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.