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Edna Breen and her daughters share stories of growing up in an historic, and world-famous, section of Ferryland.Story and photo by Dennis FlynnThe two-storey houses and vehicles look like the discarded toys of children in comparison to the enormous mountain of ice looming over on the narrow neck of land. Itâs a scene so startling that it garnered international attention, and photographers from all over the world flocked to Ferryland, NL in April 2017, to see it through their own lenses. Iâm told the iceberg picture even made CNNâs list of top news photos that year. I was among the many Newfoundlanders who made the pilgrimage for a picture and wondered, in particular, about who lived in the older, neatly kept, beige, biscuit-box style house in the foreground that anchored the shot. More than a year later, I am invited inside that very house by the owner.On a cold weekend in December 2018, Iâm enjoying a warm, friendly conversation over piping hot cups of tea with the charming Edna Breen, age 83, owner of the stalwart house and the last remaining full-time resident of the historic section of Ferryland harbour known as the Pool.Her daughter, Tanya Murphy, shows me a beautiful painting she has done of the famous iceberg scene. She points to the dwelling we are sitting in and says with a smile, âIn the spring of 1918, my great uncle, Dave Sullivan, and his wife, Mary Ignatius Barnable, built their house in the Pool, Ferryland. When his wife died, and finding it very lonely with no kids, he asked his nephew and his wife (my mother and father) to move in with him. That was 58 years ago. My parents raised seven kids here and in the 1935 census, the house was valued at $1,000. Today with the iceberg fame, itâs priceless.âThe Pool is an area of Ferryland that is almost completely surrounded by water, with very little natural protection from the wind, not even a tree, Tanya says. It is at the heart of where Lord Baltimoreâs 1621 Colony of Avalon was founded. It certainly matches the description of his colony being a stoneâs throw from water to water. Tanya and her sister, Trina Power, describe it as an amazing place to grow up, with everything as their playground, including the beaches, meadows, boats and stages. They even had the Ferryland lighthouse tower to explore. Neighbours all watched out for each other in those days, and the entire Pool area was open and accessible to the 30-40 children who lived in the half dozen or so houses that once occupied what is now an archeological dig site.Still, it takes a hardy breed of livyer to stay in the Pool in the winters. Trina says, âWe used to get lots more snow and it would block the road to our house for days at a time, but now we donât get enough down here to build a snowman.âTanya recalls that during blasts of high winds, theyâd have to make their beds on the floor of the living room as a precaution since, she says with a laugh, âWe all thought that the roof was sure to come off. The road to the Pool is on an isthmus and in stormy weather, there was sure to be a washout. I remember several times on my way to school, waiting for the waves to go out, and then running the living daylights across the isthmus before the next wave came in.â That makes rushing across a crosswalk in a big city to beat oncoming traffic seem positively passÃ© by comparison. Her mother Edna mentions that while the iceberg attracted tons of interest in 2017, sheâs been seeing visitors from around the world since the 1960s. Thatâs when archaeologists from Memorial University first came out and dug test pits on the family lawn and found lots of artifacts related to the Colony of Avalon, including a large iron key.In the 1990s, Edna herself made an historic discovery. While she was at the waterâs edge watching divers (one of whom was her son) working on uncovering a shipwreck, she discovered a very old coin. Edna did the honorable thing and turned it over to archaeologists, who cleaned it up and identified it as an English coin dated c. 1700. The coin is now in the collection of the nearby Colony of Avalon museum.Edna notes that her husband, who passed away in 2009, was always inviting tourists into the house, whether it was to take a shower or have Sunday dinner. He was a heavy equipment operator who also served as an informal lighthouse keeper in the 1970s and 1980s. That genuine hospitality continues in the Breen home. Just last September, a couple from Switzerland dropped by unannounced with a copy of the front page of their newspaper from 2017, with the house and the iceberg on it. Edna invited them in for tea. Before the couple left, they invited Edna and her family to stay with them if they ever wanted to see Switzerland.One visitor that Edna did not invite inside was a polar bear that showed up at the Pool in March 1987. It arrived on the southward drifting pack ice and was wandering around outside Ednaâs house. Not realizing how dangerous this animal was, about a half hour later, Edna and others were walking along the beach, watching the polar bear skip ice pans on its way out to sea. For days after, the Pool was filled with spectators eager to get a glimpse of the bear.The likable Edna routinely gets mail from all over the world from tourists sheâs met. One lady, an artist from Ontario, gave Edna a framed sketch of her grandmotherâs house in nearby Aquaforte, the community where Edna grew up. Looking through cherished photo albums and a wall of mementoes, Edna pauses at her wedding photo taken in Aquaforte. She says, âYou know I still have that outfit.