Our ancestors would look at us strangely if we said there was a drone flying over Clyde River taking photos, but that is what is happening. Oswald tells me that Scott Stevens has been contracted by the Golf Association of PEI to take photos via drone of the 16-member golf courses in PEI. The benefit we get is to see Clyde River and neighbouring communities from a birds eye view in all their spectacular beauty. The golf course looks great, Oswald and team.
I found a little news clipping from the 1930s where L.M. Montgomery writes about PEI.
There is at least one spot left on earth where a little leisure is to be found, and that is Prince Edward Island. People there have not yet forgotten how to live. They don’t tear through life. Every time I, accustomed to the breathless tempo of existence elsewhere, go back to it, I am impressed by this fact.
There is about life in Abegweit a certain innate and underlying serenity that is never wholly absent, even on days when a church tea is in the offing or the hay on the hill must be got in before it rains. They realize that eternity exists – no, we realize it. For I am one of the Islanders still, though I have made my home in another land for a quarter of a century.
You never know what peace is until you walk on the shores or in the fields of Prince Edward Island on a Summer twilight when the dew is falling and the old, old stars are peeping out and the sea keep its nightly tryst with the little land it loves. You find your soul then-you realize that youth is not a vanished thing but something that dwells forever in the heart. And you look around on the dimming landscape of haunted hill and murmuring ocean, of homestead lights and old fields tilled by dead and gone generations, who loved them – and you say, “I have come home.”
While Walter Shaw was Premier, The Guardian interviewed him about the Old St. Catherine’s Cemetery, also referred to as Shaw’s Cemetery. I found that clipping and it is rich with details. Here are some interesting excerpts from the article:
The cemetery opened in 1808-10, shortly after the first pioneers arrived from the Western Scottish Highlands and Isles. It was a non-sectarian burying ground where people came from miles around to bury their beloved dead.
The land was set aside by Walter’s grandfather Malcolm Shaw who emigrated from Mull in 1806. The old homestead was located about 300 yards above the cemetery overlooking the river. At the time of the interview, he said the depression in the ground was still visible.
The first burial from the new arrivals was a man named MacArthur, from the Riverdale and Churchill branches of the family, in 1810. There is an old story that three MacArthurs occupy the one grave – the original pioneer, his son and grandson. Walter says this could have easily happened as grave markers were usually a small sandstone which could have become displaced, or a small stick that would quickly decay. The graves of many early pioneers have no marks of any kind to locate their exact positions, although most have well-placed headstones.
Shaw said that people from Rocky Point to Bonshaw, Nine Mile Creek to Canoe Cove, Clyde River to Churchill and from the borders of Emyvale are buried here. There is even people from Wood Islands buried here including a relative of the Hon. Cyrus MacMillan.
Because of the lack of roads and the difficulty of travel through the thick forests, homesteads were located near the river to take advantage of river travel facilities, Walter said. The cemetery was located near the river bank for the same reasons. Funerals came by boat in summer and by ice in the winter. The old road that the funeral processions took could still be seen in Walter’s time, and a portion of the new road follows the old trail.
Previous to 1915, Walter said his father Alex would organize an annual cleanup of the cemetery and he knew the exact location of all the graves and plots and could even identify them in winter without a chart when an interment was necessary. After his death, the cemetery was neglected until there was organized effort made by his family and the community in the 1930s to maintain this community treasure.
His closing words describes this old cemetery as “a lasting and beautiful memorial to those who founded it and who sleep in its embrace.”
Editor’s note: The MacMillan was likely Margaret MacMillan who was married to Duncan Darrach. The MacMillan’s settled in Wood Islands. We featured a story on the MacMillan clan earlier here.
List of those buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery – link here.
Clyde River artist Julia Purcell has an exhibit and sale of her original works at Gallery 18 in New London. The show is called Finding My Voice and features new paintings of Island views. The show continues through until Sunday, August 28th. Gallery 18 website here.
Doreen Pound attended the opening of the exhibit on August 7th. She says there are both watercolour and oil paintings. Her favourite was a landscape view of Clyde River from the vantage point of Jo-Ann MacPhail’s. Almost half of the paintings are of Clyde River.
We are having a lovely summer, so make sure to take a drive up to New London with your friends, neighbours or off-Island guests.
Julia leads the Art in the Park event at Murchison Place Park each summer.
It’s summer in Prince Edward Island, a time when aside from all the tourism activity, Islanders travel anywhere from 2 to 30 minutes to stay at their cottages. It’s not that we don’t like our neighbours but it’s just that we have already heard all their stories over the winter and we are in desperate need of some new ones and we are drawn to the shore. We don’t want to move too far away from home because we want to make sure we actually know the characters in the stories.
I am in Argyle Shore. It’s where my parents took us to the shore as children and where my grandparents took my mother and her siblings in summers. My mother’s family went to MacDougall’s shore as they were relations. Our parents took us to Argyle Shore Provincial Park. You could park handy to the water. The Park had picnic tables, play equipment and washrooms close by. There was even a natural spring to keep soft drinks cold. We were fortunate if we didn’t have to stop at the cemetery on the way. My mother liked to walk through, linger and remember Argyle Shore people that she knew as a child.
