Harboured in Time by Lawren Snodgrass in the “Coldest December”

One of the stories in The Coldest December is “Harboured in Time” by Lawren Snodgrass. During wartime, Halifax Harbour has always been a bustle of activity. Activity during the First World War resulted in the Halifax Explosion.

With this horrifying tragedy in the minds of survivors, when the Second World War began, bringing an increase in military traffic, they worried a similar event would happen.

On December 22, 1944, smoke rolling from a ship in the harbour no doubt triggered memories of the SS Mont-Blanc on fire. However, the Governor Cornwallis ferry was not laden with explosives, only diesel fuel and passengers. It made it safely to port, where passengers disembarked. The Nova Scotia Archives website has a photograph of the Governor Cornwallis ferry engulfed in flames.

The smaller Halifax Explosion of 1945, involving volatile explosives, caused more damage, lasted longer and shook those who saw the rising smoke. The series of explosions from July 18 to the 19th originated at the ammunition depot in Bedford near the Harbour shoreline.

These two events – the ferry burning and the ammunition depot explosion – were used by Snodgrass in his short story.

Harboured in Time

Lawren Snodgrass

The warm breeze rustled the leaves on the potato plants as Wilber Coulson pulled weeds with a long-handled hoe. The showers the evening before and the warm July day had made the pesky plants explode overnight. Although Mathilda planned to weed, he insisted she rest instead. In her condition, she needn’t be in the sun working when he could tidy the garden after work. Their son Everett also helped with the chores while she recovered from the most recent bout of bronchitis. Doc Fraser left little doubt her illness would not clear unless she rested and avoided her womanly chores.

The Coldest December

Wilber paused for a moment, wiped his brow and leant onto the hoe to stare off at the harbour a few miles away. From his vantage point on Break Heart Hill, he could see the growing cities of Dartmouth and Halifax, their streets divided by the deep body of water. From this distance, he could not make out people, but he knew they were there. Given the hour, most workers had gone home for the night, yet many remained on the docks, loading or unloading and tending to ships either bound for overseas or arriving from there. The war created traffic jams in the harbour he had not seen for more than twenty years.

The ferries between the cities carried all traffic that needed to pass from one shore to the other—trucks, carts pulled by horses or oxen and passengers—to avoid the long trip around the Bedford Basin. He watched the Dartmouth approach the dock on this side of the water, its stack pumping black steam into the almost clear mid-summer sky, and memories from last December drifted into his mind: the smoke, the terror in the passengers’ eyes, the frantic actions of the ferry crew.

He had been waiting to make the crossing when he heard shouts and looked to see thick black smoke pouring from the Governor Cornwallis ferry. It was still quite a distance from the dock, and onlookers speculated about the cause and whether or not help would go out to the ship or the ship would put ashore for assistance. Wilbur’s first concern was Would it explode? He recalled staring at the flames, unable to move or respond to questions. Once again, he was a fifteen-year-old boy shocked by terrible sights, sounds and smells and running for his life. The horrid taste of burnt oil resurfaced and sweat beaded on his forehead.

A sudden thud and cries for help jolted him from his nightmare, and he sprang into action as he had in 1917. The Governor Cornwallis had docked. Passengers scrambled for shelter, and workers directed the trucks off the burning ship. Wilbur helped an elderly couple to safety, then returned to help a mother and her four children, then a wounded soldier on crutches who had returned from overseas only the week beforehand.

Book Sale

Both eBook and paperback editions of The Coldest December are on sale until the end of the year.

Pick up a copy today at the following online outlets.

eBook: 99 cents

Paperback

(prices stated in either CAD – Canadian Dollars or USD – US Dollars)

To learn more about this book, including the authors who contributed, visit The Coldest December’s page at Quarter Castle Publishing.

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow

It’s been 102 years since the signing of the armistice to end the First World War. Armistice Day, as it was known in the earlier years, remembers and pays tribute to the brave souls who risked everything to defend freedom. Many had fallen but more returned, battered and bruised both physically and emotionally.

