The poetry of Andrew A. George
Douglas George describes his late father with words such as wise, caring, honest, selfless, remarkable, compassionate and philosophical. “His understanding of issues, large and small, local, national and international, were tempered by an alltoo-uncommon sense of reasoning and balance.” He had “strong community ties, respect for elders and love of family.”
I didn’t know anything about the senior man until two weeks ago when I spied a new book in a local nicknack shop, “There’s Joy in Tinkling Brooks! The Poetry of Andrew A. George.” Since then, I’ve been reading it for personal pleasure and profit.
Lived in New Harbour
The facts of George’s life can be quickly told. He was born in 1918. He lived in New Harbour. His formal education ended with Grade 6. At 16, be started keeping a daily journal, describing “what life was like in rural Newfoundland when he was a teenager.”
According to Douglas, prior to the Second World War, his father “was a fit young man who loved to swim and play hockey. He was a fisherman, woodsman and one who helped members of the family and community with labour-intensive work … He took part in school plays and a myriad of other social activities in support of church, school and lodges.”
Joining the Royal Navy in 1939, he was one of the “First Two Hundred.” Douglas states, “His life was changed forever.” He was afflicted with malaria and contracted sandfly fever. He was plagued by tuberculosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Douglas can’t imagine how his father, “under the harsh post-war life he lived … stayed so benevolent and such a loving and caring husband … and father.”
Andrew and his wife, Dorothy Leah George of Dildo, raised a family of five children.
Most of Douglas’ paternal memories are “of him fighting for his next breath.”
‘In the country’
Despite his disability, Andrew ran a business, George’s Confectionary, which displayed a giant ice cream cone. On his so-called good days, “he loved to ‘go in the country’ and flick a line for the elusive speckled trout … or travel … for the thrill of salmon fishing. He relished those days, however few, and so did we,” Douglas remembers.
George died in 1973 at the relatively young age of 54.
Between the brackets of the years of his life, he wrote a variety of homespun poems, which his family have now collated for posterity’s sake. Representative excerpts follow.
George was happy to be home after the War: “I know there is no other place on earth / Where one can sleep such peaceful nights away.”
He fondly recalls his grandfather, “bowed with the years, his harvest nearly ripe, / The aged sits and burns a soothing pipe, / And soft the firelight playing round his chair / Accentuates his brow and graying hair.”
Tracking “a boggy marsh footpath,” he hears “excited twitterings just ahead.” A sparrow “flitted here and there, and in a dither … / Surveyed me while excitedly, ‘Sweet weather,’ / Issued from her throat.”
The New Harbour Barrens capture his descriptive powers: “we motored far along a lonely road, / A way devoid of beauty, where no tree / Graced its grey sides to break the dull monotony / Of mile after mile of barren land.”
He recalls with evident fondness New Harbour’s outdoor rink: “rigged up new goals, electric light / So practice could be done at night — / Just goes to show it’s not too late / If men and boys co-operate.”
He writes about the time New Harbour played host to Hopeall’s hockey team: “yet, winning the game is not always the best / Way to bring out the best in a team; for the test / Of good sportsmanship is to play fair the game / Then: win, lose or draw, you’ll keep your good name.”
He applauds the tenacity of “two trees on the edge of the garden lot / Where the wind played boisterously … / Perhaps their roots were more firmly planted / Not fickle, as the human species … / Only the trees remain steady: steady as a rock.”
He remembers his wife while she’s away on holiday: “I am not one, dear, I am two; / For now I see that part of me / Has gone with you.”
He reminisces about a polar bear that showed up at Old Shop “and stole two lambs one morning fair before the folks were up.”
Douglas remarks on “passed-on knowledge (that) has reinforced my childhood memories and let me put a name to the qualities that I, as a thoughtless teenager, could not at the time comprehend or appreciate.” This book is a lasting family tribute to one of our lesser-known poets. Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His column appears in The Compass every week. He can be reached
Andrew A. George