cover-image-ann-seamusThe Story

Seventeen-year-old Ann Harvey is one of the great unsung heroes of maritime history. In 1828, off the Newfoundland fishing village of Isle aux Morts, Ann Harvey, her father and younger brother, came upon the wreck of the Despatch, an Irish immigrant ship originally destined for Quebec City. In thick fog and fierce wind it had run aground. Ann’s courage and strength at the oars of the rescue boat were largely responsible for saving more than 160 dirt-poor passengers stranded amid the raging storm, left “like seabirds clinging to the rocks.” Ann’s courageous feat along the isolated south coast of Newfoundland had been all but forgotten.

Kevin Major vividly portrays a shy young woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances. It is the story of dramatic rescue, but also the story of dreams and fate, of a hard life and young love. For also at its center is Seamus, a young Irishman who had set sail with hopes of a new life in North America. Ann and Seamus is historical fiction that sweeps across ages and nationalities. In rich yet accessible narrative verse, it draws the reader into the drama of sea rescue without losing the tender and impetuous voices of youth at the core of the story.


“The surge of the language, and the intensity and elemental simplicity of the action and characters, make this a book that lives on in the imagination, a book to read aloud, a book to press on friends both teenage and adult.” Quill & Quire, starred review

“This is an adventure, coming-of-age, and love story, all set within vividly evoked Newfoundland history and presented through stunningly immediate poetry.” Horn Book, starred review

“David Blackwood’s ghostly blue-and-grey prints float through this long, haunting poem…” Globe and Mail


Governor General’s Literary Award
Mr. Christie’s Book Award
Ann Connor Brimer Award
Atlantic Bookseller’s Choice Award
Geoffrey Bilson Award
IODE Violet Downey Book Award
ReLit Awards – Fiction
Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award
Newfoundland Heritage and History Book Award
Stellar Book Award

Author’s Comments

A novel in verse brings its own challenges. Every word has to count. I set out to have them retain a lyrical quality without sacrificing the thrust of the story. I wanted to touch the reader at a personal level, while never losing the wide sweep of the narrative. As a story of great courage, my hope is that it lifts itself from a small, isolated corner of the world to become an inspiration for people no matter where they live. A few years after it was published the book formed the basis of a folk opera, commissioned and performed by Shallaway Choir, with libretto and music by Stephen Hatfield. The opening night brought together descendants of both the rescuers and the survivors. I was never more deeply moved by the consequences of a piece of my writing.

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