Saturday, August 30, 2014

North to Cape Breton . . .

When I visited Novia Scotia back in 2003, on a leisurely trip along the coast, I never thought I'd want to return for historical reasons. But this year's travel plans may well take us back to Canada, perhaps as far east as Novia Scotia, to research those intrepid Scots who immigrated here in mid-19th Century, leaving behind famine, evictions, and the potato blight.
In 2003, we drove north from Philadelphia with friends, mostly interested in hiking and camping along the Novia Scotia coast. One of our stops featured a small hike through a boggy marshland. 

I'm still entranced by the lovely reflections of water plants in still pools (see above), and my first sight of the Pitcher Plant (below), its carnivorous nature reflected in its intense red coloring. Sad be the insect who stops here for a sip of clear, cold water.

We hiked along the coast following along the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, stopping at wooden walkways that seemed to plunge down steep cliffs, right into the mist. That night, we set up tents overlooking a sharp ravine, the ocean below, and in the morning, watched the sun rise.

Also at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, we came across this constructed "crofter's cottage," nothing like those stone cottages I later visited in the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland, though the walls were of stone and the roof of grasses.

The Scottish heritage runs deep in Canada. Lord Selkirk, in 1803, used his funds and connections to send Scottish emigrants to Red River (near Hudson's Bay; this location and its history will show up in my third book, Rivers of Stone) and to Belfast on Prince Edward Island which we visited on this trip.

Once the potato famine began in earnest, the British Government sent thousands of Irish to Canada, The earlier Scottish Presbyterian settlers clashed with Catholic Irish emigrants in the 1847 Belfast Riot. Just a smidgen of research shows crowds with cudgels on election day, many injured and several killed as these two groups fought in the streets. One of the controversies was whether to allow the Bible in public schools, an issue still debated today in the States.

Anticipate more about our travels to the east of Canada in September. Meanwhile, may your travels bring you unexpected pleasures!

Read more about Cape Breton Highlands National Park OR read about the Belfast Riot in "A 'New Ireland Lost': The Irish Presence in Prince Edward Island" by Brendan O'Grady.

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