Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

In the spring of 2008, I visited France and Belgium with my sister. Among our many stops were the D-Day beaches at Normandy and several World War I battlefields and memorials, including Vimy Ridge and Beaumont-Hamel, although in truth most of northern France seems like one never ending memorial. The place is heavy with history.

I published this article in The Newfoundland Quarterly later that year. In honour of Remembrance Day, I’m posting it here.

Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

“It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further.”

– Major-General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle, Commander British 29th Division

The Danger Tree

The Danger Tree at Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

The case arrived by courier one day in April, all the way from Ottawa. The General Manager called me into his office to open it.

Inside were the medals of Tommy Rickett’s, on loan from the Canadian War Museum. They were nestled inside on the foam padding: The Victory Medal and the British War Medal, the “Mutt and Jeff” of First World War military medals. The French Croix de Guerre with star, and one other.

The Victoria Cross looked small in the case. If you didn’t know that it had a story to tell, it could almost be insignificant, just a piece of bronze and crimson ribbon.


Two weeks later I was driving from Normandy to Belgium, roughly following the route of the Canadian Third Infantry Division in as they moved across Europe towards Germany in 1944-45. One look out the window and you know this is tank country, rolling fields divided by roads and hedgerows.

Suddenly in the distance were the pylons of the Pont de Normandie, big inverted Y’s reaching up from the ground to carry the A29 Autoroute over the great River Seine. It looked mystical in the mist, the biggest bridge I had ever seen.

I was traveling with my sister, and she had the same reaction. ‘Do we get to cross that?’ she asked. After the next turn, the next crest of the hill, the river came into better view.

Yes, we do.

The speed limit on the autoroutes is 130 kilometres an hour, and we were across the two kilometre bridge in less than a minute. The big Y pylons soared above us, while below us the Seine moved lazily towards the English Channel and sea.

This trip was a succession of bodies of water to be crossed: the Atlantic, the English Channel, the Seine River.  We had taken the ferry from Portsmouth to Ouistreham and the Normandy landing beaches, Juno Beach and Pointe du Hoc and later Mont St. Michel where the Couesnon River empties on the salt flats.

But those were all behind us now. Ahead of us lay Belgium, french fries and good beer. But we weren’t leaving the battlegrounds of France just yet.

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Songs of the Day, September 29 – October 3

So I spent last week in a hotel in Rankin Inlet, attending, organizing, and presenting at the Kivalliq Trade Show, which put me in an even more bandwidth-challenged situation than normal. Fortunately, some friends stepped up and shared some songs while I couldn’t. Here’s a few favourites:

Julian Taylor Band – Never Gonna Give You Up

Double creative points for the video:

Stars – The North

Seems appropriate.

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Songs of the Day – September 15 to September 26, 2014

I’ve got a couple of weeks of music to catch up on. So here goes.

Monday, September 15

Bastille – Pompeii

It’s the history geek in me, I guess.


Tuesday, September 16

Scary Bear Soundtrack – Fault Lines

Scary Bear Soundtrack are an electric synth-pop due who live in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. “Fault Lines” was written in response to issues of violence against women and abuse, and was entered in CBC’s Rock Your Campus Competition.

Check out Scary Bear Soundtrack on Soundcloud.

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History Podcasts & Interviews

Back when I was working at a museum, and later completing my master’s degree in history, I was occasionally asked to do some media interviews on historical topics. In addition to validating my choice of study and proving that at least one other person found history interesting, these were fun to do and the chance to share these stories did influence how I thought about the past’s influence on the present.

I came across one of these again recently so I thought I’d share a few of them here.

The first was an interview I did for Calgary’s CJSW “Today in Canadian History” series about the 1948 Newfoundland Referendum.

CJSW Today in Canadian History – June 3, 2011 – The Newfoundland Referendum of 1948

Anti-Confederate Propaganda, from the Heritage NL Website:

The next two I did with Jeff Gilhooly of the CBC’s St. John’s Morning Show. One was about early attempts to create a tourism industry in Newfoundland in the early 1900s, while the other looked at a long-forgotten plan to cut shipping canals through the island to reduce trans-Atlantic crossing times and dangers.

St. John’s Morning Show – September 22, 2008 – The Norway of the New World

St. John’s Morning Show – February 10, 2009 – The Trans-Newfoundland Canal

Enjoy! As always, comments and questions are welcome. Twitter is the best way to reach me: @KeithCollier


Songs of the Day, September 8 – September 12, 2014

This week’s songs of the day included a couple of important dates, and possibly one of the coolest videos ever made.

Monday, September 8

“Conduit,” by Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers

Love the voice. Love the beard. Love the video.


Tuesday, September 9

“People,” by David Bazan

I was introduced to David Bazan’s music by a friend, who took me to see him at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

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Songs of the Day – September 1 – September 5, 2014

Monday, September 1st

“Demon” by Kandle

Kandle (yes that’s her real name) Osbourne’s first album “In Flames” was released just a couple of months ago. It’s worth checking out!

