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Tag Archives: Halifax

Gift Tag Reads: From: Nova Scotia To: Boston

I just learned about Nova Scotia giving Boston a big tree every Christmas. Absolutely amazing. Let me tell you about it.

Christmas Tree for Boston from Nova Scotia.

Christmas Gift for Boston from Nova Scotia.

Since 1971, Nova Scotia has given a Christmas tree to the people of the City of Boston in gratitude for their help and support after the Halifax Explosion in 1917. You can read my post on it at https://tkmorin.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/halifaxs-worst-explosions-tsunami-and-snow/

In 1918, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in thanks and remembrance for the help that the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee had provided immediately after the disaster. That gift was revived in 1971 by the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Association, who began an annual donation of a large tree to promote Christmas tree exports as well as to acknowledge Boston’s support after the explosion. The gift was later taken over by the Nova Scotia Government to continue the goodwill gesture as well as to promote trade and tourism.

The tree is Boston’s official Christmas tree and is lit on Boston Common throughout the holiday season. Knowing its symbolic importance to both cities, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has specific guidelines for selecting the tree. It must be an attractive balsam fir, white spruce or red spruce, 12 to 16 metres (40 to 50 ft) tall, healthy with good colour, medium to heavy density, uniform and symmetrical and easy to get access to.

This year, John and Ethel Ann MacPherson of Purlbrook, Antigonish Co., are donating the tree for Nova Scotia to give to the city of Boston.

The 13-metre (43-foot) white spruce is about 55 years old. It was cut during a festive public ceremony Monday, Nov. 17. Each year, the Nova Scotia tree for Boston stands proudly in Boston Common throughout the holidays. The annual event attracts more than 30,000 people each year and 300,000 more tune in to watch the live televised event on ABC.

The Nova Scotian government is always looking for the best tree to send to Boston. If you think you have what they want, here are the criteria and ways to get in touch: If you have or know of a white or red spruce or balsam fir with the following characteristics we want to hear from you.

Here’s some of the criteria we look for:

Twelve to fifteen meters (40-50 feet) in height
Healthy with good colour
Medium to heavy density
Uniform and symmetrical
Easy to access.

Please take a photo to the nearest Department of Natural Resources Office or send one to Tim Whynot at whynottw@gov.ns.ca Tim can also be reached at 424-3615.

To read more about this special Christmas gift and its origin, I highly recommend clicking your way to Nova Scotia Government information pages; you can follow the tree’s transport via twitter and facebook. A few media site that have covered it this year are the CTV News Atlantic, the CBC News and the Bostinno.

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Halifax’s Worst Explosions, Tsunami and Snow!

Prior tо thе invention of nuclear tесhnоlоgіеѕ, the wоrѕt man-made еxрlоѕіоn occurred іn Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 6, 1917, at roughly 8:45 am.   Dеѕtrоуіng thе еntіrе district of Richmond, thе еxрlоѕіоn wаѕ саuѕеd whеn a French cargo ship, SS Mont Blаnс, саrrуіng wartime wеароnѕ collided wіth a Nоrwеgіаn ѕhір, SS Imo.  

Map of Nova Scotia and area

Nova Scotia and area. Source: http://pcmha.com/page.php?page_id=5991Pictou County Minor Hockey Ass’n.

Ships carrying dangerous cargo were not allowed into the harbour before the war, but the risks posed by German submarines had resulted in a relaxing of regulations.

The collision caused a fіrе to brеаk out, which in turn іgnіtеd thе еxрlоѕіvеѕ оn bоаrd. A huge еxрlоѕіоn wаѕ саuѕеd, killing 2000 people and injuring 9000 from fіrеѕ, fаllіng dеbrіѕ, and collapsing buіldіngѕ.  The out-of-control fire aboard Mont-Blanc set off her highly explosive cargo. The ship was completely blown apart, and the remains of her hull were launched nearly 1,000 feet into the air.  The blast travelled at more than 1,000 metres per second. Temperatures of 5 000 °C and pressures of thousands of atmospheres accompanied the moment of detonation at the centre of the explosion.  White-hot shards of iron rained down upon Halifax and Dartmouth. The Mont-Blanc’s forward 90 mm gun landed about 5.6 kilometres north of the explosion site near Albro Lake in Dartmouth, while part of her anchor, weighing half a ton, landed 3.2 kilometres south at Armdale.

