Bard Bay of the

Co­ley’s Point poet tri­umph­ing over ad­ver­sity

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

There was a time when Tim Brown of Co­ley’s Point in Bay Roberts could write the lyrics for a full al­bum of mu­sic in the length of time it takes to drive from Corner Brook to St. John’s.

Which is ex­actly what he did, af­ter a friend an­nounced on ra­dio that the duo was about to put out an in­spi­ra­tional tape.

But that was be­fore the strokes. Then ev­ery­thing changed. Writ­ing po­etry used to come easy to Brown. “Be­fore the strokes, you could say a word and I’d write a poem,” the 66-year-old said. “Now I re­ally have to work at it.”

Brown’s pas­sion for po­etry was sparked back in Car­manville, where he was born.

“ The only en­ter­tain­ment we had in those days was hang­ing around the old fel­lows’ sheds and lis­ten­ing to the yarns they told each other,” Brown re­called. But he heard only the san­i­tized sto­ries that way. “ They wouldn’t tell the re­ally good sto­ries if I was in the shed,” Brown said with a laugh. “So I found a place down un­der Un­cle Jim Ellsworth’s shed where I could hide and hear ev­ery­thing.”

What Brown heard as a boy stayed with him all his life, form­ing the ba­sis of his po­ems.

Af­ter 17 years work­ing on the main­land, Brown re­turned to the prov­ince for good around 1984. Choos­ing sto­ries from his vast me­mory bank, he re­ar­ranged them into po­ems.

That was the be­gin­ning of a col­lec­tion of sev­eral hun­dred pieces — and count­ing. They deal with a wide va­ri­ety of topics, from “Un­cle Billy’s Pride” to “ Women’s Tears,” from “As Morn­ing Breaks” to “Oh, to be a Scholar.”

En­cour­aged by his wife, Anne Collins Brown, Tim be­gan read­ing his com­po­si­tions at small gath­er­ings and so­cial events. “Peo­ple liked my po­ems,” he ad­mit­ted. Un­for­tu­nately, he had a nasty habit of toss­ing out ev­ery­thing he wrote. Anne con­vinced her hus­band to save his writ­ings. Over a three-year pe­riod, Tim wrote and recorded two solo cas­settes and two with his friend Dave Pike. The four al­bums to­gether make up more than 50 orig­i­nal songs.

Tim was on a roll. The rate at which he com­posed po­ems and songs would tire the hardi­est per­son.

Tim widened his pub­lic ac­tiv­i­ties by per­form­ing for groups and do­ing vol­un­tary per­for­mances in se­nior cit­i­zens homes. His at­tempts to re­cap­ture the ac­tiv­i­ties of char­ac­ters from the old days in­spired his au­di­ences.

By the late 1990s, Tim’s mu­sic was re­ceiv­ing air­play and at­ten­tion from artists in the prov­ince and on the main­land. His fu­ture seemed promis­ing. But with­out warn­ing, in 1997, he had a mild stroke.

“ When I got up from the ta­ble, I felt my tongue get thick and I wanted to throw up,” Tim said.

The next morn­ing, he was ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal for back surgery. That night, he had an­other stroke. This one was mas­sive. He was par­a­lyzed on his left side for nine days.

“ I went through de­pres­sion for a while. I didn’t write any­thing for a nice while af­ter,” Tim com­mented.

Five years, to be ex­act.

“A lot of things that used to come nat­u­ral to me don’t any­more,” Tim added.

He lost in­ter­est in writ­ing. He fo­cused on re­cov­ery.

The per­son­al­ity changes in Tim were im­me­di­ate. Cre­at­ing cop­ing skills proved chal­leng­ing. Ap­par­ently, not all the changes were bad.

“ The strokes left Tim a nicer per­son,” Anne said with a smile.

Tim agrees with his wife’s as­sess­ment.

“ Be­fore the strokes, I was very ag­gres­sive. My at­ti­tude was, If you didn’t like my gate, then don’t swing on it. But the strokes made me pas­sive,” Tim ex­plained.

Even­tu­ally, Tim took up his pen again.

Ron Young, found­ing edi­tor of Down­home mag­a­zine, and Mar­ion Hen­neb­ury, cre­ator of the New­found­land Po­etry web­site, en­cour­aged Tim to re­sume his writ­ing. He has been com­pos­ing po­etry ever since. Now, though, the process is much more stud­ied and de­lib­er­ate.

“Most ev­ery­thing came back,” Tim said. “ What didn’t come back, I com­pen­sated for.”

The strokes changed Tim’s at­ti­tude to life in gen­eral.

“It used to be, ‘ Woe is me. Ev­ery­thing’s fall­ing apart.’ But I restarted writ­ing with a whole dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude to what’s im­por­tant in life. It was time to start over,” Tim said.

What ad­vice does Tim have for peo­ple who face sim­i­lar chal­lenges in life?

“ So many cou­ples break up af­ter one part­ner suf­fers a stroke. The most im­por­tant thing is to have a good sup­port sys­tem in place,” he said.

The con­clu­sion to one of Tim’s po­ems reads, “ Time now to trim my sails and wait / For the wind de­ter­mined by my fate.”

An apt de­scrip­tion of one who has tri­umphed over ad­ver­sity.

Photo by Bur­ton K. Janes/The Com­pass

Tim Brown, also known as the Bard of the Bay, con­tin­ues to write po­etry de­spite the ef­fects of the two strokes he suf­fered in 1997.

Photo by Bur­ton K. Janes/The Com­pass

Tim Brown of Co­ley’s Point read­ing from a favourite book of New­found­land sto­ries.

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