“Demon” is a great song with a great video to go with it.

Apparently graves and coffins was a minor theme for me this week. I’ll try not to read too much into that.


Tuesday, September 2nd

“Animism” by Tanya Tagaq

Tanya Tagaq is an Inuk throat-singer from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Her performances are raw, energetic, sensual, and generally amazing. I need to find an opportunity to see her perform live.

A few months ago Tagaq gained some attention after she Tweeted a picture of her baby next to a dead seal in response to Ellen Degeneres’ well-publicized donation to PETA. Unsurprisingly, Tagaq’s “sealfie” attracted the usual internet trolls who quickly turned a potential conversation about traditional culture and sustainable harvesting into an abuse-laden campaign of harrassment. There were supporters too of course, and hopefully at least some meaningful conversation and contemplation came out of it. See media stories on CBC News, CBC’s As It Happens, The Huffington Post Canada, and VICE.

Anyway, here’s the album trailer for Tanya Tagaq’s album “Animism.” Check out some of her performances online!

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Songs of the Day

Last weekend I started a new project, which I plan to be an ongoing one. Every weekday, I will post a “Song of the Day” on Facebook and Twitter. I’m doing this because I like to talk about and share music, to create a self-curated collection of music, and hopefully to discover new songs and artists.

Every weekend I’ll post the songs from the previous week. Here’s the list from Monday, August 25 to Friday, August 29, 2014.

Monday, August 25

“Cigarettes” by Noah Gundersen

Noah Gundersen is one of the many great artists I discovered through the Sons of Anarchy soundtracks. I chose “Cigarettes”  mainly because I love the video – it tells a story that is separate yet complementary.

Tuesday, August 26

Qanuluktaaq by Agaaqtoq

Agaaqtoq is Arviat’s own Abraham Eetak. Abe and his band just released their debut CD and are gaining quite a following in the territory and beyond.

Wednesday, August 27

“Tall Tall Shadow” by Basia Bulat

Great song by a great artist.

Thursday, August 28

“Tell Her/I’m Sorry” by Once a Tree

Hayden and Jayli Wolf’s musical partnership Once a Tree features ethereal sounds and haunting, powerful vocals. Lisa Charleyboy (aka Urban Native Girl) shared their tracks a few weeks ago and I’m glad she did!

Once a Tree on SoundCloud:

Friday, August 29

“Three Chords” & “If You Need My Love”, The Blue Drop

The Blue Drop are Allan Byrne and Holly Hogan from St. John’s, NL. They’ve been playing music together for a while and are just putting together the crowd funding for their first album.

Allan Byrne & Holly Hogan of The Blue Drop

You can check out their tracks “Three Chords” and “If You Need My Love” on their website at

See you next week.


A few months ago The Independent launched it’s online literary & arts journal, titled “Landwash.” They’ve launched two issues so far and I was happy to have stories featured in both.

“Landwash” is a collection of stories, poetry, photography, art, and commentary on contemporary Newfoundland and Labrador arts and culture, filtered through the unique post-Confederation revolutionary lens of The Independent.

Landwash Vol. 1, Issue 1:

Landwash Vol. 1 Issue 1 Cover

Landwash Vol. 1 Issue 1

My contribution to Issue #1 is “Sleigh Bells,” a short story I wrote a couple of years ago (and another Christmas-themed one!) based on stories I heard growing up in Bay D’Espoir.

Landwash Vol. 1, Issue 2:

Landwash Vol. 1 Issue 2 Cover

Landwash Vol. 1 Issue 2

“Undercurrents,” my contribution to Issue #2, is also based on people I knew growing up, but is also a reflection on industry and development and its affect on small town Newfoundland.

I should have a story in Issue #3 as well. Keep an eye out for it at!

© Copyright Keith Collier 2014.

The Rest is History

One of the things I learned early on in university (probably not as early as I should have, but anyway) was that I liked writing nonfiction – finding an interesting topic, asking a question, researching the story, and putting it together into an article. A lot of my writing over the years has therefore been of the historical variety. In fact, my first published pieces were for the original print version of The Independent.

A lot of pieces are obscure, or hard to find, or forgotten (even by me), and I’ve had fun searching some of them out and revisiting those articles I wrote years ago. I’ve started to post some of them in the “History” section of this website. I’m going to try to find some of those old Indy pieces too.

For those who are especially interested (hi, Dad!) I’ve also posted the major paper I completed for my MA in history: “Clearing the Slums“.

Unless you’re super interested in early-to-mid twentieth century public housing policy or the urban history of St. John’s, it’s not exactly a page turner. But feel free to get in touch with any questions or comments! I always enjoy chatting about the past. Especially Newfoundland’s.