Welcome to my blog!
Most of my mature years have been spent researching, studying, classifying and preserving different aspects of Island heritage. I have taken part in archaeological digs – both prehistoric and from the French/Acadian period – and as a result, see the land I walk on with new eyes. The simple, but stylish, domestic architecture of our forefathers has fascinated me as well as the many churches of different denominations that dot the Island. Our civic architecture – past and present – is full of treasures that span over two centuries of architectural evolution.
The Island landscape is incredibly ancient, and the Island itself, as an island, occupies only a small portion of the end of the great Ice Age. Over ten thousand years before there was an island, people we now call the Palaeo Indians settled in desirable areas that have now mostly eroded away, leaving us tiny but tantalising, incredibly beautiful bits of evidence of their lives through fragments of their tools and weapons.
After them, somehow, before the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisation appeared, another group of travellers lived here during that time we call the Archaic Period, when the Island was still forming and one could probably walk to the land mass we now call the Magdalene Islands. They brought new tools and weapons made of new, imported materials. These people were the first to witness the birth of our Island when Northumberland Strait currents broke through about four or five thousand years ago.
There was a third, complicated migration, some time before the birth of Christ, when the Mik’maq separated from other groups, then occupied various parts of the Island and the region. They are still with us today. Their history and artefacts are receiving new concentrated study.
Eventually it was the turn of the Europeans to come along and take, in the name of their rulers, whatever territories they encountered. Perhaps the Vikings made a landing, as they did in Newfoundland, but it was Basques who set up fishing stages on various parts of the North Shore even before Cartier’s arrival in 1534. Beginning in 1720 the French finally colonised Ile Saint Jean, and their farming and fishing settlers, at first from France, were soon outnumbered by settlers from Acadia. They lived here until 1758, when they were, for the most part, deported by the English, who had conquered French North America.
Now the British Colonial authorities began to take control of unmeasurable territories and set their stamp on it all. Saint John’s Island, as it was then called, was the first to be surveyed, using more refined techniques, and became perhaps, after the Holland survey, the first perfectly delineated integral territory in the history of map-making. Truly, the Island, with every inch of it surveyed and given a number, became a human artefact.
All the elements of this amazing story, beginning in geological time, is our story, and its structures and artefacts and imprints on the land, are the focus of my deep interests.
My relationship with heritage as a human being will be explored in considerable detail through a series of autobiographical posts, starting with my childhood and going through to my experiences as a heritage consultant. Most of the stories told will range from the sentimental delight of my recollections of discovery, to a catalogue of things achieved in the field of historic research and public education. It is, for the most part, a happy story, full of contentment. However, it is inevitable that there will be allusions to deeply unpleasant and upsetting experiences that happened during my years with the Heritage Foundation. After all, to take the Foundation into a new era was why I returned to the Island in the first place. Life is never plain sailing.
In the side bars, I will share pdf files of various manuscripts on Island heritage that I have written over the years, in case you are interested, but also so that it will not be lost when I go.
I will also share a few rare, older and generally unavailable manuscripts by others, which I have digitised, and which are delightful and informative in various ways.
This is the world in which I have lived as an enthusiastic amateur for three-quarters of a century, and I invite you to explore some of it with me.