These twenty-five volumes represent a series of verbatim transcripts of the diaries of Howard Leopold Morry,
written by him starting in 1939 and concluding with the last known volume in 1965. It is important to note
that there are gaps in the chronology and possible missing volumes at the end of the series which are
unaccounted for but which are believed to represent diaries that are now lost. The gaps in the chronology
in the earlier years cannot otherwise be explained. Also, Howard Morry (known as Dad Morry to his family and
so referred to in this series) died in 1972 and was clear of mind and continued to write letters to his family
members in Canada, the United States of America and Scotland until shortly before his death, so it seems likely
that there were other diaries written after 1965 which are now lost.
Howard was a raconteur and oral historian cast in the same mould as dozens of other men and women in Newfoundland
in those days who carried forward the history of the small outport villages in which they lived. In many cases,
their knowledge, gained by word of mouth from generation to generation, is our only record of the events that
took place in these tiny villages for many decades and even centuries.
Howard was 54 years old when he took up pen or pencil to write the first of his many diaries in December 1939.
What motivated him at that time was the belief (wrong, as it fortunately turned out) that he would not live
much longer, as a result of a bad heart condition resulting from diseases he endured during his time in the
trenches in Gallipoli, on the Somme and in Ypres during WWI. He was worried, and in this he was justified,
that many of the stories of the old days that he faithfully retained would be lost forever if he did not record
them in writing. The younger generation even then had lost interest in such things and the race of community
oral historians of which he was one was coming to an end.
In his diaries, he spoke of his own personal experiences, at home in his youth, his adventures in western
Canada as a young man, and overseas with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in WWI. But he also recorded
observations on the significant and insignificant (to most historians) events of daily life in a small
outport village on the Southern Shore of Newfoundland in the early to mid-1900s. And he also recounted events
from the history of his village as passed down to him by earlier generations of oral historians.
Of course, we all know, or think we know the history of Ferryland, one of the most important early English
settlements in North America, because of the great interest that it has attracted in recent decades. But
what historians and archeologists have painstakingly revealed about the history of this community only paints
the bare outlines of the story to be told. The colour is added by the memories passed down to Dad Morry from
the generations of oral historians that preceded him.
This series is not the first publication to have emerged largely from Dad Morry’s diaries. In 2014, Breakwater
Books published When the Great Red Dawn is Shining, an account of his experiences as an ordinary foot soldier
in WWI. My name appears on the cover of that book as author. In retrospect, that was sublime arrogance on my
part because, while I editorialised and added to his memories with factual background information concerning
the events recorded, it was he who actually wrote the story.
Again, in 2019, The Last of the West Country Merchants, published by the author, Christopher J. A. Morry,
covered primarily the life of Matthew Morry mentioned above, but also drew heavily upon information given in
written and oral form by Dad Morry.
This new series of transcripts of Dad Morry’s diaries will take a different form. A great deal of the credit
for transcribing a number of these diaries is owed to several of his grandchildren, including the late
Jamie Morry, my brother Glen Morry, and our cousin Karen Chapman. They meticulously transcribed several of
the diaries, taking care to correct spelling, grammar and punctuation or, on occasion, adding a few words to
make the text more readable and accessible to the public, in the expectation that at some stage they would
indeed become public in one form or other.
But it has been decided that authenticity demands that the diaries be transcribed once more, this time without
making anything more than very minor modifications to what was written. Only in this way is it possible to
convey the colourful manner of his written story telling, which faithfully mirrored his retelling of those
stories at home or on visits to his children’s homes in his later years. You will find in the following pages
on opposite pages an image of the actual page from the diary and a verbatim (or nearly so) representation of
that page line by line.
This method of representation of the diaries carries with it one potentially problematic concern. Dad Morry
was a creature of his times and his upbringing in outport Newfoundland and had all the same biases and
discriminatory attitudes that were held by others in his time, not only in Newfoundland but in most parts of
the English-speaking world. Because my objective was to allow him to speak for himself without imposing my
standards or those of others in our more enlightened age, his words may prove shocking and offensive at times
to the reader. But if this is to be an accurate and truthful representation of the history of the times, if
would be unconscionable to completely alter the text to reflect the sensitivities of today that did not exist
at the time of the writing. It is hoped that readers who are offended can forgive this decision and accept
the spirit in which it was made. A very few offensive words have been modified to try and reduce the impact
of this aspect of the diaries. Dad Morry himself needs no such forgiveness because he was speaking in the
manner of the time and history cannot be altered and should not be re-written.
July 27, 2023 – The Diaries are currently being formatted to appear here on the Digital Archives Initiative and
each of the 25 volumes will become available as the formatting is completed.
Memorial University - Centre for Newfoundland Studies