Off The Wall

In a recent posting Laurent wrote of our little adventure to Point Prim and the Orwell area in the western end of Queens County.  By word of explanation the Island is divided into three counties:  Prince in the West, Queens (where we live in Charlottetown) in the Centre, and Kings in the East.  Our original destination had simply been Point Prim which is a pleasant 30 minutes drive along the Points East Coastal Drive – or the Trans Canada Highway*.   On our way out we noticed a sign directing the traveller to The Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead so on the way back, having had a hearty lunch of Portuguese chowder (shrimp, halibut, chorizo in a spicy tomato broth) at the Chowder Shack, we decided to investigate the good Island worthy’s birthplace and residence.

Laurent writes in some detail about both Point Prim, the Macphail Homestead and Sir Andrew himself at:  Some Surprises on PEI.

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The Macphail Homestead looking towards the house from the Aboretum.

Sir Andrew’s father William was born in Nairn, Inverness, Scottland in 1828 and immigrated with his parents to Cape Breton in 1830.  On the voyage he and his family survived a shipwreck which left them with nothing but a book and a spinning wheel to begin their new life in the Colonies.  He moved to PEI in 1844 and married Catherine Moore Smith.  He purchased a 100 acre farm near Orwell and they moved there in 1864.  He became the schoolmaster at nearby Uigg and later became Inspector of Schools and then Supervisor of the Hospital for the Insane.

As so often happens there was one little detail in the house that caught my attention in the very interesting tour given by a very charming young lady.  She is currently studying music at UPEI and said that when she first saw this house she was struck by the unique tools that Sir Andrew’s father William used to teach music during his years as schoolmaster at nearby Uigg.

In all probability when William and Catherine moved into the small** Fletcher homestead they did some redecorating which including changing the wallpaper.  Supplies were often limited and it took a long time for things to be brought in from the mainland so everything was used.  But what do you do with rolls of leftover wallpaper?   Why you write music on the reverse, of course.  Or at least that’s what William did.

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The hymn tune Kilmarnock has been written out on the reverse of this sheet of wallpaper.  A pencilled inscription dates this particular scroll to “Valleyfield Jany 13, 1881”.

William taught music at his schools and in churches and community centres across the Island.  Paper wasn’t easily come by and the large sheets of leftover wallpaper were perfect for the classroom.  He hand-wrote the texts, mostly hymns and psalms, in black ink and for uniformity, ink-printed the notes with a carved cork.  Amongst the surviving 17 scrolls are  Kilmarnock, Gethsemane, and Brown – all well-known hymn tunes of the time.  Other music – sacred and secular – was composed by Mr Macphail himself.

(A click on the hymn titles will take you to YouTube videos of each of the melodies being played.  Unfortunately I was not able to find a version of Brown (Bradbury) – or at least nothing labelled as that.)

wallpaper-2

As well as revealing Macphail’s unique method of teaching music the wallpaper also gives a possible hint of how the rooms of the Homestead were papered in those early years.  The scroll mounted on the wall was printed on a roll of blue/green and ochre small block print on a white background.  The rolls were handed down to the family by Sir Andrew’s sister Catherine.

In 2006 Nancy Whytock transcribed all the music from the scrolls and they have been performed and there has been talk of a studio recording.

 

*Yes the Trans Canada Highway comes over to the Island – don’t question it.  Just accept it as fact.

**Though it was a 100 acre property the original house is extremely small and it’s difficult to imagine that eventually 13 people lived there – William and Catherine, William’s mother, and ten children.

On this day in 1984: “We begin bombing in five minutes“: United States President Ronald Reagan, while running for re-election, jokes while preparing to make his weekly Saturday address on National Public Radio.

Get Me to the Church

Many visitors remark on the number of churches that are in both town and country here on the Island.  In sight of our home in the historic core of Charlottetown there are six:  St Dunstan’s Roman Catholic Basilica,  Zion Presbyterian, St Paul’s Anglican, Trinity United, First Baptist, the Salvation Army Hall, and the local mosque is only five blocks away.  As you drive out of town you encounter more churches – some are modern buildings but most are older wooden edifices that reflect earlier times on the Island.

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St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Indian River:  William Critchlow Harris’s rural gem was deconsecrated but saved from destruction through the efforts of the Indian River Festival.  The remarkable acoustics make it the perfect venue for the Festival’s summer performances.

A ride along the main highways or down country roads will reveal white clapboard churches with brightly trimmed steeples on hill tops and in secluded valleys.  In town you are more likely to see the red Island sandstone as the frequent building material chose by architects such as William Critchlow Harris., though one of his most beautiful churches – to my mind – is the timber-framed St Mary’s Indian River.

