The Cor­ner Boys of Bri­gus: A re­view


Once upon a time, the town of Bri­gus boasted four corners, Pinkston Square, Hawthorne un­der the tree, His­cock’s Cor­ner, and the Anglican school.

Men ha­bit­u­ally met on the quar­tet of corners from 7 to 9 p.m. Ac­cord­ing to Bri­gus na­tive, Eric Payne, they were there to es­cape their wives for a few hours.

As a young per­son, the in­quis­i­tive Payne was “ in­ter­ested in his­tory, cul­ture and the hu­man con­di­tion.” He “ was for­ever think­ing of how to in­fil­trate the mys­te­ri­ous or­der of these men.”

At 15, Payne “tried to be a part of this so­ci­ety of fel­low­ship. I stood near, but not quite so near as to show overt in­tru­sion so I would not be driven away, as they had done in the past.”

He lis­tened in­tently to “ talk of the weather, the fish­eries, past and fu­ture prospects, and many other top­ics.”

Two sum­mers ago, Payne was in­spired by a for­mer pro­vin­cial lieu­tenant-gov­er­nor, Ed Roberts, to com­mit to pa­per what Payne had heard in those early years in his home­town. The re­sult is a book en­ti­tled The Cor­ner Boys of Bri­gus.

“I’ve been do­ing a walk­ing tour (of Bri­gus) for the past few years, to ex­plain the past glo­ries and the new de­vel­op­ment of the newly re­stored homes,” Payne says.

“I be­gan hang­ing out on the corners with the el­ders and be­came fas­ci­nated with their sto­ries. They filled in the gap. They brought past fam­i­lies to life through sto­ries, folk­lore and hu­mor­ous tales.”

Payne’s book is in­tended as a presage to the four hun­dredth an­niver­sary of Bri­gus in 2012.

“ I’ve told some of the tall tales, as told to me by the last cor­ner boys I was priv­i­leged to be­friend,” the au­thor adds.

The au­thor hopes those tales, which are re­lated in 14 brief chap­ters, will bring many fam­i­lies into the “ broader land­scape of the town’s his­tory.”

The en­tire book of 73 pages can be read in a sin­gle sitting.

To­day Payne stands on the corners to re­flect on the pass­ing of the cor­ner boys of Bri­gus. His book is meant to serve their mem­ory.

Payne chose to have his book pub­lished by Pub­lishAmer­ica of Bal­ti­more, Mary­land. Of course, this is the au­thor’s pre­rog­a­tive.

The crunch comes when one reads a state­ment from the pub­lisher hid­den in­side the book: “Pub­lishAmer­ica has al­lowed this work to re­main ex­actly as the au­thor in­tended, ver­ba­tim, with­out editorial in­put.”

In other words, the book was pub­lished ev­i­dently with­out the as­sis­tance of an as­tute edi­tor.

As a re­sult, nu­mer­ous er­rors have crept into the work, ef­fec­tively de­stroy­ing any hope of it be­ing re­garded as a de­fin­i­tive work in the field. Three ex­am­ples will suf­fice. First, on page 15: “ Then the most fa­mous in New­found­land and not so to the rest of Canada, Cap­tain Robert Bartlett was in charge of the SS Roo­sevelt on the oc­ca­sion of US Ad­mi­ral Perry claim­ing the North Pole.” The Amer­i­can ex­plorer’s name is “Peary,” not “Perry.”

Sec­ond, page 68: “ The Vindi­ca­tor Lane has rock walls on boat sides that are very well pre­served.” Even a grade-school stu­dent would know that “ boat” should be “ both.”

Third, page 69: “ The lane gets its name from the news­pa­per the Vindi­ca­tor witch was pub­lished in Bri­gus by the Thom­son’s News­pa­per Inc. from 1898-1903 and went on sale ev­ery Wed­nes­day for 2 cents.”

Re­al­ity check: “ witch” should be “ which.”

These three er­rors, which are repli­cated through­out the book, are inex­cus­able and re­gret­table. The book is painful to read. The value of the his­tory de­picted suffers from the mul­ti­tude of er­rors. Un­for­tu­nately, the book can­not be taken as a se­ri­ous work.

As a pub­lished au­thor and edi­tor my­self, I read­ily cham­pion the cause of fel­low writers and ed­i­tors. How­ever, in this case, “ The Cor­ner Boys of Bri­gus” is woe­fully in­ad­e­quate. A ju­di­cious edit would have worked won­ders. As it stands, read­ers will be thrown off by the er­rors that al­most pop off the pages. What went wrong? Payne went with Pub­lishAmer­ica, which uses the dig­i­tal print­ing tech­nol­ogy known as print-on-de­mand, be­cause he “could not find a New­found­land pub­lisher,” he ex­plains. “I had it edited a f ew times but, by us­ing spell check, I seem to have missed so many (mis­takes).”

Mean­while, as a first-time au­thor, he hopes his book “ will find as many read­ers as pos­si­ble.” I hope it does, for his sake.

Payne has a few ideas in mind for pos­si­ble fu­ture writ­ing projects. I en­cour­age him to seek out an edi­tor who will turn his man­u­script into a pro­fes­sional book.

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