Colin’s Interrupted Journey
Bermuda is never far from Colin Ray’s mind. It’s what led the 89-year-old to write Interrupted Journey, a poem about the wreck of the Sea Venture in 1609. Mr Ray, who “was born in Somerset”, “regretfully” left the island in 1945 when his family moved to Canada.
What saddened him particularly was having to say goodbye to his home on Mount Hill in Pembroke and his classmates at Saltus Grammar School.
“I never looked back but I’ll never lose sight of Bermuda,” he said. “It’s a wonderful country Bermuda. It just sticks with you. My younger years there are memorable.”
He wrote Interrupted Journey in 2019 and sent a copy to Queen Elizabeth II. Her lady-in-waiting, Jennifer Gordon Lennox, responded: “The Queen wishes for me to thank you for your letter with which you enclosed a poem you have written in tribute to those who sailed to Bermuda in the 17th century.
“Her Majesty, who was also most grateful for your loyal message, greatly appreciated your thoughtfulness in writing as you did.”
Over the years Mr Ray has returned several times to see Mike Young, Penny and Sacha Simmons, Mary and Simon Stones and the many other relatives he left behind.
Interrupted Journey is just one of the things he has written over the past ten years.
“I think I see things around me that a lot of people don’t, and I like to write about them.
“I’ve published two books: one is my memoir and the other one is a collection of poems I’ve written and yarns, that kind of thing.”
A teacher in high school in Canada "planted the seed“ for writing but in the end, it was carpentry that he was drawn to as a career.
“I got an apprenticeship with General Electric as a draughtsman. I worked for 17 years in the company and I was a manager of a small building supply company for the last six but I wasn't happy and I had to get moving. So I got into building and renovation for 22 years and thoroughly enjoyed it.”
None of Mr Ray’s books are available for sale. He gave away the 50 copies he published of his collection of short stories and poems and the 60 copies of his memoir.
The idea for the latter came while on a sailing trip with his wife Helen, who died in 2021. The couple, who had two children, were married for 65 years. Mr Ray only recently became “a proud great grandad”.
“In 1993, Helen and I completed a 38ft trawler and cruised in season for ten years. Our trips took us through the Great Lakes, the Canadian Maritimes, the entire eastern seaboard to Florida and Bahamas.
“We were going down the Hudson River and there was a lot of quiet time and I got to thinking about Bermuda [and realised I had] a lot of ideas,” he said.
He wrote, and wrote some more, and then put it all aside for two years. He then went through it all one word at a time, expanding on each word “to what I thought explained it well”.
“And then when I was finished I pulled them all together and came up with my memoir,” said Mr Ray, who now lives in Peterborough, Ontario.
His writings include a poem about Bermuda’s North Shore – “my world when I was younger” – written in free verse and a rhyme inspired by his imagination.
“It’s about a single survivor from a Spanish ship that ran aground off Bermuda,” he said.
As well, Mr Ray wrote a short story at the request of a Canadian hunting group.
“I came up with something [about how] they used to meet at a pine tree and then one year they went back and it was cut down.
“So I made my story as if the stump was talking to them. That was interesting. But I have to be turned on by something.”
Part of Interrupted Journey reads as follows:
“Above the din, a call was heard, Land Ho! Land Ho! At last that welcome news!
Joy and relief filled their hearts as they approached Bermuda's coast,
Five harrowing days of hell were over, the end of their ghastly cruise.
Alas, 'twas the feared Island of Devils, regardless, dry land was needed most.
Stricken and storm driven, Sea Venture ground upon a reef, settled and stuck fast.
All one hundred and fifty survivors awakened as from a nightmare, to brilliant azure seas,
After days of extreme anxiety and fear that each hour would be their last.
Incredible the sight that met their eyes, placid beach and forest of cedar trees.”
One of the reasons the poem came to be was that Mr Ray felt the story hadn’t been told well.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. Writing involves a lot of rereading. And I guess it took me about a year and a half of reading [before it was done],” he said.
His hope is to share Interrupted Journey with as many people as possible.
“I would like to get mileage on it but I don’t know what it would take to do that,” he said. “I have a limited readership. Bermudians might read it … I’ve put a trial run through Facebook and I've got a couple of half decent replies but not much more than that. It's difficult to make it a continuous story and without that people won’t pick it up quickly.”
• Colin Ray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.See Related Media to read Interrupted Journey in full