Crossing from Newfoundland to the mainland, here are some excerpts from “Cruising The Scotia Coast:”
…the tartan of Nova Scotia…has large squares lined in gold representing the province’s Royal Charter, and thin bands of red for the royal lion. The dominant colours, though, are green and blue for the forests and seas that circle the province; narrow white lines depict the surf that relentlessly pounds the southern coast. I’m always happy to visit the charming ports of Nova Scotia, even though my ancestors didn’t land at Pictou in 1773 aboard the Hector. On the waterfront at Pictou, the “Birthplace of New Scotland,” you
can see a full-size replica of this famous ship. Along the harbour road, banners displaying Scottish tartans hang from the lamposts, and the stores sell enough enticing Scottish regalia to empty the sporran of the tightest Highlander.
What I like best, however, are the fishing villages of the rugged southern coast. We’ve visited them from Yarmouth to Isaac’s Harbour, enjoyed their quiet, unspoiled embodiment of bygone years, and admired their stately homes and tempting shops, their simple, weathered wharfs covered in skin-flecked nets and traps, the little fishing fleets clustered like school children waiting to be let out past the sheltering, rocky cliffs to a sea of constantly changing hues. I love as well the curving white sand beaches, backed by dense spruce wood forests, whose trees drip with old man’s beard…
…to understand the province’s evolution–where it has been, where it is going…so far as rural, small-town Nova Scotia is concerned, the tiny Fisherman’s Life Museum at Jeddore Oyster Ponds…provides part of the answer, for the history of the family that occupied this little white frame house
for over a century traces a common thread…A fire is on in the wood stove, and since there are no other visitors at the moment, the two guides invite us to warm ourselves at a table near it…They provide oat cakes and tea from the pot that is always ready on the stove. Sitting and chatting like invited guests of the family, we learn how James Myers established himself here in 1850 and, as was typical in the coastal communities of the time, worked as an inshore fisherman, rowing his one-man dory out to sea to hand-line cod and haddock. …then, in 1907, he passed the farm to his youngest son, Ervin.
Following the pattern of other industrious rural folk in the twentieth century, Erwin not only fished, but turned to the province’s other classic resource, timber, to supplement his income. In the winter he worked as a cook in the lumber camps of the Musquodoboit Valley, and for several weeks each year he would head north to Northumberland Strait to join the fishermen there for the lobster season. Like other rural Nova Scotians, the Myers lived a tough subsistence existence eked out from the natural resources around them. Arguably, however, Ervin and his wife, Ethelda, had to work even harder than others, for in their little white house with the dark green trim they raised thirteen daughters!
It is noon, and we are at the Citadel for the firing of the canon, a tradition in the city that dates back to the mid-1800s…
From the Citadel, you look down on a modern city full of high-rises and glass, but also on old monuments to the city’s important role in Canadian history. It is, however, the harbour and the adjacent Bedford Basin to the west that command attention, intertwined as they are with so much tragedy and triumph…It is in the narrows between the harbour and Bedford Basin…that the Norwegian freighter Imo collided with the Mont Blanc on the morning of December 6, 1917. In flames, the munitions ship drifted toward Pier 6, and then exploded…setting fire to a wide swath of the north end of Halifax…Two thousand people were killed, nine thousand were injured, and six thousand lost their homes. It was the most violent man-made explosion before the dropping of the first atomic bomb…
Better remembered is Bedford Basin’s vital role in the supply of the European allies in the Second World War, for it was in this body of water, thirty-five kilometres long and up to 3.2 kilometres wide, that the convoys gathered before their perilous crossing of the Atlantic…All in all, twenty-four Canadian warships and almost 1,800 servicemen were lost in the battle of the Atlantic, while seventy-three ships of the merchant navy were sunk, and 1,500 crewmembers died.
Into the mist my guardian prows put forth,
Behind the mist my virgin ramparts lie,
The Warden of the Honour of the North,
Sleepless and veiled am I!
Rudyard Kipling on Halifax
The recipe for this chapter is for Fish Chowder.
To order a copy of Roaming the Big Land: Flavours of Canada, please go to: www.penumbrapress.com.