It’s about the people, not the animals: author
Veterinarian-turned-writer Andrew Peacock wins NL Book Award for non-fiction
The non-fiction judges for this year’s Newfoundland Book Awards gave Andrew Peacock’s book, “Creatures of the Rock: A Veterinarian’s Adventures in Newfoundland” a glowing review, but there’s one part of it Peacock would like to dispute.
Contrary to what the judges wrote in their citation, it wasn’t the animals that kept he and his wife here after they arrived 30 years ago. It was the people.
It’s the people of the province that make up the real stories in the book, he insists, and the animals simply form the backdrop.
“When I started out (writing the book), I thought it was going to be a book about the animals,” Peacock said. “But it’s about the relationships between animals and people, and the relationships between people and other people.”
Peacock is an Ontario native who worked in a mixed animal practice in rural Newfoundland from 1982 until just a few years ago. He first came to the province and settled in Freshwater as a farm animal vet, thinking he’d mostly be seeing cows and horses and sheep. As the vet for Salmonier Nature Park, Peacock’s patients included lynx and foxes and minks, and through his work with scientist Jon Lien of MUN’s Whale Research Group, also included whales.
“If I was in Ontario, I’d never had done any of that kind of thing,” Peacock explained. “People who do that kind of work in mainland Canada have a PhD in wildlife medicine, and I, without any specific training in wildlife medicine, probably did more of this kind of work than those people.”
In Ontario, Peacock says, he also wouldn’t have gotten the same human experience.
“I think maybe I get to see how funny the people here are a little differently, being an outsider,” he said. “The language is so different than what I was used to. My wife’s a medical doctor, and when we first moved here, she had a translator working in emergency. That’s real grist for the book, and there are stories about that kind of thing: people phoning me up and not really having a clue what they’re telling me and trying to figure it out when I’d get out on the call.
“I was really lucky to have the kind of practice that I had.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Peacock’s book - his writing debut - was named the winner of the 2015 Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Non-Fiction. Other finalists for the award were Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle for “Where I Belong: From Small Town to Great Big Sea,” and former longtime police officer Janet Merlo for “No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP.”
Carmelita McGrath won the E.J. Pratt Award for poetry for “Escape Velocity,” beating out fellow finalists Michael Crummey for “Under the Keel” and Mary Dalton for “Hooking.”
“I know she’ll be totally exuberant,” Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador executive director Alison Dyer said of McGrath, who recently relocated to Quebec and wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, which took place at Government House.
Peacock and McGrath each won a cash prize of $1,500, while the other finalists each received $500.
Sponsored by the Literary Arts Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and administered by the Writers’ Alliance, there are four book awards, which are handed out in pairs. The awards for non-fiction and poetry in odd-numbered years, and fiction and children’s literature in even years.
Retired veterinarian Andrew Peacock won the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for non-fiction with his debut book “Creatures of the Rock: A Veterinarian’s Adventures in Newfoundland.” The Awards were announced at a ceremony at Government House in St. John’s on May 27.