Fairies and fancy: Storyteller preserves outport life in earlier times

Fairies and fancy: Storyteller preserves outport life in earlier times

Hubert Furey is a man who's never stuck for a story to tell.

The Harbour Main native, well-known for his recitations, has made his first foray in to the publishing world with the release of his book As the Old Folks Would Say.

The short stories in the collection are often fanciful, usually comical and always set in the mid- to early 20th century.

Furey loves to take readers back to a time before modern amenities found their way into outport culture.

"The Revenge of the Fairies [a story in the collection] comes straight out of our culture," Furey said.

"When I was growing up, the fairies were very prominent little things, living in the woods. You'd always take a crust of bread in your back pocket to ensure you weren't bothered by the fairies, or mesmerized and led astray."

Furey's early career in education took him to all kinds of far-flung communities, and his experiences from those days have inspired many stories over the years.

His characters live in those same outport communities before Confederation with Canada. The subtitle of the book is Stories, Tall Tales and Truths of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 According to Furey, the tall tales are easily spotted, but you have to dig a little deeper to find the underlying truths.

"There's some truth in how people occupied their time, simply by arguing about all sorts of things like whether there's blood in a squid or not. So there's that kind of a truth underlying the foolishness and tall tales."

From stage to page

Furey began his artistic career after his retirement and gained quite a bit of attention for his traditional recitations.

His performances caught the eye of a St. John's promoter a few years ago, and he was put together with three other traditional storytellers from the province to form the group From Stage to Stage.

The foursome recorded an album in 2010 and consistently fill the seats of the LSPU Hall when they perform in St. John's.

While writing for print and writing for the stage are two different things in Furey's mind, his fascination with local history and culture feeds both those passions.

"I think it's critical because as you remember the past, so you live the present, as they say," he said. "It's extremely important, and there's always been a fascination with the history in people's minds."

Even the locals don't know everything, he said.

"I was sitting with a friend of mine at a funeral reception. We began to talk about the history of the local area. Three of our friends were sitting there fascinated. They were from the area but hadn't heard any of this before." 

Furey is showing no signs of slowing down. The retiree continues to tour and perform traditional recitations and said he's already planning a second book.