Vacation Pics – Newfoundland

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill, overlooking the harbour into St. John’s. Built in 1898 to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the voyage of John Cabot’s ship Matthew and the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The site also received, in 1901, the first transatlantic wireless transmission originating from Guglielmo Marconi’s Poldhu Station in Cornwall. 

Not far away from Signal Hill is Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America. The historic lighthouse there really is a lighthouse

Always in the background in Newfoundland: the Dominion’s participation in the First World War, which was disastrous. Ninety percent of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were casualties of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916, which thereafter became Newfoundland’s Memorial Day (clashing somewhat with Dominion Day after 1949). Newfoundland’s university, founded in 1925, took the name “Memorial” on account of this sad event. At the Confederation Building, a book of remembrance is enshrined in the entrance lobby. The flag on the right is that of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Throughout the entrance lobby of the Confederation Building hang the flags of all the Newfoundland branches of the Legion, illustrating certain priorities.  

How we got here: recruitment propaganda on display at The Rooms, laying it on thick. 

The legislative chamber in the Confederation Building.

In the mezzanine of the Confederation Building, a series of busts of chief executives of Newfoundland, starting with Philip Francis Little at the granting of responsible government in 1855. The photograph is of Joey Smallwood, the “Last Father of Confederation” and Premier of Newfoundland 1949-72. 

In The Rooms: Joey Smallwood’s trademark glasses and bow tie. 

At our hotel: the Newfoundland coat of arms, which dates from the 1630s. The shield is great; the Beothuk supporters are “problematic,” in today’s parlance.

This piece of artwork, Jordan Bennett, Tamiow tle’owin (2016), is a play on Newfoundland’s coat of arms and is currently on display in The Rooms. The figure on the right holds a letter that begins:

Your application to be enrolled as a Founding Member of the Qalipu Mk’kmaq First Nation Band has been considered by the Enrolment Committee.

The Committee finds that you Do Not Meet the criteria for enrollment as set out in Section 4.1 of the Agreement in that you have failed to satisfy Section 4.1(a). More specifically, it is necessary for you to prove that you are of Canadian Indian ancestry.

I guess the artwork is asking who a real Indian is. Apparently the whole thing was an issue a few years ago.

The Micmac language is nowadays written in the Roman alphabet, although formerly Micmac hieroglyphs were used. This rendition of the Lord’s Prayer is on display at The Rooms. 

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in the city of St. John’s dates from 1855 and was named a basilica one hundred years later. 

This is what people come to St. John’s to see: terraced wooden housing, each unit of which is painted a different and often bright colour. 

The average fishing village will also feature brightly painted houses. This is a view of Trinity, on the Bonavista Peninsula. Generally houses aren’t built on straight streets or in much relation to each other, but that’s all part of the charm. The church is St. Paul’s Anglican. 

Newfoundland features some impressive seabird colonies on its coasts. This one is at the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Preserve on the southwestern arm of the Avalon Peninsula. Many different birds are found here, including gannets, kittiwakes, murres, and razorbills

In Elliston, on the Bonavista Peninsula, a puffin colony that attracts quite a bit of human attention. 

The puffin is Newfoundland’s provincial bird, and you can buy souvenir plush puffins all over the place. People love their colourful beaks, their short orange legs, and their clownish movements.

At the tip of Bonavista Peninsula, the town of Bonavista itself. Its flag leaves something to be desired aesthetically, but it illustrates how the town got its name, from John Cabot’s words “O happy sight!” (“buona vista”). 

Bonavista has a lighthouse even more impressive than Cape Spear’s. 

Gros Morne National Park, on the western side of the island, features some stunning (and geologically significant) natural beauty. This is Green Point, which has been designated a “Global Stratotype” for the division between the Cambrian and the Ordovician periods.

We bought a linocut of Green Point by artist Christine Koch, who keeps a summer studio at Woody Point. 

