Exploring oral history in Spaniard’s Bay
The Spaniard’s Bay Heritage Society held a night of storytelling and oral history at the Wesley Gosse Memorial United Church Heritage Museum last week. Local storytellers, as well as renowned Newfoundland folklorist Dale Jarvis, spent the evening relaying pieces of the town’s past through words.
Storytelling was the theme of the evening at the Wesley Gosse Memorial United Church Heritage Museum in Spaniard’s Bay on Aug. 26.
Anchored by renowned Newfoundland folklorist Dale Jarvis, the evening was a part of an initiative undertaken by the town’s Heritage Society to explore the oral history of the region.
On a cool August evening inside the venerable testament to the history of Spaniard’s Bay, dozens of people ventured to the church to listen and share their stories. Some sat in pews, while other filled rows of chairs. As people spoke and moved, their shadows danced on the floor and the walls.
When moving around the ancient structure, they interacted with typewriters, wagons and old saws.
The evening was filled with every manner of oral history and tall tale. There were Newfoundland fairy tales, ghost stories and a touching story of a pair of hockey skates and their owner who did not return home.
He left for St. John’s with the local hockey team, played a match and then enlisted in the military in 1941. He died shortly there after.
Amidst the physical history of Spaniard’s Bay, members of the heritage society captivated the audience as they took turns telling tales passed on through generations. Perhaps it was from a friend they knew or just a story that bridged the generational gap between family members.
People like Ed Neil and Bill Titford were engaging and animated as they presented story after story.
The mark of a good storyteller is the ability to entertain their subjects, while also educating them to some extent. That could mean aspects of life of days gone by or a simple family story about using a mason jar.
One by one tellers rose to relay their message. Standing in front of the church’s pulpit — first constructed in 1894 — they stood half in light and half in the dark.
It brought images of telling stories in front of the fire. No doubt, it was a flashback for those who remember gathering around the fireplace to hear their grandparents recount stories they heard their father’s tell them in a similar setting.
When all of the local speakers had finished, it was Jarvis’ turn to entertain and he did not disappoint. Starting with tales of fairies and lost sight before finishing with a pair of fairy tales that oddly involved a young fellow named Jack.
A master storyteller in his own right, Jarvis swung axes, trounced through ancient forests and saw inspiring landscapes as he guided listeners through the world he created using words.
At the end of the evening, the storytellers and the listeners mingled and told more stories of fairy folk, the supernatural and well-known citizens.
Renowned Newfoundland folklorist Dale Jarvis swings an imaginary axe while in the midst of telling a Newfoundland fairy tale during a night of oral history at the Wesley Gosse Memorial United Church Heritage Museum in Spaniard’s Bay on Aug. 26. The event was put off by the Spaniard’s Bay Heritage Society.