The Selkirk Settlers’ migration extends to Argyle Shore. It’s MacPhail country for the most part. Historical ties run through communities from here to Wood Islands. In the Murray Diaries (1911-25), there is mention of family from DeSable down for a visit to Clyde River. The DeSable relatives took the Murrays for a drive in their new car in 1922. In Mary Ann MacDougall Darrach’s letters (1904-07), she wrote that she had travelled from Clyde River down to Eldon. I recall her writing how “good it was to see my people”. Grace Seller Inman-Morrison from Argyle Shore was asked what was the greatest thing that happened in her lifetime and she said it was the telephone. When she married and moved to another community, it offered her an opportunity to stay connected to her people.
I am staying on Harvey Inman’s shore, Grace’s son, right beside Argyle Shore Provincial Park. In fact, he manages the Park. On the field below his home place, he has created a small community of cottage dwellers. Many began renting a cottage from Harvey years ago and went on to purchase their own little piece of heaven. It’s a quiet place offering ample time for rest and reflection. As you travel along Route 19, you will see many similar cottage communities in DeSable, Canoe Cove, Rice Point, Nine Mile Creek, Cumberland, Fairview, New Dominion and Meadowbank where friends and relatives reconnect after long winters. There are Islanders, those married to Islanders, long-term summer residents from other parts of Canada and New Englanders for the most part.
There is little in the way of commerce here. The Blue Goose Restaurant and Bakery is in DeSable. Harvey’s store in Crapaud has the largest variety of offerings unless you want to make the trip to Cornwall. Anna’s Country Kitchen even has a drive through. Victoria offers fresh fish, theatre and artisan shops. But there is no need for much. The view of the Northumberland Strait sustains you. I recall when I stayed here years ago for the first time. Harvey told me it was so quiet you could hear the moon come up. Last night’s buck moon, the name for July’s full moon, performed a silver symphony reflected across the strait.
I enjoyed a visit with Harvey and Evelyn last evening and we talked about the Clyde River history lectures we hosted last winter. As a first cousin of Ron MacKinley, he also knows how to tell a tale and he recounted a few stories about playing hockey at North River Rink and the strict loyalties divided by the West River. He had viewed the photos on the Clyde River site and smiled when he saw the men sitting around having a good chat. He said in earlier days, they would have been fierce opponents on the ice.
That’s it for now from across the river on the shores of Argyle. I hear someone playing fiddle music in the distance. Harvey says there’s a wedding on Cranberry Lane.
I travelled out from the city to the Strawberry Social last evening hosted by the Clyde River Women’s Institute. They had a great crowd. As folks arrive, you get a little sticker with a number which is called when seats are available. Alex Dixon says he comes at the same time each year, and this year he had a higher number, deducing there were more overall. I had a chance to sit with J’Nan and Kirk Brown to catch up on their news. They are celebrating their wedding anniversary this summer and still smiling brightly. As usual, they are expecting summer visitors. Not surprising, they live in heaven down by the river.
Sandra Cameron hosted history enthusiasts in the Emily Bryant Room during the event and she had lots of visitors. There are so many things to see. Each treasure tells a story, rather, generations of stories. I recounted one story to some visitors about the small salt dish with a pink hue on the second shelf of the display case which could easily be overlooked. The dish was Lee Darrach’s, the Lee that fought in both WW1 and WW2. He was in the Halifax Infirmary during the time of the Halifax explosion. The explosion catapulted the salt dish onto his hospital bed. He saved it as a testament to having survived once again. He passed it on to his brother Hector which was then given to his grandson and he gave it us. It sits on the same shelf as Lee’s photo in uniform and the two Christmas cards and many letters he sent to his family during the war. These were donated to us from his other grand nephew in Florida. As part of the Capturing Memories project when we invited donations of artifacts, I stopped being surprised by synchronicity. These historical items were coming home along with their stories. This is a memory room, and when we linger by each humble piece, we can remember the people who came before.
J’Nan invited me to drop down to her farm to get a dozen blue eggs from her Ameraucana hens after the social. She and Sidney Poritz who owns the adjoining property debate which of them has the more beautiful land. I am happy to stand on her front yard looking across their fields to the rivers. It’s where the West River and Clyde River meet. Sidney lives on the homestead of my great grandparents. That is where Lee Darrach was raised. I have the letters his mother wrote to her boys between 1904-07 talking about daily life. This was all Darrach property at one time. J’Nan recalls Mrs. MacNeill who lived here before she and Kirk purchased the farm. Mrs. MacNeill told her “the view sustained me”.
As I drove out the long lane from J’Nan and Kirk’s, I was struck by the sunset over Dunedin. The synchronicity of this moment was not lost. I stopped, took a few shots and emailed my favourite to J’Nan with a subject line “Sunset in Heaven”.
The Friends of Clyde River invites everyone to our annual Art in the Park event on Saturday, July 16, from 8:30 a.m. until noon at Murchison Place Park. Guest artist Julia Purcell will lead an art demonstration. All are welcome to take along their art supplies to paint/sketch or, if you just want to relax and listen, that is great as well. We offer a special invitation to families to come out and paint together.
Take this opportunity to stroll through the park to see the many recent improvements that have been made which include new play and swing sets, areas landscaped and new trees added.
Art in the Park will take place in fair weather or light rain. Please check this website for details if the weather is uncertain.
Murchison Park is located on the corner of the TransCanada Hwy and the Clyde River Rd. Coffee and treats will be provided in the early morning but feel free to take along a lunch.