PURCELL’S HARBOUR, NL – Through his nearly 76 years, Calvin LeDrew’s collection of songs and poems have reflected the fisherman’s insights and sense of humour.
His poems are packed away in a pink binder with verses both hand-written and typed on a variety of kinds of paper. LeDrew says when an idea comes to his mind, he’ll grab whatever is handy to document it.
“If it comes to my mind I got to write it down,” LeDrew said. “Whenever I comes across something I’ll go down to the basement and write it on a piece of cardboard if I got to.”
LeDrew draws influence from a variety of personal experiences. He says the first poem he wrote and didn’t throw away was in 1986, a poem about a seal hunting venture that involved a trek across the ice and a fair warning about the dangers of eating seal meat and getting sick from it.
“I used to only write it and throw it away until somebody got a hold of one,” LeDrew said with a laugh. “Other people seems to enjoy them more than I do.”
His life as a fisherman is a common theme, with the struggles of the moratorium playing a key role in some of his poems. As well, the religious life is another staple theme of LeDrew’s poems.
His poem “A Christian and a Stumbling Block” details his view that a person’s spiritual well-being is not based on the clothes one wears to church but the heart that beats inside them.
“I would always sit at the back of the church and someone would come tell me, ‘When you sit at the back, you’re not in church,’” LeDrew said of the poem. “Then I heard somebody went to church with jeans on and got told off about it. So I wrote it based off that.”
He combines these themes in one of his more popular writings, “Fisherman’s Poem,” which uses the dangers and difficulties of fishing as a metaphor for the struggles of religious devotion.
“When I die, I say that’s the one they’ll read out,” LeDrew said of “Fisherman’s Poem.”
LeDrew even used his rhyme and rhythm skills as a comical gift to a friend. When Twillingate’s Kevin Hynes had a rough season without shooting a turr, LeDrew sent him a goose to cook.
Along with the goose was a poem about Hynes’ lack of turr, and LeDrew’s hope that the goose would be good enough compensation.
“You can write a poem on just about any story I think,” LeDrew said with a smile.
by Calvin LeDrew
We leave the harbour before the dawn
We like the ocean like a pond
But if a storm comes with a heavy gale
We ask you Lord to take the wheel
And guide us safely home we pray
We thank you Lord for our catch today
When seas are calm we seem to forget
You are still the master of the ship
When things get rough we call on you
To calm the seas and guide us through
Sometimes we steer for a flashing light
That comes from a lighthouse on some point
When fog comes in the fog horns roar
To warn us we are nearing shore
Chart and compass comes from thee
For those who work upon the sea
So when I’m finished with my boat
My guns put away with my floaters coat
May I hear you say to me
Fear not I will pilot thee
While LeDrew was never one to share his poems around, word of his talents has spread – particularly at the Salvation Army church in Bayview, Twillingate.
“Most of what I’ve written has been read up there,” LeDrew said. “Every time I go they say, ‘You better have a song in your pocket.’”
Years back LeDrew even had some of his compositions sung with music.
“My niece wanted to take a couple poems with her to Clarenville,” he said. “I told her not to show them to anybody and then she read them out to her church.
“Somebody told her ‘I’m putting that to music’ and that’s what they did.”
Whatever format his poetry exists in, whether on paper or in song, LeDrew has brought some humour and touching words to friends and family with his writings.
“There’s always somebody telling me to write more, or something happens and they say I should write something on it,” he said. “I would like to put them in a book if I ever get around to it.”