Hello again everyone and welcome back to the next in my series about a 2014 trip to the Maritime Provinces of Canada with my dear friend Lynne in our very old campervan / RV called Betsy.
If you want to read the entire tale form the beginning, you can do so here.
If you have read the previous post you will know that we had finally left Nova Scotia and had got the ferry over to Prince Edward Island, by far the smallest Province in this vast country and had spent the night at a pleasant campground with plans to have a look round the next day.
Well, this was the next day so if you want to see what we got up to then please read on.
20th July, 2014.
It was most certainly the next day and it was also a bit like Groundhog Day for me as I awoke at an unusually early hour and a quick look showed that the weather was conspiring against us again with the fog having rolled back in off the Grand Banks. We really were having awful luck with the weather.
You can see how poor the visibility was in a couple of the images but by about midday it had cleared enough for us to consider driving and we set off North towards Panmure Island and another fine lighthouse.
Panmure Island is reached nowadays by a man-made causeway just over half a mile long and constructed in the 1960’s. The causeway was built on top of the sandbars which previously connected the island to PEI at low tide and strangely the Pamure Island Provincial Park does not cover the island at all, merely the sandbar / causeway which is designated as a natural feature of note and home to some unusual fauna.
Panmure Island is quite small at a mere 800 acres and has basically one road and perhaps two score dwellings. Apart from the indigenous Miq’mak who had a summer camp here foraging shellfish, the first settler was a man called Andrew MacDonald, a Scot naturally enough, who came here with his family in 1805. We hadn’t come in search of MacDonalds (an old enemy of my clan anyway. Glencoe and all that) nor even clams and mussels, we were here for the lighthouse.
Panmure lighthouse was built in 1853 which makes it the oldest wooden lighthouse in PEI and is of the very traditional octagonal style so common in the Maritimes. Depending on what website you read it is either 59 or 62 feet tall but size isn’t everything apparently!
We had a look round and very interesting it was, as these old lighthouses tend to be although it looked like it could have done with a coat of paint or maybe two. I know the weather is hard in this area but it was looking a little tired. I am glad to report that a quick check on the internet shows it to have been restored to it’s former glory now which I am pleased about. These places need to be preserved.
Like so many other de-commissioned lights, local Heritage Museums etc., Panmure is run entirely by volunteers and funded mostly by donations and what they can raise from the gift shop and tea rooms.
Panmure and it’s environs are very sparsely populated so I don’t know where the volunteers are drawn from but I think the lighthouse is a credit to them and it reinforced a view I had been forming for some weeks by that point. Because the non-indigenous history of Canada is so relatively short, they really cherish what history they have.
When I was subsequently to visit Alberta, a Province with an even shorter history that basically begins in the late 19th century with the coming of the railway, it was even more pronounced and I think the Canadian’s national pride is a wonderful thing.
A short drive of about seven or eight miles brought us to the small town of Montague and it was time for another stop because a rather good looking pub had been spotted off the starboard bow (I shall have to ease up on these marine analogies but it is almost inevitable in these parts) and it looked like an interesting settlement to have a look round.
We parked up and went for a walk where I took a few images of a very pleasant surroundings including the rather splendid red-brick building you can see in one of the images. This was the former Post Office and now serves as the Garden of the Gulf Museum but sadly this was a Sunday and as I have explained in previous posts just about everything in the way of museums closes on Sunday and Monday so that was regrettably a non-starter.
I took an image of the rather scenic Montague River and again I have only noticed a small detail whilst composing this post so I have cropped it and I hope it is clear enough. By the water’s edge and appropriately beside the fish and chip van was a concrete sculpture of fish breaking the surface. When I saw it I was reminded of a stargazy pie, a Cornish speciality and if you have never seen one look it up as it is one of the more unusual dishes you will ever see.
I also show here the building you can see in another image which appears at first sight to be a fire station with a rather obsolete appliance on standby but it is not. It is a rather clever and well-executed attempt to brighten up what was presumably a fairly drab building.
