A tribute to “our teacher and tourist guide”: this time Pauline Thornhill came to our farm

Pauline Thornhill interviewed broadcaster-turned-farmer Bill Gregory for a 2020 episode of Land & Sea. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

With a smile on my face, I thought to myself, “She finally pulled the plug.” That was my reaction to learning that Pauline Thornhill, the longtime host of the iconic Land & Seadecided to retire.

For almost 30 years, she has been the face of a show that regales us with the story of “us”. The show took us to every corner of Newfoundland and Labrador.

A generation knew no one else as a host. She’s like our Johnny Carson. She was, and still is, an amazing host, which could have easily gone on for another 250 episodes. In his heart, however, the time had come to lay down the pen.

I called to convey my congratulations and, in typical Pauline style, she minimized her role in this Land & Sea came under his guardianship.

A dream job it is, an easy job it is not. You have to build a show. These are hours of research, writing and editing in order to extract the necessary elements. Arguing with cats, sometimes, can be easier.

From quays to marshes, Pauline and company traveled countless kilometres, braving all kinds of weather conditions. She ate all kinds of game and poultry in the camps and kitchens.

Having worked in media, I had an idea of ​​what it takes to generate a broadcast-ready product, but Land & Sea is on a whole other level. I was one of the lucky ones to peek behind the curtain.

The theme came straight to my ears

It’s August 2019. My phone rings. The voice on the other end of the line said, “Hi, Bill, this is Pauline Thornhill from Land & Sea.”

It was probably a second or two, but in my mind it seemed like a gargantuan span of time. All I heard in my head was that familiar theme.

Gregory, left, stands alongside Thornhill and now-retired audio specialist Bob Sharpe during a shoot at Bean Farms. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

She heard about how I had changed careers from broadcasting to farming and asked if I would be interested in being on the show. I thought they must have run out of story ideas.

Over the next few weeks, she would periodically check in, ask a few questions, and ferret out the logistics of filming. In one conversation, she admitted, almost apologetically, that she had never heard of me before. Fear of breaking the fragile ego of (old) media. She was one of the lucky ones.

For four days in October, with some of the best weather of the season, the show was recorded. She had her plan as to how she envisioned the episode, but like any professional, she took a detour when a potential idea or visual popped up.

I have worked with and met many media personalities over the years, from all media lines. Some are true to themselves, while others are not what they seem.

Pauline is the genuine article. Her character is disarming and comforting. The warm and kind person on the air is the same. She interacts with you like someone you’ve known forever, a friend.

Small crew, big impact

Between shoots, we talked about a wide range of topics. From her magnificent career to her plans for the future, retirement was a dream. I said leave when you’re ready, and only you will know.

The episode aired in February 2020. A few weeks later, the donkey left the world. It was one of the last unreleased episodes for nearly two years. I’m sure that at this time Pauline thought about her career.

WATCH | Watch the full episode, Bill Gregory Off Air:

Now, the reins of the show are entrusted to Jane Adey. Speaking with Pauline the other day, I said, “Jane must feel the same way you did when you took over from Bill Kelly.”

But Jane is no rookie in the game. She will jump into the well-oiled machine, making it her own while upholding the tradition of the show that was built on the shoulders of giants. There is continuity.

As part of the Land & Sea documentary, Thornhill recorded Gregory selling sausages, meat and other produce at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

It can almost make you dizzy watching the credits roll on most shows. Land & Sea, however, is the small ship that does, with a handful of enthusiasts. The great eye of cameramen like Ted Dillon. The show’s longtime editor, Arlene Dillon, who cut more tapes than 3M. Then to tie it all together, the music of the great virtuoso Sandy Morris.

I have been a big proponent that this show should be part of the curriculum in our schools.

It is a mirror, and a rear-view mirror, of who we are and were. A visual record of our history.

Some of the cities presented have disappeared or, at best, are only a shadow of their former selves. Many traditions captured are no longer practiced. Lots of people, more with us.

It is fitting that Pauline’s announcement took place on St. Patrick’s Day. We were lucky to have her as a teacher and tour guide.

We wish him the best.

Like Sandy Morris.

Thornhill, who has hosted Land & Sea for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador since 1993, will retire once the current season is over. (Radio Canada)

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