1995-1999 THE END OF MY CAREER

In February 1994, I presented to the Government House Committee, and the Department of Transportation and Public Works my report on Planning Restorations of the East Portico and Verandas at Government House along with Renovations to the East Entrance and the Lieutenant-Governor’s Office Suite.

Authorisation for this project had been signed back in May of 1992 and it had taken me just over 18 months to complete the excruciatingly difficult work involved in determining precise measurements and details that could be used by architects for the actual restoration work that was being proposed. This was a truly extraordinary opportunity to restore the verandas to their original appearance, and so importantly, restore the East Portico to the building, which had been missing since the early 1870s.

There is only one photo in existence that clearly shows the verandas and the East entrance. It is in the Public Archives in Ottawa and was probably taken around 1870, just before PEI joined Confederation and the extensive repairs of 1860 we starting to get shabby, especially the roof.

This photo is of the greatest importance because, in crisp detail from the glass plate negative, it shows the profile of the entablature (or top part) of the veranda and, on the right, what is obviously a portico, scaled to the veranda proportions.

Just a few years later and all this would be gone. The verandas would be torn down and replaced with new ones with square posts that supported an entirely different entablature. The East Portico would disappear entirely, These renovations were probably carried out by the Federal Government after Prince Edward Island joined Confederation in 1873 and the responsibilities for the maintenance of the building passed on to Ottawa. They “modernised” the building with its new verandas and it is also probably at this time that all the original fireplaces were converted to coal-burning ones. A number of the original mantelpieces were also replaced with the mass-produced factory painted slate ones, which are still in three of the state rooms in the House.

The profile of Government House changed as can be seen in this circa 1875 photo. Note that the main or South Portico still has its round solid wood columns with their original Ionic capitals. In a few more years these too would be town down and replaced with square pillars. The pediment would remain intact though.

But what is obviously missing, and visible through the trees on the right, is the East Portico, the secondary entrance to the House for ordinary business. Already, in this circa 1875 photo, the trim is picked out in contrasting colours, as evidence of late Victorian taste.

In this report I sought to do several things, starting with the early history of the house. First I wanted to establish the original articulation of the saloon or main entrance hall when it continued unobstructed to the east and west as hallways leading to the business entrance and the garden. By going through all the archival material available and spending a lot of time in the basement, I was able to come up with this configuration. All that open space must have been breath-taking. But soon, it was found necessary to close it all up, producing the effect we see today, with all those doors and difficult passages.

The east side of the house had been completely torn apart and rearranged when Government House became a hospital for wounded soldiers in World War I. Now there was a great need to completely re-articulate the entrance rooms on the east side to make things more practical. This involved a new office for the secretary, opening up a door to the original Governor’s office that had been sealed up, probably since the 1930s, and setting aside closet and washroom space. I provided several alternative plans and the architects selected this one, with slight modifications.

The most difficult aspect of this project, and the one that caused the most agony and delay, was the establishing of the exact dimensions of the original verandas with their columns and entablature, and the East Portico itself. There were no plans anywhere, no recorded measurements and only one very bad amateur sketch in the Confederation Centre Art Gallery collection made by a member of Governor Daly’s family in 1854.

From that I knew exactly what the portico had been like, even though in this sketch it appears to crest into the window space above. I asked the carpenters to remove the shingles from under that window and there, outlined in white putty, was the exact angle of the top of the pediment!

Bang! I had my pediment angles!

The dimensions of the entablature – that is the part above the columns that supports the roof, was not so easy. I knew for sure that the shingles on the house were the original 1860 ones. I carefully measured the amount of shingle exposure to the weather in a couple of dozen places likely never to have been interfered with, and got a measurement of 4.5 inches. Using that known measurement – the only one! – I worked with blow-ups of every clear detail where shingles touched the entablature and, with many full-scale drawings, finally got my profiles.

From then on it was only hard work and endless calculations to arrive at full-scale plans to give to the architects to be converted into blueprints. On the left below is the original entablature with its lovely dentillated frieze. On the right is the Tuscan Doric column which was used on the verandas. All were made of turned wood.

Choosing all the right classical mouldings and combining them in millenia-old patterns was the easy part. The rules of Classical architecture are, for the most part, very clear. Once I had my basic dimensions figured out it was easy to figure out the details of what had to be constructed. In designing the porch or portico, as it should be called, the mouldings of the cornice, or top part of the entablature, has to rise at an angle until they formed the apex of the pediment. These drawings indicated how all should be arranged. The carpenters did it perfectly.

I must have driven the workmen out of their minds as I followed every part of their construction.  I was always nosing around taking pictures. Any wonder, as this was the most important architectural restoration event of my life – starting with a tape measure and a 4.5 inch “to the weather” shingle measurement.

And this was the result! Often, twenty-five years later, when I visit town, I will make a brief detour and circle around the parking lot at Government House just to stare at the portico and be filled with joy and satisfaction.

The wonderful Peter Ratelle prepared all the architectural drawings, both as illustrations for my text but also as CAD drawings to give the architects working for the Department of Transportation and Public Works. What a relief it was to have professional assistance of that calibre in my private contracts!

 

EXHAUSTION AND A TRIP TO ITALY

How else to escape the incredible stress of this project, than to pack my bag and head off to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, that five-hundred years ago, had made this portico possible in the first place.

In order to regain my equilibrium, I decided to spend a month in Florence, studying art, architecture and topography seven days a week, from morning till night. There were side trips to Siena, Pisa and Bologna. Hundreds of colour slides were taken for my art history classes.

Florence is a tiny city, sweet and friendly, unlike Rome where you are treated like shit. I was in a family pensione, right next to the wonderful Palazzo Medici-Riccardi and one minute from the great cathedral with Brunelleschi’s dome. Five or six minutes away was the church of Santa Maria Novella, near the train station, where you can see Masacchio’s tomb painting, life-size, of the Trinity, in which he displayed his knowledge of the newly discovered laws of perspective. In a few minutes in another direction I visited Donatello’s Saint George, once on the side of the city granary but now secure in a museum where you can get up close. What austerity, what calm, what nobility and what beauty!

Donatello had studied the achievement of the Ancient Greek sculptors who, to make a figure more life-like, placed the weight on one foot – contrapposto –  thus introducing a reverse s-curve to the body. Saint George, even in armour, has this lithe flexibility.

And to think that all this was a ten minute walk from Michelangelo’s great David in the Accademia. Across the Arno, over the ancient Ponte Vecchio with its stalls of gold-sellers, was the Pitti Palace, behind which were the Boboli Gardens. I kept being drawn back there, again and again, to walk down the great avenue of cypress trees leading to the spectacular Poseidon fountain.

 

 

THE CASSIDY CONVERSION OF THE 1846 REGENT HOTEL

I returned from Italy to take on a job for Cassidy Associates as Restoration Consultant for the Great George Street project that began late in 1994 and went into the next year. This was the first stage of turning the old 1846 Regent Hotel into what would be an absolutely wonderful long-term project of making a whole block on Great George Street into a very posh inn.

This project was very sensitive because of its location on the most important street in the old city plan, and its proximity to quite a number of the most significant buildings in the city. The Archaeological Act demanded an assessment report, which I produced. In a very old indoor dry toilet, I found a large quantity of broken early lovely Victorian dishes of various kinds, some of which are now on display in the lobby of the hotel. In those days that’s what you did when you broke a dish – throw it into the toilet!

I discovered that the original building was two-storied, not three, and that the ground floor was covered with the grooved planks that imitated French rustication, just like on Government House. The second floor cladding was simply planks laid flat with only the seams showing, and this imitated ordinary ashlar stone masonry. The exact same combination could be seen on Province House just down the street.

