Jay O’Callahan Audio
Recordings by Jay O’Callahan Artana Productions
These well loved stories by Jay O’Callahan were originally issued in audiocassette. As of 2014, they and many others, are available as MP3 downloads on Jay’s website Shop $8 US
The Herring Shed - Reviewed March 1996
Pill Hill Stories: Coming Home to Someplace New - Reviewed March 1996
The Spirit of the Great Auk - Reviewed June 1998
The Herring Shed
In the note which accompanied these tapes, Jay said "I'd sure like Canadians to know the Herring Shed exists," and to that I'll add that I'd like everyone to know it exists. There are, of course, two sides to the tape, only one of which is the herring shed story. The other side has five short stories, of which my favourite is The Iceman, a marvelous short piece based on the diary of a businessman which was published in O'Callahan's local paper. But the real star of the tape is the title story. [It is not clear if the stories from the other side of the tape are available in the MP3 version]
Set in Nova Scotia during World War II, it follows a brief time in the life of fourteen year old Maggie Thomas who is off to do her bit to support the family by working in the herring shed. In the space of a few days, Maggie experiences the highs, lows and tedium of the work, and the lowest of lows brought to her and her co-workers as the reality of war hits home.
Jay O'Callahan sure knows people. He creates characters and situations in a few minutes that will stay with you for a lifetime. His mesmerizing telling of this story I half spoken/half sung, pulls the listener into the lives of Maggie and the world of the herring shed. It's hard sometimes not to be effusive when you love something as much as I do this story, so let me say only that I highly recommend this story to teens and adults.
Pill Hill Stories: Coming Home to Someplace New
The mood of the Pill Hill Stories is quite different than that of the herring shed, but it,too, has the drama, poignancy, and laughter that we've come to expect from O'Callahan's stories. Pill Hill was the name of the neighbourhood 0' Callahan grew up in --so named because so many doctors lived in the big old houses. From the moment Jay whistles the listener into the past and introduces his seven year old self you are caught up in the happenings of his childhood. Or, at least, the happenings as he chooses to remember them, for, as his states in the liner notes, "I did not want a documentary. I wanted to be free to invent and alter and change...I wanted to capture the CUrrents I felt as a boy growing up." And capture them he did, from the description of his trials with his glasses, to the stories of a tough friend, to the politics of a soldier-uncle returning from the war. I'm glad this is a double cassette because you need that time to get to know the young Jay and the people who made up his world.
This tape, too, will be best appreciated by adults and teens.
The Second Story Review, Vol 1, No. 1, March 1996
The Spirit of the Great Auk by Jay O'Callahan (audiocassette) Marshfield, MA: Artana Productions, 1997. .J-\22C approx. 62 mins. Now available as a CD or MP3 download from Jay’s website
How do you begin to describe a story as masterful, and as masterfully told as this one? I never thought any story would come close to The Herring Shed (by O'Callahan. Reviewed in Vol 1 No.1 of the SSR) but I couldn't have imagined The Spirit of the Great Auk. Probably the highest compliment I can pay it is to say that when it finished, I just sat, unwilling to break the spell. This is the story of the 1500 mile kayak journey of Dick Wheeler. In 1991, he set out from Funk Island in Newfoundland to recreate the migratory journey of the Great Auk, a bird which was hunted to extinction in 1844.
The journey starts as the realization of a childhood dream, to do a long paddle in the sea. It takes on greater meaning as Wheeler hears again and again, from the fishermen along the way, the plea for conservation of the fish; the warnings that what had happened before to other fish was now surely happening to the cod. It deepens to reveal the mystical connection that forms between Wheeler and the sea, between Wheeler and the spirit of the Great Auk. This tape will be part of a curriculum developed by Dick Wheeler and the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary to be used in schools. Lucky children. Lucky sea, if the children hear the message and live by the lesson. Of course, we can't wait for the children to grow up and do the right thing. It is up to us, right now, especially in this, the United Nations International Year of the Ocean. Start by listening to this tape, you'll first be mesmerized and then, moved to action. Highly recommended for ages 8 to adult.
The Second Story Review, Vol 3, No. 2, June 1998