We eventually walked as far as the pub that had aroused my interest as we had driven into Montague, Isaac’s Restaurant and Gabe’s pub and I have to start this piece with the sad news that, like many other places I visited, it is no more. As of 2019 it has re-branded itself as a coffee shop and vinyl record store of all things!
This is a shame as it was a great pub and amazingly, with the beautiful view but on a sunny Sunday afternoon it was all but deserted, perhaps that is why it is no longer trading! It was also my first introduction to the excellent products of the Gahan Brewery in Charlottetown, the capital of PEI and somewhere we shall become much more closely associated with in a future post.
After a pleasant time spent in the now sadly defunct Isaac and Gabe’s we decided to head off the highway, which had now changed from #17 to #4 and check out the Roma @ Three Rivers site aka the Jean Pierre Roma National Historic Site of Canada but it was sadly shut by the time we got there, perhaps a little less Maritime hospitality in the pub might have been in order.
It was, however, a lovely drive and we decided to stop off for a while in a little off-road spot we found and where we spent a pleasant couple of hours in the camp chairs enjoying the sun and enjoying respectively a coffee and a few cans of cider. After that we moved on up the coast to our chosen campground for the night, the Brudenell Provincial Park if memory serves but I would not swear to it.
Wherever it was we were treated to another fine Maritime sunset, they really do excel at them here and then Lynne was subjected to another not terribly adventurous supper but in fairness to her she never once complained no matter what rubbish I put on the plate. As long as I stayed my hand on the chilli she would eat anything which was probably just as well for me. Sausage, beans and chips (fries) ouch, it will never win Masterchef.
As that was a fairly short day by my standards I think we shall move straight on to the
21st July, 2014.
We awoke on the Monday morning and headed all the way back down the cul-de-sac road to The Roma site we had not been able to see the day before. We had taken the precaution of checking that it would be open first as Mondays can be a bit hit and miss for Museums in the region.
The Jean Pierre Roma National Historic Site of Canada is obviously named for a merchant adventurer of that name who was an early settler of PEI which was then called Île Saint-Jean, with him arriving in 1732. Along with three others he sailed under a grant from King Louis XV dated the previous year.
The men formed a company called Compagnie de l’Est de l’île Saint-Jean and their grant was of 3,500 arpents frontage and 40 arpents depth (an arpent is about an acre in modern measurement). Their lands were the river valleys of the modern Brudenell, Montague, and Cardigan rivers, hence the the site became known as Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers).
Their lives were undoubtedly hard with extremely adverse weather conditions in winter but soon they had about 200 acres cleared and nine buildings constructed as the basis for Roma’s vision of Trois-Rivières becoming an international trade hub and they certainly made a good start.
Within a few years they had maritime routes running along the Eastern seaboard of North America as far South as the West Indies and as far inland as Quebec, all linked back to France and they traded in dried (salt) cod, alcohol and other trade goods.
As well as their marine mercantile excursions they also built the first roads on the island connecting the site to various other places there and forming the basis of the modern infrastructure but sadly they did not enjoy the fruits of their extensive labour for long.
In 1745, after a mere 13 years of hard toil and a measure of success the entire settlement was burnt to the ground by British privateers, yes it is those damn licensed pirates again, I did tell you they were a large feature in the history of the Maritimes.
A British force, mainly New Englanders supported by the British Navy and under the command of the American William Pepperall had captured Louisbourg, where we have been, and then launched a further foray against the civilians here in July 1745.
Being untrained civilians including women and children, and armed with only one six-pound cannon, the settlers sensibly did not resist but fled into the nearby woods from where they witnessed the destruction of all they had worked for, it must have been heart-breaking. They then made their way to Quebec where they remained until the end of the war and the whole incident became known as “The Great Escape”.