âKnowing the trim Edna is very active as a walker and in her church choir, and she danced the Lancers for years with a local traditional dance group, I gently tease her, âCan you still fit in your wedding outfit?âEdna replies instantly with a wry grin, âIndeed I can.âWhen the laughter subsides, Edna shows me an image of the former schoolhouse in Aquaforte. Ednaâs mother died at a young age, so Edna helped raise her younger siblings and helped tend her fatherâs shop. Even with the grownup responsibilities, Edna has fond memories of her school days. âIt is gone now, but served many purposes as a tiny school, and a small concert hall, and a place dances were held. We had great times there, and I remember the old pot-bellied stove and us having lunches around it during breaks, and the teacher mixing up the Coco Malt drink and giving it to us all. One of the other students was Georgie, and he was a relative of mine and quite a likeable character. Whenever Georgie decided we needed what he called a âholidayâ from school, he would sneak out and shove an old coat or a blanket or something in the funnels somewhere of the stove, just long enough to fill the place with backed-up wood smoke, and then haul it out before the teacher caught on what the problem was. Of course, you couldnât stay in there then and teacher would have no choice but to shut it down for the afternoon. We got a good many âholidaysâ that way,â Edna recalls.So it went, trading tales and memories for a pleasant few hours with Edna and her daughters. Should you be among the thousands of visitors who pass by Ednaâs house in the summer on the Colony of Avalon walking tours, make time to stop and gaze out at the islands and the Pool. Take a rest or just grab a picture at the famous âGossip Bench,â which Edna painted up and places out seasonally in front of her home for the tourists. There is also a âLiarâs Bench,â but she confides with a grin that she much prefers the gossips over the liars. Gossip is more about a little fun, no harm meant, and better stories, she says.Stories are something in great supply in this little house in the Pool.
Only the roar of the crowd is louder than the pounding of feet on pavement as more than 40,000 runners advance along the course of the 45th annual BMW Berlin-Marathon on September 16, 2018. Among those triumphantly crossing the finish line are two Newfoundland women who stayed the course together so they could finish side by side, each marking a milestone at either end of their running careers. Making it even more memorable, they are mother and daughter.For mom, 56-year-old Donna Power, finishing this race secured her membership in an elite running club. She is now a Six Star Finisher, meaning she has completed all six of the worldâs major marathons: Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Tokyo and Berlin. Daughter Tara, 27, will always remember this as her first marathon race.I had the chance to chat with Tara, Donna and her husband, Henry, at their Paradise, NL, home before they left for Germany. Donna tells me that running is something she picked up later in life. âIn 2002, a friend of mine wanted some help and companionship to run the Tely 10, so I did that and got addicted to it. I have done the Tely, I think, 16 times now and still enjoy it,â she says. The first marathon she ever ran, in Ottawa, her time was so good she qualified for the Boston Marathon.On the other side of this story is Tara, who never ran much growing up but was inspired by her mom to begin training more seriously a few years ago. She says with a smile, âBerlin will be my first marathon ever. To get the chance to do it with my mother as she finishes her last world major is something prettyspecial.âTara adds, âShe has already promised she is going to stay with me every step and not leave me. Who gets that kind of support on any run, let alone their first marathon?âDonnaâs husband, Henry, a triathlete himself, says, âThis is a very emotional and meaningful thing for our family. Donna is incredibly quiet about her accomplishments, but she is a very positive person and inspires and helps a lot of people in the running community behind the scenes. For instance, for years she has been organizing the group runs for many, many folks on the weekends â but she does it from my email account because she is so shy, so I end up getting all the credit.âWhen Donna started running, she changed all our lives for the better. She encouraged us to start running as well, for our health, our mental and physical well being, and to join her on the shorter runs. Now we all love it and have made the best of friends and travelled the world through running and attending these events. Myself and Tara, we canât keep up with Donna, of course, when it comes to marathons, but I always love to go to these races and cheer her on â I joke that I am her per-sonal water boy. And this time around in Berlin I have not one, but the two most important women in my life to cheer for. I canât say enough how proud I am of them both.âAs Donna looks ahead to the upcoming Berlin race and beyond, she says, âAfter I am done with the last major marathon I will keep running, for sure. But I may be a bit more selective on the marathons and do them a bit closer to home. Henry has been very supportive, as this was something I really wanted to get done for a long time. So while I will be very happy, Iâll be a bit sad at the same time to have the Six Majors behind me.â However, itâs ending on a high note, as she says, itâs âa nice way to finish it with my daughter as she starts out.â
