Saturday, June 11, 2011

Goose Lane Editions

Goose Lane Editions, a Canadian publishing company founded in 1954 and said to be one of the country’s most exciting showcases of home-grown literary talent, has, in the last couple of years, published several intriguing diaries. Those of Tappan Adney record his wonderings in the New Brunswick wilderness, in particular with exquisite details of birds, birchbark canoes and a caribou hunt; while the diary of Robert Wyse describes, in all too gruesome detail, what life was like in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Adney was born in Ohio in 1868, but moved to New York as a teenager where he worked in a law office by day, while attending art classes by night. In 1887, he first went to Canada, with his sister, to stay for a few weeks with friends, the Sharp family, in Upper Woodstock, New Brunswick. However, having taken to the outdoor life there, he stayed on for nearly two years.

In 1897, Adney went back to Canada, this time to the west, lured to the Klondike Gold Rush as a special correspondent for Harper’s Weekly. He married Minnie Bell Sharp in 1899; and, in 1900, Harper published Adney’s photos and text in The Klondike Stampede. That same year, he returned to the north to record the gold rush in Nome, Alaska.

During the war, Adney joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and constructed scale models of fortifications for training purposes. In 1917, he became a Canadian citizen; and, after the war, he became widely known for his knowledge of decorative historical heraldry and the 3D shields he created for the Canadian provinces. He put forward a design for a Canadian national flag which won a competition but was not adopted; and he built more than 150 models of native canoes, now housed in Mariner’s Museum, Newport, Virginia.

As Adney grew older, Yukon News says, his behaviour and demeanour became more eccentric, to the point where he was seen shambling around Woodstock like a hobo. He died in 1950 in his tiny forest bungalow surrounded by notes, drawings and models. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, Michael Gates’s article in Yukon News, and Jim Wheaton’s web page.

As a young man, amazed by all he saw in Canada, Adney began filling notebooks with his diary jottings and other observations. He recorded, for example, the details of snowshoes, and birchbark canoes, and the native names for birds and animals. He also chronicled a caribou hunt on snowshoes in winter conditions, decades before woodland caribou became extinct in eastern Canada. Some of his notes were published, for the first time, last September by Goose Lane Editions, a New Brunswick-based publishing company, under the title The Travel Journals of Tappan Adney: 1887-1890.

Goose Lane Editions, established more than 50 years ago, describes itself as ‘a small, lively company’ and ‘Canada’s oldest independent publisher’ which ‘successfully combines a regional heart with a national profile to introduce readers to work by the best established and emerging authors.’

The Travel Journals of Tappan Adney: 1887-1890 was edited by C Ted Behne, another builder of model birchbark canoes and an Adney enthusiast. According to Goose Lane, the book is the first published version of Adney’s earliest two journals, though he would write three more before his last in 1896. Though beautifully produced and full of reproductions of Adney’s original sketches and early photographs, there are relatively few in-the-moment diary entries - the bulk of the text being more retrospective recordings of his journeys, observations and thoughts. Here, though, are a few dated entries from early on in the book.

4 July 1887
‘An excursion of the Natural History Society [from New York City] to Manawagonish Island in the Bay of Fundy off Saint John. Thirty of us went along in two small yachts. Manawagonish Island [is] a rocky island covered with dense, stunted spruce and a small clearing where some sheep were browsing. Dense fog swept in, enveloping all things with reeking, dripping moisture, shutting out all things but the tinkle of a sheep bell, the murmuring of the waves on the beach, and the voices of a few hardy birds. Strong, clear, like a flute in the hands of a master, the Hermit thrush - a pathos that is known to no other bird. There is no song of more pure beauty, and one must come here or listen in the early morn in some far New Brunswick wilderness, to hear this, the most beautiful of bird music. I found the nest, containing four blue-green eggs, on the ground, among the cool, damp mosses and luxuriant ferns. The fog was so thick we could hardly find our way back to the harbor.

5 July 1887
‘An early walk with Mr. Chamberlain and noted three new species of birds. It was marvelous to me how Chamberlain could identify from a single note that [which] would have escaped me altogether.’

6 July 1887
‘Mr. Chamberlain was to give a lecture before the Society and wanted some fresh birds, so I went out back of the city and found myself in wild woods. I poked about in a dense cedar swamp. The usual fog came in. I lost my bearings and walked in a circle until I remembered that the wind was probably constant. Then I took a course by the wind and got out. Thankfully, I got a crow for the lecture.’

8 July 1887
‘Took passage aboard a small side[-]wheel steamer, the David Weston for Fredericton up the river. Next morning, arrived at the capit[a]l. . . I sketched the curious wood boats, two-masted schooners with tremendous sheer forward, loaded on deck with deals so that the hull[s] of the boats were actually submerged, all but the high nose of the bow. They came down wing-and-wing under a northwest breeze. Going back, it is said they make better time than the steamer. Here at Fredericton were the booms with their enormous quantities of logs from up river.

There was a tall bank of sawdust several miles below the city, and I went there and found hundreds of Bank swallows nesting in the face of the heap, which was as hard and firm as a bank of sand. I got several sets of eggs.’

