Lectures & Gatherings

Hello Wessex Members:  

Another Fall season is upon us, and with it comes a new season of Wessex lectures.  We are looking forward to another year of interesting speakers and topics.  

For the last two years, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, we have offered our lectures virtually, due to the restrictions imposed by COVID.  We anticipated the possibility of returning to in-person gatherings in the coming season, possibly with live streaming, but although we are still exploring options, it appears unlikely that in-person lectures will happen.  So we will continue to offer our program virtually, at least for the coming months.  

Our schedule of lectures for the full season has not been finalized.  However, we are so pleased to announce the first two presentations (see the schedule below).  

We will provide you with a full schedule of other speakers and topics as soon as these are confirmed. 

We are looking forward to another season of interesting and informative presentations.  So save the dates, the second Wednesday of each month, beginning in October.

A schedule of lectures for 2022-2023 follows:

12 October 2022 at 7:30 pm
Speaker: Lorraine Michael, former leader of the NDP Party in Newfoundland and Labrador
Topic: “Early Lebanese Immigrants to Newfoundland: Their Contribution”
Abstract: Documents of the day mention Lebanese in Newfoundland as early as the 1880s. Early references vary from Syrians, to Maronites, to Assyrians and even Turks under whose rule Lebanon was until 1920 when it became an independent country. These immigrants settled initially on the Avalon Peninsula where, by the end of the first decade of the 20th century, they expanded from being peddlers to being owners and proprietors of a multitude of businesses in the St. John’s area. Within 20 more years Lebanese businesses were spread across the island in communities from Bell Island to St. George’s. The presentation will explore this development and ask where are the signs of the significant contribution of the Lebanese to the economic growth of Newfoundland in the early 20th century.
Download a recording of this lecture.

09 November 2022
Speaker: Jackie Alcock, Artist/Researcher from Corner Brook
Topic: “War Brides in Newfoundland and Labrador”
Abstract: First, I will point out that I am not an Historian, I am an artist who just happens to be the daughter of a Newfoundland Royal Navy sailor and his English war bride.  This talk will try to unravel some of the puzzle presented by our Newfoundland war brides.  I will explain how my interest was piqued to the point of putting together the nlwarbrides.ca site.  I will explain how the launch of the site evolved into an art show that made me think differently about these women. How the site, a decade later, led to my involvement with the Botwood Mural Arts Society, which led to the creation of the Botwood War Bride Book, "They followed their Hearts".
Download a recording of this lecture.

14 December 2022
Speaker: Kevin Major, Author
Topic: “Inside the House of Wooden Santas”
Abstract: This year marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of The House of Wooden Santas. In the pre-recorded part of his presentation Kevin Major will be sharing the room with some of the original Santas from his book. He'll focus on a few for a more detailed understanding of how they were made, then continue with a chat about where the idea for the story came from, about the writing and editing involved, and how it was (after a number of rejections) finally published. He'll chat about the carver and the photographer and how the book came together, as well as do some readings from it. And, as the final part of the evening's talk, Kevin will go live to answer any questions viewers might have.
Download a recording of this lecture.

11 January 2023
Speaker: Major Jim Lynch, Director of the Signal Hill Tattoo
Topic: “An overview of the Newfoundland military from the beginning of the Newfoundland colony up to the First World War”
Abstract: The military history of Newfoundland from the Age of Exploration to the Trenches of Gallipoli, France and Flanders in World War I is a story of how the political and social progress of Britain was inextricably intertwined with the strength and weakness of Newfoundland, its first fledgling colony. It is the story of how Newfoundland was founded and developed and its influence on the making of England.  It is the story of a trans-Atlantic fishery that became the sole link that bound Europe to North America. It is also the story of how the daring West Country traders and cod fishers who began the conquest and colonization of a greater England in the New World would embroil Newfoundland in a clash of arms that would last nearly 500 years.  Finally, it is the story of how Newfoundlanders dropped their fishing nets and plows to answer the call to arms.
Download a recording of this lecture.

08 February 2023
Speakers: Christopher Sharpe and A. J. Shawyer
Topic: “Corner Windows and Cul-de-Sacs:  The Remarkable Story of Newfoundland's First Garden Suburb”
Abstract: "Every town, no matter how small or large, rich or poor, young or old, has its stories. This one took over 100 years to unfold."
At a distance, Corner Windows and Cul-De-Sacs is a study of urban growth, planning, and household reform; up close, the study reveals a much more human story. In 1942, while Newfoundland was in an active war zone, the death rate in St. John's was higher than anywhere else in the colony. Overcrowded and dilapidated tenements, huddled on a maze of narrow lanes, fell prey to rampant tuberculosis, shockingly high infant mortality rates, and infectious disease.
In 1944, under crippling debt, the St. John's Housing Corporation was formed, with a mandate to build a new garden suburb north of the city that would lead to the abandonment and demolition of the derelict housing. Churchill Park became the core of this residential development, and between 1945 and 1947 more than 200 houses and nearly 100 apartment units were constructed, laying the groundwork for the orderly post-war expansion of the city.
Download a recording of this lecture.

08 March 2023
Speakers: Ian Morris and Kevin Toope, Trinity Historical Society
Topic: “Preservation, Promotion, and Presentation of Trinity and its History”
Abstract: Trinity has become a world class destination for visitors because of past efforts to collect historical documentation and restore and preserve the historical architecture of the town. Our presentation will highlight recent efforts of the Trinity Historical Society (THS) to preserve, maintain, and enhance historic buildings and sites, and present and promote archival aspects of Trinity's history. We will focus on four recent major projects:
1. Restoration of our War Monument & creation of a memorial park in memory of our fallen.
2. Restoration and preservation of the gravestones in St. Paul's churchyard.
3. Our self publication of the poetry of Rose Sullivan & George Hoskins.
4. Our efforts to maintain the architectural integrity of the town.
We will also highlight our efforts to promote THS by bringing historical material in our extensive archives to the public.
Download a recording of this lecture.

12 April 2023
Speaker: Ron Crocker, Author
Topic: “Biography Post-Mortem:  Why Ray Guy Haunts Me Still”
Abstract: Researching and writing a biography is a total immersion experience. Ray Guy died a decade ago. But for half of that decade our worlds became weirdly intertwined. They often remain so. If you enter the history of an old friend, you inevitably re-enter your own. Guy and I had been friends and newspaper colleagues for several years in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Thereafter our lives diverged. We lived mostly in different cities and our contact was sporadic; brief remembrances of times past. My close study of Guy’s life and work for the book helped fill the gaps. So, in a sense, Guy and I have travelled together for half a century. He remains very much a presence in my life. That presence is not just a product of intense interaction, and others may have experienced it. It reflects Ray Guy’s talent, his gifts of wit and humour, his sense of irony, his profound understanding of, and love for, the place that nurtured him, and his ability to capture it all in elegant prose. Fortunately for me, and I trust for others, countless rewards accompany Guy’s spectral presence. Bursts of his wisdom and brilliant wit may be frequent visitors. Guy’s sputtering laughter or a wicked turn of phrase can show up any time, as real and as welcome as they were half a lifetime ago. I look forward to sharing some of my Guy experiences with you - leavened, of course, with generous doses of his deadly serious satire.
Download a recording of this lecture.

Archived recordings of previous lectures can be found here.