Also in Gros Morne are The Tablelands. In the midst of all of the Park’s forested mountains is a short range completely denuded of vegetation and dark orange in color. It is apparently a remnant of the earth’s mantle thrust up some four hundred million years ago, and the reason why Gros Morne is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Its peridotite composition does not sustain much plant life, and I would say that it looks like the surface of Mars save for the bits of snow still present at the top of the hill, which form runoff creeks that were fun to wade in.

Vacation Pics – Quebec

Here’s a typical postcard view: the Chateau Frontenac from the streets of the Lower Town.

In the heart of the Lower Town: Place Royale and the church of Notre Dame des Victoires, built 1723. I was pleased to see this church appear in the film Catch Me If You Can

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Québec, designated a basilica in 1874. It contains the tomb of St. François de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec, and from 2013 features a Holy Door

The arms of Laval are carved on a nearby wall.

The Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (armigerous). 

Monument to Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec, on the Dufferin Terrace. 

Vacation Pics – Prince Edward Island

The eight-mile Confederation Bridge, connecting Cape Jourimain, N.B., and Borden-Carleton, P.E.I., approved by plebiscite in 1988, made possible by constitutional amendment in 1993, and opened for traffic in 1997. 

Charlottetown City Hall, built in Romanesque Revival style in 1888. 

Charlottetown has a coat of arms – it also has a surf-and-turf themed seal, which can be seen here and there. 

St. Dunstan’s Basilica, the Roman Catholic Cathedral for the Diocese of Charlottetown, completed in Gothic Revival style in 1919. 

St. Peter’s, one of the two cathedrals of the Anglican diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (the other is All Saints’ in Halifax). 

The Sunday service featured beautiful church music and liturgy conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer. I was very pleased! 

To the north side of the church: All Souls’ Chapel, designed in Victorian Gothic in 1888 by William Critchlow Harris and featuring sixteen paintings by his brother, Robert Harris. 

All Souls’ was designated a national historic site in 1990.

On the other side of the island, a literary landmark of some importance: Green Gables, the home of L.M. Montgomery’s uncle David MacNeill and the setting of her most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908). 

In the interpretive center, editions of Anne of Green Gables translated into thirty-nine different languages. It really is a wonderful book.

In O’Leary, on the western side of the island: the Canadian Potato Museum. The fiberglass potato might be a little cheesy, but the potato is a very important crop in world history, and on the island in particular, and the museum tells this story very well. Recommended if you ever get to PEI.

Vacation Pics – New Brunswick

St. Andrews, New Brunswick is right across the border from Maine. As you might imagine, it was founded by refugees from the American Revolution; thus is All Saints’ Anglican Church quite “Loyalist” in tone. 

It even has a coat of arms, with the monogram of King George III at the fess point and the eminently Loyalist motto “Fear God Honour the King” (from 1 Peter 2:17).

A nearby Loyalist cemetery features the badge of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, which also contains the cypher of George III. 

Now obsolete, but nevertheless still standing: a blockhouse and cannons guarding the border against Americans. 

To the northeast is Fredericton, the provincial capital. This is the back end of the provincial legislature (my photograph of the front end didn’t really turn out). 

The interior of the legislative chamber (Canadian provincial legislatures are all unicameral). I was pleased to learn that New Brunswick still has a Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, who gets a door slammed in his face and who must knock three times to request admission to the chamber. 

Down the street, Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, also armigerous

Confederation

I am from Canada, and an historian, but I’m afraid that my knowledge of Canadian history is not what it ought to be. I was pleased, therefore, to be able to visit the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and to see their exhibit and film on the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. This event was the first formal step towards the union (“confederation”) of four British North American colonies into a new polity, which was granted home rule (“dominion”) status within the British Empire on July 1, 1867.* This “Dominion of Canada,” like the American union to the south, was expandable, eventually stretching “From Sea to Sea,” and all the way to the North Pole for good measure. It achieved legal equality with the UK in 1931 and full constitutional independence in 1982, and is today a first-world liberal democracy, a member of the G7, NATO, NAFTA, and “Five Eyes,” with a 1.8 trillion dollar GDP, a “very high” human development index, and an international reputation for inoffensive blandness.