During the horrors of war, a Canadian surgeon, who was also a poet who would become world renowned, served on the front lines in Belgium. Apparently, John McCrae, consumed by reflection on the loss of lives, jotted down his famous war poem in 20 minutes during the Second Battle of Ypres on May 3, 1915.

In Flanders Fields has been spoken by millions of lips, whispered at dawn on battlefields and solemnly recited at countless cenotaphs across the world. It has been read to young and old alike.

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A Common Headline from the Past: Lost at Sea

Genealogy research had uncovered my grandmother’s grandparents: Martha and William McDonald. They had at least one child: my great-grandfather William Aaron McDonald.

Little is known about this family, just a few names and dates. The further in time one travels, the less information surfaces about individuals and the more questions arise, such as what was Martha’s maiden name and what happened to William Sr.?

A few years ago, a genealogist from a far-flung branch of the McDonald family tree, who researched William Sr., wrote to say William had been ‘lost at sea’. To be exact, William had drowned 160 years ago today on October 7, 1860, when the fishing schooner he’d been aboard floundered.

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Anniversary of the Saxby Gale

Maritimers are always talking about the weather. I think it’s because if we wait five minutes, it’ll change. We have the winds from the west bringing heat waves, winds from the north delivering cold fronts, the Gulf Steam transporting warm, humid air and the Atlantic Ocean that tries to maintain a constant weather day except for when it’s stirring up a storm.

All this activity makes for a lot of material to discuss. It also makes for a lot of data to analyse to predict the weather for the day. Forecasting the weather for an entire week is difficult at best. Predicting the weather for more than ten months into the future is impossible (though I realise almanacs can be somewhat correct at times). However that’s just what Lieutenant Stephen Martin Saxby (1804-1883) of the British Royal Navy did when he warned the public of a devastating storm that would strike the Maritimes in 1869.

Saxby was an amateur astronomer. He used his knowledge of the moon and Earth to predict the weather according to celestial events. It was known as meteorological astrology. In 1864, he published The Saxby Weather System in which he outlined his theories, explaining his method of predicting the weather.

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Schooling in Guysborough County by John N. Grant

John N. Grant, author of A History of Oldfield Consolidated School 1962 – 2017, has a new book for history enthusiasts. In late August, he released Schooling in Guysborough County 1735-2016A Case Study of Public Education in Rural Nova Scotia.

Description

The history of schooling reflects the impact of economic, political, military and other social forces on the local community. The history of schooling in Guysborough  County covers almost 300 years. In 1735, there was one school in the County; in 1959, there were almost one hundred; in 2018, there were three. This is the story of what happened in between.

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A History of Oldfield Consolidated School 1962 – 2017

John Grant Oldham Consolidated School historyHistorian John Grant, author of Historic Guysborough, is the author of A History of Oldfield Consolidated School 1962 – 2017. It’s a 36-page booklet jam-packed with details of the schools that existed before the consolidation and the events leading up to and following the building of the new school in Enfield, Halifax County, Nova Scotia.

The back of the book contains a list of principals and vice principals who taught at the school.

In 1962 the school sections of Goffs (Guysborough Road), Oakfield, Oldham and Enfield Border were dissolved and Oldfield Consolidated School was built to serve the new school district. School consolidation is never easy. This is the story of the process and the life of the new school.

Grant opens his history lesson:

On Wednesday evening, 1 May 1963, almost 100 people attended the formal opening of the new Oldfield Consolidated School on Hall’s Road, Enfield. The ceremony was chaired by Councillor Mary T. King-Myers, and Lt. Col. Kendrick C. Laurie of nearby Oakfield was the guest speaker. The students of the new six-room school, already in regular use, also participated in the opening by performing “a number of musical selections.” The ceremonial presentation of the school’s keys saw them passed from the school’s builder to the representative of Halifax County and then to the district school board. They were then received by J. Douglas Fleming, the Chair of the local Board of School Trustees, who presented them to the school’s first principal, Mrs. Jean McManaman. The school’s plaque and a Union Jack were also given to the school during the ceremonies which were opened and closed by the prayers of local clergy.

To purchase a copy of the book, please contact Quarter Castle Publishing.