The ties that bind
Debbie Joyce, a native of Carbonear, has lived in Victoria all her life. She has finally been able to indulge a longstanding love of writing. Her debut book is a historical fictional work entitled “The Ties that Bind.”
“Writing,” she explains, “is a fantastic means of telling a story. It is a way to keep the past alive and to help people understand their heritage. Roots run deep. We are what we came from.”
Her book tells the story of seven young Newfoundlanders who board the SS Kyle in Carbonear in the spring of 1948. They travel to St. Francis Harbour, Labrador, in order to seek a summer’s wages. Their lives intertwine as they face life together.
“This story means a lot to me,” Debbie says, “as it tells of the hardships and joys that my family lived through, but,” she adds, “it also gives me a chance to embellish the truth. One can imagine the beautiful blue ocean and the bright blue sky, but to realize that rape, death and ghosts were probably part of their lives makes for the true heartbreak that they endured.
“I have cut my teeth on these wonderful stories. I am sure that salt water runs through my veins.
“I wanted to make it a romance, as well, because many a maiden met her future husband on those summer fishing jobs.
“I made the end a tragedy because there were plenty of tragic things that happened, and not all stories have an ending where everyone lives happily ever after, although if we believe in an afterlife, they are happy and together in death as the three (Edith, Henry and their daughter) never were in life.”
Debbie’s debt to her mother, Harriet Hiscock Dearing, is obvious throughout. She was raised in St. Francis Harbour from the time she was three years old until she was 16.
“These stories that I have inherited from my wonderful mother are what shaped me, made me who I am today,” Debbie says. “I owe her more than words can ever express. She has lived for over 80 years, lived through hard times and tremendous good times. I can only pray to be as good a person as she is. However, this story has many twists and turns that I am sure she would not have even imagined.
“She has read the book and told me she could even smell the salt water and the fish. She could feel the old Kyle rocking beneath her feet. She told me it brought back many happy and yet many painful times.”
The connection to the trusty Kyle is strong because, Debbie explains, it “was a very important part of the transportation of people and supplies to and from the Labrador. My mother’s family depended on it year after year. It is a very significant part of the history here in this area and it should be told to the younger generation. Most of the younger generation in this area can see the old rusty ship in Habour Grace, but they do not understand just how important it was to the way of life of their grandparents’ generation.”
Debbie wants to leave her readers with “an understanding that we are what we come from. We are stronger because of the hard times. Love is a wonderful thing that can be found anywhere. I want people to see that we can be happy without modern conveniences. I want them to see the heartbreak that was involved with leaving home at such a young age, the loneliness, isolation and tough times that our ancestors lived. I also want them to see the joy, good times and tremendous love of the simple things.
“We are so busy with our lives that we need to stop and reflect on what was, go back in time, breathe the fresh air, see the beauty of the world, and see that the hardships endured by these people are the reason we are here.”
Now that she’s a published author, Debbie has no intention of sitting back and “rusting on her laurels.” She’s currently working on another book, which “is based in the community of Victoria. It is the story of a boy born in the 1930s. It tells of his life growing up during war times and times of feast and famine; his desire to get ahead in life with little education. It shows his stubbornness and willpower to overcome many hardships and shows the many wonderful times, as well.” It also provides an intertwined history of both Victoria and the province.
“The Ties that Bind” is a product of DRC Publishing of St. John’s. — Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His column appears in The Compass every week. He can be reached at