The Roma group never re-populated the site after the war although settlers of the MacDonald Clan (Scottish immigrants) did cultivate the area in the early 19th century. By the middle of that century the land had been divided into small farms and a man named Malcolm Shaw leased the land here in 1865, eventually building a home where he resided until the early 1890’s. The land was cultivated until the 1930’s when it was abandoned back to nature.
Part of the problem with cultivating this Atlantic landscape was a steady rate of coastal erosion and, when the site was excavated extensively over three seasons in the 1970’s by Frank Korvemaker and his team they estimated that the shore had retreated at least 30 feet from the time of Roma’s settlement. Without resorting to underwater archaeology, the footprint of at least one of his buildings and part of the tunnel he built to allow the passage of goods from the cove to his storage facilities, is now lost.
There had been plans for a large commemoration of the 275th anniversary of “The Great Escape” in 2020 but of course the completely unnecessary pandemic scuppered those plans just as the privateers had ended the dreams of an industrious group of pioneers trying to make their way in the “New World”.
Obviously, everything you see on the site today in terms of structures and artefacts is reproduction as the New Englanders burnt the place to the ground – literally. As a complete amateur it is impossible for me to tell how authentic these are but they were sufficient to give a sense of the site. All it takes is a bit of imagination and, believe me and as my regular readers will know, I have more than enough of that.
I am glad they have not tried to artificially “age” the artefacts as that would have seemed false having read the history but it does show that some traditional crafts, including cooperage and clog-making of all things, remain alive and well in the area.
I was particularly taken with the collection of toys on display although the children did not have much of a childhood to enjoy them. Due to the necessities of everyone pitching in to carve out (no pun intended) a new life here children went to work at the ludicrously early age of seven.
I can hear the cries of the Victorian emancipators even as I write this but I also understand the necessity. In a land so harsh as the Maritimes where every resource, including the labour of children, was not a matter driven by religion or class or education, it was a matter of survival.
We did not stay to eat but there is a small restaurant / coffeeshop where they serve Acadian dishes for lunch every day and also bake Acadian bread daily. I have no idea what that is specifically but can only presume that it is similar to the French bread that would have been familiar to the Roma community and is typically served with molasses.
On the menu they call it “soldier’s bread” although I do not know why as the French, as far as I can see, never sent any military back-up to assist Roma and his compatriots. They really were on their own.
The limited menu features local produce as the settlers would have survived on and with many of the herbs and vegetables being grown in the traditional plot you can see in the image above. The plot is protected by a wooden fence, the style of which would presumably have been familiar to Roma’s people although I never worked out if it was there to keep out animals or as a windbreak or possibly both.
The site, as is so often the case in the Maritimes, is staffed by re-enactors who are in this case predominantly female, dressed in period costume. They are, as I had come to expect by now, extremely friendly and knowledgeable although I suspect they slightly regretted the fact they had nothing in the way of original pieces to display.
This was a slight disappointment but you can’t re-write history and there was nothing left here after the raiders departed. Wait a minute, you can’t re-write history? Of course you can and it has been done time and again throughout the story of humanity. I know this from personal experience but that is a tale for another time.
The Trois-Rivières is about a 10 – 12 mile round trip detour off the main road but, with the site itself, the lovely cove and the various walking trails available, I would respectfully suggest it is a detour worth making even with the historical limitations.
With the Roma site visited at the second attempt we headed back towards the main road to continue our trip round PEI which had already struck me as extremely beautiful. I had adored Nova Scotia, finding it very like the country for which it was named or even, in parts, the land of my own birth (Northern Ireland) but somehow PEI just seemed to be even more scenic.
I would liken it to perhaps a condensed soup which I know is an odd analogy but perhaps not so strange given my surname! It has all the lovely things of the rich bisque of the Maritimes (seafood reference absolutely intended and relevant) but just concentrated into a smaller area and therefore somehow more in terms of natural beauty. Enough of my musings, let’s get back on the five mile road back to Highway #4 and see what else the day holds.
