Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A Stroke In Time by Gerard Doran

Have you read A Stroke in Time by Gerard Doran?

Published by Flanker Press in 2015, this historical fiction looks at the 1901 Outer Cove Fishermen's Crew who rowed 9:13 4/5 in the championship race in that year's Regatta.

It is a wonderful reimagining of that historic race, looking at the work in getting a crew together, the struggles to fit rowing into a busy fishing schedule, and the hard work and dedication that rowers continue to commit when striving for those new records on Quidi Vidi Lake.

Perhaps one of the best parts of the book is just the day-to-day life in Outer Cove. The story starts, end, and every now and then touches on the price of fish and the ability to get a good price from the merchants. It discusses the difficulty in getting a berth on a sealing ship, and the poverty that used to be common in St. John's. It also looks at Dan McCathy's struggle, wondering if he should follow his fiancée to Boston where he could also work without worrying about the merchants and their prices for fish, or stay home because leaving his mother and brother is hard.
Picture of the 1901 crew taken in 1922. Source
And perhaps my interest leans that way, as I have never rowed. Working at the Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum this year I have learned a great deal about the passion that goes hand-in-hand with rowing. Some crews would leave their vehicles at the museum before going to the lake, and after a good row, would run back from Quidi Vidi to the museum to visit and have some iced tea (I always made sure there was some ready on Saturday mornings). The excitement from a good practice was amazing to be around, and I would feel energized just being around the rowers. I doubt I'll ever row, but I have learned a great deal about rowing this past summer, and I will never look at the Royal St. John's Regatta the same way again. Even if I'm a townie, I'll be cheering for Outer Cove!

Back to the book, my only big complaints would be that the dialects seem to slip in and out of use. Perhaps that was on purpose. I certainly know who I'm around influences my dialect. As well, and I put this up to historical fiction liberties, there is a lot of focus on the Blue Peter, but the Outer Cove Crew rowed in the Myrtle for the Fishermen's Race and didn't row in the Blue Peter until that historic championship race.
Regatta program from 1927. Source

I recommend anyone with an interest in Newfoundland, and especially an interest in rowing, to read this book. And remember, we have lots of Regatta history here at the Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum, so come visit and explore more of this part of our history.

Museum Co-ordinator 2016

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