Are you a chronic nail biter? Have a smoking habit that just wonât quit? Or perhaps your waistband feels snug after eating, drinking and making a little too merry over the holiday season? Whatever your vice you, along with countless others, likely have plans to leap into 2019 with your best foot forward. The New Year represents a chance for a fresh start and, for many people, this means an earnest attempt at adopting good habits and bidding adieu to the bad ones. And as well-intentioned as your New Yearâs resolutions might be, you may find that year after year, they just donât stick. Whether you want to whip yourself into shape, ditch the junk food or lose the booze, making and breaking habits is something many of us struggle with. But with a clear picture of what you want, along with time and effort, youâre well on your way to making positive changes for the long haul. Whatâs a Habit? You may have seen it defined a few different ways, but according to psychology, a habit is an action thatâs triggered automatically by something in our environment (called âcontextual cuesâ). Eventually, the action is repeated enough times in response to the cue that it becomes second nature. Think of putting on a seatbelt (action) when you get into a vehicle (contextual cue), or perhaps placing your keys into a bowl (action) when you enter your house (contextual cue) ï¿½" we donât have to think about these things, we just do them. So much of our everyday behaviour is habitual. In fact, according to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), studies show that about 40 per cent of our daily activities are performed in almost the same situations every day. âGenerally as human beings, we know that we function best whenever there is a structure, whenever there is a routine. We know that helps to drive our day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and itâs also healthy as well,â says Dr. Katy Kamkar, clinical psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. âNow there are healthy habits that obviously we want to engage in... as well, we can come into a time in our life, or certain situations and contexts, when we find that we are engaging in what we might call unhealthy habits... Often we see habits as learned behaviours, which is great news, because anything that is learned, we can also work on undoing the learning.â Recipe for SuccessTo form a good habit, cues and consistency are key. For example, say you want to get fit. In order to accomplish this goal, you might choose to go for a walk every morning (action) after you eat breakfast (contextual cue). Eventually, after consistent repetition, the act of going for a post-breakfast stroll becomes second nature. âChoose a cue in the environment that will elicit a specific behaviour. For example, taking the stairs every day when you arrive to work, meditating for 10 minutes as soon as you arrive home at the end of the day, or writing in a journal right before bed. The more reliable the cue in the environment, the more likely it is that the habit will form,â says Eamon Colvin, a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa. While many of us might have ambitious goals, Colvin says itâs best to start small and choose something simple and sustainable. âSince habits are automatic, if you choose an effortful behaviour, it is less likely that a habit will form,â he says. âFor example, imagine that I want to be active each morning before I leave for work. If I decide to run a marathon and bench press 300 lbs every morning, Iâll probably be unsuccessful. If, instead, I do 10 push-ups before my morning shower, Iâll likely have more success. Over time, the push-ups will become automatic and I can add in other activities.â In addition to keeping it simple, be specific, Colvin adds. âSaying âI want to start a jogging habitâ is not enough. Once again, you will need to decide on a reliable cue in the outside world that will prompt you to do it.â He says, âJogging could be broken down into: âI want to go for a run around the block each morning before work.â This is better, but a bit more planning could improve your chances of forming the habit. You would also need to form the habit of âputting my running shoes by my bedâ each night, as a reminder.âWhen it comes to kicking bad habits, Colvin says, developing skills in mindfulness can go a long way in helping to identify cravings and learning how to deal with them. âAlso, going âcold turkeyâ rarely works because a growing body of research is showing that willpower is a finite resource,â he says. âSometimes, breaking bad habits really means forming a new, good habit. Consider someone who wants to stop eating junk food late at night. While one solution may be learning to substitute the junk food for a better option, another could be forming a new bedtime habit routine which involves going to bed early.â Paying attention to your behaviour, especially around what stressors lead to the unhealthy habit in question, Dr. Kamkar adds, is also important. âWhat are the triggers that will lead to the behaviour? What are the ABCs leading to the behaviour? Any kind of monitoring that can help build awareness: location and time, thoughts related to the habit, emotions related to the habit... can be very helpful.