New play celebrates unusual Newfoundland family

If A Place Could Be Made chronicles the Daly family of Riverhead, who raised six siblings with dwarfism in the first half of the 20th century.

Six of the 12 Daly siblings of Riverhead had dwarfism

A scene from If A Place Could Be Made, with the Daly family projected on stage. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

The unique experiences of the Daly family of Riverhead, St. Mary's Bay are being highlighted in a new play premiering Thursday in St. John's.

If A Place Could Be Made highlights how six of the 12 Daly siblings, born to Kitty and Daniel Daly between 1914 and 1936, had achondroplasia, a genetic condition that results in dwarfism.

"So when I was growing up, my great aunts and uncles — half of them were little people. And they were extraordinarily intelligent and fun and wonderful," recalled Diana Daly, a descendant and one-third of The Daly Family Collective, the troupe responsible for the play.

"The thing that sticks out about this story is mostly about inclusion, that everybody had a place in my family."

Years of research

Daly and her dramatic partners Anne Troake and Louise Moyes spent three years researching the Daly family roots in order to bring it to the stage.
Louise Moyes, left, and Diana Daly are two-thirds of The Daly Family Collective, that created If A Place Could Be Made. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

"It is quite rare to have more than one person with dwarfism, or have a person with short stature in one family, and to have six was really rare," Louise Moyes told CBC News.

Moyes said their research revealed that during the 20s and 30s, Newfoundland didn`t follow the trend set out by Canada of sending children with special needs or challenges away.

"In Newfoundland, people didn't. People kept their family close to them, and integrated them in their house, and in their community. And if a place could be made for them, it was," said Moyes.

Daly said that rule definitely applied in her great-grandparents' household.

"They treated all of their children with enough respect that each person had to do their own job, and have their own abilities," said Daly.

"They were fully functional members of that community."

'So many funny stories'

As part of the production, The Daly Family Collective has partnered with the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities NL to raise awareness about inclusion.

If A Place Could Be Made premieres Thurs. Feb. 25 at the LSPU Hall in St. John's. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

For Moyes, much of that awareness comes from sharing the Daly's real-life experiences.

"There were so many funny stories, and some sad ones, and just stories of resourcefulness. They were very clever people," said Moyes.

If A Place Could Be Made runs Thursday through Saturday at the LSPU Hall in St. John`s, with another production set to showcase in New York City in October.

With files from Meghan McCabe