One of the more intriguing churches is located on a hill top on Highway #2 as you approach the town of Kennsington.  The tower can be seen from several kilometres away as the road dips and curves around the red, yellow and green landscape.  The first time I saw it I had a flash back to those trips through the Italian countryside that we made on Sunday afternoons or on holiday during Feragosto.  As we got closer I was puzzled as it also brought back memories of walking the streets in Trastevere – here was a strange mixture of the baroque, neo-Classical, and Palladian that was seen in many Roman churches … but in white clapboard on a hilltop surrounded by fields in PEI.  I became fascinated by what seemed like quite the anomaly in the country side of our Island province.

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St James Roman Catholic Church, Summerfield – built in 1928.

Unfortunately I was unable to find much information on the internet; in his The Historic Churches of Prince Edward Island H. M. Scott Smith devotes less than a full sentence to St James Roman Catholic Church, Summerfield.  From a stop to take a closer look I knew that it was consecrated in 1928 but could not find the name of the imaginative architect(s?) who melded these styles to create the unusual facade that reminded me so much of Italy.

Several people suggest that I contact Reginald Porter, a well-known Island historian and lecturer, all assuring me that if anyone would know about it he would.  Fortunately he and Laurent are acquainted and within an hour or two of dashing off an email Laurent received a reply, several pictures of the interior, and a good bit of the history of the church.  I will quote and paraphrase from him, with his permission, liberally to piece together a bit of the history of this structure.

(A left click on the images below will take you to a slideshow of various aspects of the church exterior.)

On the church design in general Reg writes:

In the the post-war period and the 1920s a number of churches were built on the Island with strong classical design elements from Roman churches encompassing the Early Baroque to the Neo-classicism of Valadier.  These were found at Mount Ryan, Egmont Bay, Hope River and Summerfield.

In the early 1800s the largely Roman Catholic Irish settlers in the area of Summerfield had no church of their own; anyone who wished to receive the holy sacraments had to make the 20 kilometre journey to Indian River.  In the mid-1860s as settlement expanded a mission church, dedicated to the Holy Magi, was built to see to the needs of the local faithful.  In 1918 Summerfield was granted Parish status and the parishioners (no doubt with the urging of their priest) pressed the need for a larger structure more appropriate to their status.  Dedicated to the Apostle James it was built in 1928 and consecrated in 1929.  Though I am only guessing it appears that it has almost returned to a mission status church in union with St Mary’s Holy Family Church in Kensington.  As best as I can tell the congregation of St Mary’s Indian River amalgamated with Holy Family when the church was deconsecrated in 2009.

There is only one mass a week – Sunday’s at 1030 – and at all other times the church is locked and bolted.  Fortunately Reg was able to visit it at one point and had some photos of the interior.

Of that design he says:

The interior tries to be classical.  There are three altars, built locally of wood and incorporating classical details in the framework used for earlier Gothic altars found all over the Island.  At times it looks very odd.  The wooden ornamental details are quite crude.

There is some good and interesting stained glass as well as a classically-styled Stations of the Cross set.  The terrible destructions following Vatican II never hit this church and so they still have all their original altar decorations and fittings, as well as some old vestments.

 

He was also kind enough to include two photos of the lovely stain glass along with a possible explanation of their iconography.

St James Strained 1

There is a possibility that this memorial window depicts one of the many apparitions of Christ to St Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1672 that led to the institution of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

St James Stained Glass 2
The grotto in this window suggests that it commemorates one of the eighteen Visitations of “small young lady” who appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 and asked that a chapel be built on the spot.   The grotto lay well outside the town of Lourdes, on common ground which was used by the villagers variously for pasturing animals, collecting firewood, and as a garbage dump, and it had a reputation for being an unpleasant place.  It was to become one of the most visited pilgrimage shrines in Catholic Christendom.

Again I want to thank Reg Porter for the information and the photos he so kindly supplied.  I am hoping at some point to be able to get into the church and have a closer look at the interior and perhaps even find out the answer to the question that sent me on my search to begin with:  who designed this lovely reminder of the hills of the Italian countryside and the piazzas of Rome.

On this day in 1405: Ming admiral Zheng He sets sail to explore the world for the first time.

Sharing

In which an anecdote from PEI History is revealed.

Two of the blogs I follow are the work of  a self-described “archivist, historian and small boat sailor” here on Prince Edward Island.  A phrase that, to my mind, inadequately describes his encyclopedic knowledge and research into the history of our Island home.  His recently created Sailpost traces the history of the Island through the humble postcard – those once ubiquitous picture cards that assured our family  and friends that we wished they were here.  And his Sailstrait, now in it’s 6th year, is a fascinating history of Charlottetown Harbour, as well as yachting and boating on the Island.

