29, 2001, Gazette)
of the most vivid memories of my childhood are of the trips I took with
my family around the bay. At least three or four times a year,
typically during holidays, my family would visit our relatives in places
like Harbor Mille and Harbor Breton. When my sister got older, she began
to despise these journeys. Being five years her junior, I wondered why
she hated going on these trips that I always enjoyed. They gave me a chance
to explore my grandparents and aunts houses, and play with the cousins
I rarely saw. As I grew older, I began to feel that the people in these
communities, as well as my relatives, viewed me in a different light.
It wasnt until university that I realized this was, at least partially,
because I am a townie.
I am, without a doubt, a townie. Apart from brief stints in Marystown,
Mount Pearl and a few months in Banff, I have lived in St. Johns
all of my life. I love this city, apart from the copious amounts of snow
and fog we receive every year, and am proud to be a townie. However, I
am totally perplexed by the mistrust that many people form around
the bay have for townies.
According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English (second edition),
a townie is a native of St. Johns, especially a male; usually
derisive, and contrasting with, Bay Men.
Townies are often thought to be snobby and pompous. They are historical
adversaries of baymen in not only sporting events, but bar fights. The
Newfoundland dictionary defines a bayman as, one who lives on or
near a bay or harbour; inhabitant of an outport; ... sometimes
with derogatory connotations [baywop]. However, I have heard the
term applied to anyone from outside the St. Johns area. In his book
Newfoundland: Dawn Without Light, Herbert Pottle suggests that
the animosity between baymen and townies is caused by political grudges.
He suggests that townies are seen as the haves, the businessmen, while
baymen are the have-nots, the fishermen struggling against the corrupt
and greedy townies.
At times, each side is equally harsh to the other. Some townies claim
that baymen are stupid because of their voices. And while the harsh vowels
and dropped hs are unmistakable, since when has someones voice
determined his or her intelligence? So what if you can take the boy out
of the bay but you cant take the bay out of the boy? Who says you
would want to? Some of the most intelligent people Ive ever met
have been from parts of the island outside of St. Johns.
On the other hand, Ive asked baymen why they dont like townies.
The typical belief is that townies are arrogant, self-centred and stuck
up. So does this mean that some people from the bay arent the same?
It is impossible to really know someone by looking at the way they dress
and talk. It propagates stereotypes that destroy the concept of individuality.
I have been at a couple of bay parties since I started going
to MUN. I always feel a bit uncomfortable because I talk, act, and unmistakably
am a townie. Maybe I was being paranoid, maybe it was because I only knew
a few people at those parties and not everyone, but I always felt like
people there were waiting for me to steal something, or start a fight.
At times I tried talking like I was from outside of St. Johns. This
really pissed people off because they thought I was making fun of the
way they talked. But, like I said, I enjoy spending time with my relatives
and travelling around Newfoundland and Labrador because it teaches me
where I came from and who I am.
I cant shake this feeling that there is a them and us
mentality in all of this. The dictionary entries, the parties, the whole
feeling that you cant trust a townie. In historical
perspective, I think that people from Newfoundland should distrust Canada
and its own government more than itself. Theres no need to fight
amongst ourselves since we get enough flack from the pervading stereotype
against Newfoundland that exists on the mainland, which claims that were
all stupid (and in many beliefs perpetually drunk).
I know its impossible to reverse years of bad blood with one article,
but I do think that we have reason to be proud of ourselves as a people.
However, a question that stems from this article begs to be asked: do
we, as Newfoundlanders, have a distinct identity of culture and a cultural
heritage? I think so. Perhaps the division between townies and baymen
is a part of our cultural heritage. Does this prevent us from being a
distinct and unified group of people? St. Johns is my home, but
I love the whole province. The feeling of isolation from the rest of the
world is the same, to varying degrees, across the island. We share a connection
to the sea, a struggle to survive on a harsh landscape, and aspects of
tradition that can naturally be called culture. In the end, what does
it matter if you are from Cape St. George or St. Johns?