But we can certainly be very proud of ourselves.

From 1859, the UK Parliament was under the control of the Liberals, who favoured both dominion status and confederation: they wanted to offload the expense of running the colonies onto the colonies themselves, and were prepared to allow them greater control over their domestic affairs as the price of doing so; they also wanted to strengthen “British North America” against the United States, engaged as it was in a bloody Civil War, which might turn north at some point. Thus the Charlottetown Conference, which was held September 1-9, 1864. It was originally called to discuss the possibility of the union of the three British maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, and it was held in PEI because that colony was the most initially recalcitrant: it was the smallest, and feared that it would be swamped in any proposed union; it also was doing quite well economically and saw only a downside to joining up with others. But politicians from the United Province of Canada heard about the conference and asked to join, and they ended up dominating it, with John A. Macdonald and George Brown presenting a suave and ultimately convincing case for a union that included Canada (i.e., Ontario and Quebec), in between lots of eating, drinking, and socializing. Canada was itself a victim of frequent constitutional deadlock, and was presumably hoping for a new arrangement that might break this unfortunate situation. 

The film (which I wish I could find on YouTube) makes apparent that this gathering was a men’s club; no women formally participated, and no Native people either. All the same, the Conference was a success, leading to the Quebec Conference the next month, at which the 72 Resolutions were adopted, outlining the framework for a proposed union that potentially included Newfoundland, British Columbia, Vancouver Island (at the time a separate colony), and the Northwest Territory as well. The central issue was whether the union would be a unitary state or a decentralized country on the model of Switzerland; the result was a compromise between these two poles, with an elected lower house and an appointed senate. 

Two years of debate followed before the London Conference of 1866, which hammered out the British North America Act for the three colonies still interested: Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The BNA Act received royal assent on March 29, 1867, and passed into law on July 1 of that year. Prince Edward Island ultimately decided that it was not interested, and even the other maritime provinces had misgivings: in New Brunswick, the Anti-Confederation Party won the 1865 election, but was defeated the following year; in Nova Scotia, Anti-Confederates won 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature in 1867, unfortunately (for them) too late to prevent Confederation from happening. The Anti-Confederates thought that the Maritimes would be overwhelmed in the new country. Their opponents claimed  that the Maritimes were powerless anyway, and union with Canada was their only hope of influence, a view that ultimately prevailed.

This is the facade of Province House in Charlottetown, where the PEI Legislature sits and where the Charlottetown Conference was held. As you can see, it is currently under restoration, so this is the only view of it I can provide.

In the Confederation Centre for the Arts, however, one can see a replica conference table for delegates…

…and (for now) a statue of an important participant and first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald. 

Prince Edward Island, as it happens, did join Confederation in 1873. In just a few years it went from prosperity to near bankruptcy, largely as the result of that archetypical nineteenth-century prestige project: a railway. The story was that the builders were paid by the mile, and that every small town on the island demanded railway access, so the railway took a meandering path across the island, raising its cost significantly. Canada agreed to take on these debts and to finish the project, and to provide a permanent link with the mainland; thus did PEI become a province, and Charlottetown can now boast that it is the cradle of Confederation. 

This was not the case in Newfoundland, which joined Confederation only in 1949. Newfoundlanders had heard of the Charlottetown Conference, but too late to attend it; they had come to the Quebec Conference, but only as observers. The Newfoundland election of 1869 was fought largely on the issue of Confederation, with the anti-confederates winning 21-9, and putting the issue to rest for the time being. It resurfaced in 1895 after the failure of Newfoundland’s Union and Commercial Banks, but no agreement with Canada could be reached, and Newfoundland retained its independence and weathered the financial storm. In 1907, as the result of the Imperial Conference that year, Newfoundland received dominion status within the British Empire – but this was largely a formality, as the colony had enjoyed responsible government since 1855. 