â The 21-Day Myth You may have heard it said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. So you want to become a runner? Just beat the street for 21 days straight and then youâll be lacing up your sneakers without having to give it a second thought. If only it were that easy!While setting aside time to regularly practise whatever it is youwant to accomplish is a good thing, youâll likely need more than 21 days before the desired behaviour becomes routine. The 21-day rule can be traced back to Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 1950s who noticed that it took about 21 days for a patient to adjust to their new visage, or for an amputee to adjust to the loss of a limb. Intrigued, Dr. Maltz noticed that it also took himself around 21 days to form a new behaviour. In 1960, he published his findings in a book titled Psycho-Cybernetics, and over time, the 21-day rule becamethe mantra of self-help gurus everywhere. However, changing behaviour is not that cut and dried.âItâs important to have realistic expectations. We all know that whenever we want to instill healthy changes, we need patience and time,â says Dr. Kamkar. When it comes to the process of setting and meeting goals, everyone goes about it their own way. What might work for one person, might not necessarily work for someone else. Having flexibility is key and, Dr. Kamkar adds, placing undue pressure on ourselves with a specific timeline doesnât help.âIf it works, great, and if it doesnât work, then weâve become hopeless and we lose our motivation. Or we engage in negative self talk or self blame, and we can become demoralized and then it defeats the purpose.âSo how long does it actually take to form a new habit? A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology by Phillippa Lally (a research psychologist at University College London) and her team found that it took their subjects anywhere from 18 to 254 days (or 66 days on average). So if your new âthing,â whatever it may be, isnât exactly sticking after three weeks, donât sweat it. And if you happen to miss your morning walk one day, or you have that cigarette after youâve sworn off smoking, donât be too hard on yourself ï¿½" just get back on the horse. âTheoretically, choosing a cue which stands out and can be linked only to the new behaviour, and consistently performing the new action every time the cue is encountered, should be the most efficient way to form a habit,â Lally writes in an email to Downhome. âBut the odd slip up wonât put you back to square one, and itâs important not to give up.â - by Linda Browne
On a cool winter day, Andrew Riggs is getting ready to head out the door for a walk through the woods near his home in Burin, looking for the perfect trees to harvest. âAnd you know what? Now that Iâm getting ready to go in the woods, itâs going to rain. Now will you believe that?â he jokes.Now 77 years old, a few years back Andrew decided to start a new hobby: boat building. A steelworker who earned a living in Marystown, heâd never built a boat before his first project. Thereâs not much overlap in those skills, so going from steel to wood was a big change.âI just wanted to try âer, thatâs all, just try âer,â he says, adding, âThe hardest work of that is finding the stuff in the woods.â A lot of his time is spent looking for the ideal trees to turn into timber. âYouâve got to find a lot of crooked wood,â he says, âYouâve got to do a lot of walking to get crooked wood in the woods. Spruce and juniper, thatâs all I cut, eh.âThe first boat he built was completed in 2015, a 27-foot trap skiff named Our Star after his late granddaughter, Siobhane. All in all, it took him a little over a year, not including all the time spent tracking down the tools and supplies. Pleased with the result of his first attempt, in 2017, he finished his second boat: Delainey Siobhane, a 24-foot punt. He estimates boats like his havenât been built in Burin in the last 80 years.When they christened the second boat, Andrew and his family held a big party to celebrate, with 50 to 60 people showing up, he recalls. There was a band playing music, plenty of drinks and food â two turkeys were even cooked for the occasion.While heâs the boat builder on these projects, Andrew is the skipper of neither. Both boats went to his sons. Our Star went to Bryan, Siobhaneâs father, and the second boat was given to his son Dean.Dean lives in Espanola, Ontario, where he teaches. He towed the boat from Burin to its new home, and he now sails Delainey Siobhane on Lake Huron, where most folks are on the water in fibreglass boats. The Delainey Siobhane draws her share of curious looks. âThey never saw a boat like that before, eh?â says Andrew with pride.Wooden boat building is a dying skill, Andrew knows, and when he looks about now, âthereâs not too many at that now, eh.â When Andrew began designing his first boat, he didnât seek out the advice of other builders and instead went about figuring it out on his own. âI drawed âer out on my basement floor, rightâ¦ I just figured it out, drawed it out, and it looked alright,â he says. When it came to assembling both boats, he used only galvanized stainless-steel screws, deciding not to use nails as people would have used in the past.Andrew is already planning a third boat that he hopes to start work on in the spring. When asked if he intends to finally keep a boat for himself, he dismisses that idea. âNo, no, I donât want âer, Iâm not gonna keep her.âAnd this time, heâs going to make an even bigger boat. âThatâs going to take me a lot of time to get it out of the woods,â he figures. By Andrewâs recollection, he started boatbuilding when he was 70, âand Iâm gonna be 80 when I christen the big one!â-by Elizabeth Whitten
