Sheilah Mack­in­non Drover cel­e­brates N.L.’s mar­itime past in new book

Ships Artist com­bines author’s fa­ther-in-law’s art­work with her re­search


ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Author Sheilah Mack­in­non Drover has fond mem­o­ries of time she spent in Springdale, where she taught for sev­eral years.

“Springdale was a won­der­ful place to bring up a fam­ily. My mem­o­ries of my stu­dents, col­leagues, friends, and times shared there, es­pe­cially around the Christ­mas sea­son, are very spe­cial,” she said. “They were years for which I am very grate­ful.”

Al­though she has re­tired from the class­room, she has found a new way to con­tinue ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the her­itage of New­found­land and Labrador.

Mack­in­non Drover has spent con­sid­er­able time over the past few years cre­at­ing a book that cel­e­brates the work and artistry of her fa­ther-in­law.

Ted Drover: Ships Artist com­bines graphite draw­ings by Drover with text by Mack­in­non Drover to cre­ate a sense of how the prov­ince’s past was shaped by ships and the sea.

“What made me write was the de­sire to pre­serve the past,” said Mack­in­non Drover. “Ted’s draw­ings rep­re­sent the mar­itime his­tory of New­found­land, and they re­flect on the life that peo­ple lived.

“All of his draw­ings were ab­so­lutely au­then­tic — not to scale, but rig­ging and all,” Mack­in­non Drover said. “They were in graphite, all in black in white, rubbed with his thumb, or an eraser.”

Over 30 of Drover’s orig­i­nal draw­ings are part of the col­lec­tion in the provin­cial archives but Mack­in­non Drover wanted to en­sure they were seen by as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

“From schooners, to coastal boats, whale catch­ers, to fer­ries, they are com­pletely ac­cu­rate draw­ings, a pic­to­rial his­tory of New­found­land and Labrador,” she said. “But they are in the Archives, so no one sees them. I felt it was im­por­tant that more peo­ple had the chance to see them.”

The book, which was launched at the Rail­way Coastal Mu­seum in St. John’s on April 25, has been very well re­ceived.

“About 100 peo­ple came to the launch at the Rail­way and Coastal mu­seum. Re­ac­tion has been phe­nom­e­nal,” Mack­in­non Drover said. “I knew that ev­ery­one who ap­pre­ci­ates ships or good draw­ings would like those. I just hoped they would ap­pre­ci­ate what I had writ­ten. I have re­ceived some very kind com­ments.”

De­spite her en­thu­si­asm for writ­ing Ted Drover: Ships Artist, it was a big­ger project than Mack­in­non Drover ini­tially an­tic­i­pated.

“My pub­lisher asked me to write 400-500 words per photo,” Mack­in­non Drover said. “I thought it would be a quick project. How hard could it be? Do six lines - photo on one side, writ­ing on the other.”

The se­lec­tion of im­ages, the re­search, and the writ­ing took al­most five years, but she en­joyed the process.

“The re­search was interesting and ev­ery­one I spoke with at the li­brary and the Mar­itime Archives were helpful and co­op­er­a­tive,” Mack­in­non Drover said. “It was a good ex­pe­ri­ence.”

In ad­di­tion to her de­sire to give her fa­ther-in-law’s work a wider au­di­ence, MacK­in­non Drover was also mo­ti­vated by her need to en­sure that peo­ple in New­found­land and Labrador un­der­stand and re­spect their own past.

“My book is just one of many im­por­tant books be­ing writ­ten about what life used to be like here,” Mack­in­non Drover said. “I wish there were books like that in ev­ery school, I wish that the study of New­found­land life was com­pul­sory for all chil­dren.

“My writ­ing is a glimpse of what life was like for our grand­par­ents and great-grand­par­ents. Life wasn’t easy but it was good.”

Sheilah Mack­in­non Drover’s book Ted Drover: Ships Artist is avail­able from Flanker Press.

Author Sheilah MacK­in­non Drover

Cover of MacK­in­non Drover’s book Ted Drover: Ships Artist.

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