Categories: Female Authors - Anglophone Authors - Authors of Non-Fiction - North
Melynda Jarratt is a leading authority on Canadian War Brides of World War Two. She was born in Bathurst, New Brunswick, and graduated from Bathurst High School in 1979. Melynda obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History from UNB Fredericton in 1986 and wrote her Master’s Thesis in History in 1995 on New Brunswick War Brides. She went on to obtain a diploma in Digital Media and Design in 1999.
Melynda is the co-author of Voices of the Left Behind (2005) which was a Book of the Month Club selection. In 2007, she wrote War Brides : The Stories of the Women Who Left Everything Behind to Follow the Men They Loved (2007). In October 2008, Goose Lane Editions released her latest book, Captured Hearts : New Brunswick's War Brides as part of University of New Brunswick Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society New Brunswick Military Heritage Series. Melynda runs the authoritative website on Canada’s War Brides www.CanadianWarBrides.com and appears frequently in the media as a subject matter expert.
How has New Brunswick influenced your work?
Growing up in an English speaking family in Bathurst, New Brunswick, I was surrounded by a large extended family of uncles and aunts, most of whom had served overseas during the Second World War. Through them, and thanks to the foresight of my elderly grandmother who valued reading above all things, the world was brought to my doorstep. So I always thought New Brunswick was the centre of the world and I’ve written about New Brunswickers from that perspective. Where do we fit into the rest of the world and what role have we played in the great historic moments of the twentieth century? My ancestors roots in Ireland, Scotland and England and their journey to New Brunswick where they settled in the late 1700s and early 1800s played a large part in developing a sense of who I was as the descendent of those early pioneers. Our past is something my family speaks about as a matter of great pride: we are New Brunswickers who have been here for generations and we have a story to tell that is as important as any other. So I have always felt that New Brunswick was special, that it had a rich history full of amazing stories of so many interesting people who were born and lived here or who came here from away. New Brunswick has, therefore, shaped my writing because there are fascinating people and histories around every corner, ones that have a ripple effect on the lives of so many others not only in Canada but around the world.
What is your favourite New Brunswick book, and why?
My favourite New Brunswick book is The Scarlet Dawn, by Reverend Miles Hickey of Jacquet River, New Brunswick. I have read this book at least a dozen times and, every time I do, I discover something new which makes me laugh, makes me cry and helps me to understand why, even today, if you speak to one of the few surviving North Shore vets, a little tear will come to his eyes and he will say how much he loved “good old Father Hickey”.
Rev. Miles Hickey was the padre of the North Shore Regiment, which landed on the shores of Normandy at Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer on June 6, 1944, D-Day. His book tells the story of his enlistment in the Canadian Army in the fall of 1939, through to training in New Brunswick and arrival overseas. His book is set against the backdrop of the epic struggle against Nazism with the landings at Normandy, from which came the title Scarlet Dawn. We follow Rev. Hickey through France, Holland, Belgium and Germany and finally, we come back with him to New Brunswick, to a place that hasn’t changed very much in the six years since he has been away. The Scarlet Dawn is not a sophisticated military history, rather, it is told in the quiet, unassuming way that Rev. Hickey was famous for and which earned him the love and respect of his “boys”, the soldiers of the North Shore Regiment.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your career so far?
The highlight of my career so far is the recognition I received from the New Brunswick Arts Board in 2009 in the form of a Creation B grant which allowed me to write a history of the New Brunswickers who served with the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland during World War II. With the New Brunswick Art’s Board financial support, I was able to travel to Beauly, Scotland in the summer of 2009 to meet and interview the few remaining Scots who can remember when the Canadians were in Scotland during World War II. So this grant represents a big step for me because it is formal recognition that my work has value and that it should be supported. As any historian knows, writing is a solitary exercise, you spend many hours alone, hunched over the microfilm reader at the Library or Archives, researching, interviewing, writing and rewriting before a book is ever produced. The financial rewards are not always immediate so when I received the Creation B grant it was a signal to me that there will come a day when all I have to do is write, which would really be my dream come true.
Captured Hearts: New Brunswick's War Brides