Retrospective: Ray Guy's Jan. 11, 1998 column

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Ray Guy in 2008. — Telegram file photo by Rhonda Hayward

Editor's note: This column originally ran in The Sunday Telegram on Jan. 11, 1998. We think it's a good representation of Ray Guy's humour, insight and tenacity, and his concerns for the fate of rural Newfoundland. He won't be soon forgotten.

Sole Survivor

To the man that finds me, as God is my witness, I did not make away with myself. I am old, that's all, and it can't be much longer.

I heard on the radio this morning that the last baby ever born in this place is dead now. Only 16 years old, killed with a truck some place over there in British Columbia.

All the young crowd was left here by about 1997. Ten years after that there was no one under 70 years of age. The windows went out of the school and the little playground we had grew up with grass.

At first, some said it was a real pleasure. No rackets, no young punks, no tearing around. It was lovely and quiet, that's for sure, but it was not a good thing somehow.

I remember two or three of the old women, I suppose they were kind of, you know, senile; they'd shove around a baby carriage with a cat or a small dog bundled up in it. Sometimes a doll.

And you had to humour them. You'd have to say, "Oh isn't he a lovely little thing." That kind of stuff.

The road went down pretty bad. It was back to the wells again and they had to turn off the few street lights. And, of course, the shop and the post office, that was a thing of the past.

A few went off, after a spell, to wherever their sons or daughters were gone. A few more moved away to Corner Brook or St. John's. Houses closed up, there wasn't half the people there used to be.

It was pretty bad but you seemed to get used to it. But, like I say, 10 years wasn't long going. One day someone looked around and said: "Do you know there's not a person in this place now under 70 years of age?"

Television was partly a good thing. People used to watch programs with young people in them and even youngsters' programs. For the minute, you could almost believe it was like it used to be.

But some also watched the religious stuff too much and too much of that is enough to make anyone silly in the head. A few shoved off in their old boats. They knew what they were doing, but who are we to judge?

Hospitals and doctors wasn't much of a problem after they brought in the new system a few years back. By that time, just about everyone here was Class Three.

No doctor would even look at you if you were over a certain age, too fat, smoked tobacco or only had the common old people's ailments.

If you had something really strange wrong with you, then they'd batten on to you, right delighted to take you apart in pieces.

Strange things happened, though. Food poisoning. It was hard to get out of here to get in your grub supply. So when people got the chance they brought back as much as they could and stored it away and some of it went bad.

Then those vans started coming around. People were too old to go climbing up ladders. Them van people, they'd fix your roof, they'd paint your house - but money up front, first. The police never caught any of them.

There was nastier gangs came in from somewhere. After dark they would break into houses and serve people something barbarous, looking for money.

Several with bad hearts died, but there was someone else died with a load of shot in the guts. If someone somewhere is still interested in what happened to him they can look in that small bog up at the end of what we used to call Winter Path.

About the worst thing that ever happened, though, was when the television got hold of us.

They came in here and they took pictures of the most sorrowful kind they could manage. Well, when that was put on the air, there was a big uproar in there around St. John's, somewhere.

Oh, this is a scandal in this day and age, and what's the government going to do about it!

What the government done was come out and round up as many as they could and hauled them away to one of them old-timers' barracks somewhere - Shady Glen or Sunset Lodge or Wrinkle Ranch.

But they only got half of us. The rest wouldn't budge. We said, no, they'll have to knock us on the head first.

Well, they didn't knock us on the head. They came back with a doctor and a nurse. Everyone had to have a "flu shot," they said.

Yes, "flu shot" I dare say. They carried the rest of them out of their doors and away, poor buggers, and God love 'em, they didn't know if they were in this world or the next. Except for me.

Two days later the Mounties came back with their sniffing dog, looking through all the houses, beating the bushes, to make sure there was no one they missed and left behind.

I still say it was a real miracle. That dog looked me straight in the face and turned away his head without a whimper and trotted off in another direction. And so after one last year in peace I come to this.

I had a long life. I saw a lot of changes over all those years. The last one has been the hardest change of all, but that's the way it had to be, I suppose.

I say again, I have waited out the fullness of my time.

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, British Columbia Corner Brook Shady Glen

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Recent comments

  • Bud Davidge
    May 16, 2013 - 22:38

    Noone but noone captured the Newfoundland outport character and essence like Ray did. My earliest recollection was in these Telegram pieces when I first left home and went to MUN in the sixties. It was the first time in my life that I saw my outport language in print and it was so perfect and hillarious. All of the turns of phrase and words that we spoke naturally were there on the written page exactly the way we talked. Many have tried to replicate the outport language in writing but few get it right. Ray did it with ease. His insight into the local character was incisive and brilliant. I doubt if we will see his like again. My deepest condolences to his family. God bless you Ray.

  • Pam Frampton
    May 16, 2013 - 14:11

    Ray Guy was the author of several books and collections of his columns, including You May Know Them As Sea Urchins, Ma’am (1975), That Far Greater Bay (1977), Outhouses of the East (1978), Beneficial Vapors (1981), An Heroine for Our Time (1983), This Dear and Fine Country (1985), Ray Guy’s Best (1987), and Ray Guy: The Smallwood Years (2008).

  • JackieLogans
    May 16, 2013 - 13:10

    Ray began writing his regular Telegram newspaper column after riding the rails across the Old Rock. It was a classic piece of journalism. After he dissected the Bullet train, it was only natural to shut down the passenger service across the island. Guy was indeed a brilliant wordsmith. Rest in Peace, Ray.

  • Doug Rowe
    May 16, 2013 - 11:03

    It was with a profound sense of nostalgic sadness that I learned of the passing of Ray Guy. I still have in my possession, a collection of his columns, clipped from the 'Telegram' circa 1968-70. He made me laugh, He made me think, He sustained me politically during the days of waiting for an end to 'dictatorship', by always keeping the feet of the O.L.F. close to the fire. His 'encyclopaedia of outharbor delights' was a particular favorite of mine, given that I am still a 'card carrying bayman'. I would like to see a collection of his works published someday. R.I.P. Ray

  • Lois
    May 16, 2013 - 10:53

    When i heard Ray had passed, i felt as if i had lost an old friend. I loved his humor and his passion for NL. He will be missed. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends .

  • Bill Westcott
    May 16, 2013 - 09:58

    Ray Guy was a writer. Not just a vendor of words. He was remarkable- a Newfoundland icon and he will be sadly missed. Rest in peace Ray. My condolences to his family.

  • DON II
    May 16, 2013 - 09:01

    I was pleased to see Ray Guy's photograph and his commentary column on the front page of The Telegram. Thanks to the Editor and the people at The Telegram for this very nice remembrance of Ray Guy.

  • martin harty
    May 16, 2013 - 08:52

    one of so many great articles by a great writer, I am sure there is a thirst for a daily dose of Rays colums and it would be a treat to print a repeat from time to time.

  • Mary
    May 16, 2013 - 08:10

    My deepest condolences to his family, I enjoyed his sense of humor,one of Newfoundland,s best. He truly was "One of a kind".