The body of distinguished Newfoundland writer and historian Patrick O'Flaherty has been recovered from a pond after a roughly three-day search.

An RCMP spokesperson has confirmed that O'Flaherty was the 78-year-old swimmer who went missing in Barbour's Pond near Keels last Wednesday.

Const. John Kent said O'Flaherty, who kept a summer home in the area, was swimming with three adults, including a family member, when he went under water.

O'Flaherty's body was found in the pond Saturday evening, according to police. Kent said "aggravating circumstances" are not believed to be a factor in his disappearance.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is investigating the death.

'An important figure'

O'Flaherty, a professor emeritus at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, was a prolific chronicler of Newfoundland history and literature, penning 15 books ranging from personal memoir to scholarly analysis.

"I think in the business of developing Newfoundland studies ... he was really quite an important figure," said Shane O'Dea, a fellow English professor at Memorial.

"(I admired) his capacity to look at the range of things that have been written about Newfoundland history and digest them in a very clever and forthright manner."

Shane O'Dea

Shane O'Dea says Patrick O'Flaherty was an important figure in developing Newfoundland studies. (CBC)

Born in Long Beach, O'Flaherty earned a PhD at University College London at the age of 24, O'Dea said, and later taught at University of Manitoba.

But O'Flaherty's scholarship always brought him back to Newfoundland.

'Provided a kind of touchstone for other writers'

O'Flaherty published his seminal study on Newfoundland literature The Rock Observed in 1979.

O'Dea said the book laid "groundwork for the great explosion of writing in Newfoundland that we've seen in the last 30 odd years."

"He was able to look at the range of writing and discern what was good and what was great," he said. "While his judgments were his own, they nonetheless provided a kind of touchstone for other writers to move on from."

O'Dea described O'Flaherty as an "edgy" professor at Memorial, well respected by his students, but unapologetic in his convictions.

"He could be irritable and fairly strong-minded about the views he had," he said. "When he was enthusiastic about material, he could really convey it."

O'Flaherty was awarded the Order of Canada in 2006 for his academic contributions to his native province, including co-founding a journal devoted to Newfoundland and Labrador studies.

He is survived by his wife, Marjorie Doyle, according to the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador.