Beaching – In Other Times

While I have been waxing prosetic* on outings to the beaches of PEI over at SailStrait Harry Holman has been looking back on outings in the days when beaches were not as accessible as today.

Prince Edward Islanders gather for a picnic by the shore – circa 1880
Photo: Canada’s History Magazine

So pack up your picnic basket, bring out your sunshade, dust off the straw boater and make sure Aunt Maev has her shawl for later in the day. We’re heading down to harbour for an afternoon’s outing one sunny August day in 1877.

*Yes I’m aware that it isn’t a word but it should be! If I can wax in verse I should be able to wax in prose.

Sailstrait

On hot summer days it is refreshing to think that for many of us getting to the beach is only a matter of jumping into a car and heading out. This ease of access to the sea shore is a relatively recent phenomena for Charlottetown. In spite of being a port the shoreline is remarkably inaccessible as there is not a really good beach within the city limits. There was bathing at Victoria Park and Kensington Beach and for the uninhibited there was always the attraction of swimming off the wharves. But this was hardly a family or social activity. Accessing a real beach meant a train ride to Hunter River or Bedford and then by wagon to Rustico or Tracadie where there were summer hotels, a round trip that could easily take all day.  Or one could take the Southport ferry and then go by carriage to Keppoch or…

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This Old House

As many of you already know we live in one of the older buildings along what was the waterfront of early Charlottetown. We knew that it had originally been the home of a Mr Duncan and then went through many changes of hands and purpose until today. In his most recent posting on his blog Sailstrait Harry Holman, Island archivist, historian, and sailor extraordinaire filled us in on the early history of the property, the people and our neighbourhood.

Our home for the past four years and, god willing and the Hillsborough don’t rise, for more years to come.

As always it is great reading and leads us to a better appreciation of our good fortune in living here. A left click below will reveal the story of what is now the Lennox Building at the corner of Water and Prince, and our home.

Another word for April 6th:
Archivist /ˈärkəvəst,ˈärˌkīvəst/: [noun]
An information professional who assesses, collects, organizes, preserves, maintains control over, and provides access to records and archives determined to have long-term value.
Archive c.1600 from French archif, from Late Latin archivum “written records,” also the place where they are kept, from Greek ta arkheia “public records,” plural of arkheion “town hall, public building”. The sense of “place where public records and historical documents are kept” in English is from 1640s + ist “one who does”. That would certainly be Mr Holman.

Sailstrait

The Duncan shipyard property in 1878 at the time of Duncan’s bankruptcy. Duncan’s house was on the corner of Prince Street with its conservatory. The property also included a residence to the west which dated to the 1820s. Image from the Panoramic View of Charlottetown 1878.

Between the Steam Navigation Wharf (which had carried the names of Reddin’s Wharf and Pope’s Wharf) and the Ferry Wharf at the end of Prince Street  lies a property of some significance to the history of Prince Edward Island. Here the foreshore stood at the foot of a high embankment and the waters were relatively shallow so that any wharf would have to be quite long to reach the channel.  Instead of a wharf the property became the site of one of the few shipyards on the waterfront.

The Duncan shipyard saw the building of a number of ships but most of the vessels…

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One Lady’s View

Well yesterday saw the last cruise ship of the season arrive and depart. The Oceania Riviera closed off what has been a record cruise ship season. A total of 87 ships disgorged 128,000 passengers and 55,000 crew members onto our ruddy shores. Our location and daily walks with Nicky and Nora meant that I met many of those visitors, often for long chats. The three top questions have been: Are you from here? What brought you here? What are winters like here? And the general opinions of their visit has been very positive. People seem to greatly enjoy their time spent on the Island.

But according to archivist and historian Harry Holman that wasn’t the case with at least one 19th century traveller. On his always informative blog Sailstrait Mr Holman reveals the Honourable Lady Brassey’s rather candid views on the Island and its denizens on her visit in October of 1872.

