Yep, you guessed it – another work update!
On the heels of my work with the University of Calgary and the Canadian Elections Database, I landed a contract of an entirely different sort thanks, once again, to Dr. Ed MacDonald. (That said, be sure to stay tuned for next week, when I reveal how I finally negotiated a contract all on my own!)
‘Twas the week before Christmas 2014, and all through Robertson Library there weren’t too many people stirring – just yours truly, putting the finishing touches on the UCal contract, and a handful of employees eagerly counting down the last few hours until the holidays. The end-of-semester-final-exams hubbub had come and gone (mercifully, I should add), and as I settled into my little microfilm nook for another blissful afternoon of newspapers and sushi – washed down with coffee, naturally – my phone sounded off with an email notification. It was from the offices of the Journal-Pioneer in Summerside.
It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it did take me a bit by surprise. Dr. Ed had written me a short while before informing me that the Journal-Pioneer was in search of someone to undertake a series of commemorative articles in honour of its 150th anniversary in 2015. He thought it would be up my alley and if I was in agreement, would happily pass along my contact information. Of course, by that point I was mired deep in my newspaper research, and it quickly slipped my mind. Christmas had come early.
Initial talks were held just before Christmas, but what with so many other things on the go, communication waned. The situation solidified in January, however, and I was given the green light to proceed with the project. I was granted free reign to design the scope of the content, and opted to focus on key events in the Journal-Pioneer‘s history, which meant looking mainly at its first incarnation, the Summerside Journal. I arranged for the articles to be published monthly from February to October 2015, with the final article to be run 150 years to the day after the Summerside Journal‘s first number, printed on October 12, 1865.
With that settled, I was off and running…to the archives. I knew very little about the origins of the Summerside Journal and how it eventually became one half of today’s Journal-Pioneer; however, that quickly changed. The research I did proved highly enlightening, and took me on a journey I’ll not soon forget. That said, I won’t delve into any historical details here, since you can read all of the articles on my “Portfolio” page at your leisure.
An interesting factoid about this contract, and one which I’m not entirely certain my editors realize, is that a lot of the writing was done while I travelled abroad in Scotland. Before I signed on to do the articles, my girlfriend and I had planned to put our work visas to use and see a bit of the Old Country. Since we were only slated to depart in March, I realized that I could have the best of both: I’d get the necessary research completed up front and take it with me – and pray to God that I had my bases covered.
I finished my first two articles on the Island amid the mayhem of preparation for transatlantic travel, while those for April through July (and part of August) were written while abroad in Scotland, specifically, in the back room of the candle shop that my girlfriend managed on Market Street (although if I remember correctly, I wrote a portion of the article for May while on a train from Leuchars to Edinburgh). I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Isle of Skye Candle Co. for use of said space (and wifi), and to the top-notch folks at the neighbouring Pret a Manger, and Mitchell’s, both of which kept me fuelled with excellent (and very reasonably priced) coffee. And food. Oh, the food.
Suffice it to say that this was probably the most fulfilling work I’ve done as a freelancer. The project involved a goodly amount of historical research, which I love, and an even greater amount of writing, which I love even more. In fact, I loved it so much that I purposely took my sweet old time putting together the articles. I could easily have knocked them off before I left for Scotland and been done with it, but to be honest, I couldn’t bear the thought of finishing the work that quickly. Also, ‘writer abroad’ has a certain romantic cachet.
Given the exorbitant length of my last post (2200+ words), I’ll spare you further ramblings and end things for this week with a selection of historic photographs that I happened upon during the course of my research.
A picture is worth a thousand words, after all.
PEI History Guy
What say you?