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Breakwater Books Marks Passing of Founder Clyde Rose
Posted By: George Murray | Posted On:
It is with great sadness that we at Breakwater Books mark the loss of our founder, Clyde Rose, who passed on October 25th, after a long battle with Parkinsons. In his final days, Clyde was surrounded by friends and family, sharing memories and love, which meant that in true-Clyde-style, these last moments were a serenade of readings, poems, and songs.
Clyde was well-known in publishing circles around the world, but his name was virtually synonymous with literature in Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada. In 1973, Clyde, along with friends like poets Al Pittman and Tom Dawe, founded Breakwater Books, Newfoundland and Labrador’s longest-standing and most well-regarded publishing house. Fifty years later, Breakwater is a cultural powerhouse recognized widely for playing a major role in what many consider the dawn of a cultural renaissance in our province.
Clyde and his friends founded Breakwater with the express purpose to publish and promote the stories, plays, songs, and poems of Newfoundland as told by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians (a population sorely underrepresented in Canadian publishing at the time). After the others bowed out, Clyde continued to run Breakwater for over 30 years, launching the careers of many of our province’s most beloved writers, including Bernice Morgan, Kevin Major, Ray Guy, Mary Dalton, Tom Dawe, Trudy J. Morgan-Cole, Helen Porter, and Al Pittman. In recent years the foundation Clyde laid has led to the next generation of writers being discovered, including wordsmiths such as Bridget Canning, Megan Gail Coles, Terry Doyle, Sharon Bala, Morgan Murray, and Michelle Porter. Clyde acquired many imprints under the Breakwater brand over the years, including Ontario’s Summerhill Press in the 1990’s and Newfoundland’s Jesperson Press in 2002, amalgamating its backlist into Breakwater’s before his retirement in 2009, and acting as an inspiration for our new leader, his daughter Rebecca.
“Clyde was a dynamic and inspiring publisher,” said longtime colleague and fellow publisher James Lorimer. “A pioneer in demanding room within CanLit for Newfoundland writers and poets – and proving that they merited audiences across Canada. He had charisma galore, and used it to bring Canadian writing and books to the attention of many of the world’s publishers.”
The first male in his family to not leave school to pursue life as a fisherperson, Clyde pursued instead a degree in English literature that led to a lifetime of teaching. He began in Bay Roberts and moved on to Corner Brook, and then on to Montreal, teaching high school students, before returning to Newfoundland to teach at Memorial University. Students of varying levels of interest in literature, always enjoyed Clyde’s English classes.
Clyde was also instrumental in the inspiration and founding of literary festivals in the province, including The March Hare and Writers at Woody Point, and is responsible for many of the Newfoundland books and authors that appear on the school curriculum in our province to this day. A true lover of all of Newfoundland, Clyde identified early how special places like Trinity and Crawley’s Cove (Woody Point) were, long before the rest of the world. He loved these communities and all the people in them. Clyde was also a performer, a singer and a sometimes actor, having toured the province with The Breakwater Boys and the Brothers Byrne, as well as acting in several productions, films, and TV shows, including The Terry Fox Story and the film adaptation of Elliot Leyton’s book, Dying Hard.
Under Clyde’s leadership, Breakwater proved time and again its resilience and capacity as a vital contributor to the Canadian publishing industry. Clyde truly believed in the saying that a rising tide lifts all boats and dedicated his time to not only improving the lot of writers and publishers in Atlantic Canada, but across the country. He led the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) in 1988 and 1989, was an active member of the Literary Press Group of Canada, and was instrumental in many working groups and committees over the years. It was this vital participation that led to Clyde receiving multiple awards over the years including the inaugural Pioneer Award from the Atlantic Book Awards Society, as well as his Honorary PhD from Memorial University, both recognizing his lifelong contributions to developing the Canadian publishing industry.
“As co-founder and longtime President of Breakwater Books, Clyde Rose was a remarkable force in the movement to establish, and bring a broad readership to, the literature of Newfoundland and Labrador,” writes Jack Illingworth, literary advocate and Executive Director of the ACP. “His energy and determination brought the province’s writers to the rest of Canada, and the world – I have childhood memories of finding Breakwater titles on my parents’ shelves in rural northern Ontario, and also recall seeing Clyde working the halls of the Frankfurt Book Fair in support of his authors. His legacy is today’s incarnation of Breakwater Books, a 50-year-old company with a varied and progressive list that showcases the diversity of Newfoundland and Labrador’s remarkable literary and artistic communities.”
Further, while Clyde’s heart for Breakwater’s editorial was distinctly centred on Newfoundland and Labrador, his eye was wider reaching, and he fostered connections with publishing houses, agents, and writers all over the world. Clyde ensured that Breakwater was one of the first houses in Canada to attend the Frankfurt International Book Fair, now standard practice for many publishers. It was here and through his connections abroad that he sold the stories of our province into other languages and brought foreign tales to our shores in translation. Like many of the great creatives and raconteurs of the time, Clyde was a truly international thinker, with an eye for not only what made a good story, but how to sell it.
A public wake and celebration of life will take place in Spring 2024, with more information coming as we near the date.
For more information, please contact George Murray.