Halifax explosion blast cloud

View, of the column of smoke raised by the Halifax Explosion. One of only a few photographs of the blast itself. 6 Dec. 1917 / Halifax, N.S.; 6 December 1917 Source: Library and Archives Canada/PA-166585

The shock wave from the blast travelled through the earth at nearly 23 times the speed of sound and was felt as far away as Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island.  An area over 400 acres was destroyed by the explosion, while the harbour floor was momentarily exposed by the volume of water that vaporized. A tsunami was formed by water surging in to fill the void, which rose up as high as 18 metres (60 feet) above the harbour’s high-water mark on the Halifax side.  Imo was carried onto the shore at Dartmouth by the tsunami.

The disaster had damaged buildings and shattered windows as far away as Sackville and Windsor Junction, about 16 kilometres  away. Buildings shook and items fell from shelves as far away as Truro and New Glasgow, both over 100 kilometres  away. The explosion was felt and heard in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, roughly 215 kilometres  north, and as far away as North Cape Breton, 360 kilometres  east.

Relief efforts were hampered the following day by a blizzard that blanketed Halifax with 16 inches  of heavy snow.

Robert Borden, Canada’s prime minister at the time, was in Charlottetown at the time of explosion and he also heard it along with many of his officials. He arrived and toured Halifax two days later to oversee and organize the recovery and rescue efforts.

Thе еxрlоѕіоn also wiped оut the еntіrе lосаl соmmunіtу оf Mі’kmаԛ First Nаtіоnѕ реорlе that had lіvеd in thе Tuft’ѕ Cоvе аrеа fоr generations.

The last body, a caretaker killed at the Exhibition Grounds, was not recovered until the summer of 1919.  An additional 9,000 were injured, 6,000 of them seriously; 1,630 homes were destroyed in the explosion and fires, with 12,000 more houses damaged.

Many of the wounds inflicted by the blast were permanently debilitating, with many people partially blinded by flying glass or by the flash of the explosion.  With the recently formed Canadian National Institute for the Blind, they managed to greatly improve the treatment of damaged eyes.

The death toll could have been worse if not for the self-sacrifice of an Intercolonial Railway dispatcher, Patrick Vincent (Vince) Coleman, operating at the Richmond Railway Yards about a quarter-mile away from Pier 6 where the explosion occurred. He and his co-worker, William Lovett, learned of the dangerous cargo aboard the burning Mont-Blanc from a sailor and began to flee. Coleman remembered, however, that an incoming passenger train from Saint John, New Brunswick was due to arrive at the rail yard within minutes. Coleman sent his Morse code message and left with Lovett. For unknown reasons, he returned to his post alone and continued to send out urgent telegraph messages to stop the train. Several variations of the message have been reported, among them this from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic:

“Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”

There are a number of books written about this event.  A few notable ones are:

Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917,

Curse of the Narrows: The Halifax Explosion 1917,

Dear Canada: No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1917,

and Dear Canada: No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1917.

 

 

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Atlantic Disaster

RMS Atlantic

The Steam-ship “Atlantic,” Wrecked on Mars Head on the Morning of April 1, 1873, a wood engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, April 1873. Courtesy LittleTony87

For some, the White Star Line is best known for its loss of the Titanic, in 1912, which was lost at sea. But prior to this, they also owned the RMS Atlantic, a transatlantic ocean liner, that operated between Liverpool, United Kingdom, and New York City.

On April 1, 1873, it ran onto rocks and sank off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing at least 535 people. At the time it was the deadliest civilian maritime disaster in the Northern Atlantic, until the sinking of SS La Bourgogne on July 2, 1898, and the greatest disaster for the White Star Line prior to the loss of Titanic 39 years later.

On March 20, 1873, the Atlantic departed on her 19th voyage from Liverpool with 835 passengers (total 952 people on board). A fateful decision was made to make port at Halifax, Nova Scotia to replenish coal for the boilers.

As they approached Halifax on the evening of March 31, the captain and 3rd officer were on the bridge until midnight, while the Atlantic made her way through a storm, proceeding at 12 knots (22 km/h) for the entrance of Halifax harbour.

Unbeknownst to the crew or passengers, the Atlantic was approximately 12 1⁄2 miles (20.1 km) off-course to the west of Halifax Harbour. They somehow did not spot the Sambro Lighthouse, which warns mariners of the rocky shoals to the west of the harbour entrance.

At 3:15 a.m. on 1 April 1873, the Atlantic struck an underwater rock off Marrs Head, Meagher’s Island (now Marrs Head, Marrs Island), Nova Scotia. Lifeboats were lowered by the crew but were all washed away or smashed as the ship quickly filled with water and flipped on its side.