We did get back on the loop of the #319 and carried on round until we got back on #4 and headed North but we didn’t get far. We were approaching the small settlement of Cardigan, named for James Brudenell, 5th Earl of Cardigan, later Duke of Montague. Are you starting to see a pattern here? What were the Three Rivers called?
At the time I visited it could hardly have been described as a village with a population of just over 200 but it joined with six other communities in 2018 to form a larger municipal entity more in keeping with the 21st century. I actually entitled my original VT notes “I didn’t even know it was a place!”. It was once home to Canada’s smallest library but I wasn’t looking for a book and fortuitously I found what I did seek very quickly. Here’s the story.
I wonder who Red was?
“Whilst driving back up on the highway from Three Rivers and the slightly disappointing Roma Settlement I saw a place I had noted on the way down and we decided to stop for a drink. Strictly speaking that is not correct. I decided to stop for a drink and thankfully my travelling companion Lynne is a very good sport and agreed albeit that she knows that once I am in such an establishment I can be a little difficult to shift!
I know it was a midweek early afternoon but I was surprised to find the place totally empty. This was a theme that repeated itself over and over in the Maritimes and I don’t know how most places survive. Perhaps people come out at night and as we didn’t do much night-time drinking I cannot really comment.
Another recurring theme in the region was the friendliness of the staff and particular mention must go here to the lady serving as she was an absolute delight. I realise she wasn’t exactly rushed off her feet but she was great fun and it was all very pleasant as I got stuck into my well-kept and equally well-served beer. Canadians are not particularly renowned for beer but they do it very well and I was getting rather a taste for it. The “red ales” are particularly recommended.
The premises was laid out in a fairly standard fashion although it did have a pleasant little lounge area which is not particularly typical here. The entire place including the washrooms was very clean and tidy.
Although we did not dine there I did have a look at the menu which was extensive and had some items a little out of the ordinary as well as the standards. There are also daily specials. I did have a look at the attached Facebook site to give an example of the specials which they post daily but the place is closed on police advice due to a horrendous blizzard! You are probably better off visiting in summer (this was written late 2014).
A few recent examples are roast beef cheddar melt, crispy chicken bacon ranch wrap and sole stuffed with crab and scallops topped with our famous cheese sauce. It all sounds delicious.
As well as food and drink it would appear to be the social centre for the area as well and hosts regular music and other events. As we were RV’ing ourselves I was delighted to see a classic old RV outside (a 60’s VW T2 if I am any judge) which was not exactly in pristine condition but still looked good.
Finally, if you are wondering about the rather curious title of this piece I should explain that the name of this excellent hostelry is Red’s Corner, even if the adjacent roundabout is called Poole’s Corner and I strongly recommend you drop in if you are passing that way as it is a cracking pub.”
It gives me no pleasure at all to say “I told you so” but when I wrote “I don’t know how most places survive”, I had just told you so. An online check in 2021 shows that Red’s did not last two more years and a check on a mapping site shows that the very building is torn down now which I find terribly sad as it was so good. I wonder what the locals do for a social centre now?
Obviously, having closed in 2016 it was nothing to do with the pandemic but even prior to that unnecessary evil there were so many pressures on the licensed trade in so many countries that it was a hard job to make a living and this is just another sad example. I have lost count of how many such tragedies I have reported in this series now.
In perhaps three or four years when people are allowed to socialise properly (that is a hopeful estimate), things will never be the same as it was and certainly not in my lifetime, I wonder what will be left for people to socialise in.
Regulars will know of my dislike for anti-social media as I call it but whilst I shall never be part of it I am able to access certain portions of Facebook and I checked the link I had originally provided for this place and found out that they had gone out with a bang rather than a whimper with a “Grand Finale” night.
Remarkably the site still exists and I have provided a link here, unusual as it is for me to do so for a closed and demolished premises. I sense more than a little of the pioneer spirit still alive in the postings there.
I still don’t know who Red was!
