That for­get­ful shore

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION -

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.

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