Both Province House and the Regent Hotel were constructed at the same time so it is no wonder that the humble wooden structure copied the grand stonework of the new legislative building.

A controversy arose about how Cassidy Associates should deal with the building as an archaeological site. Dr. Willie Eliot, with the (probably forced) support of Catherine Hennessey and Arlene Rice, pushed the idea that every old plank that had not rotted away was to be preserved in situ . I still have the set of recommendations that Willie gave the developers. It was as if a marble Greek temple was being restored. My report, at which I am staring as I write this, was less archaeological and more practical. If it had been a stone building I would have agreed with the Eliot camp full-heartedly, but it was a rotten wooden building built in 1846.

We ended up annoying the developers very much and I imagine they got sick and tired of our competing viewpoints. Ignoring all this troublesome discussion they forged ahead.

The developers did, however, listen to the concerns expressed to them, and did their best to preserve what they could, making sure that the first two stories kept their original appearance.

Cassidy Associates produced a finished product of extraordinary style and elegance, that in its details, respects the style of the original 1846 construction. What we have today is a credit to the City and the developers.

 

FROM CHARLOTTETOWN TO STOMPIN TOM

In the months ahead I moved my focus from Great George Street in Charlottetown to a one-room schoolhouse in Skinner’s Pond. In June 1995 the Skinner’s Pond Improvement Council hired me to make suggestions for the redecoration of the Skinner’s Pond School to achieve a more period look. The Stomping Tom Interpretative Centre was still in the planning stages at this time and I was invited to make suggestions as to what elements should be found in it. (Photo from the internet.)

It was inevitable, that finding myself in this new cultural milieu, I would rush out and buy a Stompin Tom CD for my big 4×4 truck. I roared through Skinner’s Pond, Nail Pond, Christopher’s Cross and Tignish with this blasting from my speakers:

The clock was from Toronto, and her mind was soon made up-

She said to Reggie, “get the cow, and load her on da truck,

We’re headin’ for Ontario and we’re off to make ‘er big!”

‘Cause Margo’s got the cargo b’y and Reggie’s got da rig!

Reggie’s got the rig, Reggie’s got the rig;

Margo’s got the cargo b’y, and Reggie’s got the rig!

 

 

THE IRISH MONUMENT ON THE WATERFRONT

It was back to Charlottetown again for the next project, when I was hired by the Celtic Heritage Association for Prince Edward Island to write the Terms of Reference document for a design competition for a memorial to the Irish settlers of PEI.

By June I had produced a very detailed document that artists and sculptors – or anybody! – who wanted to compete for this extremely important monument could use as a guide in preparing their submission. The competition closed on August 25, 1995.

A Masonry Conservator from Montreal, Trevor Gillingwater, submitted the design above that was chosen by the Committee, after much agonising. There had been a number of interesting submissions.

The idea of the monument, which has still to be fully realised, was to create a small classical theatre seating arrangement around a round patio made up of 32 pie-shaped slabs of stone individually chosen by Trevor in each of the Irish Counties. They were shaped and fitted in his Montreal studio and shipped to Charlottetown where, with the help of a most excellent local contractor, the whole was assembled on a re-enforced concrete slab set on pylons. A bronze plaque was placed in the centre and a bronze strap bound the edges. The whole was dominated by a carved reduced replica of the 7th Century High Cross of Moone. Imagine this picture with a substantial grove of trees behind it and you will see a sacred spot.

The intention was that visitors could come to the monument and step on the ground – the stone slabs – of their ancestors. They could sit in the theatral area, and in the shade of a grove of trees (yet to be planted) they could contemplate the very beautiful mouth of the harbour where the majority of Irish immigrants landed on Prince Edward Island.

As a student, Trevor had spent several years in Greece studying art and archaeology, and masonry in particular. The idea of using a Greek theatre format with seats facing a round orchestra, which in turn lay before an amazing vista, was probably inspired by his experiences on the Akropolis in Athens, and the great theatres at Delphi and Epidauros, all with amazing views of the landscape.

