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June 17, 2022: A Cambridge Kid in the '30s and '40s: Scenes from the Life and Work of Jonathan Bayliss
Houghton Library, Harvard Yard

We are pleased to announce an exciting special program at Harvard's Houghton Library on Friday, June 17, 2022. Bayliss's semi-autobiographical fiction contains vivid passages describing Cambridge during the Great Depression as seen through the eyes of a boy. He and his little sister and brother attended Cambridge elementary schools and lived in various apartments in Cambridge from 1933 to 1939 with their mother, Lois Henderson Bayliss. A few years later, during World War II,  Bayliss was a freshman at Harvard's Lowell House for two terms, before he joined the Navy toward the end of the war.  Bayliss's papers are in the collection of Houghton Library, and a few will be on display for this event.

For more information and to register for the June 17 program, click here

Fourth Annual Conference, September 10-11, 2022: Celebrating Dogtown Common: A Special Place

Dogtown Common will be the theme of the JBS 2022 conference, to be held in what Bayliss calls "Cape Gloucester" on the weekend of Saturday-Sunday, September 11-12. The conference is open to all.

Dogtown Common ("Purdeyville" and "Tir-na-Dog" in the novels) is a wild area in the middle of Cape Ann, which is, as Bayliss says in Gloucesterbook, "next to the harbor itself our most precious public possession." 

Bayliss's novel Gloucestertide captures - in densely packed prose! - what an early spring Dogtown walk is like: "Even the dry cedars and junipers did not yet trust the warming tilt of earth, though the leaves of deciduous bushes were already half unfolded, sparsely scattered around 'Purdeyville Square', where three roads used to meet at the groin of a hamlet. Here the wooded fringes of the disincarnate community were out of sight behind ridges of thin rockbottomed earth that had once supported forests among erratic boulders previously strewn like megalithic dung by the last scouring glacier but now keeping company with the low boscage of abandoned agriculture. The thin boreal grass seemed cropped forever by vanished sheep and cattle."

Dogtown's history, ecology, legends, and influence on writers and painters will be the subject of conference walks, talks, readings, and more.

Confirmed to date are speakers on various aspects of this special place: Mark Carlotto, John Day, Cindy Dunn, Chris Leahy, and Mary Ellen Lepionka. Saturday's talks, lunch, and dinner will be held in the beautiful Dogtown-like landscape of the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts, founded by Bayliss's friend Ina Hahn. Attendees will be offered a visit to Sandy Bay Historical Society, which has a very large collection of Dogtown-related objects.  

Saturday evening will feature an exciting new Windhover production based on Percy MacKaye's poem Dogtown Common. 

Sunday will include a talk on Dogtown-inspired art at the Cape Ann Museum.

In conjunction with "Celebrating Dogtown Common," the Sawyer Free Library will offer a bibliography and set up a display about Dogtown, and the Gloucester Writers Center will offer a Friday evening reading and social event to kick off the weekend.   

On both days, weather permitting, conference attendees will be offered guided walks in Dogtown itself.

Be sure to join our email list for registration information as it becomes available. 

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Gloucester Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.


2023: Gloucester 400 

Glouester400logoGloucester's 400th anniversary will be celebrated in 2023, and many organizations are coming together to commemorate the 1623 landing of the Dorchester Company expedition on what is now Half Moon Beach in Stage Fort Park. Throughout the year, events will highlight Gloucester’s rich history, culture, and heritage which will showcase its diverse community,  extraordinary contributions to art and culture, remarkable industrial achievements, and wealth of natural resources. The Jonathan Bayliss Society is one of the many partners of Gloucester400. Please visit for more information. 

As part of the "400 Stories" project, Ken Riaf interviewed Bayliss's friend Jay McLauchlan about Bayliss's life in Gloucester, where he lived from 1956 until his death in 2009. The interview is available here. Another "400 Stories" video, about Bayliss's friends Bill and Peggy Sibley, was taped at the JBS 2021 annual conference and features three Sibley children: George, Liz, and Mern. 

Past Events

Third Annual Conference, September 11-12, 2021

One of the 2021 conference themes was Rocky Neck, the peninsula-island attached to East Gloucester via a causeway. Bayliss lived on Rocky Neck for more than twenty years and did much of his novel-writing there.  Conference events are listed here. Recordings: 

  • "Rocky Neck Memories": George Sibley, Mern Sibley, and Liz Sibley Fletcher video (60 mins)
  • Gloucester Marine Railways tour by Viking Gustafson video clips (12 mins)
  • "Rocky Neck in Three Dimensions: Art Colony, Marine Railways, and The Rudder" live stream (58 mins)
  • Father F. Hastings Smyth 1950s audio, with slide show (8 mins)
  • Bishop Terry Brown on Father F. Hastings Smyth video (48 mins)
  • Introduction to Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay by John Day video clips (15 mins)

A PDF booklet (download here) includes speakers' notes: George Sibley (Rocky Neck Memories), Sally Bradshaw and Suzy O'Hara Kadiff (Art Colony), Viking Gustafson (Gloucester Marine Railways), Susan Baker and Paula Parsons (The Rudder), Bishop Terry Brown (Father F. Hastings Smyth and the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth), and John Day (introduction to Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay). It also includes the map of Bayliss's "Mother's Neck" that appeared in the conference program.

Second Annual Conference, September 11-12, 2020 (Zoom)

The September 2020 Zoom readings entitled "From Cats to Seagulls: A Bayliss Bestiary" and "Gloucester Quintet: Five Writers, Five Friends" are on YouTube.

First Annual Conference,  September 7-8, 2019

David Rich and Ken Riaf read passages from the novels Gloucestermas and Gloucesterbook relating to downtown "Dogtown" at the first annual conference in September 2019 - the videotapes are available here

Other Recordings

A video of a September 2015 reading on labor-related themes in the novel Prologos is on YouTube, courtesy of the Gloucester Writers Center. Readers were David Adams, Peter Anastas, Thorpe Feidt, Henry Ferrini, Doug Guidry, Victoria Bayliss Mattingly, Martin Ray, Ken Riaf, and David Rich.  On Bayliss's birthday, September 7, 2013, the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library sponsored "Dogtown's Acropolis," a reading with commentary by Peter Anastas and David Rich. See the video recording.  A 1990 student production of Bayliss's stage play The Tower of Gilgamesh is available on the JBS YouTube channel.

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