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Book ReMarks: A Newfoundlander in Canada

"A Newfoundlander in Canada" by Alan Doyle, published by Doubleday Canada.
"A Newfoundlander in Canada" by Alan Doyle, published by Doubleday Canada.

"A Newfoundlander in Canada" [Doubleday Canada] is the second Alan Doyle book I’ve featured in ReMarks.

And guess what? You might not believe this, but, as I did the first one, I won this one online.

Literary lottery luck, or what?

Inside the front cover, reproduced in inoffensive Canadian pink, is a drawing of Alan’s grade school map of Canada.

Alan admits that as a boy growing up in Petty Harbour, he was pretty ignorant about the country, as his map shows. Considering his province’s history — Newfoundland became Canada’s tenth province in 1949 — and the attitude of many adults in his community, he wasn’t certain he actually was a Canadian.

Alan, consider this: teachers assigned you the map of Canada, land of your birth. When I was a bay-boy scholar seated in one of Joey’s brand-new Confederation schools, my teachers only required that I draw a map of Newfoundland … and label all the bays and capes. Despite the reality of Newfoundland’s joining the Dominion, Newfoundlanders refused to let go of former apron strings — kinda.

Alan b’y, when you sketched your map a couple of decades after me, your knowledge of Canada was far superior to mine. At least you knew there was an Out West and Up North. As far as

I knew, beyond Port aux Basque there were dragons.

That’s a lie.

I knew that over by China, or handy about, there was a province — whatever that was — called Alberta where Wilf Carter sang about poppies blooming on the banks of Lake Louise.

Speaking of Lake Louise.

While on tour with Great Big Sea, Alan hiked up a Rocky Mountain trail with his buddies, singing a joyful tune until he gaped for breath and figured he was having a heart attack.

Except for the singing part — since I’ve nary a note in my noggin — I experienced the same breathlessness at the top of a dormant volcano in the Sandwich Islands.

Thin air, b’ys? It’s scary to be sucking for oxygen and to realize there’s a dearth of the life-sustaining gas.


… it’s remarkable how life experiences can be so similar for people of different generations.

Alan left home aboard The Ferry from Argentia to North Sydney on a trip that was “a barf fest from start to finish.” He has not sailed on The Ferry since because, as he says, “the ferry was the most awful experience of my life.”

When my family broke up housekeeping here on the Rock and shifted to a foreign province, we sailed from Port aux Basque in a January storm. The trip was a barf fest — and toilet-contents-slopping fest — from start to finish.

I have not boarded The Ferry since.

An aside, albeit probably more than you need to know: I have never barfed on an airplane.

Before I scribble another line, I must say that I’m proud of Alan Doyle and the international success of Great Big Sea …

… but I still don’t own a single Great Big Sea CD, and I’m not particularly a fan of their music.

I am proud of them, though, because of events on Canada Day 1997. I remember watching The News at the time and saying, “B’ys, good for you!”

Great Big Sea was billed to play on Parliament Hill. Event organizers had scripted an introduction which would have had the band come on stage aboard a mock-up dory with all hands wearing so’westers.

Great Big Sea refused to take the stage as a Newfy joke.

No sir. They scoated their feet. They dug in their heels. They would not be mocked.

Good for them.

Oh, and The Queen sat on the Hill.

Organizers — or whoever, The Queen’s handlers? — decided Great Big Sea ought not sing a line in a traditional song that made mention of under-drawers for fear it would be interpreted as an offensive allusion to the royal fundament. Or whatever.

For frig sake!

Great Big Sea refused to change the lyrics. Their scoated their feet. They dug in their heels.

The show went on, without a dory but with under-drawers snuggly drawn up.

Good for them, eh b’ys?

Alan Doyle has written an entertaining book. Good for him. His stories are honest and humourous … and I intend to steal a line from his book.

When people ask, “How are you today?” I often answer, “As good as I get.”

Thanks to Alan’s tales, in future I will offer a different response — “Not so bad as I expected to be.”

Thank you for reading.

— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at

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