At the roundabout we left the #4 and joined the smaller #3 Georgetown Road so you can imagine where that led to! There was undoubtedly still much to see in PEI which proved to be the case. The Georgetown Road leading to Georgetown, that tells you a lot about the British settlement of the Maritimes.
At the time of the destruction of the nearby Roma settlement King George II was on the throne, the second of a dynasty of German monarchs we had imported to avoid Cahtolocism returning to prominence in the UK after the Protestant Reformation instigated by Henry VIII. This lies very much at the heart of the heart of North American history.
It would be simplistic to say it was purely religiously based but much of the conflict on that newly re-discovered continent was between a Protestant Britain and a Catholic France with the equally Catholic Spain adding a little interest many miles to the South.
If you’ll pardon the indelicacy, I think of it as a dog “marking it’s territory” and we all know how they do that! The British named everything after George and the French similarly named everything after King Louis, whichever of the eighteen (open to debate) of that name happened to be ruling at the time.
As I am already well down the road to digression, if not yet actually Georgetown, I might as well finish the George saga as I just like to try and make these pieces as informative as possible, it is really all I have left to occupy my time now.
In the UK we have had six Georges on the throne. George Mk.I was brought in, as I said, to fill a vacuum with no Protestant successor and his son Mk.II was the last “British” monarch who was not even born in our country, he was a German but not a bad ruler.
Mk. III was notoriously mad and that is a fascinating study as to the cause of his “madness” but that would be a digression too far, even for me. Look up modern medical opinion for yourselves, it is fascinating. Mk. IV was regent for the “mad” Mk. III for many years and a notably profligate wastrel who damn nearly bankrupted the country, well it wasn’t really his country, was it?
Things got better with Mk. V, a decent monarch eventually although his earlier life had been somewhat colourful with an Irish prostitute in the story and there are even some ridiculous (in my opinion and having studied the subject a bit as it is local to me) theories that he was the late 19th century notorious murderer of women of that profession, Jack the Ripper.
As is so often the case, the best was left to last with King George Mk. VI, an outstanding man. He was never destined to be King, was never “trained” to be King, never wanted to be King and yet, through sheer determination, guts and decency, not to mention the support of an outstanding wife who is still revered. guided a nation and an Empire through one of the most horrific wars in human history.
I shall refrain form further rambling here by giving you a complete biography but, if you are unaware of this reluctant and massively effective monarch, Father to our current and perhaps even more influential monarch H.M. Queen Elizabeth II then please look him up. He was a model of everything a King should be even in times when so-called “democracies” had superceded Royal lines in most of the world.
It seems that the naming of royalty was as unimaginative as the naming of territories, mostly at bayonet point or the business end of a musket, but such is history and it seems we have learned little in the intervening years. Whilst we have already visited Louisbourg there is also Georgetown, George Harbour, several George Rivers, countless George Streets and roads in the region so here we were and let’s have a look round.
I am sure it will be superfluous to say that Georgetown was pristine, there was not a single piece of litter, not a daub of graffiti, not a vagrant lying in a doorway or a beggar by the ATM, it was just such a total contrast to the world I had come from. In truth, with a population at the time I visited of 555 (OK, slightly later 2016 figure) it was hardly likely to be anything but and yet it was another joy. An even greater joy was the wonderful bakery where we purchased the delights you can see in one of the images and went down very well with the afternoon coffee.
Physically, Georgetown is less than a mile across the water from the Roma camp we had just visited. This small peninsula was uninhabited at the time bar the indigenous Miq’mak indigenous people who are so prevalent in the region.
When the Seven Years War ended in 1763, the victorious “British” commander Samuel Holland, actually a Dutchman with an Anglicised name decided, after surveying the region round Cardigan Point where we are now, would be the capital of King’s County.
OK, Kings County isn’t exactly George but you get the idea and, I promise, I knew nothing of this until April 2021 whilst researching and writing this so I shall leave you to make up your own mind about “circles” as I call them or the more flamboyently expressed “inter-connectedness of all things” as spoken of by the wonderful Douglas Adams.
