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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

July 10, 2003
 Meet Memorial

Meet Memorial

A whale of a story


by Kristin Harris
SPARK Correspondent

When Dennis Flynn enrolled in Introduction to Folklore a year ago, he had no idea it would eventually lead to a nomination for a national writing award.

Mr. Flynn, who currently works as the acting manager of Information Technology at Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration, and a part-time candidate in the M.Ed. program in Information Technology, wrote a term paper on sunken ships in Conception Harbour, Conception Bay.

“I heard lots of stories about them growing up [in nearby Colliers],” he said. “It seemed as though everyone knew something about them.”

His interest in the remains of three sunken whaling boats – as he later discovered, part of a cohort of five boats from Hawke Harbour, Labrador – led him to extensive fieldwork that resulted in a term paper, and a story that ran in three instalments in the Conception Bay North community paper, the Compass, in the fall of 2002. While writing the series, titled Scratching the Surface: The Story of the Conception Harbour Ship Wrecks and the Last Whaler, he learned more about the history of his own community, and spoke with numerous whalers, community members, and academics along the way.

Later, he was surprised and delighted to discover that he was nominated for a Community Newspaper Award and was, in fact, shortlisted to the final three.

“I’m honoured, not for me, but that there was enough national interest in the story, and that the legacy of these old boats was special.”

The attention from the nomination has garnered interest from as far away as Germany, and Mr. Flynn plans to do a follow-up piece in collaboration with a German researcher who contacted him.

Mr. Flynn hopes that his work will fill in some gaps in terms of the history of whaling in Newfoundland and Labrador. While conducting his research he hit a number of dead ends, and so hopes that his writings will provide some continuity.

“I want to give something back,” he said. “People have amazing stories, but everyday stories are often overlooked. I wanted to be not just a consumer of stories, but a producer of them as well.”

While he hasn’t yet learned of the final decision of the awarding committee, he chooses to focus on the success of the research. He so enjoyed his experience with his first folklore course, that he is currently taking another, this time focusing his research on the sheep industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

He feels that these courses, “help you to think laterally, look at different connections. Taking a variety of courses forces you to modify your mindset, which is really helpful for writing. You see connections and look below the surface. It’s also an amazing amount of fun.”

 


 


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Next issue: July 24, 2003

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