Former mayor says Burgeo holds little ill-will against Mowat

Jamie Bennett
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Author Farley Mowat (right) speaks as environmentalist David Suzuki looks on during a news conference in Toronto in October 1988.

Allister Hann had only just returned to his hometown of Burgeo when celebrated Canadian author Farley Mowat was preparing to leave in the 1960s.

Still, the former Burgeo mayor has strong memories of the time Mowat, who died Wednesday at 92, spent in town.

“He meshed in with the people and the community fine,” Hann said Thursday. “He probably knew just about everybody on a first-name basis and they knew Farley, or spoke to him at the post office like everyone else back then.”

Hann said he’s heard little talk about the passing of the author, who spent nearly a decade in the town in the 1960s and set such books as “A Whale for the Killing” and “This Rock Within the Sea” there.

He admit’s he’s read most all Mowat’s books and believes the author helped bring national notoriety to his town.

“When people think of Burgeo they often associate Farley with it,” he said. “I believe he had a good feel for the place.”

Not all the notoriety was good however.

In “A Whale for the Killing,” Mowat attracted resentment and criticism from people in the town who believed the book was too harsh in its depiction of residents of the southwest coast.

For his part, Hann called the era depicted in the book a “different world” and said Burgeo has grown from that time when there were few roads or even telephones in the area.

Despite the backlash from the book, Hann said there was little malice in Mowat’s method.

“The man had to write a book and you’ve got to sensationalize it a little bit,” he said. “But I don’t think there was any real strong hatred on either side.

“I don’t think he saw the people of Burgeo as much different than most outport Newfoundlanders at the time.”

Twitter: WS_JamieBennett

Geographic location: Burgeo

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  • Fan of Farley
    May 09, 2014 - 08:27

    I read "A Whale for the Killing." It was a great book! I don't think Mowat tried to present Newfoundlaners as heartless or barbaric. Just the opposite! He had a pretty high opinion of Newfoundlanders. I think the problem was that the people of Burgeo are only human beings, they make mistakes like anyone else, and when some (not all of them) acted in a cruel way, Mowat happened to be there, and he reported on what he saw. As a side-note, I've heard him praise Newfoundladners, and I have seen him in a few interviews where he would imitate a Newfoundland accent. He did it pretty good!