Town of Cupids receives community engagement award

Jul 23rd, 2015

Janet Harron

Town of Cupids receives community engagement award


The town of Cupids has been named the 2015 recipient of the Faculty of Arts Newfoundland and Labrador Community Research Engagement Award.

The town was nominated for this award by Department of Geography Emeriti Professors, Drs. Gordon Handcock and Ches Sanger. They cited four decades of support given by Cupids residents (especially members of the local historical society) to the late Dr. Alan F. Williams while he was researching and writing the book John Guy of Bristol and Newfoundland: His Life, Time and Legacy, published by Flanker Press in 2010. Up to 2002 Dr. Williams had compiled a rough draft of some 400 pages based primarily on archival sources. At this stage the manuscript needed updating, syntax modification and content revisions (especially to incorporate archaeological findings) before it could be published. Unfortunately, Dr. Williams died in 2003 without completing these tasks.

In 2007 the proponents, both former students of Dr. Williams and colleagues at Memorial, undertook to co-edit the manuscript, conduct further research and revise the text to save a very valuable work and have it published in time for the 400th anniversary celebrations. That these goals were achieved was also due largely to the ongoing engagement of local citizens.

Under the auspices of the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation, and at the request of the Cupids Historical Society and the Town of Cupids, historical-archaeologist William Gilbert and his team began work in 1995 to find physical evidence of Guy’s 1610 plantation. With the site determined from documentary sources, subsequent excavations uncovered the remains of the colony’s main buildings, structures and land-use spaces, and numerous artefacts dating from the Guy years. These discoveries also, very importantly, provided additional evidence of an English domestic occupation of the site extending into the second half of the 17th century.

These significant new findings were not available at the time of Dr. Williams’s death. William Gilbert, however, subsequently answered all questions (personal communications) and read and commented on the sections of the text relating to the archaeological work. He also generously provided photographs and site plans that enhanced the book’s messages. In a testimonial accompanying the nomination, Mr. Gilbert acknowledges that the publication of the book enabled his archaeological discoveries over the past decade to reach a broader audience.

To commemorate its 400th anniversary in 2010, Cupids attracted government funding to build an interpretation facility, the Legacy Centre. Its exhibits focus on the Guy colony and early settlement in Newfoundland as revised and described in Dr. Williams’s book.  As noted by several reviewers, John Guy of Bristol and Newfoundland: His Life, Times and Legacy is the only scholarly publication available to the general public that supports Guy’s legacy at the Centre and the museum’s excellent exhibitions interpret the Newfoundland content (mostly Cupids) of the book.

“Going forward, funding for operation and promotion of the Centre will have to be derived at least partially from provincial and national agencies if this important cultural facility dedicated to English settlement in the new world is to prosper,” said Dr. Handcock.

According to both nominators, the rationale for such funding is found in Dr. Williams’s book.

“This endorsement by Memorial University’s Faculty of Arts will also assist and justify efforts to secure ongoing financial support,” said Dr. Sanger.

Dr. Lynne Phillips, Dean of Arts, said the nomination clearly proved that “the community of Cupids was fully engaged and supportive of the research for the book (as it was to William Gilbert’s archaeological work) and that the community in turn can expect to benefit immeasurably from cultural tourism.” 

“The town of Cupids is honoured by this award and we thank Dr. Handcock and Dr. Sanger for the nomination,” said Cupids mayor Harold Akerman.

Dr. Phillips will make an official presentation of the award at Cupids’ 50th anniversary dinner on Saturday August 1.