Thank you to everyone who helps us create Downhome magazine every month by contributing personal stories and photos. Downhome would not be the same without you. Of all the wonderful submissions we published in 2020, these two have been chosen for a $500 shopping prize and the title Submission of the Year. We award prizes to submitters every month, including a $100 grand prize. Get in on the winnings by sharing your photos and stories at Downhomelife.com/submit.
Best Photo of 2020
The Poet Laureate
By Helena Barrett MacLean
My grandmother, Ena Constance Barrett, was once known as poet laureate of Newfoundland. She came from Perthshire, Scotland in 1920, the war bride of John A. Barrett of Curling, in the Bay of Islands. She had, up to this point in her life, known much loss and sadness and, unfortunately, even more tragedy was to follow in the years ahead. Despite the sorrows she experienced, Ena always had a passion for life, much love for family and friends, and a strong bond with Scotland and her adopted home, Newfoundland. She took great joy in nature, had a strong faith and always had hope for the world. All of this was reflected in the hundreds of poems she wrote and which were widely published throughout her life.
Ena was born in Leicester, England, on January 14, 1893. When she was seven months old, her mother died and she was taken to near Liverpool to become the ward of her mother’s sister and husband, Constance and Arthur Culbard. Her half-brother, Jack, who was two years older than Ena, went to live with his father’s sister and her husband in London. Ena and Jack never saw each other again.
She was now known as Ena Constance Culbard. Unfortunately, Constance Culbard died in 1902, and her husband, Arthur, passed away in 1903. Once again, Ena was displaced. This time she was taken to Dunkeld in Scotland, to live with Arthur’s widowed mother and spinster sister, Jessy.
It was during the First World War that she met her future husband. She once wrote in 1960, for the Evening Telegraph, about her life in Dunkeld before and during the war. She reminisced about the war years and the “happy little gatherings in the manse by the river, around the piano singing the old war-time songs. Being seen home" sometimes a long way home.” One might imagine her meeting the handsome John Barrett there in his uniform of the Newfoundland Forestry Unit.
Through all the changes " from leaving her beloved Scotland and adjusting to life, marriage and motherhood in a new country " Ena never ceased to use poetry as a means to express and share her most intimate feelings, her joys and sometimes her heartaches. In 1929, another volume of poems, Lilts of Newfoundland, was published, and it left no doubt that she deeply loved her new land.
He didn’t come home with the boys today
That son who was so dear,
But his father stood as the train came in
Newfoundland newspapers frequently published Ena’s poems, and she became so well known that a new volume, Mayflowers and Roses, was published in 1946, to wide acclaim. She always had a great love of and respect for the British monarchy and especially Queen Elizabeth. When the then Princess and her husband, Prince Phillip, visited Newfoundland in 1951, a six-verse poem Ena had written to honour them was officially presented to them. Then when they returned to Newfoundland in 1959, Ena was thrilled to be presented to the now Queen Elizabeth. Also at that time a collection of her poems, in booklet form, was published as a token of loyalty to the throne of Britain and as a souvenir of the Royal visit.
Even long after her death, many remembered her work. In 2002, her wonderful poem “Newfoundland” was recorded by Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers for their Up Boot album.
In July 1955, Ena’s husband, John, passed away. They had only 35 years together, but they had been happy ones in Curling, a place they both loved. John also had a wonderful gift for writing, and was a publisher and journalist of the Western Star newspaper.
Ena’s legacy is one of love for family and country, and through her gift of words she brought images, ideas and emotions to all who enjoyed her poetry.