Thursday, 4 June 2020

Cover Art Reveal - On This Day: the new book from author Dale Jarvis



Here it is, the cover art for my latest book, published by Flanker Press, art by Graham Blair! Stay tuned, new news on virtual launches and print releases coming soon!

Pre orders here:



Thursday, 16 April 2020

Encounters with the Boo Darbies - tales from Ramea, English Harbour, Colinet, and Conception Harbour



“I can recall her saying to us, ‘If you go out tonight the Boo-Darby will carry you away.’ She said that he was a black man with horns. This proved to be very effective, because I always shuddered when she mentioned the Boo-Darby.”

A word you will not hear very often anymore in Newfoundland is “darby” -- meaning a type of potentially supernatural figure.

The word is not lost completely, however. There are at least three place names in Newfoundland that include the word “darby.” The first is Darby's Harbour, a former settlement located on Merasheen Island, Placentia Bay.  There is also another Darby Harbour in Placentia Bay, in Paradise Sound, which was abandoned before the official resettlement period of the 1960s and ‘70s.  A third is Darby's Island, still shown on some maps as “Old Ferrole Island,” which fronts the communities of Brig Bay and Plum Point, on the Great Northern Peninsula.

The name pops up in other contexts as well; the Newfoundland folk music quartet of Jean Hewson, Christina Smith, Rick West, and Dave Penny have performed together under the name “Boo Darby.”
But clearly defining what is meant by “darby” or “boo darby” is difficult, as the meaning varies from place to place, from person to person, and changes over time.

In certain contexts, darby can mean a type of ghostly apparition or spook. It can also be used to refer to a Hallow-e'en spectre, or a boogey-man type figure used to frighten or threaten children. One person from Ramea told folklorist John Widdowson how their mother used the name “Boo-Darby” to keep them in line:

“My five-year-old brother was taught and expected to obey at all times but like most kids he occasionally disobeyed, when mother would step in and say, ‘Now Tommy, you do like you’re told or under the steps you go where the Boo-Darby is ready for bad little boys.”

In one story from Colinet, St. Mary's Bay, Barbara Rieti’s informants told her a strange story about serving girl who was killed, flattened, by the darbies. She writes,

“So by and by she hears them coming, they come down the back of the meadow. She hears the fences busting and cracking, and she ran to sing out to tell them that they were corning. And they were gaining on her so fast that she see she couldn't do it and when she got to the door they were nearly on top of her and she sung out, ‘Darbies.’ And as quick as that, they said, you could hear the big ruption. They trampled her in the door, flattened her out, and she was black as tar. And the whole house, our uncle said, full up, great big long white feathers was full from the floor right up to the ceiling, he said. And a cold breeze going through the house , frightening everyone to death, and about two seconds everyone was gone.”

While it seemed clear to the storytellers that the darbies killed the girl, it was a bit confusing if those particular darbies were fairies, evil spirits, or humans in disguise.

The Dictionary of Newfoundland English includes several different meanings for the word darby, but most commonly it seems to have referred to disguised people who participate in disguised mummering activities during the twelve days of Christmas, though it could also mean a scoundrel, sly or cunning fellow.

Mr. Hubert Furey, of Harbour Main, is a great raconteur and a master recitationist, and a fabulous person to turn to when you are looking for bits of Newfoundland folklore.

“We never called them mummers, when I was young,” he told me. “We called them darbies.”

“We would make up our costumes, with cardboard masks with holes, and paint, crayon and whatever, sheets and pillows, wool for hair, whatever you could do to make yourself look ridiculous or funny or otherworldly. There wasn’t much style in the thing, it was very individual, whatever you could make up. You had the odd person who was very ingenious and creative, who had a good costume. But generally speaking it was whatever found itself on the body, so to speak, from whatever was lying around.”

Darbies in Harbour Main followed many of the customs followed by mummers and jannies in other parts of the province, except for the fact that darbies would start their rounds at about December 15th, but they would be done by Christmas Eve.

Joseph Dobbin, writing in 1984, shared his thoughts and memories about Christmas in St. Mary’s Bay at the start of the twentieth century.  He included a reference to the darbies, saying:

“You and your brothers and father now begin to make your rounds. You go from house to house, singing, dancing, dressing up as the darbies, frightening children and little old ladies with your masks and the hobby-horse, and you have a wonderful time chasing, finding and blackening your friends, particularly the ones who showed any sign of fear of the darbies.”

In Conception Harbour, the darbies would go out even earlier, around Colcannon time (All Souls’ Night) at the end of October. There, the darbies would burn corks in the stove and pull them out with tongs, then use the blackened cork to darken their faces.

So are darbies a type of frightening, black-skinned supernatural creature, who inspired people to mimic them during mummering season? Or did it work the other way around, with costumed figures giving mothers a story to use to frighten naughty children?