However, Newfoundland lost this status in 1934, and reverted to being a crown colony, the only dominion ever to do so. No longer did Newfoundland enjoy even responsible government – instead, it was run by an unelected seven-man Commission of Government, civil servants directly answerable to the British Parliament. The Great Depression had hit Newfoundland hard, and rather than default on its debt payments, it agreed to a suspension of its parliament until such time as it could become self-sustaining. But this never came to pass. According to Greg Malone in Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders (2012), a secret deal was struck between Canada and the United Kingdom during World War II which would deliver Newfoundland into Confederation, in return for Canada forgiving certain wartime loans it had made to the UK. With Newfoundland a province, Canada’s strategic position could be improved – it would have the Gander and Goose Bay airfields, at the time essential refueling stations for transatlantic flights, and the risk of Newfoundland joining the United States and becoming a sort of eastern Alaska would be obviated. Disputes over the fishery would be minimized, and Canada would get its hands on the potential mineral and hydroelectric resources of Labrador. 

Malone claims that Confederation may have been inevitable, but he insists that Newfoundland should have had responsible government reinstated first, as had been promised. Then the place would have been in a much better bargaining position with Canada. As it stands, the British essentially negotiated with Canada on behalf of Newfoundland, not particularly caring for the details so long as it was no longer their problem. A referendum on the arrangements was still seen as politically necessary, however, and three choices appeared on the ballot in 1948 – continuation of the Commission of Government, a return of responsible government, or confederation with Canada. In the first round responsible government won, but it did not receive an absolute majority, so a runoff was held the next month, which Confederation won with 52.3% of the votes cast. The option of union with the United States was kept off the ballot, and the Confederates, led by the charismatic Joey Smallwood and secretly funded by Canada, enjoyed an immense tactical advantage. 

Referendum propaganda on display in The Rooms, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Provincial Museum and Art Gallery. “Canada’s social programs” formed a great deal of the appeal of Confederation to poor Newfoundlanders, who tended to see responsible government as control of Newfoundland by a clique centered on St. John’s. 

But whatever the details, the Newfoundlanders voted for it, right? Ultimately, there’s no arguing against the results of a referendum. The really shocking claim of Malone’s book, though, is that the vote was rigged; that responsible government really won the second referendum of 1948, and that dirty tricks, of the sort allegedly played in Illinois during the presidential election of 1960, ensured a surplus of about 7000 votes in favor of the correct outcome. Thus did Canada get control of Newfoundland’s fishery, which it has mismanaged, and of the development of the iron mines of Labrador, which employ many locals but whose profits flow elsewhere. The Churchill Falls Generating Station, a joint project between Newfoundland and Quebec, ended up being a terrible deal for Newfoundland, but according to Malone Ottawa forced them to ratify the agreement for the sake of bribing Quebec not to secede. 

The Confederation Building, St. John’s, Joey Smallwood’s monument to himself. Opened in 1960, it replaced the Colonial Building as the meeting place for Newfoundland’s legislature. It also houses several governmental departments. 

It was eye-opening for me to visit a part of Canada that has such genuine and persistent grievances against the federal government. This is very seldom an issue in my home province of Ontario. And yet, if the ubiquitous appearance of the maple leaf flag indicates anything, Atlantic Canadians are not hoping to secede any time soon. 

Many Newfoundland homes feature a cross-shaped “nautical” pole from which multiple flags fly; the flags of Newfoundland and Canada are both very popular. 

* It seems to me that the word “Confederation” has survived much better than “Dominion” has in the Canadian vernacular. “Dominion” now connotes a colonial junior-partnership, and was never really translatable into French. “Confederation” suffers neither of these drawbacks, and lives on in the names of such things as the Confederation Centre, Confederation Bridge, Confederation Square, etc. In my youth there existed a supermarket chain named Dominion which has gone the way of all corporate mergers, and I believe that at one point there was person known as the Dominion Geographer in Ottawa. Otherwise, I can think of no other everyday appearances of this word. Good thing Canada is a “Confederation,” though, not a “Confederacy.”

