Today, the name of Fred T. Fuge is virtually unrecognized in his native Newfoundland, and only marginally better known in his adopted land, the United States of America, where he spent the greater part of his life, leaving his mark as a clergyman, author and poet. As a result of the recent discovery of a cache of his writings, both published and unpublished, the broad contours of his life can be reconstructed. A prominent feature of his poetry is his love of the land of his birth. His life reflects the truth of the timeworn adage, “You can take the boy out of the bay, but you can’t take the bay out of the boy.”
Frederick Thomas Fudge was born September 1, 1870, in Whales Gulch (now Valley Pond), a fishing community on the western side of New World Island, Notre Dame Bay. He left Newfoundland early in life and moved to Canada and served as an officer with The Salvation Army. He then relocated to the States and married Azalea Jane Bethune (1874-1953) of Grand Bank and changed his family name from Fudge to Fuge (rhymes with huge). The Fuges and their adopted daughter, Emma Brown Fuge (1895-1977), served as missionaries to Africa for sixteen years. Fred wrote several books, including The Storm King: A Collection of Remarkable Facts and Illustrations and Thrilling Adventures On Land and Sea. In 1954, his marriage to his second wife, Norah Heslop Fuge, was annulled. Fred died in 1968 in Ohio, after a lengthy and illustrious career as a minister, primarily with the Church of the Nazarene.
This expatriate Newfoundlander wrote countless poems, many of which deal with Newfoundland themes and scenes. Together, these evoke a nostalgic longing for a lost time and place, an idyll, his own Shangri-La.
Newfoundland itself never ceased to enthrall Fuge, as he observed in the Atlantic Guardian in 1956:
There’s a beautiful island far up the North
Sea-washed, and triangle bent;
And up from its sod breathes the pure breath of God–
It’s the land where my childhood was spent.
Her mountains majestic, her bulwarks superb;
Her capes are commanding the West;
Her waters are teeming with riches alive
Her citizens are classed with the best.
A month later, he wrote of his
…birthplace, the land I love,
Where I first saw the light–
A land of heroes born to toil
And battle for the right.
The waves break on her rugged coast
And wash her iron-bound strand,
But Time hath never yet revealed
The wealth of Newfoundland.
With factories and stores untold,
Of copper, gold and lead;
And with premier Smallwood in the chair
There are better days ahead.
He was effusive in his praise of his first and only schoolteacher, Polly Roberts:
Queen of the classroom that guarded my footsteps,
Counsel supreme of my early day;
Sentinel that watched by the path that I traveled
To the little old schoolhouse just over the way.
Fred keenly missed his mother, evident from these lines written following her death:
I know my mother waits for me
Beyond the sunset skies,
And some fair morn I’ll meet her there,
Where no one ever dies.
He recalled his father rather differently:
When Dad got angry his face turned red,
And every hair stood on his head–
His eyes flashed fire, his body shook,
And the very devil was in his look.
He would raise his voice with a dreadful shout,
Then no one never need to doubt
That hell was there all burning hot,
When old Dad in his tantrums got.
Fred fondly recalled those days
When I saw the blue waves ripple
Across the shining pond,
My mind turned back full fifty years–
To the years long past and gone.
When a barefoot boy climbed up the rock,
And played on the sparkling sand,
And sailed his boat across the pond
To a strange and far-off land.
He could still see
The little white church in the bottom
By the side of the murmuring brook,
Where the old-fashioned people would gather,
To study their old-fashioned Book.
Those days of the past are still with me,
Their memories never can die,
The joys I have tasted grow fresher,
The friends of my youth are still nigh.
For the first twenty-five years of his life, he lived either on the sea or within sound of its moaning. In 1952 he wrote about “The Sailor’s Faith”:
The sailor’s faith heeds not the storm,
His course is set, his compass true;
The ship that braved a thousand gales,
Again will take him through.
In later years, he revisited his “old deserted” homestead.
My footsteps are washed from the sand that I walked on,
The rocks have forgotten that once I lived there.
And the rippling waters that laughed on the land-wash
Are cold and reluctant to offer me cheer.
The dust of my friends that gathered about me,
When first I decided this wide world to roam,
Lie silent in slumber beneath the green branches,
With no loving handshake to welcome me home.
Toward the end of his life, Fuge admitted:
I may never see [Newfoundland’s] shores again,
And never share her glory,
But may she write for years unborn
A great and thrilling story.
Paul S. Rees remembered Fred T. Fuge’s “eye for the unusual,” “tongue for the eloquent” and “heart for the immensities.” In his homespun poetry, this expatriate Newfoundlander attempted to portray the immensities of the unusual beauty of the land of his forebears.