Author Leonard Lahey will sign copies of his book

Author Leonard Lahey will sign copies of his book

Newfoundland has a rich history of transportation

Leonard Lahey was born in St. John's, Nfld. and has turned the stories of his father and uncle into a fascinating book

Leonard Lahey was still a toddler when the Second World War ended, but as he grew up he spent hours listening to the stories of his father and his uncle.

Those recollections  have formed the basis of the Vernon resident’s first book, Getting Around the Rock: By Land, Sea, and Air.

The book is a collection of stories dealing with the history of the transportation sector, largely in pre-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador. Lahey’s father and uncle both had careers in the changing fields of transportation and communications in the province.

Lahey’s uncle, William (Bill) Joseph Lahey, was the main source of inspiration for the book, and represents his personal account of events from his working life and shows his involvement in three varied sectors of transportation.

As well, recollections came from the author’s father, Raymond (Ray) Lahey, who spent his working life with various incarnations of the Newfoundland Railway. Some of the stories included describe how the railway came to Newfoundland, wireless telegraphy, the coastal steamers, the Botwood seaplane base, and the Newfoundland Airport in Gander.

“Years ago, I was living in Trinity Bay and I used to go to my uncle’s house. He had retired from his work at Gander, which was the major airport at that time,” said Lahey. “I was always interested in genealogy, and he started telling me stories about families and went into his own stories about boats, the Canadian Marconi Company, and the tsunami of 1929, so I started to record his stories for personal interest.”

When Lahey retired and moved out west, he had more time on his hands and began to piece some of the stories together for what turned into Getting Around the Rock.

“This is sort of a history in itself because of my uncle’s involvement in aviation, involvement in boats, and working as a wireless operator both on land and at sea.”

While Lahey grew up with the stories told to him by his uncle and his father, he learned a some new facts during his research about the history of transportation in Newfoundland.

“A lot happened in the Second World War, when you had a great influx of American bases being built in Newfoundland, and Canadian bases were also built there.

“The Americans had a long-term agreement with Newfoundland and Britain and they had a 99-year lease on the properties but Canada had an agreement that within six months of the war, everything they were involved with had to be removed.”

As a wireless operator at Gander, Lahey’s uncle was witness to history, which included the 10,000 airplanes sent from Gander and Goose Bay to Europe, at the behest of the Royal Air Force.

“The first transatlantic flights flew into Botwood in 1937, the flying boats, and Uncle Bill would have been part of that.”

Lahey was born in St. John’s in 1942. Educated at St. Bonaventure’s College and the College of the North Atlantic, he completed a master’s degree and earned an interprovincial journeyman’s electrical licence. In his younger days he worked for both Canadian National Railway in St. John’s and for his uncle Bill in Gander, from which came his interest in Newfoundland transportation. He went on to become an industrial technologist, a curriculum assistant, and a facility supervisor at the Centre of Aquaculture and Seafood Development at the Marine Institute before retiring in 2002. He and his wife Linda established Rainbow Trout Farm Limited in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland’s first commercial finfish hatchery.

The Laheys have lived in Vernon for six years and have three sons, Craig, Kurt and Keith, and four grandchildren.

Published by Flanker Press, Getting Around the Rock: By Land, Sea, and Air is available in paperback and as an eBook through Lahey will be signing copies of his book Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. at Bookland, 3400-30th Ave.