(Two winters ago, the monument was severely damaged when a city worker(s) repeatedly drove a heavy snow plough over it. It was restored – but with Quebec granite!!! – and still awaits a true restoration with appropriate Irish stones.)

 

A CHARLOTTETOWN INTERPRETATIVE CENTRE IN THE OLD RAILWAY YARDS

In April 1996 Tourism PEI and the Capital Commission of PEI invited me to present a proposal for a new interpretative centre for the City. I wrote a Concept for a Prince Edward Island and City of Charlottetown Interpretative Centre in the former 1876 Railroad Stone Building. This beautiful Island sandstone building dates from 1876 was in the process of being carefully restored by Mr. da Fonseca and his crew of restoration masons. I can’t recall in the centre was built.

At this time my health was beginning to decline alarmingly as bouts of depression, anxiety and exhaustion became more frequent and more intense. Completing contracts on time became more and more difficult, resulting in unhappy confrontations.

 

PROPOSAL FOR A MI’KMAQ MUSEUM AT LENNOX ISLAND

In 1998 the Lennox Island Band Council hired me to do a Planning Study for a new Mi’kmaq Museum at Lennox Island (the Chief preferred the old spelling of the name).

I believe that I did a good job and that there is much material in this study that is still relevant today. The Chief did everything possible to help me find documentary material to research the project and we spent some happy time together discussing his people and how we could educate the public about their history and their world. This project ended badly as I was late in producing the Proposal, and as a result, half of my fee was not paid.

 

 

TEACHING AT U.P.E.I.

Throughout all this time I continued to teach Art History courses at UPEI – eleven courses in just under three years. My energy was diminishing at such a rate that I eventually eliminated the courses I taught out of town. I was happy that my last course was on the art and architecture of PEI.

Fine Arts 301 – Renaissance Art, Fall Semester, Summerside, 1995

Fine Arts 101 – Introduction to Art History, Fall Semester, UPEI, 1995

Fine Arts 451 (SS) – Art and Architecture of PEI, Fall Semester, UPEI, 1995

Fine Arts 302 – Baroque and Rococo Art, Spring Semester, Summerside, 1995

Fine Arts 102 – Introduction to Art History, Spring Semester, UPEI, 1995

Fine Arts 211 – Roman Art, First Summer Session, UPEI, 1995

Fine Arts 321 – Canadian Art, Spring Session, UPEI, 1995

Fine Arts 102 – Introduction to Art History, Spring Semester, UPEI, 1996

Fine Arts 302 – Baroque and Rococo Art, Spring Semester; UPEI, 1996

Fine Arts 101 – Introduction to Art History, Fall Semester, UPEI, 1997

Fine Arts 452 (SS) – Art and Architecture of PEI, First Summer School, UPEI, 1997

 

 

THE 1999 TIGNISH BICENTENNIAL PROJECTS

In 1999 Tignish celebrated the bicentennial of the arrival of the first Acadians in the fall of 1799. It was, to many, an exclusive Acadian event, and expectations were high that nothing would interfere with the purity of this moment. It was also the bicentennial of the Parish of Saint Simon and Saint Jude which was to celebrate this event by restoring the high altar for the church, and build a monument to the Bicentennial of the Parish that was a gift from one of the parishioners.

There was to be a new village interpretative centre, supported generously by many organisations and individuals. In these wonderful projects there would moments of trauma when new plans threatened old accomplishments.

There had been a history museum in Tignish for some years. It was the dream and personal passion of church organist J.-Henri Gaudet.

With his charm and great energy Henri gathered together every historical artefact that could be found and was available on the history of Tignish. After a planning and fund-raising phase, exhibits, following guidelines set by the Community Museums Association, opened in the Dalton School.