Holland had been born in Deventer in the central Netherlands, joined the Army and fought in the Austrian war of Succession before being posted to the Americas where he surveyed and was quickly promoted to Surveyor-General for the area. He gave engineering advice to Brigadier-General James Wolfe, a very famous figure in Canadian history and whose grave I have visited in Greenwich, London. Circles, always circles.
Holland is best known for paving the way for Wolfe’s triumph on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec, effectively securing British sovereignty over modern-day Canada but early in his American career he was set to surveying the Maritimes in the winter of 1757 which must have been a hard task given the climate.
One of his subordinates, who I wrote about in a very recent post was a certain James Cook, eventually Captain, who lived not 400 yards from my home, discovered New Zealand and, presumably using the surveying skills taught to him by Holland, mapped most of the Eastern and Northern coasts of Australia.
I promise I had not researched this post before I wrote those others as I am not nearly that organised but, are there any takers for the “circles / inter-connectedness” idea now? I am totally convinced and I don’t think for one moment that I have any particular gift, these things just happen to me and are freely available, it is just a matter of looking hard enough.
After a trip to the lovely look-off point as they call it here (we would say lookout point) we wandered into the utterly charming A.A. MacDonald Memorial Gardens and A.A. is certainly worth a look as he is hugely influential in Maritime history.
MacDonald, who was actually not a MacDonald but of the Clanranald, one of the sub-clans in the almost indecipherable hierarchy that is Scottish clanship, don’t even ask about septs!, was born in Three Rivers in 1829, Panmure to be precise and a place we have already been.
He made a career as a shipowner and merchant, married well and had four sons, and by 1853 he was a member of the Legislative Assembly for PEI. He is renowned for being one of the “Fathers of the Confederation”, the body effectively responsible for creating modern Canada and was also Lt. Governor and a Senator from 1891 until his death in 1912. I think the Gardens created here do credit to him.
Within the Gardens, and beautifully sited, there is the almost inevitable War Memorial and, if you have read my earlier offerings on this blog, you can guess that it was a case of me removing headgear (if you can call a bandanna headgear and Lynne was already bare-headed) and paying respects to those who had gone before us and paid the ultimate price.
There was nothing on this memorial of that nature but it was very sobering to think that long after we had both “stepped off” (retired) there were still young men and women putting themselves on the line. If you’ve been there, it is a very poignant thought and you will know what I mean but if you have not, it is well worth thinking about.
I must say, I loved what I think was a duck house finely crafted to look like a Church. I am not sure if that is what it was but I cannot think of another explanation with the location so close to the duckpond and the little ramp and door. As always, if you know better then please tell me.
Another quick look round Georgetown was certainly pleasant but not of any great interest to the reader so we’ll get back on the road but the road didn’t last too long.
On the way out of town we couldn’t resist a stop at the cleverly named “What’s the Scoop” ice-cream parlour, well, we were on our holidays! It was lovely. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream, or so they say.
We had driven less than an hour from Georgetown and past the tiny settlement of Souris (which means mouse in French for reasons as yet unknown to me) when we saw the sign you can see above. The New Harmony demonstration woodlot, I had never heard of such a thing and it was certainly worth investigation for that reason alone so Lynne guided Betsy down another unpaved road.
To be honest, we were a little less afraid of such routes as we might have been at the start of the journey as the unpaved roads in summer are really not too bad, if a little dusty, which only adds to the experience. Betsy had already proved herself up to the challenge of tarmac withdrawal and Lynne is a very steady driver.
I can honestly say that in this whole trip, and in subsequent ones with Lynne in Betsy’s successor thousands of miles away in Western Canada, I never once felt even slightly apprehensive and my antennae for danger are fairly well-tuned.
A few miles along we were confronted with an open space that looked a little as if it may have been used for an illegal rave recently judging by the number of bottles, cans, food wrappers and general detritus about the place but, away from the central parking area, where you can see dear Betsy, it was delightful but blighted.
