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June 1, 2009

Tilting is a remote village on Fogo Island, eight miles off the Newfoundland shore. I discovered its existence recently after hearing extracts from Robert Mellin’s study of the place as part of an edition of Something Understood, produced by Falling Tree Productions for BBC Radio 4.

Mellin, an architect and professor of architecture at McGill University in Montreal, purchased a house in Tilting after falling in love with the area. That led to his extraordinary work recording the vernacular architecture of the village, and indeed the area, and capturing the voice and spirit of a fast disappearing way of life. Tilting, one of 11 communities on the island, has seen its population decline from about 500 hundred residents to about 300 in the past few years.

In his study, Mellin trains his architect’s eye on wooden houses, sheds, fishing platforms, fences, root stores and tools. His quest for knowledge of the particular depicts the essence of a remote community that lives and works with the grain of the land, the sea and the weather. Mellins book, Tilting: House Launching, Slide Hauling, Potato Trenching, and Other Tales from a Newfoundland Fishing Village, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in New York, and won the Winterset Literary Award in 2003.

In preparing for this edition of qarrtsiluni it seemed appropriate to feature something on Tilting. Thanks to the wonderful economy of communication that is the Internet, I was able to contact Robert Mellin, who has kindly allowed us to include four photographs of Tilting. He also helped us secure the necessary permissions from Falling Tree Productions and Rick Boland, who reads the piece, to present an audio clip titled, “Ted Burke on Hospitality.”

—Anna Dickie, May 2009


Cyril McGrath taking his sheep to Pigeon Island in Tilting (click all images to see larger versions)

Restored Albert Dwyer Premises, Tilting, Fogo Island, Newfoundland

Restored Albert Dwyer Premises, Tilting, Fogo Island, Newfoundland

Gladys McGrath with two of her grandchildren in her kitchen in Tilting

Gladys McGrath with two of her grandchildren in her kitchen in Tilting

Photos by Robert Mellin

Download the MP3 (reading by Rick Boland)

  1. Pat
    June 2, 2009 at 3:45 am

    The photos illustrate perfectly the sort of place i imagined it to be. That must be a candidate for the longest book title.

  2. Anon
    June 5, 2009 at 10:26 am

    what was the name of the production co. that made this piece for BBC?

    • June 5, 2009 at 10:42 am

      Falling Tree. It’s linked twice in Anna’s introduction.

  3. June 9, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Oh how I wish Ted Burke and his family would invite me to supper sometime. Tilting is perhaps the most beautiful place name I’ve ever
    read. So many thanks to Anna for leading us all to Robert Mellin’s book.

  4. June 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Appropriate – indeed.
    mary Duffy

  5. Pat
    June 21, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I enjoyed that and I spy a friend:)

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