A harbour is a complex word that means a lot to Rex Brown, and delving into his first book would help the reader understand why.
Brown, the driving force behind the start and growth of the March Hare literary festival, has joined the figures he has rubbed shoulders with for decades in penning his own novel.
He grew up in Tack’s Beach, Placentia Bay — a long resettled harbour community that, like so many others, diminished and disintegrated following the collapse of the cod fishery.
Brown’s memoir takes the reader on a tour of the traditional harbour in the 1950s. They meet the 23 families of the outport, learn of the public places that existed, and eventually get insight into the Brown family’s shop.
The book was five years in the authoring, but nearly a lifetime in consideration, says the author. He certainly always harboured his feelings of the long lost community within. However, he acknowledges they were sentiments of love and affection.
“But I think I have told you a love story,” he writes in ‘Out from the Harbour.’ “Is there any other word for it? ‘Sense of place’ doesn’t seem to quite cut it for Tack’s Beach and me.
“I hope that in my flick around Tack’s Beach harbour in the 1950s, I have shed a bit of light upon where we hail from, we Newfoundlanders and Labradorians of the outports-some of us resettled, all of us clinging to every morsel of this place, Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Brown hopes his memoir will mean something significant to anybody with a connection to Tack’s Beach or the Placentia Bay area, but also to those who have experienced rural life in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, the historian also strived to make a greater imprint on his readers.
“I am also hoping it will be a significant book for filling in the picture of historical Newfoundland,” he said. “I hope it will serve people well who are desirous to be better informed as to from whence we sprung.”
The book was released from Flanker Press about two weeks ago, and is already available in local book stores. For a man who has spent a good part of his life, promoting writers, it is a special feeling to now have a book of his own published.
“I must say, it’s a pretty special thing,” Brown said. “To be able to get the physical book in your hand. It is great to have such a new experience as this at the age of 66.”