When SS Atlantic began to capsize, Quartermaster John Speakerman of the vessel’s crew succeeded in taking the signal halyards to a rock looming up in front of the vessel. Third Officer Cornelius Brady followed, and together they hauled the forward fore-trysail vang [a heavier rope] from the ship to the rock. Approximately 250 men used this tenuous link, plus three other ropes, to make the 40-yard perilous journey from the vessel to the rock. Later, Speakerman swam from the rock to nearby Mosher’s Island with another rope. Although there was now a link from the vessel to the shore, most were too exhausted to make the journey, and only fifty men completed the second stage of the passage to dry land and survived.

Survivors were forced to swim or climb ropes first to a wave-swept rock and then to a barren shore. Residents of the tiny fishing village of Lower Prospect and Terence Bay soon arrived to rescue and shelter the survivors, but at least 535 people died, leaving only 371 survivors.   The ship’s manifest indicates that of the 952 aboard, 156 were women and 189 were children  (including two who had been born during the voyage). All women and all children perished except for one twelve-year-old boy, John Hindley. Ten crew members were lost, while 131 survived.

The Canadian government inquiry concluded with the statement, “the conduct of Captain Williams in the management of his ship during the twelve or fourteen hours preceding the disaster, was so gravely at variance with what ought to have been the conduct of a man placed in his responsible position … ”

According to one newspaper account, a body of one of the crew members was discovered to be that of a woman disguised as a man. She was about twenty or twenty-five years old and had served as a common sailor for three voyages, and her gender was never known until the body was washed ashore and prepared for burial. She is described as having been a great favourite with all her shipmates, and one of the crew, speaking of her, remarked: ‘I didn’t know Bill was a woman. He used to take his grog as regular as any of us, and was always begging or stealing tobacco. He was a good fellow, though, and I am sorry he was a woman.”

A young doctor from Germany, Emil Christiansen, had been listed as dead in transcripts of the passenger lists sent to newspapers, but it seems he had survived. Apparently, Dr. Christiansen had survived the wreck with only a broken arm and left for the United States. It is believed that he did not speak very much English and did not know how to report his status to the proper authorities.

For more about the Atlantic, I would suggest visiting Official Nova Scotia’s website.

 

 

 

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Nash Was the First

Pic of RCMP

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The RCMP, who “always gets his man,” have been part of Canada’s identity since the 1870s.  In RCMP history, Constable John Nash, tragically, was the first Mountie to die in the line of duty.

Nash was one of the original members who made the voyage westward in 1874 from Fort Dufferin, Manitoba to present-day southern Alberta.

The specifics of his death near Fort MacLeod in the Northwest Territories remain a mystery, because most of his service records were lost in the 1897 fire that damaged the West Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. However, there is a document held at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters. It confirms that Nash was born in 1849, that he joined the force in Halifax in 1873, that he was nominated to the Honour Roll, and that his death was related to an accident involving his horse.

We also know that he served the RCMP from October 18, 1873 to March 11, 1876.

As reported by edmrcmpvets.ca, Nash signed up for a five-year term of service with the RCMP.  For his service, he received a salary of 75 cents a day and a promise of a 160-acre land grant after his term.  Even though he didn’t serve the full five years, the land grant was granted to his mother in Halifax.

He was 27 years old when he died.

His final resting place is where he died, at Fort MacLeod (now part of Alberta), in Union Cemetery, in the North West Mounted Police Field of Honour (row 5, grave number 24).

For an impressive list of RCMP’s Honour Roll, go to Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After that, you can find a wonderful site through Library and Archives Canada, Without Fear, Favour or Affection: The Men of the North West Mounted Police.

 

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Black History Month Part Nine

Continuing with Black History Month, I would like you to meet Portia White.

Portia White, Canadian Opera Singer

English: Portrait of Canadian contralto opera singer, Portia White. Taken ca. 1945 by Yousuf Karsh.

Portia May White was born on June 24, 1911 in Truro, Nova Scotia, the third of thirteen children!

Her father, the son of former slaves from Virginia, attended Acadia University in Nova Scotia in 1903.  He became the university’s first black graduate.

Portia White embarked on her stellar singing career at six years old, at her father’s Baptist Church in Halifax. Before she began singing professionally, she supported her musical career by teaching in Africville, in black schools in Halifax County.  A decade later, she won a scholarship to pursue her musical training at the Halifax Conservatory, in 1939.  Soon thereafter, she made her professional début in Toronto, and then performed in New York City to rave reviews.

