R.E.A.L., from the Edge of the Rock, Rita Mary Stamp, memoir 304 pp., photos,Ghosts, myths, ‘old country’ superstition, rigid religious dogma, harsh school discipline and the cyclicalpoverty of mid-Century Newfoundland outports provide the context and content for this fascinating 60 year memoir. Unusual sightings, the presence of ghosts in the family home, belief in fairies and superstitions were all a part of growing up in the village. She also grew up in fear: angst related to her father’s harsh discipline, as well as threat-based schooling deeply rooted in rote learning and religious rites. “Forty years later and much personal work, she sees that choice, and her home and home land in a very different light.” This story parallels the conditions and situations in many smaller, rural Canadian communities in the 1940s-1960s, especially for women. A true page turner once you begin.
Rita Stamp, a great-grandchild of poor Irish immigrants, was born in St. Vincent’s - well, at least on the road between St. John’s and that community - shortly after the close of the Second World War. She was raised in the outport village of St. Vincent’s in a strictly disciplined and often impoverished family, and educated in much the same way, completing high school there before attending business school at the College of Trades & Technology in St. John’s. Perhaps it was the rocky ride en route to her birth that gave her rebellious nature and wanderlust dreams. Or was it the combination of the rigid rituals and rites of a dogmatic Roman Catholic upbringing, combined with Irish superstition and belief in spirits that sparked her vivid imagination and memory. Likely it was a combination of those influences, but what is important is that it remained with her for nearly forty years before she embarked on a seven year venture to create and write this amazing memoir that chronicles life from the 1940s through the sixties in a remote outport village on the Irish Loop, followed by her journey through adulthood in the metropolis of Toronto. Rita, as with so many Newfoundlanders before and after her, left her home for both economic and personal reasons, initially to escape the harshness of her upbringing, but eventually discovering herself. However, one never really leaves one’s roots. Since learning who the real Rita was and is, she often returns to Newfoundland with a greater sense of the beauty and wonder of this ancient land, and its remarkable and durable people. She has raised two children, Deanna and Sean, and lives today with husband Otto (Al) Smith in East York, near the Danforth, with its village-like atmosphere. Some things never change, while others do!Subsequently, upon retirement, Rita and Al moved to the Niagara peninsula, where they are surrounded by lakes and rivers.. and where family, grandchildren and friends come to visit. Eventually all things change!
1. "great book ... reminds me of my life in Newfoundland.......r.e.a.l." Marilyn Nassim2. "What a great book! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to remember how the fifties and sixties were for a lot of not only Newfoundlanders, but many in rural communities around the western world. It brought back a lot of memories for me as I'm sure for thousands more." Betty (St John's)3. "Finished your book two days after I got it. I am so very proud of you for having the guts to do this. I have to say that it brought back a lot of memories. To keep this short, you wrote for a lot of us who bear the scars of our childhood. I would recommend your book to anyone and promote it at every opportunity. Cyril (St Mary's)** Also check out the archived interviews of Rita Stamp by Bill Rowe on VOCM (St John's, NL)May/June, 2009. The first printing sold out in 5 weeks after these shows aired.