A new smartphone app is helping to guide a new generation through a family farm in the northwest part of St. John’s.
Aly’s Way was developed by the O’Brien Family Foundation as part of the nearly 200-year-old property’s development into a historic site.
“It’s like Aly O’Brien is taking you for a walk around the farm and showing it all to you,” says Chris Brookes.
Brookes is an independent audio producer with Battery Radio who helped develop the app, along with Memorial University folklore professor Jo Shawyer and several folklore students.
Shawyer was also a friend of Aly O’Brien, the final member of the family who kept the farm running until his death in 2008. It was their recorded conversations that formed the basis of the app.
“We had these one-on-one conversations over such a long time, it became very personal, so as an academic, I decided not to rush about and do any scholarly publication. I decided no, I’ll just let them sit there for awhile,” Shawyer said.
“Well, 20 years later, along came the folklore students and picked up on this.”
‘It’s Aly’s story’
One of those students was Jacquey Ryan, who helped select specific clips of O’Brien’s voice from the recordings and uploaded them to the app to highlight different parts of the farm and life there.
“The thing that makes this app so special is it’s Aly’s voice, it’s Aly’s story, and he’s not here to tell that, but he’s left that legacy behind,” Ryan said.
“To take that information, put it into an application that people can come and walk around the park and listen to Aly talk about really great stories … it just brings you there, and it brings him here.”
Brookes said it was the right way to allow people to explore the O’Brien farm, which is also in the process of being converted to a centre to learn about sustainable farming.
“The farm foundation wanted to have something that people visiting the farm could [use] to explore the fields and get information about it and hear Aly O’Brien’s voice,” he said.
“And he’s talking about the very spots that you’re walking through, so the idea is you’re walking through a particular area or a field or meadow, and that’s…