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Found Drowned reading at Joggins Fossil Centre Sunday, July 7 at 2 p.m.


The novel was launched June 23, 2019.

RIVER HEBERT, N.S. – Seventeen-year-old Mary Harney went missing without a trace 142 years ago, and Laurie Glenn Norris has spent the past 25 years searching for her.

“I novelized a true event that happened in 1877 here in Cumberland County, in the Rockley area, and in Prince Edward Island,” Glenn Norris said. “I worked on the novel off and on for around 25 years. It took me a long time but I wasn’t working on it constantly.”

Glenn Norris lives in River Hebert, and her novel, Found Drowned, grew out of newspaper articles from 1877.

“I knew two things. I knew this young girl, Mary Harney, had gone missing from her home in Rockley, Cumberland County, back in September of 1877, and I know a couple of weeks later a body washed up on Cape Traverse over on PEI, just across the Northumberland Strait,” Glenn Norris said. “Was it Mary Harney who washed up on the shore or was it not Mary Harney? My book had to decide whether it was Mary or not. That’s basically what I had, and then I went from there.”

She had six newspaper articles to work from.

“It was quite sensational for its time because this young girl disappeared and there was a lot of people in the small community of Rockley who thought her father had done something to her,” Glenn Norris said. “The community was quite upset, and they got a petition together, and that’s how a detective came up to Rockley and to PEI to investigate.”

Glenn Norris researched the history of Rockley, which is near Pugwash, and the main characters of the novel.

“I had to learn about Rockley, so I went to the Cumberland County Museum. I had to learn about detective Lewis Hutt who lived in Halifax, so I went down to the Archives in Halifax, and I wanted to learn more about the coroner, Dr. Henry Jarvis, who lived outside of Summerside, so I went to the Provincial Archives over in PEI,” Glenn Norris said. “I also tried to find information about medical procedures at the time, so I talked to people in medical museums.”

She couldn’t find any photos.

“Dr. Jarvis was a well-known person in PEI at the time, and Lewis Hutt was a detective in Halifax during the 1850s, 60s and 70s, and I wasn’t able to find a photo of him either,” Glenn Norris said. “And there was no photo of Mary, so I had to make up what they look like.”

The characters took on a life of their own.

“You start to think about what they look like, what they would have for breakfast, how they would walk, who did they love and what did they dislike or hate,” Glenn Norris said. “They do start getting complicated, and then they have to interact with each other, and that’s complicated again.”

Glenn Norris has written several non-fiction books but this is her first crack at writing fiction.

“I wanted to tell Mary’s story but there wasn’t enough documentary evidence and resources about the event and the people involved, so I always felt it had to be a novel,” Glenn Norris said. “If I had more information I might have done it as a non-fiction book but I didn’t have enough information.”

She first heard of Mary's disappearance through a ghost story.

“There’s a woman I know who used to live in Rockley who is in her late 70’s, and she remembers as a child hearing about the story.”

Legend says Mary Harney was a ghost who haunted the River Philip river near Rockley.

“Over the years, some people in Rockley have said they have seen her at the river or heard her crying or screaming and saw lights going on and off down by the River,” Glenn Norris said. “Supposedly the last kind of sighting of these lights or the last time they heard these screams was in the 1970s.”

She says the story has faded with time.

“Not a lot of people live in Rockley anymore. It’s like any other small community, people move away, families die out or go away, and stories get lost,” Glenn Norris said. “That’s one reason that I wrote the book. I wanted Mary’s story to be captured and to be remembered.”

The title, Found Drowned, comes from a term used by coroners in the 1800s.

“There was a lot of sea travel and river travel at that time and there was a lot of boating accidents where people fell overboard and drowned, and some people who washed up on shore were never identified and were buried as unknowns,” Glenn Norris said. “If a body was washed up on a beach or on a shore and there were no signs of violence on the body, if they hadn’t been shot or stabbed, a lot of times the coroner’s report would say they were ‘Found Drowned.’”

After 25 years, Glenn Norris has her ideas of what happened to Mary Harney but can’t say definitively what became of her.

“I think I have an idea of what happened. It might not be how I wrote about it in the book. It’s just my idea,” Glenn Norris said. “Anybody could look at the same information that I did and come up with a different solution. My interpretation is just one of many.”

Glenn Norris is giving a reading of her novel at the Joggins Fossil Centre at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 7.

“Books are available there for purchase and I’m happy to sign a book for them.”

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