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Yaffle your next project

Dogs Annie and Charlie are Isle aux Morts' four-legged tour guides, joining visitors along the trail named for the famous Harvey family, including their equally famous Newfoundland dog, Hairy Man.

 

By Rebecca Cohoe

Yaffle.ca is Memorial's online connecting tool. One of its most significant jobs is to provide a way for people from outside Memorial to ask for research help. With hundreds of community-suggested opportunities to choose from, your next project is just a click away. Here's one . . .

The opportunity:
Blanford Billard, community development assistant and member of the Isle aux Morts Heritage Society, isn't an actor by trade, but for the past several years, he and others from his community have been hitting the stage to help attract tourists to his beautiful community on the Southwest Coast.

"It's basically a bunch of us who get together to make fools of ourselves," he laughed.

Modesty aside, their performances have become more and more popular, especially since they added dinner to the bill two years ago. So far, the shows have included a variety of acts, from skits to songs. However, now Mr. Billard would like to add to this by pursuing another direction. "We saw a touring play, Tempting Providence, about Grenfell nurse Myra Bennett, that made me think about the potential to build a production around some of this area's famous
characters."

Perhaps the most famous locals are the Harveys, a family who, along with their Newfoundland dog, Hairy Man, saved almost 200 people from the whirling waters four miles east of the old island of Isle au Morts. Another famous local is accordionist Minnie White from the Codroy Valley, a wife and mother who, as a senior citizen, emerged as an important influence in traditional Newfoundland and Labrador music. And, of course, there are the stories of Lauchie MacDougall, the human wind gauge, who saved so many people from possible train disasters at the Wreckhouse.

"My mission is to use those stories as the base for a tourism offering," said Mr. Billard. He believes that with the Marine Atlantic ferry bringing hundreds of thousands to his community's doorstep each year, there is the potential to lure visitors away from the Trans-Canada Highway.

The project:
Mr. Billard is looking for someone from Memorial to research and write a theatre piece that could form the cornerstone of a tourism attraction in Isle aux Morts and on the southwest coast. Part of what makes this such an interesting opportunity is that there is so much information about the potential subjects in the area.

"It's the little everyday stories that could make the bigger play really work," he said. "I think whoever takes this on will need to come out here to spend some time chatting with local people. They could come out and meet the families of the people at the root of the stories. They're all people you could sit down and talk with."

As for the opportunities once the piece is written, Mr. Billard is optimistic. "We'd like to be taking our story all around the world!"

Interested in learning more about this project? Think you could help? Bojan Fürst, manager of knowledge mobilization at the Harris Centre, would love to tell you more. Call him at 709 864 2120 or email him at bfurst@mun.ca.

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