A left click on this illustration from Anna Brassey’s 1878 best-seller A Voyage in the Sunbeam, our Home on the Ocean for Eleven Months will take you to her entry from that earlier voyage and entry on her visit to Charlottetown.

An illustration from A Voyage in the Sunbeam, our Home on the Ocean for Eleven Months, Anna Brassey’s best selling travel journal of her trip around the world. A left click will take you to her private account of an earlier voyage.

Mr Holman tells me he has over 50 accounts of visits to Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island before 1900. He hopes to gather them together and publish them as a book. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

November 5th is Love Your Red Hair Day – so gingers of the world get loving!

A Royal Obsession – Part II

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales at the time of his visit to North America in 1860.

Reading a bit on the life of Albert Edward Saxe-Cobourg and Gotha (Edward VII) one can only imagine the field day the tabloids would have with him in this day and age. Though there were gossip magazines galore in Victorian England they tended to be chary in their handling of royal “affairs”. If Royal scandals surfaced – and scandals there were, I mean did you know he had mistresses???? Including the grandmother of Camillla… well enough said about that – it was in the Welsh, colonial and U.S. press seldom in the English newspapers or journals.

A few weeks ago in Sailstrait, his rich historic site on Island things nautical, Harry Holman told us about the American presses’ reporting on Albert Edward’s visit to Prince Edward Island in 1860. And though they were respectful to the Prince of Wales they were decidedly less so to our fair isle. This past week, to balance the scales, he told us about the visit as reported by the a far more circumspect British chroniclers of the age.

Sailstrait

“Thy grandsire’s name distinguishes this isle;
We love thy mother’s sway, and court her smile.”
Banner hanging in the ballroom of the Colonial Building, Charlottetown 1860.

A recent posting on this site featured American accounts of the 1860 visit of the Prince of Wales to Charlottetown and highlighted, perhaps unfairly, the carnival-like atmosphere, overcrowding  and drunkenness which the journalists from the States chose to make a centerpiece of their reporting.  For the Americans, the Prince’s visit was a unique experience and their florid accounts strained to find moments of interest in what was oftentimes a repetition of the rounds of addresses, salutes, dinners and balls which would characterize the events across two nations as the Prince travelled to Canada and the United States.

Prince of Wales receiving addresses at Colonial Building 1860. London Illustrated News

For the English media, royal appearances were less of a one time event and more…

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A Royal Obsession

A recent look at the tabloids – oh come on you all read the headlines at the supermarket and you know it!!!!! – suggests a rather unhealthy obsession with our Canadian (Britian has some claim to them too) Royal Family. The details of suspected peccedillos, fusses and feuds amongst various members of the House of Windsor-Mountbatten seem to fascinate us lower classes as we tug at our forelocks and cry “Will they not leave poor Princess Megan alone?” Most totally unaware that she will never be “Princess” and isn’t exactly “poor” on any level.

But this obsession with British Royalty is nothing new for members of the fifth estate and their readers, particularly our American cousins. In 1860 Queen Victoria’s eldest son Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales visited the British Colonies and it appears that almost every breath he took was recorded by journalists and breathlessly read by their subscribers.

In his, always fascinating, blog Sailstait PEI historian, archivist and writer Harry Holman recounts the heady days in August 1860 when the visit to our Island by HRH was the news not only locally but internationally. Fine proof that the obsession with our Royal Family is nothing new.

March 29 is the 88th day of the year and a piano has 88 keys so naturally today is International Piano Day.

Sailstrait

It was not a pretty sight and the correspondent for the New York Tribune made  it the centrepiece of his reporting of the event.  And what an event it was. The biggest thing to hit Charlottetown in its history. The first visit ever of a member of the Royal Family. Today it has become commonplace as every decade one or more Royals cycle through the province. It was not always so.

View of Royal Fleet at Charlotte Town 1860. From Journal of the Progress of the HRH Prince of Wales through British North America and his Visit to the United States. 1860.

When H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria, came to North America it was a major event wherever he visited. Not only did he visit the British Colonies, still four years away from becoming a nation, but he also travelled to the United…

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