Danny Wil­liams, please come back


I met Bill Rowe in per­son when I was only nin e years old. The en­counter hap­pened in Ham­p­den on Sept. 1, 1966. I was in the manse base­ment play­ing; my fa­ther was in the yard work­ing.

Hear­ing a ve­hi­cle door slam, I looked out. A car had stopped out­side the fence. The driver got out, en­tered our yard and in­tro­duced him­self to Dad as “ Bill Rowe, the MHA for this district.”

Even­tu­ally, the vis­i­tor fo­cused his at­ten­tion on me and asked me my name. I felt spe­cial.

Be­fore leav­ing, he pulled a $10 bill from his pocket and gave it to my fa­ther. “ Here’s a small gift for you, Pas­tor Janes,” he said. Now, Dad felt spe­cial.

The rea­son I know the ex­act date of Rowe’s visit to the White Bay com­mu­nity is that, af­ter Dad died, I was given the per­sonal ledger he had main­tained from the 1940s to the 1970s. When I came to Sept. 1, 1966, there it was: a $10 gift from MHA Bill Rowe.

Last week, I met Rowe again. This time, it was when I read his most re­cent book, “ Danny Wil­liams, Please Come Back.”

The book is a col­lec­tion of weekly col­umns Rowe wrote for The Tele­gram and The Western Star from 2005 to 2007.

Rowe ad­mits: “ Those years were filled with ex­cit­ing and fast-mov­ing events in New­found­land and Labrador and through­out Canada: the chal­lenge by Danny Wil­liams to in­ter­na­tional oil con­sor­tiums and his con­tin­ued bat­tle royal with Ot­tawa, the fed­eral and provin­cial elec­tions and by­elec­tions won and lost, the lead­er­ship changes in po­lit­i­cal par­ties, a tough new prime min­is­ter, the scan­dals, and the ter­ror­ist and pan­demic scares.”

Rowe looks back at and re­flects on those days.

Per­haps be­cause I live in the Port de Grave district, I was keenly in­ter­ested in read­ing Rowe’s com­ments about our very own John Ef­ford.

I laughed aloud when I read about the din­ner Rowe and Ef­ford at­tended in Ot­tawa for former US Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush. Ef­ford sat next to Colin Pow­ell, former sec­re­tary of state.

“ Ever y ta­ble had the usual French-English trans­lat­ing de­vice,” Rowe writes. “ Some peo­ple were laugh­ing that Colin Pow­ell was over there try­ing to tune his trans­la­tor in on what­ever lan­guage Ef­ford was speak­ing.”

Be­cause this is Rowe’s book, he’s free to write as he pleases.

Af­ter read­ing it, though, I was re­minded of some­thing Wil­liam Cas­sel­man wrote in Ma­cleans mag­a­zine in 1979 about Peter Usti­nov’s TV doc­u­men­tary on Len­ingrad, “ This is the Len­ingrad of Peter Usti­nov. Not mine, not yours per­haps, but his alone — quirky, flawed, riv­et­ing.”

Like­wise, “Danny Wil­liams, Please Come Back” is writ­ten from Rowe’s per­sonal per­spec­tive. Not mine, not yours per­haps, but his alone — quirky, flawed, riv­et­ing.

Mean­while, the reader is im­me­di­ately drawn into Rowe’s ru­mi­na­tions on lo­cal, national and world lead­ers, some of whom lead and, in al­most all cases, en­ter­tain us.

Such names as Brian Tobin, Dal­ton McGuinty, Brian Mul­roney, Paul Martin, Mar­garet Trudeau Kem­per, Stephen Harper and Belinda Stronach, Stephane Dion, Rick Hil­lier, Gerry Reid, Lor­raine Michael and, of course, Danny Wil­liams, are guar­an­teed to pique the reader’s in­ter­est. There are sep­a­rate chap­ters de­voted to all of them and more.

How­ever, the chap­ter en­ti­tled “ Love Me, Love My Mutt” im­me­di­ately drew me in. I am hope­lessly de­voted to four-legged an­i­mals, es­pe­cially dogs.

“For all the dog own­er­ship in the prov­ince nowa­days,” Rowe writes, “ you hear in fact of very lit­tle trou­ble from dogs. It seems to be a tiny mi­nor­ity of in­con­sid­er­ate own­ers who cause the grief. They are the ones who, for rea­sons un­fath­omable, keep two or three Rot­tweil­ers, or Ger­man shep­herds, or husky-type dogs about their prop­erty, caus­ing fear in neigh­bours, with good rea­son, for their chil­dren and their own small pets.”

So, whether your in­ter­est is pol­i­tics or dogs — are they mu­tu­ally exclusive, I won­der? — there may be a chap­ter here about your own pet peeve, no pun in­tended.

Yes, we’ve read many of Rowe’s chap­ters as ear­lier news­pa­per col­umns. How­ever, this rewind com­pen­dium is a brisk read and a fine book to have in your per­sonal li­brary. It has the po­ten­tial of re­liev­ing mo­ments of bore­dom and leav­ing the reader with a bellyache from laugh­ing at the foibles of our lead­ers.

Note to Bill: thanks for pay­ing at­ten­tion to a nine-year-old when you came into my gar­den on Sept. 1, 1966.

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