It was blighted solely by the damned mosquitoes that plague the Maritimes. Having travelled a bit in Asia I am used to “mozzies” and I am immune to the odd “bite” (mosquitoes don’t bite, look it up, I have digressed enough already) but this was unbearable even for me and we retreated in short order after a very short attempt to explore one of the several paths here.
You wouldn’t think it but less than three centuries ago this was agricultural land which was eventually left, like the Roma settlement, to return to Nature when the humans left for various reasons. If you want to cut a few miles off your journey it is a great short cut to the Northern shore of the Cardigan peninsula to regain the #16 and head West along the Northeast coast of this magnificent island.
Although I did not know the reason at the time, there was something here that spoke to me, possibly because during the Prohibition time, which I have discussed before, the “rum-runners” used to stash their contraband here.
Incidentally, and purely as another sop to my memories of this trip, doesn’t Betsy look just wonderful in her natural habitat? By this point I was just so in love with this disintegrating heap of engineering. Betsy was my dream and, on the principle that home is where the heart is, work it out yourselves, Betsy was home.
Just look at her. If we had been self-sufficient and if we had been in Betsy’s successor I think we might have spent the night there. The mozzies were not a problem in the open area shown and can you really think of a more beautiful, peaceful place to spend a night?
Unfortunately we could not stay and so we regained the #16 (I was losing track of all these highway numbers and I would love to use the phrase “losing track of the tracks” but I cannot, in all conscience, do it.
Whilst I understood the limits of dear Betsy in the state she was, I could not help but think of the literary opportunities to those of us who seek to write, and generally fall short, that we are denied by modern road technology.
It is just not quite the same saying, “Along the dusty, frost-rimed track, where scarcely man had passed, in bleak November’s evil hand, with searing icy blast” as saying “We drove 20 miles down Highway #XXX along a well-maintained, smooth road”, is it? Perhaps it is just the latent poet in me, so please excuse my folly and back to the trip.
Betsy took us faithfully around the coast of the Cardigan peninsula which, like so many roads in the Maritimes is a road to nowhere, or is it. Geographically it leads only to the sea and a potentially watery death but for me it was leading somewhere. In this case it was leading to the East Point lighthouse both of which terms are fairly self-explanatory.
Yes, it is a lighthouse, placed there to save ships from the many perils of the Eastern coast of modern Canada, the Easternmost part of the Province of PEI and yet, somehow beautifully, none of that mattered.
I have always thought that lightousemen, lifeboatmen, firemen, coastguards, policemen and any others I have inadvertantly missed, have never really cared that much about who they were protecting or saving. That was their job and they were going to do it for the benefit of all, regardless of rank or status.
For that reason, regardless of the natural beauty of the structures in places that are, per se, wild and windswept, lighthouses in general attract me and yet another weird thing has just happened to me as I am writing this lengthy piece. I told you that such oddities happen to me on a regular basis so have a look at this one.
I was writing this piece about the East Point lighthouse and, as is my way, I had a bit of music going in the background. I use Spotify and had chosen, more or less at random, a band called the Incredible String Band who I like. Mike Heron, Robin Williamson and various collaborators were a late 60’s / early 70’s psychedelic folk band if you are into pigeonholing music which I am most certainly not. They are assuredly not a marine-based outfit, no shanty crew and are pigeonholed by others as psyhedelic folk / rock.
The 67th track of their prodigious and excellent output on Spotify came on (I have just checked, do it if you don’t believe me) as I was writing and, whilst the music was only background for me and I was letting it wash over me I heard the lyric, which is also the title of the song, “My Father was a lighthouse keeper” very distinctly. The circles were coming closer but not in a threatening way, it just made me slightly more convinced that I wasn’t a completely certifiable basket case.
I do not believe in “divine intervention” as I do not believe in a divinity but I just thought that this was some entity telling me something that I would probably never understand. I told you before, the Maritimes are the gift that keeps on giving even after all these years, and it encouraged me to keep writing. Despite my very limited readership who I cherish, it is obviously worth it and again many heartfelt thanks to those of you who do read this, it is much appreciated.
