GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL. – Writer Dan Hoddinott is hoping a new collection of his father’s stories will preserve “snapshots” of life on the Great Northern Peninsula.
Yes, Boy… You Talk About! is a collection of 12 stories collected by Dan and written by his late father, Ralph Hoddinott – a native of Brig Bay.
They tell tales of Ralph’s adventurous life on the Great Northern Peninsula.
The stories are illustrated with maps, period photos – many of which Dan sourced from the Brig Bay Then and Now Facebook group – and pre-1900s images that Dan says showcases Brig Bay in the era of French fishing activity.
Ralph, who passed away at 79-years-old in 2013, had a website started in the 90s and early 2000s where he shared a number of his stories.
Dan, who now lives in Toronto, describes his father as a “lively storyteller” and felt his work was too good to “fade away to nothing”.
“I thought there should be some permanent record of them because what he’s done is take snapshots, present vignettes of life in northern Newfoundland back in the 50s and 60s,” he told the Northern Pen.
He set to work collecting and re-printing the stories in September 2017.
To ensure their validity, he spent a few months conducting research and fact-checking the stories.
“It was fun, it was great to be immersed in it and you find yourself living there, almost like your standing outside of him and seeing your own father as a young man,” he said. “It’s a little bit uncanny.”
Through the process, Dan learnt more about the lifestyle on the Great Northern Peninsula of that period and more about his father’s character.
“Dad was more of an adventurer than I knew,” he said.
Dan says he didn’t know he was such “an enterprising young man.”
“He was so determined to do things, that really surprised me,” he said.
One of the stories, “Somewhere Between a Will and a Way”, presents this enterprising quality of Ralph.
“It’s a story of how he made it up to Corner Brook, by hook and by crook,” said Dan. “And then made it back, with an inboard engine for somebody’s boat that had been shipped to Corner Brook. He had to devise ways of getting it home. He gets a ride up the coast in a snowmobile with Trevor Bennett.”
He got the title for the story from Bennett during a conversation they had about the journey back in the 70s.
Dan says one of his favourite stories in the collection is “Sailing into Fog.”
“One day he left Hawke’s Bay and was making his way back home, ran into fog off of Ferolle Point and, you know, it was touch and go for quite some time and he made it all the way, safe and sound,” he explained.
“He was really an adventurer, willing to do things that were near impossible because he imagined a way of getting them done.”
Dan says the stories are all written as though his father was in the moment.
“He wasn’t reporting from somewhere in the distant future … he wrote as though he was in the moment,” he said.
The book is available to purchase online at www.danhoddinott.ca and Dan hopes it will be available in select stores on the Great Northern Peninsula in the near future. Three hundred copies of the book have been printed.