Scurrying across the courtyard before the wind can blow me away, I make it to the safety of Memorial Universityâs Henrietta Harvey Building, located in the heart of the St. Johnâs campus. Following the helpful signs, I take a left through a corridor and head downstairs to the Maritime History Archive and into the world of very old documents that provide a window into the past.Iâm here to meet Jenny Higgins for a quick tour of the archives. While I quickly forget the way we came in, she navigates the maze of shelves with ease. This place has been a frequent haunt of hers for several years. As a writer and researcher for the Heritage Website (www.heritage.nl.ca), she wrote about Newfoundland and Labradorâs history, from Resettlement to the Voluntary Aid Detachment to mining and political reform.Jennyâs also a former journalist, the creator of a mini-documentary series, as well as an accomplished author with two award-winning books and another on the way. Archival photos are a big part of her storytelling method, she tells me. âSometimes it can just be an image that strikes me; I want to tell the story using this image as the window into whatever this story is.â If something grabs her imagination, sheâll follow it.Jennyâs journey to becoming a writer has taken a few interesting turns. It was in her third year of studying biochemistry at MUN that she was drawn to writing, she says. âAnd I took an English elective, fell in love with it and I did both degrees. And then I went off and did my grad work in English. And then I went back again and did journalism.â In 2005, she went to work for the CBC.âJournalism taught me to write. It really refined my writing skills, you know. I loved it,â she says. When an opportunity came up to write for the Heritage Website in 2006, she leapt at it. âYou canât say no to that chance to dig into stories for more than a day.âFor Jenny, journalism taught her to be constantly on the lookout for new ideas. âYouâre always thinking, âI want to tell that story,â you know? When I went in to the archive, thatâs what pulled me in the most, I think.â That Heritage Website job allowed her to delve into a myriad of topics, as long as it aligned with the school curriculum, which was pretty broad, she says. While it was based out of the Maritime History Archives, Jenny pulled information from wherever she could, including MUNâs Archives and Special Collections, and The Rooms. One of the projects she championed was a series of mini-documentaries where sheâd create short videos featuring archival photos. âEverything came together â my radio training, my archival experience,â she laughs. âI had to be the narrator, the editor, the writer, everything. But I did have tremendous support forall of my ideas from the archive. But itâs fun, like wild west-kind of storytelling.âJenny worked for 11 years on the Heritage Website, under contract. âIf they hadnât invested in me, I would not have my career today as a writer.â Recently, she took on the role of interim director of MUNâs Writing Centre, while still working as a freelance writer.Of course, there are challenges when it comes to working with archives. There have been times when Jenny has had to reconcile herself to disappointment when she canât track down a file. Or sheâll find a document thatâs really interesting but canât follow up, like a photo without any context. It can also be an issue of just not knowing where to look because materials can be in several different archives, like atiny town in Ireland sheâll never know about.âIt can be frustrating just because itâs impossible to catalogue all the archives in the world, and often the information is just everywhere, you know?â Jenny says.From the Web to the PageJenny is also a published author and her first book, Perished: The 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster, came out in 2014 and went on to win the Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing. It follows the tragedy that befell 77 sealers who died on the ice.The story behind the sealing tragedy fascinated her, particularly the images in the archives. âI think I just like stories about people finding themselves in dangerous situations; itâs kind of like the frontier, or the ice fields were our frontier.âThe idea came to her while researching an article on sealing, when she realized it could be a series of articles, and then it occurred to her to create a documentary. âAnd then Iâm like, you know what? A book,â she recalls.Heritage Website articles are typically 1,200 words long in an encyclopedia-style with a few images, and as she researched the seal hunt, âI saw this giant wealth of fantastic documents associated with it that I really couldnât incorporate into my writing, but a book would let me do that.âFlipping through Perished is a feast for the eyes. Its pages are filled with pullout materials so readers can get a closer look. âIt was the perfect way to tell the story and to bring the archives out that inspired me, put it into the hands of other people,â Jenny says. For example, readers can hold a replica of the sealing ticket those sealers used over a century ago.Jenny followed the success of that book two years later with Newfoundland in the First World War, which was awarded the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Non-fiction. What both her books have in common is how she focuses on the people and their stories, not battles or finances. âI canât follow the money. I find it difficult,â Jenny says. âI can follow the people. I love telling stories about people. Thatâs how I understand history.âAt the moment, Jenny is working on her third book. She teamed with artist Jennifer Lee Morgan for Agnes Ayreâs ABCs of Amazing Women, named after the Newfoundland botanist, artist and suffragist in the early 20th century. Jennyâs always wanted to write something for kids and her previous books had a lot of death, so this time she aimed for something lighter for a younger audience. âAnd I thought, âWouldnât it be great to teach young people about all these women in our history that we just never hear about?