andrew Jones was born on the feast-day of St. Ita, that holy woman of Limerick, foundress of a school for little boys where was taught “Purity of heart [and] simplicity of life with religion”; where was taught St. Brendan who brought Christ and European civilization to these our shores. And what have we here — a man who exposes the wickedness of the priests and sets in train the attitudes that bring down the Roman Church. This is merit? It is — in this world of distorting mirrors — for it involves the candidate's pure and simple notions of religion; an expectation which, when violated, made him as the saviour amid the money changers in the temple: riotous with rage turned wisdom in ridicule.

Mr. Chancellor, these contradictions evaporate when we accept that Andy Jones is at heart a traditionalist. How else could he pen those subtly moving, remarkably deft “Letters from Uncle Val” which we used to hear every Saturday morning, and which were so affecting that many listeners wrote to Val as if he were a real person. Why else does he render our folktales into children's theatre in Jack-Five-Oh? This is the man who, squirrel-like, maintained the CODCO office and ensured that, when it closed down, all the records were deposited at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies. This is the man who, ejected from the St. Bon's choir for lack of voice, found vocation as an altar boy and so became enamoured of ritual because he knew, with Yeats, that “in custom and in ceremony/ Are innocence and beauty born.” This is a man who, watching the LSPU Hall become a place of discord, helped remake it as the community-based Resource Centre for the Arts. He was one of those who shaped our national consciousness by humour; who made the comedy of our lives, our pride, and so turned back the vectors of ridicule. And this service was recognized when he was made a member of the Arts Council Hall of Honour in 1993. I present to you, Mr. Chancellor, for the degree of doctor of letters (honoris causa), a man with a sense of posterity and place, a man with a deep sense of his own country, his Newfoundland, Andrew Jordan Jones."