Leaving aside now all the spooky things that seemed so normal at the time, let me get back to travel writing and tell you about the East Point light.
The East Point is, as always in these parts, rather prosaically but geographically correctly named as it is the most Easterly point of the Province, situated about five miles East of the settlement of Elmira which we shall come to later. The light itself is known locally as “Canada’s Confederation Lighthouse” as it was the only light constructed in 1867, the year of Canada effectively becoming a country, an event that was to be celebrated three years after I visited on it’s 150th anniversary.
At the risk of repetition, Canada is, in global terms, a very young country which is something of a double edged sword. Whilst the visitor will not find medieaval castles, Roman, Greek or Islamic remains, neolithic sites (the indigenous populations left little behind due to their nomadic lifestyle and perishable materials) they will find a wealth of perhaps fifth or sixth generation descendants of the earliest settlers tending lovingly for the buildings that effectively span about three centuries of the country’s “European” history. I love it.
The light here, as in so many cases, is now maintained by volunteers who wish to keep their relatively short heritage alive and they do so in a manner that does them great credit.
East Point light was built by yet another MacDonald, William, and is currently in it’s third position. If you watch the short drone film in the attached website and look at the cliff erosion, I give it about another 30 years until it either has to be moved again or falls into the relentless sea. I suppose that is the joy of relatively lightweight wooden construction as we have already seen a number of buildings successfully moved. Try doing that with a brick lighthouse!
The lighthouse is well worth a look, not least for it’s history but also for the views across the water to Cape Breton where we had been so recently. It is a most beautiful place.
I have even included an image here to gladden the hearts of those who have bought into the lie of electric cars, they even have a charging station here which you can use to drive another 50 miles or whatever before you need another charger, find out there isn’t one and have to be towed home behind a fossil fuel powered recovery vehicle. Have any electric or hybrid car owners, so proud of their green credentials, ever stopped to think where the electric comes from? I shall say no more.
Leaving the wonderful lighthouse we headed on round the #16 road (I was losing track by now) and drove through North Lake, Lakeville and Fairfield although I only know that from looking at a map all these years later as they certainly did not register on the consciousness at the time as settlements. It seems that in the Maritimes three homes within a mile radius of each other merit a township name.
We were heading for Campbell’s Cove and I promise my readers that this campground was not chosen because of my surname! Lynne had picked it because of very good reviews in the various publications we were using to pick places to stay. She is very meticulous, as befits one of her military background, and cross-referenced everything to avoid marketing skullduggery and, as always, she had chosen brilliantly.
I shall take you for a look round this wonderful campground in the next post but, as usual, we had turned up in the evening so, having hooked Betsy up and had a couple of drinks I took to the galley and set to work. Yes, I know that eating an evening meal after 10 o’clock is not to everyone’s taste but it suited us, having had an evening watching another wonderful Maritime sunset.
Actually, my starter of a Greek feta cheese salad was perfectly appropriate for that hour. Having spent a lot of time in Greece and Cyprus I know that the good people of those countries don’t even think of going to the taverna until about 2000 at the earliest and I have regularly finished my evening meal about 0300 in there, it suits me.
After that it was a pretty awfully presented variation on my theme of beef stew and boiled baby potatoes, I really need to work on presentation if I am ever to be a Michelin starred chef which is very unlikely but it probably tasted OK.
Right, that is a couple of days done here and I hope the decision to put two days in one post was not too much for the dear reader. I know I go on a lot but, as I have said often before, I can only write one way and that is the way I feel.
If I have not driven you away with my ramblings here, in the next post we shall go for a walk round this lovely campsite, take a ride on the tiniest train you have ever seen, visit a celebration of Canada’s formation and, most oddly, I get a hairdo!
If you want to find out about all of that and see me with a very fetching tonsorial diversion then stay tuned and spread the word.