by Jeff Green
Dr. Patrick O’Flaherty, who retired in 1995 after a stellar 30-year career at Memorial, was presented with the Order of Canada at an investiture ceremony at Rideau Hall. (Photo by Chris Hammond)
A respected author, historian and professor emeritus from the Department of English Language and Literature was honoured recently with one of this country’s highest awards.
Dr. Patrick O’Flaherty, who retired in 1995 after a stellar 30-year career at Memorial, was presented with the Order of Canada at an investiture ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 26.
He was appointed by Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean in Oct. 2006 as a member to the Order of Canada but was publicly honoured last month. He was recognized as an important contributor to this province’s heritage, culture and education sectors.
During his tenure at Memorial, Dr. O’Flaherty helped introduced courses on Newfoundland literature and was co-founder and editor of the journal Newfoundland and Labrador Studies.
His books and articles on this province’s political past have been compelling additions to the study of Newfoundland and its pre-Confederation history.
“It’s the unexpected public recognition of a life’s work carried out mostly in the obscurity of academic settings,” Dr. O’Flaherty said of the Order of Canada.
Born in Long Beach, Conception Bay, Dr. O’Flaherty received his BA and MA from Memorial and obtained his PhD from University College London.
He is an avid promoter of the arts here in this province. In addition to his career in the classroom, he has been a newspaper columnist, researcher, consultant and public speaker.
“I’ve been engaged in scholarly and creative writing, and in university teaching, for a long time,” he noted before his trip to Ottawa. “My book The Rock Observed: Studies in the Literature of Newfoundland (1979) probably had a lot to do with my getting this award. It was the first full-length critical study of Newfoundland literature, and is still the only such work available, though dated now of course.”
His other books include Part of the Main: An illustrated History of Newfoundland and Labrador and Come Near at Your Peril: A Visitor’s Guide to the Island of Newfoundland.
In 2005, he released Lost Country: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland 1843-1933, a follow-up his award-winning book Old Newfoundland: A History to 1843 released in 1999.
Although he retired more than a decade ago, Dr. O’Flaherty frequently visits Memorial’s Queen Elizabeth II Library to conduct research for future writing projects. An excerpt of a memoir on his childhood will appear in December’s issue of the Newfoundland Quarterly, which is owned by the university and operates as a separately incorporated entity.
“This memoir is now in its penultimate draft,” he said. “I have a long Christmas story ready to go to press just a few details to iron out. But in the main I’m working on the third and final volume of my History of Newfoundland, which I’m hoping to publish in 2009.”