Who's Who on P.E.I.: 33 years later, is it time for an update?

Who's Who on P.E.I.: 33 years later, is it time for an update?

The author of the popular but controversial book Who's Who on P.E.I. says 33 years later, he'd like to see an updated edition.

But this time, John Barrett said he'd prefer someone else take on the project.

"I think we're due for another one because certainly the majority of the people that were in the book 33 years ago have passed on," he said.

"There's a lot of people who've stepped up to take their place and I'd like to see them honoured, in a way that they were in a book of this type."

Shane Ross/CBC

Some in the 1986 book, however, are still making contributions to society and would likely make the cut in an updated edition. Wayne Cheverie, for example, made the list as the provincial justice minister in 1986. He is now a Supreme Court justice. Not sure if he still "enjoys pizza" as it says in his bio in the book.

There's a lot of people who've stepped up to take their place and I'd like to see them honoured, in a way that they were in a book of this type — John Barrett

Others include Malpeque MP Wayne Easter who, 33 years ago, was president and CEO of the National Farmers Union, Henry Purdy, who continues to be one of P.E.I.'s most renowned artists, and Basil Stewart, who has been mayor of Summerside ever since the book was published, except from 2014-18.

Two people in the 1986 book, Harry MacLauchlan and Joe Ghiz, had sons who went on to become premiers of P.E.I. and a Who's Who in their own right — Wade MacLauchlan and Robert Ghiz.

Who's Who on P.E.I./Walt Wheeler Publications

Barrett expects there would be as much anticipation, and likely controversy, with a new book as as there was with the old one. 

"When there was word of the book happening there was a wide range of reactions," he said.

"People that I'd never heard of before calling, seeing if they could be in it. There appeared to be quite a number of Islanders extremely upset by the fact that someone was going to select 300 or so people out of our population and somehow or another elevate them above the average person in Prince Edward Island."

Shane Ross/CBC

Barrett said he tried to be as thorough as possible when selecting people. First, they had to be living. And they also had to do something of prominence. Members of parliament, members of the Order of Canada, winners of the Evening Patriot newspaper's Islander of the Year award, and honorary graduates of UPEI all made the list.

The others were more subjective, Barrett said, and were largely based on submissions and recommendations as well as his own observations.


There was extensive media coverage, both good and bad. But one thing was certain — people couldn't wait to see who made it and who didn't.

'Am I going to be in the book?'

Barrett said he remembers interviewing a man about the man's elderly father, who was going to be in the book. The son, it turned out, was also a prominent member of society.

"And at the end of the thing the individual said to me, 'Well I may as well ask than just think it. Am I going to be in the book?'

"And I said, 'Oh most definitely.' And actually that person would have been anyway. But it was funny that I was asked."

The book was launched with a gala at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, with many of the Who's Who in attendance. The book, published by Walt Wheeler Publications, sold more than 5,000 copies, which gave it best-seller status in Canada at the time. 

Colourful and humorous bios

Each person's biography and list of accomplishments were accompanied by a sketch by E.D. Johnstone. The bios included spouses, children, career, education, memberships, awards, hobbies and "home church."

There was also a section titled "of interest," which showed, in some ways, many of these Who's Who were no different than any other Islander.

Who's Who on Prince Edward Island/Walt Wheeler Publications

Here is a small sampling of the more colourful and humorous "of interest" items listed in the biographies:

Leta M. Andrew, tourist operator: "Was partly responsible for the capture of bank robbers. Enjoys roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, scraped turnip, Irish music, staying up late."

Walter C. Auld,  vice-president of The Island Telephone Company from 1973-80: "Wears stocking garters (often embarrassed by airport security due to brass catches on garters activating metal detectors.)"

George Beck, co-owner and manager of Stewart & Beck Ltd: "Enjoys stew and dumplings and feels he can't eat with his glasses on."

Pat Binns, MLA (who later became premier): "Has habit of buttoning and unbuttoning suit coat when speaking." 

Who's Who on Prince Edward Island/Walt Wheeler Publications

Gwilym John Bevan, director of music at Confederation Centre of the Arts: "Wears socks to bed in winter and begins each day with a spoonful of honey and three cups of tea."

Stanley Bruce, MLA: "When angry, swears in Gaelic."

Earl G. Cannon, retired school teacher and principal: "Uses pepper on fresh strawberries."

Who's Who on Prince Edward Island/Walt Wheeler Publications

Wayne Easter, president and CEO of National Farmers Union (who later became MP for Malpeque): "Enjoys radish sandwiches and eggs poached in milk (an Easter tradition,) tends not to be colour co-ordinated in his clothing. Often heard to say 'Wake me up in five minutes.'"

Ansel Ferguson, fisherman, harbour manager: "Likes to brag about what he could do 20 years ago. Never eats breakfast."

Michael F. Hennessey, registrar at UPEI: "Claims that his feet get cold in December and stay that way until May."

Gordon Lank, former MLA: "Has a habit of eating pie backwards (crust first)."

Who's Who on Prince Edward Island/Walt Wheeler Publications

Roderick. B. Pratt, former MLA: "Likes to know the background of people whom he becomes acquainted with."

Basil Stewart, mayor of Summerside: "Enjoys staying on top of the news and current events by reading most available newspapers, magazines and watching CBC."

George J. Tweedy, retired Supreme Court justice: "Considers himself a molasses taffy expert."

J.E. (Johnnie) Williams, director of Georgetown Shipyard: "Sleeps in the nude and enjoys bacon and eggs with fried onions for bedtime lunch."

Who's Who on Prince Edward Island/Walt Wheeler Publications

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