Portia White went on to international success.  She performed more than 100 concerts, including a command performance before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Edward Wodson, at the Toronto Evening Telegram, said White had a “coloured and beautifully shaded contralto all the way. . . . It is a natural voice, a gift from heaven.”

White has left quite the legacy in her home country.  For starters she has been declared “a person of national historic significance” by the Government of Canada.  She was also featured in a special issue of Millennium postage stamps celebrating Canadian achievement.  And, the Nova Scotia Talent Trust was created in her honour, as was the Portia White Prize.

This Canadian Opera, Classical and Gospel singer died on February 13, 1968, at the age of 56, in Toronto, Ontario.

CBC’s Celebrating Portia White is definitely a must-see!

 

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Black History Month Part Four

Continuing with our series of Black History Month, allow me to introduce you to Viola Davis Desmond, a woman who suffered over something so simple and by doing so, helped in the fight for human rights in Canada.

Image of stamp celebrating Viola Davis Desmond's human right's efforts

Viola Davis Desmond

Ms. Desmond was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1914. A businesswoman, she ran her own beauty parlor and beauty college. On November 8, 1946, while waiting for her car to be fixed at a garage across the street, she decided to go see a movie in the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow. She refused to sit in the balcony, which was designated exclusively for Blacks. Instead, she sat on the ground floor, which was for Whites only. She was forcibly removed and arrested. Viola was found guilty of not paying the one-cent difference in tax on the balcony ticket. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail and paid a $26 fine, that’s approximately $251.30 in 2010!

The trial that followed, mainly focused on the issue of tax evasion. Dissatisfied with the verdict, the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, with Viola’s help, took the case to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. The conviction was upheld.

Desmond acted nine years before the famed incident by civil-rights activist Rosa Parks, with whom Desmond is often compared.

After the trial, Desmond closed her business and then moved to Montreal where she could enroll in a business college. She eventually settled in New York where she died on February 7, 1965 at the age of 50.

On April 15, 2010, the province of Nova Scotia granted an official apology and a free pardon to Viola. Lieutenant-Governor Mayann Francis, the first black person to serve as the Queen’s representative in the province of Nova Scotia, presided. Viola’s 83-year-old sister, Wanda Robson, was there to accept the apology. Premier Darrell Dexter also apologized to Viola’s family and all black Nova Scotians for the racism she was subjected to in an incident he called unjust.

In 2000, Desmond and other Canadian civil rights activists were the subject of a National Film Board of Canada documentary Journey to Justice.

To get more information about Ms. Desmond I suggest visiting Historica Canada, and Black Past.

 

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Like Looking Through the Wrong End of a Telescope!

English: Northwest Arm, Halifax Nova Scotia, 7...

English: Northwest Arm, Halifax Nova Scotia, 7am on my balcony on Quinpool Rd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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When the Acadians were deported from Nova Scotia in 1755, “planters” from New England were brought in to take their place.  As a result, Nova Scotia opened the first Parliament in what is now Canada on October 2, 1758.

Governor Cornwallis,the builder of Halifax, had been given instructions to “summon and call general assemblies of the Freeholders and Planters according to the usage of the rest of our colonies  and plantations in America”, but had done nothing about it.  He was succeeded by a tough soldier, Colonel Lawrence, who might also have done nothing except that his hand was forced by the settlers from the American colonies.  They were accustomed to self-government and demanded it for Nova Scotia.

On  February 7, 1758, Governor Lawrence and his council passed resolutions providing for the election of sixteen members for the province at large, with four from Halifax and two from Lunenburg.  As soon as any community had a population of fifty, it could elect two members.  Nobody could complain about lack of representation when there was a Member of Parliament for every twenty-five people!

The first Parliament in Canada met in the Court House at the corner of Argyle and Buckingham Streets in Halifax on October 2, 1758.  It remained in session until April 11, 1759, with breaks for the usual holidays.  The members voted to serve without pay.  The total cost of the first session was £250, of which £100 went to the clerk.

The Church of England was formally established, but Protestant dissenters were allowed freedom of worship and conscience.  The same privileges were denied “members of the popish religion.”  the British criminal code was adopted, including penalties of the stocks pillory, flogging, branding, cutting off ears and hanging.  As late as 1816, a man was sentenced to have his ears cut off.  For instance, the use of profane language was a criminal offence.

Nova Scotia’s Parliament was conducted with great ceremony.  Charles Dickens, who visited Halifax in 1840, said it was like looking at the British Parliament through the wrong end of a telescope!

October 2, 1758, was commemorated by the Canadian Club of Halifax which erected a memorial tower along the picturesque Northwest Arm of the city.

 

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