We tend to forget that there was a time when the towns and villages around the Island were not as connected as we are now.  There were no railway lines (they are now long gone and have become Confederation Trail, a wonderful 470 km hiking and biking trail that crisscrosses the island) and the road system could be charitably described as primitive.  Water was often the only way to get from place to place but even then it was easier to get to Halifax, Montreal or Boston than it was to Souris.  However there was the occasional excursion to far away places with strange sounding names like Murray Harbour.  This week on Sailstrait there is a delightful newspaper report on such an excursion on the in August, 1865.

A left click on the photograph of the Princess of Wales in Charlottetown Harbour will take you to this peek back into a different time and travel – and how could you resist any article that begins:  As the bottles were emptied and the hearts and hearts and minds of gentlemen expanded……

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“As the bottles were emptied the hearts and minds of the gentlemen expanded…” An 1865 Excursion to the East.
                                                                                                Photograph courtesy: Sailstrait

Would that journalists today had the flair and command of language of this anonymous reporter (possibly publisher John Ross himself?) from Ross’s Weekly.

On this day in 1783: Laki, a volcano in Iceland, begins an eight-month eruption which kills over 9,000 people and starts a seven-year famine.

20 years

As Laurent mentions in today’s post, twenty years ago today the fixed link that joined the mainland to the Island opened. I recall the first time we crossed it in February 2016 on our way to find a place to live in our new home.

Larry Muffin At Home

Today 31 May 2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the Confederation Bridge linking the mainland  of Canada to PEI. The construction of the bridge required a special amendment to the Canadian Constitution because it involved the clauses which allowed PEI at the time a colony to join Confederation. The Island Government had a special condition that in joining in 1873 they would get financing for the railway on the Island and also a ferry service paid for, operation and maintenance, by the Federal Government. A special referendum was held and 60% of the Islanders voted in favour of the construction of the bridge and the end of train service on the Island.

Construction of the 12.3 Km sea bridge over the Abegweit channel of the Strait of Northumberland took place between 1993-1997 at a cost of $1.3 Billion dollars. The architect was Frenchman Jean Mueller who developed…

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On This Island

Island Distance

When we first visited the Island we heard people refer to “Island distance” or terms to that effect.  And on our first trip outside Charlottetown I noticed that often none of the road signs indicated how many kilometres it was to the place we were heading, just the direction.  And it seemed that when most people were asked they would say that such-and-such a place was about 40 minutes away.  Now we know that isn’t quite true, many things are an hour or more away but we find we are now using 40 minutes as almost a standard.   Suffice is to say that distances are compressed and as my friend Don says “It’s all a matter of scale.”  And you begin to adapt to “Island distance” as a norm.

A few weeks ago I realized that I had adapted more than I thought.  Our friend Cathy was visiting and Laurent suggested we should go to The Mill, Emily Well’s restaurant, up to New Glasgow.  I was surprised.  “All the way up there?” said I with an air of incredulity.  “But… but…. it’s ….” I sputtered in my normal articulate manner.  “Twenty-five minutes away,” said Laurent, trying not to use that tone that reminds me of my mother when I made a foolish statement.  Well now didn’t that stop me in my tracks.  He was right, it was a twenty-five minute drive, maybe thirty if you got behind an Amish horse and buggy.  I know people who drive more than that twice a day to and from work.   Still it was 25 minutes away!!!!

Several of our friends suggested that I had indeed gone “Islander”.

Red Head Harbour

Once you’ve travelled that 40 minutes (give or take 30 minutes or even two minute outside our door) you’ll find some glorious sights and sites.  Sights and sites that lend themselves to a painter’s brush.  Though red is not an unknown hair colour here to the best of my knowledge Red Head Harbour does not derive its name from a predominance of gingers in the area.  A mere 32 minutes from our place it is nestled in a corner of St Peter’s Bay and as well as being picturesque as all get out is the home of a  major PEI Mussel processing centre.  And we all know there is nothing like a big feed of PEI mussels steamed in white wine and herbs served up with home cut french fried PEI potatoes with a dollop of garlic mayonnaise .

Red-Head-Harbour-Map

Unfortunately the day that my friend Catherine and I were there it was cold, grey, cold, wet, cold,  windy, and did I mention cold?  But fortunately I was able to find a photo of Red Head Harbour on a more pleasant day.

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And better yet I was able to come home and bask in a sunny day at Red Head Harbour as captured by Wendell Dennis in his oil on wood painting Still Water.  And even better, on a grey, dreary day I can see this hanging in our dining room and be reminded of the beauty that surrounds me.

Red Head Harbour

Dennis is one of a number artists who shows at Details, Past and Present, a gallery on Victoria Row only blocks way from our place.  This particular painting caught my eye and …   well there we go, I don’t have to make that long thirty-two minute drive – I can see Red Head Harbour from my dining room table!

On this day in 1798: The Battle of Oulart Hill takes place in Wexford, Ireland.