Built in 1930 as a gift from fox millionaire Sir Charles Dalton, a native Irish son, it was meant to be a school for boys run by an imported religious order. This did not happen and by the 1950s student numbers were such that the CND Convent, the village school since the 1860s, could not contain them all. Some grades, including the French primary school, were moved there. By the mid-1950s the senior high grades, and a chemistry laboratory, were all set up in the Dalton School.

As time went on, a new high school was built next to the cemetery. Educational standards were changing and although perfectly good spaces were available in the Dalton School, portable school cabins, which were all the rage, were set up for the primary and elementary grades. The Dalton School received little use as the Twentieth Century came to a close.

Henri Gaudet was able to obtain all the space he could dream of to set up a community museum. He followed advice given to him with much attention, and in a short while converted former classrooms into galleries complete with appropriate wall surfaces, track lighting, upholstered benches and a beautifully refinished hardwood floor. The museum was developing exceptionally well and even had rooms set aside for basic conservation, processing and storage. It ranked among the best community museums on the Island.

But the building was falling apart.

In 1995  masonry conservator Trevor Gillingwater prepared a report on the brick masonry of the structure for the Tignish Historic Foundation. After extensive study inside and out, his conclusions were not encouraging. For many years water had been entering the walls through various avenues. Water collected between the walls froze and expanded, causing the face bricks to separate and push outward, in some places more than four inches. Bricks began to fall to the ground.

Water made its way into the I-beams encased in concrete and the rust expanded ten times the original thickness of the iron beams. Very extensive work, inside and out, would have to be done to stabilise the structure which most certainly would have cost at least a million dollars. All the bricks would have to be replaced as well as the roofing and the extensive and complicated gutter system. It was decided that this iconic structure – a very handsome building in an intimidating sort of way – should be demolished and a modern community centre built in its place.

J.-Henri Gaudet was devastated that his years of very hard work would succumb to the wrecker’s backhoe. Even a promise of a new community museum, telling the story of Tignish and area, could not interest him. He was inconsolable. The Dalton School was torn down and preparations for the new centre begun.

 

THE NEW TIGNISH INTERPRETATIVE CENTRE

It was at this time that I was invited by the West Prince Development Corporation to submit a proposal – Concept, Storyline, Graphics Research, Photography and Production Supervision for a Museum of Human and Natural History at Tignish – for a new history interpretative centre, not a museum. Artefacts relevant to the history of the area would be incorporated in the displays, and that included the majority of what had already been on display in Henri’s museum. (Photo from the internet.)

Peter Ratelle was hired to articulate these new spaces, working under the supervision of Scott Harper, who had directed the project at North Cape. A very positive working relationship already existed and participation in this project was an optimistic thing.

I presented working proposals for a storyline to the museum board and they were surprised at how wide a subject area I wished to cover. I began with the geology of the area and the identification of the various ecosystems found in Lots 1 and 2. There was also to be a component about the First Nations. Only then did I move on to the arrival of the Acadians and the Irish. My storyline was criticised for not paying enough attention to the Acadians because, after all, they were the founders. I saw things differently: I saw the Acadians and the Irish, having arrived within a few years of each other, working together to create the amazing community that is Tignish. I made sure that in my storyline, the coming of each ethnic group was treated separately and with all the known facts about their arrival and settlement set out plainly.

To ensure that my narrative was accurate, I sought advice from historians Georges Arsenault and Dr. Edward MacDonald. Elizabeth Cran, who had already written a history of the Parish and was working on a history of Tignish, was very helpful in many ways. Sadly, since we were no longer on speaking terms, I had to consult Henri Gaudet’s newly-published Bicentennial illustrated history of Tignish, Photo Historica. It contains all his ideas about the village and its people. I also spoke to the Island Nature Trust about the natural history elements. In the end, the story line that was used – with adjustments as construction began – is this one in pdf format. I think that it is still valid today.

Tignish Museum Storyline – June 1999

Peter, with his usual facility, was able to create a maze in the allocated space that provided adequate room for all the exhibit elements that I proposed.

