Ray Day celebrates late writer’s legacy

Andrew Robinson
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Saturday’s event in St. John’s to include readings, reminiscences

When Northeast Avalon Times publisher and editor Kathryn Welbourn read Ray Guy’s final column for her paper last March announcing his retirement from writing, she had to make sure his decision was truly final.

Admirers of Newfoundland and Labrador writer Ray Guy will be encouraged to read his work and share stories this Saturday at The Republic on Duckworth Street for Ray Day. — Telegram file photo

“It shocked me so much, because I had no idea,” said Welbourn. “I just received the column and then I asked him five, six or maybe seven times whether he was sure, and he was.”

The finality of his decision became certain two months later when Guy died at the age of 74. Welbourn and other admirers of Guy’s much-lauded 50-year career writing stories, columns, plays, and satirical essays will celebrate his legacy this Saturday through Ray Day.

“His words are still always ringing in my ears when I’m thinking about my own work,” said Welbourn.

“We want people to come and read their favourite piece and hear other people read Ray’s words. We want to keep them alive and keep them going. He was probably the most important writer in Newfoundland.”

John Crosbie, Andy Jones and Mary Walsh are among those expected to read from Guy’s work and reminisce about the man.

However, the event will have an open mike-like quality. Anyone who drops by The Republic in St. John’s from 3-7 p.m. will be encouraged to share stories or read from one of the books on hand.

Visiting Ireland a few weeks before Guy’s death, local radio journalist Chris Brookes noticed advertisements for an annual event called Myles Day celebrating the work of Irish writer Flann O’Brien.

“I didn’t know a lot about (O’Brien), but then I sort of learned that he was a satirist, a humourist, a newspaper columnist and a writer, and I thought, ‘Who did this remind me of? Ray Guy.’”

Guy’s death subsequently caused Brookes to think again of Myles Day, setting in early motion the plan for Ray Day.

“We’re hoping this will be the first annual,” added Brookes.

Welbourn has debated reading both his final column for her paper and the first from 2004, which focused on Danny Williams’ early days as premier of the province.

“He hadn’t written anything for a while. I think he’d left The Telegram — I’m not sure under what circumstances — and he hadn’t really been writing for anyone, and boy, he was on fire. He must have had stuff stored up and stored up. ... It was really fantastic.”

Brookes is still in the process of deciding what he will read from. He considers Guy’s coverage of Joseph R. Smallwood’s final years in power to be particularly memorable.

“It was really fiery to be reading Ray in those days. It was wonderful. It was electric.”

Ray Day takes place May 31 at The Republic, located at 379 Duckworth St., from 3-7 p.m.


Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Ireland

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