Grace Sparkes was a fiercely in­de­pen­dent woman

The Compass - - OPINION - Harold N. Wal­ters

It’s al­ways ex­cit­ing when a new book ar­rives in our mail. Mis­sus likes to open the pack­ages and she’s nearly as tick­led as she is on Christ­mas morn­ing as she rips off the wrap­ping.

We don’t clap our hands like de­lighted young­sters, but we do try to be the first one to blurt out the ti­tle when the pa­per falls away. Colour us silly ol’ sex­a­ge­nar­i­ans hav­ing fun.

As Mis­sus tore pa­per to pieces and re­vealed this book’s cover we burst out si­mul­ta­ne­ously. “It’s Grandma Wal­cott,” I said. “It’s Gra­cie,” said Mis­sus. We were both right. “Grace Sparkes: Blaz­ing a Trail to In­de­pen­dence” [Flanker Press] is Marie-Beth Wright’s bi­og­ra­phy of, well, how do I say this with­out sound­ing as stund as a stump? Of Grace Sparkes, of course.

In my eyes, Grace’s pic­ture on the book’s cover was a snap of Grandma Wal­cott, straight from Pi­geon In­let, on ac­count of I was most fa­mil­iar with her from the tele­vi­sion se­ries.

To Mis­sus, the snap was a pic­ture of Gra­cie straight from a Prince of Wales Col­le­giate year­book. Grace was Mis­sus’ English teacher at PWC in 1960-some­thin-or-other.

Born in Grand Bank way back in the last cen­tury, Grace Sparkes [née Pat­ton] lived nigh onto a hun­dred years, from a time when many men saw women pretty much as chat­tel. Nowa­days, women are ca­pa­ble of tak­ing over the world.

(Mis­sus just smacked me and com­manded me to write this: “We were al­ways ca­pa­ble, buster, but op­pressed!”)

That be­ing said, Grace Sparkes is re­mem­bered as one of the most in­de­pen­dent women in this province’s his­tory.

Oops, per­haps I shouldn’t say province … rather, in New­found­land’s his­tory.

Grace Sparkes was never in favour of New­found­land be­com­ing a Cana­dian province, cer­tainly not in the fashion con­niv­ing politi­cians, prac­ti­tion­ers of skul­dug­gery, ma­nip­u­lated it into join­ing the main­land wolf.

Of course, the grand-daddy of those scoundrels was the Bar­rel Man, Joey Small­wood, the self-pro­claimed Bene­fac­tor who doled out the Baby Bonus straight from his own arse pock­ets.

Grace Sparkes never saw eye-to-eye with Joey.

Had they been char­ac­ters in a su­per he­roes comic book, they might have stood atop tall build­ings chest thump­ing and hurl­ing light­ning bolts at each other while omi­nous clouds stogged the sky.

The an­cients Greeks who in­vented dra­maturgy, or what­ever it’s called, would have ap­pre­ci­ated the irony of such life-long foes as Grace and Joey both be­ing buried in the same cemetery.

I had to say “That-agirl!” when I read that Grace, who had ar­ranged her own funeral, re­fused to al­low her cas­ket to be car­ried past Joey’s grave. In­stead she had her funeral pro­ces­sion en­ter Mount Pleas­ant Cemetery via the back gate.

The sec­ond I read this bit, I fan­cied what might have hap­pened if Grace had passed along­side Joey’s grave. I couldn’t help what popped into my nog­gin — a car­toony pic­ture of Grace’s foot lash­ing out for a fi­nal kick at the cat, so to speak.

Con­sid­er­ing her sense of hu­mour, I fur­ther fancy Grace’s hov­er­ing wraith chuck­ling at that image. Change horses. Grace was a young girl in 1919 when the strange-look­ing di­ri­gi­ble R34 (what­ever that means) drifted over Grand Bank en route to else­where. Not Grace, I’m sure, but I bet a loonie some­one among the spec­ta­tors cried aloud, “Lord, save us! ‘Tis the end of the world!” Maybe. Other scrib­blers, I’m sure, will lay down more schol­arly lines than I about this book and any paeans they pen will be fully de­served. Ob­vi­ously, Marie-Beth Wright has writ­ten a book that not only de­serves to ex­ist but also ought to ex­ist, in that it chron­i­cles the life of one of New­found­land’s renowned women.

To quote Ed Roberts from the Fore­word: as is fit­ting, “Ms. Wright has given a full ac­count of Grace Sparkes’s life, warts in­cluded.” About those warts. Many of us have had warts sprout on our hands. I as­sure you I did — big ol’ cau­li­flower ones that I picked at with my com­pass point when I should have been heed­ing my Ge­om­e­try teacher.

Grace Sparkes had some un­sightly warts in her char­ac­ter. Ms. Wright has not glossed them over or drenched them with Com­pound W. Nei­ther has she dwelt on them be­cause…

…be­cause of­ten­times, with warts both of the flesh and of the spirit, it’s best to leave ‘em bide.

Con­sider what hap­pens if you root at a wart with a com­pass point. The wart, which may have been with­er­ing on its own, bleeds all over an oth­er­wise per­fectly fine hand.

Thank you for read­ing.

Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville. Reach him at gh­wal­

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