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The Diaries of Howard Leopold Morry

Howard Leopold Morry The Diaries of Howard Leopold Morry

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.


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