If you have had a run-in with darbies, boo-darbies, boo-baggers, or other frightening creatures, comment below.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

That viral poem and photo? They aren't what you think they are. #askafolklorist #covid19



Chances are, if you've been spending more time on social media lately than usual, you may have seen the above photo with some variation of the following:

We will get through this together.....
A poem written in 1869, reprinted during 1919 Pandemic. Truly shows history repeating itself. This is Timeless....It was written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Meara:
 
‘And people stayed home
and read books and listened
and rested and exercised
and made art and played
and learned new ways of being
and stopped
and listened deeper
someone meditated
someone prayed
someone danced
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently
and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended
and people found each other
grieved for the dead people
and they made new choices
and dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of life
and healed the earth completely
just as they were healed themselves’
 
Reprinted during Spanish flu Pandemic, 1919
Photo taken during Spanish flu

Awesome, right? It's a great poem, made even better by its astonishing history, and the accompanying photo shows people getting about their business, and even looking fashionable, during one of the worst pandemics of the 20th century. If they can do it, so can we!

It is fabulous, except that the historical aspect of it is fabricated. It is a great story, but, surprise, not everything you read on the internet is accurate.

First, the poem. Kathleen O’Meara was a real person and her life sounds pretty interesting. She was an Irish-French Catholic writer and biographer, and wrote about women's suffrage and social reform. She died of pneumonia at only age 49, in 1889. She wrote novels, biographies of leading Catholics, and journal articles. She did not write "And the people stayed home."

The poem was written circa March 2020, in response to the current coronavirus pandemic. It was written by an Irish-American teacher coincidentally-named Kitty O'Meara, from Madison, Wisconsin. Her poem went viral online, and she was profiled in an article in Oprah magazine by writer Elena Nicolaou on March 19, 2020.

"It offers a story of how it could be, what we could do with this time," O'Meara told OprahMag.com of her viral work.

What about the photo taken during Spanish flu Pandemic? Surely that is the historically-true part of the viral phenomenon?

It is an old photo, but it predates the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 (which was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin).

The photo dates to 1913, and has been shared and shared again online through sites like Pintrest and via social media, and one of the earliest versions posted online was uploaded by the stock photo company Alamy. The photo comes from the archives of the former press empire of major Berlin publisher August Scherl. The Alamy online catalog includes this version of the photo:

After the Balkan War, a new fashion is emerging. Women wear nose veil that is commonly used in Turkey.

Helpfully, it also includes the following metadata (information about the image):

More information: This image could have imperfections as it’s either historical or reportage.Ladies' fashion from 1913. New veil fashions, based on Turkish nose veils., 01.01.1913-31.12.1913Photographer: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung PhotoDate taken: 1913

 I'm not the first one to point this out, either. On April 6, 2020, actor Scott Baio tweeted out the photo.


It was retweeted hundreds of times, and generated a response three days later from the Fake History Hunter twitter account @fakehistoryhunt who wrote:
Incorrect.Photo was taken in 1913, probably in Germany, years before the Flu pandemic began.This original description states that it is a fashion fad inspired by the Balkan war, they're wearing veils based on Turkish nose veils.

I'm guessing that the Balkan war referenced here is the First Balkan War, 1912-1913, which was tied into a very complex history of conflicts before and after that I'll let some military historian far more knowledgeable than I unpack. And if you want more information on how the conflicts of that era impacted fashion (and set the stage for designers like future Nazi-collaborator Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel) you can read Anja Reinthaler's article "Clothing during World War I - How the war influenced the fashion industry."


Why does this matter? "Whatever," you might say, "I still like the poem." It matters, in part, because your perception of history is being modified by unknown persons for unknown reasons, and there are a lot of historical precedents that teach us why that sort of behaviour is problematic.

Another reason it matters is that we are living in the midst of a historical event, and the works that are created now will be the history (and folklore) of the future. Kitty O'Meara of Wisconsin deserves to be recognized and remembered for her contributions, just as much as Kathleen O’Meara deserves to be honoured for hers.  The innovators of 1913 deserve credit for their creativity, and the global impact and historical echoes of local conflicts deserves proper study.

For more on how folklore is evolving and ever-present in times like these, check out Smithsonian folklorist James Deutsch's recent article "How to Detect the Age-Old Traditions of Folklore in Today’s COVID-19 Misinformation."

As I wrote above, not everything you read on the internet is accurate (sorry, Scott Baio). If you have more information on either the poem or the photograph, email me and I'll add it!

And if you want an awesome photo of badass women wearing face masks in response to Spanish Influenza, here you go: the St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the Oct. 1918 Influenza epidemic, from Library of Congress.


Keep safe, wash your hands, and watch what you post online.  I'm off to research Turkish nose veils.


- Dale Jarvis, Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland, 15 April 2020.




Monday, 6 April 2020

Exciting news! Haunted Ground ebook is on sale this week for just $4.99!


Our friends over at Flanker Press have announced that for this week (April 6 - 12), all e-book versions of Haunted Ground are just $4.99!  

In this collection of ghostly tales, I will introduce you to old legends, including spectral Viking longships, encounters with ghostly ferrymen, and strange voices on the trapline, while exploring classic elements of local folklore such as tokens and premonitions, bad weather lights, and the Old Hag herself. In addition to historical tales, you will also come face to face with some of the province’s eeriest urban legends, from the mysterious Red Eyes of Glovertown, to the chilling west coast Webber, to the Phantom Drummer of Conception Bay North. With leaping witches, dancing devils, phantom locomotives, and even a ghostly kitten or two, there is no mistaking that you are exploring truly haunted ground. 

You can find your copy here: 

Kobo

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Apple