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Tilting

June 1, 2009 6 comments

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

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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)