After we had discussed various options, Peter proposed the following panel design for the whole maze. (The photo is bad – sorry! – because it was taken with an early low resolution digital camera.)

Every panel in the exhibition was carefully designed for flow of narrative and aesthetic effect. The text was all bilingual.

Here are some of the panels with topics of high interest.

At the end of the maze there was a blaze of colour – a diorama showing Irish moss gathering, and a selection of photos by local photographer Aggie Gaudet, who had already published a large coloured book of her own local images. (Again – sorry for poor early digital image.)

 

Always, in the story, was the presence of the church and its history. It is believed that, of all the parishes on the Island, Tignish has the highest attendance at Divine Service. My last two projects as a self-employed consultant would concern the church in my native parish.

 

 

 

THE RESTORATION OF THE HIGH ALTAR AT TIGNISH

When the church of Saint Simon and Saint Jude was built in 1860, the architect was the famous and prolific Patrick Keely, an Irish follower of the great architect of the Gothic Revival, Augustus Welby Pugin. The Tignish church is, in every way, the most perfect example of the Gothic Revival style to be found on the Island. Very sadly, so few Islanders have seen it.

In its original state the interior was painted to represent ashlar masonry. The grooves in the plaster, representing stone blocks, are still to be seen. An eyewitness account describes the general effect, in spite of the brilliant stained glass from New York, as dark. To counteract this, in 1888, a celebrated Quebec church decorator, Francois Xavier Meloche, was hired to give the interior a bright look and to cover large areas of walls with significant paintings. This was the effect.

This decoration scheme lasted into my lifetime, as did the original appearance of the altar, which was a combination of marble and a stucco compound called scagliola, which could be made to look quite convincingly as expensive marbles. There were three bronze low reliefs in the front of the altar table representing the Nativity, a Pieta or Depositio, and the Ascension into Heaven. I took a photo of the altar in 1960 and this is what it looked like. Except for the upper portion of the tabernacle, which had been painted with lighter colours in the 1950s, it was exactly as it was built, probably by New York craftsmen in 1860.

In 1962-65 the Second Vatican Council was held at the Vatican. The builder of the Tignish church, Fr. Peter McIntyre had been to the First Council in 1870! The Second Council sought to relax a number of strictures in worship and on Catholic life in general. One of the options given to priests who, since early mediaeval times, had said Mass in Latin facing the Crucifix, was to say mass in its very early original form, versus populum, or facing the people. Many priests, especially the younger generation, seized upon this optional privilege with alacrity, just as they happily abandoned the Latin of all previous Christian centuries for the vernacular. To say Mass in this new way meant turning your back on the high altar.

Most Catholic churches simply built an altar table in front of the altar and that way were able to face the people. Some priests felt that the presence of the high altar, the age-old focal point of the Mass, was a distraction from the new versus populum format. Permission to demolish the high altars was soon available and, all over the Catholic world, especially in Canada, altars were demolished and replaced with a neutral screen, often quickly built and quite hideous. In 1965 the altar was demolished and the smashed pieces hauled into the woods behind the cemetery. They soon disappeared. No one knew what happened to the three bronze low-reliefs. The first altar backdrop was built of fake wood panelling available in 4×8 sheets from the local Co-op hardware store. A few years later, and no doubt submitting to the beguiling wiles of church furniture salesmen, this replaced the fake wood panels.

It made more sense and, with a better sense of scale, brought the altar forward and focussed the attention of the congregation on the French or English Mass. Technically it what had been done in the early Christian centuries, but the people of Tignish never forgot their beloved high altar, and so in the spring of 1997, several years before the Parish Bicentennial in 1999, I was invited to submit a Proposal for the Restoration of the High Altar at the Church of Saint Simon and Saint Jude as a starting point for a major project.

