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……

“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 .


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.

red harbour 3

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.


Mercoledi Musicale +2

PEISO-Logo_enI’m a little late with this week’s music but a few things I was doing for the PEI Symphony had me preoccupied.  And speaking of the Symphony we have our final season concert coming up with violinist Marc Djokic playing the Sibelius Concerto for Violin under the direction of our wonderful maestro Mark Shapiro.

To celebrate Canada and our 150th birthday Djokic, with his sister Denise and several other musicians, has made a series of videos for NONCERTO called “Extreme Locations”.  Amongst their locations are inside the structure of the Confederation Bridge that joins the rest of Canada to our Island, Cows Creamery (the best ice cream not just on the Island but anywhere!) and this one filmed at Green Gables National Park.  The Djokic Duo plays Erwin Schulhoff‘s Zingaresca against some wonderful shots of the area around Cavendish on the North Shore.

The entire playlist is available here: Extreme Locations – NONCERTO.  There are some interesting and unusual pieces and locations.

On this day in 1934:  The “Surgeon’s Photograph”, the most famous photo allegedly showing the Loch Ness Monster, is published in the Daily Mail (in 1999, it is revealed to be a hoax).

Go Ahead Ask

For whom the bell tolls ….

The bells of Charlottetown’s beautiful St Dustan’s Basilica have been silent for the past 40 years but that is about to change come July 1st of this year.  A committee spearheaded by historian Catherine Hennessey and co-chaired by Kevin Murphy have worked tirelessly to have the structural problems that caused them to be silenced righted and to raise the $400,000.00 needed to refinish and retune the 17 bells, install the infrastructure and electronic system.

St. Dunstan’s Cathedral Basilica is a stone French Gothic church and was built in 1913 from the remains of the previous cathedral that had been damaged by fire that year. The fourth church on the site it is one of the most visible landmarks in Charlottetown. The only Roman Catholic cathedral and basilica in the province, it is one of the most elaborate churches in the Maritimes.

The bells were cast by Paccard Fondrie Des Cloches in Annecy, France and installed in the north tower of the church in 1928.  They are sister chimes to the bells at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and L’Oratoire St-Joseph-du-Mont-Royal in Montreal.  The restoration work is being done by the Christoph Paccard Bellfoundries in South Carolina.

The good people at Vintage Charlottetown posted this video from Cocktail-VP showing how the bells would have been cast back in 1927-28.  The foundry in this case is the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London but the process was the same – and with few modernizations as it has been for centuries.

This video ends before the tuning processes is shown.  When the bells of St Dunstan’s were cast they would have been tuned using tuning forks and lathes.  As Nigel Taylor, the head tuner at Whitechapel, explains techniques have evolved considerably even over the past ten years.

I’m looking forward to hearing that first peal of bells on July 1st as we celebrate the 150th Birthday of my country.  I can think of no more joyful sound.

On this day in 1855: “Border Ruffians” from Missouri invade Kansas and force election of a pro-slavery legislature.