* * *

Another recent Goose Lane diary volume concerns Robert Wyse. He was born in 1900, in Newcastle, New Brunswick, into a prosperous family, one of six children. The family soon moved to Moncton, 100 miles or so south, but also in New Brunswick. Robert was too young to serve in the early years of First World War, but managed to sign up for the RAF in 1918 - though he did not see any action. Twenty years later, he left New Brunswick, partly to escape an unhappy marriage (from which he had one son, Robert) and travelled to England where he joined the RAF, and trained as a gunner. After a year, he switched to work as a flight controller; and then, with Squadron 232, he found himself in the Far East.

Following a mis-handled Allied campaign on Sumatra, and a retreat to Java, Wyse, along with many tens of thousands of Allied troops, was captured by Japanese forces. He spent over three years a prisoner of war before being liberated in the late summer of 1945. Thereafter, he was hospitalised before returning home in late 1946. He divorced his first wife, and married Laura Teakles with whom he had a daughter, Ruth. However, his health never fully recovered, and he died in 1967.

Although prisoners of war were forbidden to keep diaries, Wyse did write a journal during his incarceration, hiding it in a bamboo pole beside his bed, for over two years. When the practice became too dangerous, he buried his notes (just as others did, including the more famous diarist in the same camp, Laurens van der Post). After the war, he managed to arrange for his notes to be returned to Canada where he and Laura’s sister transcribed them to a typescript. The original notes no longer exist, but Jonathan F Vance, professor of history at the University of Western Ontario, edited the typscript (deleting passages added after the war) for publication by Goose Lane as Bamboo Cage - The P.O.W. Diary of Flight Lieutenant Robert Wyse, 1942‐1943.

This is, in fact, the 13th volume in a series of Goose Lane books for the New Brunswick Military Heritage Series. Initiated in 2000 by the Military and Strategic Studies Program of the University of New Brunswick, its purpose is to inform the public of ‘the remarkable military heritage of the province, and to stimulate further research, education and publication in the field’.

Here are a few extracts from Bamboo Cage.

1 September 1942
‘Hurried in to lorries at 10 a.m. and departed shortly after, no waiting around with the Japanese. Lovely drive through thickly populated country to Soerabaja, the largest sea port in Java. Our prison here is a former race course and fair grounds, thick concrete walls, sentry boxes at the four corners, and guards perpetually patrolling through the atap huts. Every Nippon guard seen even at a great distance must be saluted or bowed to, and one must stand rigidly at attention until they are out of sight. Another search of our meagre possessions on arrival, very thorough and much more of our stuff taken. Saw a small British flag being stamped on. About 1,000 British troops here already, about 3,000 Dutch, some Australian, American, and all other nationalities represented. Managed to get some bed space on some bamboo raised up from the ground, most of the troops on the ground here, but it is the dry season.’

2 September 1942
‘Practically no outside labour here. The camp is horribly dusty and dirty but fortunately there are a few showers. The bog holes are a seething mass of microbe life. Wing Commander Cave’s party went to Batavia in March and they are here now, many officers and men that I knew. P/O Shutes ... offers 5 guilders for my lighter. Woodford advises me to keep it for a better price.’

3 September 1942
‘Getting used to it but this is pretty hard living. Food even worse than at Malang and not so good for a Westerner. Small piece [of] bread in the morning with a cup of tea, bread very heavy and soggy. Lunch, boiled rice. It is generally too well cooked, naturally with no sugar, salt, or milk. Supper, steamed rice, a small ladle of stew (so called), no fat, no sugar. With a cup of tea, no accessories. That’s all there is, there ain’t no more. At the canteen you can buy cigarettes only - understand they used to sell tea and coffee.’

4 September 1942
‘At noon today informed of another move, don’t know where but think old English to be sorted out and confined together. Trying to sell my lighter at any price, sorry I didn’t take the five guilders, am stone broke. The Nippons had allowed us to keep some of our English iron rations. Now the C.O. is giving us each a share. I had a share in a can of apples, a small spoonful, a half a can of bully beef and an eighth of a tin of potatoes - that, with my noontime ration, à la Dai Nippon, made one good bellyful. . .

There is damn-all charity between the British prisoners of war. Never in all my life have I seen such examples of selfishness. There was a riot over a case of corned beef, several boys injured. [Just] a spirit of ‘the hell with you, jack, I am looking after myself.’ Officers and men alike sit in front of others and fairly gloat over food that they have been able to purchase. When the capitulation came, huge impresses were handed out to officers for disbursement and the common good, [but] large sums of it remain in their own pockets and those of their friends. Tonight I sold a pair of socks, a gift, which I do not need, for 2; also a half cupful of petrol for 1. Our atap huts present a lively spectacle tonight as the Dutch come from all over to buy up the few remaining possessions of the English. I don’t know who wins. Our lads need the money for food, they certainly don’t need many clothes in this climate, but we have been at great pains to issue them with shirts and shorts to cover their nakedness, and the minute they get a new shirt off they go to see how many guilders they can get, guilders of course representing food.’

Many thanks to Goose Lane Editions for permission to quote from both their books, and for use of the two portrait photographs.

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