A sympathetic and skilled architect, George Guimond from Charlottetown, was hired to produce the plans that would be used by local craftspersons to rebuild the altar. Since I had a considerable knowledge of that altar and its details, I volunteered my services to my home parish. I worked with George until satisfactory plans, to the correct scale and detail, were produced, and observed with the greatest pleasure imaginable, the result of the Parish’s desire to have their altar returned to them. The work, performed by local men, is absolutely outstanding.

All this was done under the leadership of Fr. Albin Arsenault, who was then in Tignish as the Platonic ideal of the perfect parish priest. Father Albin was the dream of every person interested in the preservation of the heritage of their churches. He rebuilt the high altar in Miscouche – I was able to be a part of that project – and redecorated that church, the one in Grand River, and the church of the Immaculate Conception in Palmer Road. He has a remarkable talent in being able to find almost all his craftspeople locally.

 

THE PARISH BICENTENNIAL MONUMENT

Mr. Gaudette, the owner of Gaudette’s Transit Mix, as an act of piety, approached Father Albin and offered to provide the stone and the labour for a bicentennial monument to be placed in the churchyard. Again I was asked for advice and again I volunteered. It was my last professional act, the last in my career, before illness set in and my life came to a standstill.

I had never designed such a monument before and had no idea how to proceed. Mr. Gaudette had access to extensive quarries where polished boulders, both sandstone and granite glacial erratics, could be used to build the monument. The local war memorial, using similar materials, had been built nearby in the 1940s. I am sure that influenced my thoughts.

It occurred to me that the glacial erratics, those travellers brought long distances by the retreating glaciers and deposited, already polished, could represent the early settlers – Acadian and Irish – who travelled long distances in search of a home and security on Prince Edward Island. I then saw the sandstone boulders as representative of the Island itself – Mother Island who embraces those in need of a home.

What shape would such a monument have? As I stood outside the church of Saint Simon and Saint Jude and looked at its great Gothic door I had the answer. The Church welcomes all those who enter its door. I then saw the monument as being exactly the size and shape of the door and placed at right angles on the yard boundary at a point on the walkway equidistant from the door. My ideas now firm, I made a sketch and asked Peter Ratelle to make something of it. I still have the drawing that Peter made to bring together the ideas that were boiling in my mind.

It was a granite boulder cross inserted into a sandstone matrix in the shape of the church door. At the crossing was to be a bronze plaque with the chi rho symbol that in Greek represents the first two letters of Christ’s name. It is one of the most ancient and basic of Christian symbols.

At eye level, and inserted in recessions in the sandstone, were bronze plaques in French and English, that dedicated this monument to God and the memory of those who came before.

At the very base of the cross, appropriate to an act of submission and piety, is a small plaque giving the date in a very old-fashioned way, as during the time when Father Albin was Pastor, and below that, following Christian hierarchical conventions, the name of the Donor.

The design was approved by the Church and the Donor, and the monument built.

I have no idea what people think of it. I rather suspect that it is seen as clumsy, of primitive design, lacking in elegance and inappropriate to the times. That may be as may be. Its symbolism though, is honest, linking those wandering in search of a home to the red earth.

 

 

After all that, I returned to Charlottetown where I became so ill that I was declared unfit for work. And then a great and heartbreaking tragedy befell my wonderful landlord of eighteen years – Orin Carver became ill with a fatal illness and would die within two years. The house at 162 Dorchester Street was to be sold as he tidied up his estate.

Charity, that old-fashioned Virtue, and the kind instinct of loving patrons stepped in and rescued me in an act that almost defies comprehension. I was provided with an old farmhouse in Belle River that had been long empty in return for supervising its restoration and creating a garden based on the one in Charlottetown. In time, and at intervals, I began to heal and be creative again – and my continuing love of my heritage was manifested in public lectures on Island heritage; articles for RED Magazine about folklore and folk history; decorating the interior of Saint Augustine’s church in Rustico; designing a garden pavilion for Governor Frank Lewis at Government House; writing substantial manuscripts visible on the right of this blog page, and now this blog itself.

In spite of what happens, we must try to care and try to work.