Nova Scotia, Pictou, Grand Pre, and Wolfville, July 18 and 19, 2008

23 10 2008

The Hector

The ferry from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia is only about 75 minutes long but never-the-less action packed, with a cafeteria where snacks such as chips and gravy can be had, a Cows store (they’re everywhere in those parts!) and a lounge with a live Celtic music act (also everywhere in those parts). We enjoyed a burger, and a milkshake from Cows, and some live music.

Marcel and Angela were Step’s ex-next-door neighbours who had moved from Vancouver to Grand Pre (extreme moving action!) and Marcel had said we should stop by Pictou on our way over because that was where the first Scottish settlers had landed, so we did. Pictou is a charming seaside village with tartan banners everywhere. The big historical project of Pictou is recreating the good ship Hector, the boat which carried said immigrants over, with as much accuracy of detail as possible. We paid a nominal fee to go into the interpretation centre where we learned of the terrible conditions these people suffered, as well as the oppressive circumstances (caused by the British, mainly) which prompted them to emigrate.

The Disturbing Passenger Quarters of the Hector

The Disturbing Passenger Quarters of the Hector

So anyway, these people were promised a lot and paid what was actually quite a low price to go across the Atlantic in this little wooden ship with incredibly cramped quarters that had buckets for #1 and #2, and vomit and whatever else vile body fluids come out of man, being fed mouldy oatcakes and salt meat all the way. At first the people threw the mouldy oatcakes at the crew, but one foresightful emigrant gathered them up and saved them, which the rest were grateful for later in the trip when they were otherwise starving. One guy, John MacKay, had a bagpipe. He had been jailed in Scotland for rescuing some barrels of whiskey which the British police had confiscated, a mission which to his mind was quite noble, and later in jail had befriended the guard. One day when the guard had returned with beer and whiskey he had bought for them, the Scotsman slipped past him at the door of the cell, and locked the guard in. (The key, or what is believed to be the key, of the cell is kept as a precious historical artifact and is depicted on many of the displays in the interpretive centre). The Scotsman then showed up at the Hector, and though he had no passage the other passengers all chipped in to pay for him because they thought the bagpipe playing might cheer them up on the sea.

Many of the emigrants got sick at sea and died. The Hector ran into rough waters near Newfoundland, and landed in Nova Scotia weeks later than scheduled, all out of provisions, even water! All there was to eat was salt meat, which is not at all nice to eat when you have no water. Furthermore, when they landed they saw that while there were a lot of fish in the sea, they would have no access to them, as their allotted land was inland from the coast and this land was not farmland, as they had been promised, but covered in bushes and trees. And so they had not enough resources and time to prepare for winter in Nova Scotia and a lot of them died. It seemed a bit of a rip-off. Some of them did survive though, so they are the founding Scottish of Nova Scotia.

At the interpretive centre the terrible stench of the ship was mentioned many times, and when we boarded the reproduction of the Hector it had a bad smell and no one even lived on it, so it must have been really horrid for those people. Also, the hold they lived in looked just like a Nazi concentration camp and was just as crowded as one and I found the whole experience rather nauseating, and felt sick for some time after. I’m still glad I went, though, and would go again even knowing how it would be.

One cool thing was that the interpretive centre had a resident artist! David MacIntosh works full time during the summer painting scenes of life on the Hector and early Nova Scotia. Another cool thing I learned there is that the official animal of Scotland is the Unicorn!

Jeremiah Calkin House

Jeremiah Calkin House

Artist Rendering by George Walford

Then we drove to Grand Pre to visit the Marcel and Angela family. As I mentioned, Marcel and Angela had been Step’s next door neighbour when he lived in Koos Corner, but after the arrival of their second daughter they needed a bigger place. Marcel had grown up in Nova Scotia, and had often admired the refurbished 1768 Jeremiah Calkin House in Grand Pre, and when it came up for sale they bought it. The house is kind of cool. They have been restoring it further and discovered a large walk in fire place in the family room which had been plastered over at some point. It even has a big iron bar on hinges you can hang cooking cauldrons and the like from to cook foods, which they never do. Angela is a landscape architect and even though they’ve only been living there for a year there are nice gardens all around it.

Lining up for Uberfresh Produce

Lining up for Uberfresh Produce at Wolfville Farmers' Market

Marcel and Angela barbecued some steaks and we made them Prince Edward vodka martinis and after dinner had a large campfire in the back. The next morning we all went into Wolfville because there is a popular farmers’ market there. In Grand Pre is Just Us Coffee, the very first Canadian company to roast fair trade organic coffee. They were not represented at the farmer’s market, but we got some other fair trade organic coffee, and some vegetables and stuff. I was surprised to see a couple of vineyards represented, not only because I’ve never seen alcoholic products for sale at a farmers’ market before, but because I had no idea Nova Scotia grew grapes. I enjoyed Domaine Grand Pre vineyard’s flyer, which showed a field of grapevines and said “See All This Beauty Crushed”. The farmers market also had live entertainment. Instead of celtic music, the band was doing covers of the Kinks and the Jam and stuff, which I liked.

After that we worked on our awning project some more, and headed out in the early afternoon. We drove straight across the province, towards Halifax.

Working on the Awning Project

Working on the Awning Project