Bernice Morgan, writer (b at St John's, Nfld 8 February 1935). Bernice Morgan grew up in St John's, Newfoundland, where she attended and graduated from the Newfoundland Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist school. Morgan's parents came from small coastal communities on Random Island, in Trinity Bay, and Cape Island, in Bonavista Bay. Morgan creates a fictional island community, which she names Cape Random, in her best-selling historical novels Random Passage and Waiting for Time. On the dramatic growth in the Newfoundland literary scene at the end of the 20th century, Bernice Morgan observes, "We really did have the feeling that you couldn't write about here. And women, of course, had the feeling that you couldn't write about what happened inside houses. I'm on the cusp of that generation where everything changed."
Bernice Morgan's commitment to writing about her province's history, people, and social issues was recognized in her being named as the 1996 "Artist of the Year" by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. Morgan co-edited the 1978 anthology From This Place: A Selection of Writing by Women of Newfoundland and Labrador. Her 1997 award-winning play, The Big Game, is set in a hunting lodge near Gander. The short stories in her 2000 collection, The Topography of Love, are mostly set in and feature characters from her own hometown of St John's. In the speech that accompanied her presentation with an Honourary Doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Morgan is praised for "her vision of [the] dignity, [the] courage and perennial vitality" of the people and communities of Newfoundland.
Random Passage (1992) follows the fortunes, mostly misfortunes, of a group of English immigrants who come to Newfoundland in the early 19th century. Hoping for a better life, they find themselves instead in the remote, unpopulated, and hostile landscape of Cape Random. The settlers face extremely harsh conditions and catastrophes that range from devastating storms to bear attacks, yet the small outport community staggers on. Waiting for Time retells the story of the village's settlement from a different character's point of view, and also brings their story up to date, by introducing a late 20th-century narrator who is a descendent of the original immigrant families. Waiting for Time won the 1994 Canadian Authors Association Literary Prize for Fiction and the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.
Bernice Morgan writes bluntly and compellingly of the large forces, both environmental and socio-political, ranged against her characters. She portrays their survival and success as a testament to the strength and endurance of these early settlers, especially the women. An eight-hour mini-series titled Random Passage, based on both novels, premiered on CBC television in 2002. The series drew over a million viewers per episode, and is credited with increasing tourism to Newfoundland.