That forgetful shore
Who knows what treasures lie buried in old houses doomed for destruction? I have my own collection of letters rescued from a house in Coley’s Point that was being torn down.
The St. John’s writer and teacher, Trudy J. Morgan-Cole, had a similar experience. Her story involves a nostalgic journey back in time to the 1860s.
Her great-great-grandfather, Abraham Morgan, built a house on the south side of Coley’s Point. Family members lived there until the 1940s. Abraham’s son, Trudy’s greatgrandfather, relocated to St. John’s and started his family.
The old Morgan homestead in Coley’s Point still belongs to the Morgan family. It’s currently owned by Trudy’s aunt, Bernice Morgan, the author of such classics as “Random Passage” and “ Waiting for Time.”
That dwelling housed a collection of postcards that originally belonged to Abraham’s daughter, Emma Morgan. They date from about 1907 to 1917. During those years, Emma was a schoolteacher in various Newfoundland outports.
Trudy writes in an email to the author that Emma Morgan “seems to have kept almost every postcard anyone ever sent her.”
One series of postcards in this collection is from a close friend, who signed herself as “Muddles” and addressed her postcards to “Dear Puggie.”
Such a collection of vintage postcards are a boon to a novelist. Not surprisingly, Trudy “ became fascinated by the friendship that was sketched out in these few postcards, and more generally about the lives of young women in outport Newfoundland in that era.”
The inspiration fueled by the postcards led Trudy to write another book.
She describes “ That Forgetful Shore” as “a fictional story about a lifelong friendship between two women who grow up in a town that is almost exactly like Coley’s Point.
Though she gives Coley’s Point the name of Missing Point, she says she “used the real geography and much of the real history of the Point
“One woman gets to go away and become a teacher, while the other stays behind and marries, and the letters and postcards they exchange keep their friendship alive through those eventful years up to, during, and after the First World War.
“ That Forgetful Shore” is a brisk read. Trudy writes in an engaging style that pulls the reader into the tale, from the opening lines of the prologue to the closing lines of the epilogue, 295 pages later.
Trudy’s publisher, Breakwater Books, describes her book this way: “ Triffie and Kit are closer than sisters. But for two girls growing up in a tiny outport community at the dawn of the twentieth century, having the same dreams and ambitions doesn’t mean life will hand you the same opportunities.
“A teacher’s certificate offers Kit the chance to explore the wider world, while Triffie is left behind, living the life she never wanted with the man she swore she’d never marry.
“ The letters she and Kit exchange are her lifeline-until a long-buried secret threatens to destroy their friendship.”
Along the way, the reader interacts with the dynamics at play in the tension between town and city, rich and poor, advantaged and disadvantaged, religious and irreligious, colony and country, education and ignorance, among others.
There is also the interplay between Christian denominations, whether the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland (a.k.a. “Holy Rollers” in earlier days), or Church of England.
“My family connection is to the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Trudy explains. “But really I was interested in the whole history of the various Protestant religious/revival movements along the shore in that time period.
“I find that while the Irish Catholic experience in Newfoundland has been really well represented in fiction, there hasn’t been the same wealth of material written about the Protestant experience.
“Knowing of the different churches that had risen up in that area over the years, I imagined a character, Triffie, who would be something of a spiritual seeker and would want to explore every spiritual option that was open-which gave me the opportunity to write about the early Adventists and early Pentecostals in the Bay Roberts area, which was of great interest to me.”
Trudy has written an enduring work of fiction. As I read it, I was reminded in many ways of an earlier novel, “New priest in Conception Bay,” written by Robert Traill Spence Lowell (1816-91). His work is regarded as the first Newfoundland novel. Perhaps Trudy’s work can be regarded as the first novel to give expression to the Adventist-PentecostalAnglican divide in Conception Bay early in the twentieth century.