Alan Doyle is a very fine musician, and an equally fine storyteller. He does Newfoundland proud in his book, Where I Belong, where he recounts stories from his youth, growing up in Petty Harbour at the height of the inshore cod fishery. He describes how he fell into his family’s love of music and his journey from a young boy cutting out cod tongues on the wharf to the start of his band Great Big Sea. His anecdotes about the colourful characters who helped shape him as a youth are funny, and told with the flare of a seasoned professional. His gift of gab translates well to the written page. Surprisingly, I have met prairie farmers who seem much like the salty fisherman of Doyle’s childhood, helping me believe I know some of these people I have never met.
When a boat reached the wharf side, no matter if it was arranged or not, all of us would shout out the same thing every single time:
“Can I have your tongues?”
I expect that’s a sentence that sounds strange to just about everyone, yet it was shouted hundreds of times on every summer day in Petty Harbour. How weird it must have seemed to any visitor from the Mainland who happened upon the wharf when a boat was coming in- this pack of young fellas in rags, waving buckets and sharp knives, shouting out to sea, “Can I have your tongues?”
Alan Doyle – Where I Belong