ââIt began as a way for her to explore the lives of people who didnât make it into her previous work, she explains. âNewfoundland is filled with all these gems and stories.â While she couldnât find a suffragette for every letter, she included remarkable women like photographer Elsie Holloway, and women from previous centuries.Through her articles, videos and books, Jennyâs helping bring NL history and heritage to the forefront, retelling these stories in interesting and accessible ways. âIâm a little bit selfish as a storyteller,â Jenny admits. âIf it interests me, I want to tell that story. And those are the stories youâre gonna tell well because youâre interested in them. So maybe thatâs why people find it interesting, because the creator is interested, too.â-by Elizabeth Whitten
A filmmaker returns to Newfoundland and Labrador for a chilling take on mummering. Imagine this: night has fallen over the town of Twillingate, NL. Youâre home alone when thereâs a knock at the door. You get up to answer it and standing on your porch is a mummer, but he isnât here to dance in your kitchen. In filmmaker Bhaveek Makanâs world, this masked visitor might have far more sinister intentions.Lovely Mummers is the latest short film to come out of Rendering Glint Films, a movie production company Bhaveek founded with his brother, Jashan. Filmed on location in Twillingate, at its core Lovely Mummers is âa home invasion film with people that you know. You know whoâs underneath the masks and itâs a community story, so youâre from a small town [and] you pretty much know everyone there,â Bhaveek says. âAnd I think thatâs what makes it extra creepy. Because putting on a mask is like a disguise, but underneath the mask youâre even more evil.âMummering is typically seen as a treasured tradition, where people dress up and visit their neighbours for a good time. Itâs an exercise in community trust because while you donât know exactly who youâve let inside, you must know these guests.When Bhaveek explains mummering to people outside the province, he gets a few strange looks. âI never thought it was ever weird, actually. We always did it, and it was only until we started talking to people when we realized that, oh, this might be a little creepy,â he laughs.Bhaveek describes his film as a fairytale drama rather than a horror story. âI think itâs more of an unsettling family drama, and then all the horror stuff sort of comes out after that.âThe film is also open to interpretation whether or not, beyond the fairytale, there is a supernatural element at work. âI really wanted to talk about the metaphor of people being monsters and not actual fairies being monsters. There is a scene in the film that kind of shows a fairy, but the fairy looks like a human,â he says. âI wanted to explore supernatural and real human horrors and monstrosities within people,â he says.Mummering does have a bit of darkness in its past. After the murder of Isaac Mercer in Bay Roberts, NL, by a group of disguised assailants in 1860, mummering was declared illegal. Rural NL Homecoming The crew was filming in Twillingate last April, and for Bhaveek, this was a homecoming. In 2001, when he was 10 years old, he and his family moved from Durban, South Africa, to Twillingate, and later to Glovertown. In 2007, they relocated to Calgary, AB.It was while living in Newfoundland and Labrador that Bhaveek and Jashan were introduced to filmmaking by a friend. âIâve always been interested in going back to Newfoundland to film anything, really. And then a few years ago when my brother and I were thinking about making a horror movie, the first thing that came up in our heads was mummers.â He went mummering as a kid in the outports. âIt was a lot of fun,â he recalls.When it came to getting Lovely Mummers started, Bhaveek says it all came together on a whim in 2015. âWe didnât really plan the short film or anything; we just were like âHey, letâs announce that weâre making a short film, and then we just saw a lot of feedback and people were really excited.â So they started a crowd-funding campaign and then self-funded the rest.Because they were creating a story about mummers, it was crucial they film in the province. They set out to make an authentic Newfoundland and Labrador film that people from here could watch and recognize their home, from the actorsâ mannerisms to the writing and folklore. To achieve that, they hired local actors to get the unique accent that just couldnât be mimicked. The sound technician and make-up and prosthetics artists were also all from the province. âThereâs clearly talent in Newfoundland,â Bhaveek says.The crew arrived in Twillingate on a foggy spring day, ideal atmosphere for this project. âIt was windy, cold, wet. It was just perfect for the film. Obviously, it was really difficult to film in that, but it looked really cool,â Bhaveek says. There was even a foghorn blasting from the Long Point Lighthouse, an auditory element Bhaveek really wanted in the film.âIt was nice to be back home. We filmed a minute from the house that I moved to, so that was really sur-real. I went for a walk in my [old] backyard,â he says with a laugh, âso that was cool.