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Cultural Heritage Office goes on road to collect local stories

Participants at last year’s Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador event in Spaniard’s Bay.
Participants at last year’s Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador event in Spaniard’s Bay.

The Intangible Cultural Heritage Office (ICH) of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HFNL) has hit the streets for its Oral History Roadshow.

Representatives from the ICH are travelling to communities throughout the province to collect stories of local folklore.

A different theme is chosen for each community, with the hopeful end result of creating an archive with a wide breadth of folk tales and traditions from across the province.

The project is being done in co-operation with the New Horizons for Seniors programs, and hopes to bring together seniors and other community members to tell and record stories that are part of the local history and cultural heritage of the province as a whole.

The next stop on the roadshow will be at Wesley Gosse United Church in Spaniard’s Bay on July 26 at 7 p.m. and will focus on folk cures and practical magic.

“In our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation there weren’t pharmacies on every corner, so people had to come up with their own remedies,” Dale Jarvis, a folklorist with the HFNL, says about the reason these alternative cures exist and why they are being recorded.

One story to have come out of Spaniard’s Bay already is about a woman who was a local charmer and used her charms to cure warts. Members of the community would come to her house, where she would hold their hands and tell them if she could cure the wart(s), and tell them to leave without saying “Thank you.” Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, the wart(s) would be cured.

Other stories that have surfaced during the Oral History Roadshow include rubbing a wedding ring on your eye to cure styes and making poultices from bread, mustard and other everyday kitchen items that could used to cure boils, eczema, infection and fever.

“We’re just interested in collecting those stories,” says Jarvis. “We want to make sure these stories are carried forward.”

Not only is the roadshow a way to collect the stories from a generation that will be lost in the too-near future, but, Jarvis says, “it’s a great way of getting people talking within communities about local things.”

After Spaniard’s Bay, the Oral History Roadshow will go to to Port Blandford to talk about the local corner-store and the types of items people used to buy, and then to Bay Roberts to talk about places that are linked to local folklore.

Stories, recordings and photographs collected throughout the roadshow can be found at collectivememories.ca.

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