â In fact, he even found a few of the friends he grew up with and they ended up helping out with filming. All in all, it took their small crew a month to film Lovely Mummers. Any Mummers âLowed Inâ¦? Rendering Glint Films is also planning to turn Lovely Mummers into a full-length movie called Allowed In. Local writer Cole Hayley is finishing up the script and the next step is to figure out how to fund it. Ideally the crew would go back to Twillingate to film Allowed In, but Bhaveek explains itâs expensive to do a feature-length production in such a remote location.For now, Bhaveek is concentrating on the finished short film and screening it for audiences. Lovely Mummers has already gotten a warm reception at FIN Atlantic International Film Festival. He was there when it was screened in Halifax, NS, and says it was a great experience.âAnd watching that on the big screenâ¦ was a really cool experience, even for me sitting in the theatre and hearing the sounds that we spent hours trying to mix and all the details really shining through on the big screen,â Bhaveek says. The audience seemed to like it as well. âPeople just appreciated that I stayed true to the folklore of it all.â
Wear a bikini top that resembles a bra to the beach in summer and no one will bat an eye. But put a bra on over your woods jacket and walk down the road in the middle of winter? You might get a chat with the police. Thatâs how it is when youâre a Newfoundlander living away and decide to give mummering a go on the mainland. Itâs a winterâs night in Sarnia, Ontario, and the holiday season is well underway. Somewhere, a table is missing a doily. Itâs likely on one of the six people walking down the road, faces covered, undergarments worn as outerwear, looking ridiculous in a Halloween sort of way. But this is the Christmas season, a time when, in southern Ontario, people donât generally dress in costume, unless itâs a red suit accompanied by a jolly laugh. Mummers, you see, are so rare that most people on the mainland have never even heard of them, let alone seen one in person. But for a homesick Newfoundlander or Labradorian at Christmas looking to entertain fellow expats, going mummering seems like a great idea. So it was for Dawn Hennessey, who went out with five of her friends one year, looking for a good time and a bit of a laugh. It donât seem like Christmas without the mummers, and it donât seem like winter without a bit of snow. This particular winter, in Sarnia, ON, there wasnât enough snow to feel seasonal. The mummers, being a resourceful lot, knew exactly what to do. With a slight detour to the back of the local rink, they found the pile of ice shavings dumped by the Zamboni. Shaved ice is close enough to snow, sure? Inhaled affirmations of âyehâ all around. There may not be snow on the ground, but itâs cold - way below zero - and the mummers, six of them in a car, heat off and freezing because they donât want to melt their Zamboni âsnow,â were followed home by the police that night, Dawn told us via Facebook. She doesnât remember much of the night, she says, aside from breakdancing on somebodyâs floor at one point, dressed as an old woman, and having a run-in with the law. âThe police followed us home,â writes Dawn, âbecause they didnât understand why we were dressed up.â Photo submitted by Angela Dever Despite having a lot in common, including Celtic culture, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia donât share the mummering tradition. Lori Cooze is a Newfoundlander now living in Nova Scotia, and she writes to tell us that her brother-in-law, a mainlander, convinced her, her husband and her sister - all Islanders - that mummering at his friendâs house late one night would be a good idea. The grandmother of this household was a Newfoundlander, after all, so this should all be fine. In full mummer regalia, they knocked on the door. It wasnât opened. Instead, they heard the lock turn. Then the lights went out. Undeterred, the crowd went around to the back door.âTheir dog was barking [and] they were screaming, they were calling the police, just as we found an unlocked door in the basement and went in singing and dancing,â writes Lori in a Facebook message to Downhome. There were six people in the house, including one elderly Newfound-lander who, Lori writes, was spooked by seeing mummers in Nova Scotia - she thought someone was breaking in. Once everyone realized this was not a robbery, they all had a good laugh and got on with enjoying the evening. And one more thing, writes Lori, âThe homeowner came to the basement area with a stick in his hand! Not sure who he thought he was going to confront with a stick!âAnd no, it wasnât an ugly stick. Sometimes, an unexpected visit from mummers doesnât involve a threat to call the police. In Lloydminster, which straddles the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan, Newfoundlander Christa Rice-Sacrey and a couple of friends decided to surprise their flatlander friends with a bit of East Coast culture. âWe had planned a visit... one December evening for a few bevvies and decided earlier that day we would show up dressed in disguise, hoping for an amusing reaction,â says Christa in a Facebook message to Downhome. Her friends werenât sure what to make of the spectacle at their door - âthey were definitely taken aback at first,â she says. The mummering crew was foiled by their own mirth, though, as their giggles gave away their identities. Out West, or at least at this house, people arenât let into a home until those inside are sure of just who theyâre letting in. That giggle, which cost them the secret of their identity, proved to be the price of admission and the mummers were invited in for a drink. âIt was so great to share a small part of our Newfoundland culture with them,â writes Christa. âA fond memory for sure!â _____ â¢ _____Lock up the liquor cabinet, for you never know when - or where - the mummers may strike next.
You could be walking along a stretch of beach in Newfoundland and Labrador one day and be stopped in your tracks by a scene just ahead. Reclining on a rock, a vision with glistening scales reflecting the light, and bejeweled and flowingâ¦ facial hair? Congratulations, youâve spotted an elusive Merbây. While not as well-known as their female cryptozoological counterpart, Merbâys have been popping up along the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador for two years running, posing for photographers, all in the name of charity. Itâs a project headed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club, and its president, and top Merbây, Hasan Hai. The group was formed in 2017, not only to appreciate facial hair, but also to champion good causes in the community. Merbâys got its start when a friend of Hasan shared an image of a bearded man in a mermaid costume on Facebook, along with a dare for him to do it, too. Itâs a commonly known fact in Hasanâs social circle that he isnât afraid of wild ideas, particularly when the goal is fundraising for a good cause. Heâs also the founder of Project Kindness and has dressed up as the Dark Elf on the Shelf to raise funds for the Community Food Sharing Association.Hasan then shared the merman photo, asking for others to join in. Originally it was going to be a photo series, but then he saw the interest for a calendar. He called a meeting at the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation and 30 people showed up, from photographers to potential models to crafters. âOnce I realized all the raw bits were there, Iâm like âOkay, we can do this,ââ Hasan recalls.âI knew that if I did this it would be for charity in some way, I just didnât know [for] who,â he adds. Around the time the Merbâys calendar was coming together, there was the grand opening of Spirit Horseâs Hope Arena. Hasan was inspired by their peer mental health program that brings horses and people together. Hasan had found the cause for the calendar. The project was a hit, becoming a worldwide sensation thanks to a Buzzfeed post about it that went viral. The calendars were sold as far away as Asia and Australia. In total, more than 14,000 calendars were sold and $300,466.53 raised for Spirit Horse. Photo by Chelsey LawrenceTurning the Page for 2019The first calendar was so successful, the Merbâys decided to do it again. But how would they make it bigger and even better? For one thing, theyâve added Merbâys merch, such as clothing, and Quidi Vidi Brewery made a brew called Salt of the Sea. And they took their photo shoots on the road. In the first year, they had stayed close to St. Johnâs, but this summer they travelled across the island and into Labrador for photos.Roth and Ramberg Photography from Calgary, AB, volunteered their time and expertise to come down for seven days to travel the province with the Merbâys. Shooting started on a Monday in Cape Spear and by Sunday they were in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.They also had some great weather for their trip. A session in Twillingate was especially fun, Hasan recalls. It was 30ÂºC, there was no breeze and they had to cart the photography equipment and a cooler of beer down to the beach for the photo shoot. Afterwards they celebrated with a boil-up.To put this calendar together takes much dedication. This year there were 38 models, two photographers, plus Ray Agency to help design the calendar, market it and build the website. Volunteers chipped in for things like hair and make-up. The Refugee and Immigration Advisory Council offered to sew the tails ï¿½" there are all new tails in this calendar, including a chain mail tail weighing 50 pounds. All in all, it took close to 60 people to make the 2019 calendar happen.The Merbâys sent out an open call for charities to support with the 2019 calendar and roughly 40 groups came forward. It was a difficult choice to make, but the Merbyâs ultimately chose Violence Prevention Newfoundland and Labrador (VPNL) as their beneficiary. VPNL is a coalition of organizations who engage men in averting violence in their communities. âIt just checked all the boxes on what we were looking at doing,â Hasan says, noting that the Beard and Mustache Club values inclusion, breaking down toxic masculinity and giving back to the community. Tackling Toxic MasculinityNot only are the Merbâys raising money for good causes, they also sparked a way for Hasan to talk about toxic masculinity: the pervasive and harmful cultural attitudes about what it means to be a man, such as being physically strong, aggressive and unemotional.Mermaids and mermen are common folklore figures, âbut most people think of them as a very feminine icon, and I kind of wanted to turn traditional and harmful masculine and male stereotypes on their head,â he says, âand, you know, pair up what is typically seen as a very feminine image along with this really traditional look of big, burly bearded guys and show that, you know, it doesnât matter what these men look like. Men can look and act, dress and feel however they like and that doesnât define what masculinity is.âSays Hasan, âThe basic premise is always going to be deconstructing masculinity and presenting men in a healthy way and inviting a lot of great conversations.âThe group behind the Merbâys calendar, the Beard and Mustache Club, is not only made up of men with thick facial hair. Its members include transgender men and women who donât have facial hair. âOne very minor aspect of the Beard and Mustache Club is appreciating facial hair, but thereâs absolutely no requirement to have it. Most of itâs about what people do in the community and their values, and raising inclusion, breaking down toxic and harmful stereotypes of masculinity, and just giving back to the community in a lot of creative ways.âThese positive messages are spreading, according to the feedback Hasan has gotten. Local schools and organizations have reached out to the Beard and Mustache Club to come speak about issues such as body positivity. âPeople are hungry for this message and theyâre looking for people who can connect with the people who need to hear the message the most,â Hasan says. âIâm a big, bearded, tattooed guy. People look at me and just assume Iâm this big, masculine, macho guy. And yet on the other hand, Iâm shirtless and tailed all over townâ¦ So people will listen to me, for whatever reason, and so Iâm going to use that platform, and my groupâs going to use that platform, to try and get some good messages out there.âSays Hasan, âIâm proud that we took a risk on something that was a little bit out there and found a fun way to connect with people.â -by Elizabeth WhittenMain photo by Roth & Ramberg Photography