L’Anse Aux Meadows

I’m hoping to blog something about our visit to the only authenticated Viking site in North America (if Greenland is not part of North America, of course). In the meantime, I wanted to post this article from Medievalists.net, which suggests that the Norse continued to revisit and reuse the site throughout the High and Late Middle Ages:

New archaeological information uncovered at Viking site in Newfoundland

Researchers from Memorial University in Newfoundland and Liverpool John Moores University made the discovery of a previously unknown archaeological layer, about 30 metres from the 1,000-year-old Norse ruin.

While the new location did not produce any culturally specific artifacts, archaeologists did discover charcoal and wood-working debris. Laboratory analyses also confirmed insect remains, including early records for beetle species assumed to be post-Columbian (1492) additions to the Canadian fauna.

“We are still not sure what this new deposit is,” said Dr. Paul Ledger of Memorial University and the lead author of the article. “Its general character and microscopic content resembles Norse deposits elsewhere in the North Atlantic, but carbon dating indicates it dates from the late 12th to mid-13th century, after the Norse settlement.”

The article, published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, notes that the new research “indicates the possibility of sporadic Norse activity beyond the early 11th century. Data from indigenous contexts is less precise, and activity is modeled to have begun between the 8th and 12th centuries. L’Anse aux Meadows therefore could have been a shared zone of interaction.”

The full article may be read in PNAS. 

Canadian Flaggery

Apologies for my long absence this past month, dear reader, as my family and I were on an extended road trip through Atlantic Canada, with a return leg through Quebec and Ontario. We saw and learned a lot, and I’m hoping to write some posts about our experience. This one, following a great theme of this blog, will be about… flags!

The provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia comprise “the Maritimes,” and they all feature the same type of flag:

Flag of New Brunswick, flying in St. Andrews, N.B.

Flag of Prince Edward Island, flying in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Flag of Nova Scotia, flying in Pictou, N.S.

That is, all the Maritime flags are essentially banners of the provincial arms:

Arms of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. Wikipedia.

The only difference between any of the arms and any of the flags derived from them is the red and white border added to the flag of PEI. 

Design-wise, this is a good way to do things. Most provincial flags date from the mid-1960s, around the time that the current Maple Leaf flag replaced the Canadian Red Ensign. Both Ontario and Manitoba adopted provincial Red Ensigns out of spite, but in the Maritimes “banners of arms” prevailed. 

Canadian Red Ensign, de facto national flag of Canada 1957-65, hanging in All Saints’ Anglican Church, St. Andrews, N.B.

Flags of Ontario and Manitoba, featuring provincial arms substituted for the national arms. Wikipedia.

Aesthetically, the Red Ensign motif is a little too cluttered, and symbolically it is a relic of the past. Ontario and Manitoba now suffer, rather needlessly, the same problem that Canada itself had in the 1960s!

For the record: the arms of New Brunswick reference its historic shipbuilding industry; the arms of PEI illustrate its motto “the small under the protection of the great” (the large tree represents Canada, and the three small trees PEI’s three counties); and the arms of Nova Scotia reference Scotland twice, with a blue-on-white saltire of St. Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint, and an inescutcheon of Scotland’s royal arms. These date from King James VI’s original settlement efforts in the 1620s but were forgotten by the time of Confederation in 1867, when different arms were devised for the new province. The original arms were rediscovered in the 1920s and were officially readopted in 1929. 

Flag of Cape Breton Island, flying in La Prairie, Nova Scotia.

An unofficial flag that I did not know about: the flag of Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton lies off the eastern coast of mainland Nova Scotia, and comprises about 20% of the area of the province. It was actually its own colony from 1784 until 1820, with Sydney as its capital. The flag is not very well designed (maps and writing are not good flag elements), but it’s certainly very popular, as I discovered.

Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador, flying on Portugal Cove Road, St. John’s, NL.

The province of Newfoundland – or rather, “Newfoundland and Labrador,” as it has been officially known since 2001 – is somehow not considered part of the Maritimes, but of “Atlantic Canada.” It boasts an abstract flag designed by artist Christopher Pratt in 1980. I was told once that this flag was a project of the government at the time, which would have been Progressive Conservative, and in the 1980s you would fly it if you were PC, or otherwise a supporter of Premier Brian Peckford. But if this situation was ever true, the flag seems to have moved beyond its partisan origins and is now embraced by most everyone. Its symbolism is wide-ranging, with references to water and ice, both halves of the province, Innu and Inuit decorative pendants, the Union Jack, the sacrifice of Newfoundlanders in military service, and the fishing industry (see Wikipedia for more). It also cannot be flown upside-down.

Flags of Canada and the United Kingdom, War Memorial, Woody Point, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Prior to the advent of Pratt’s flag, the provincial flag was the Union Jack, believe it or not. Newfoundland had been a dominion of the United Kingdom from 1907 until 1934, when it reverted to the status of a crown colony before joining Canadian Confederation in 1949. As a colony, of course, it flew the Union Jack, and they officially readopted this as their provincial flag in 1952. Strangely enough, Liberal Joey Smallwood, the one most responsible for getting Newfoundland to join Canada, was still premier. Was he having regrets? Was this a sop to certain disappointed people? 

I do find it interesting how this is a reversal of the usual pattern. You would think, as it was with the national flag, that the Conservatives would be defending the traditional British design, and the Liberals the abstract modern one. 

In any event, the Union Jack is still displayed quite a bit in Newfoundland, even officially. 

Newfoundland tricolour, flying at Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador.

But also appearing quite a bit is the Newfoundland tricolour. Some claim it dates from the 1840s and is essentially a local version of the Irish tricolour, illustrating the same hope for peace between Protestants and Catholics. A Wikipedia editor insists that it represents the “Roman Catholic fraternal organization the Star of the Sea Association (SOSA) established in St. John’s in 1871.” I was told that it emerged out of obscurity in the last thirty years to become universally popular, kind of like Inukshuks and poutine elsewhere in Canada. I was also told that it does not represent any desire for Newfoundland independence; it’s just an alternate, “historic” flag that people have come to embrace. 

Flag of Labrador, hanging at Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Preserve, Newfoundland and Labrador.

The “Labrador” part of Newfoundland and Labrador has its own (unofficial) flag, which dates from the early seventies. I saw it here and there. It represents snow, land, and water, with a sprig of black spruce, the provincial tree.

Flags of Charlottetown, Canada, and Prince Edward Island, flying in Charlottetown, PEI.

I’m afraid that most cities in Atlantic Canada do not have well designed flags. One exception is Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island. They did the banner-of-the-arms thing with their 1989 grant from the Canadian Heraldic Authority. Princess Charlotte’s crown appears in a grid pattern, representing the city’s layout. 

Flag of Saint John, New Brunswick, flying outside Saint John City Market.

Flag of Fredericton, New Brunswick. Crwflags.com.

Flag of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Wikipedia.

Otherwise, cities in Atlantic Canada tend to put their entire coats of arms on their flags, as do Saint John, N.B., Fredericton, N.B., and St. John’s, N.L. Such a move tends to introduce both a lot of blank space and a lot of extraneous detail. Keep it simple!

Flag of Acadia, hanging in the St. John City Market, New Brunswick.

Maritime Francophones, particularly in New Brunswick, are known as “Acadians” and have a distinctive flag, which dates from 1884. It takes the form of a French tricolor, defaced with a gold star, “the Stella Maris, the symbol of Mary, Acadian national symbol and patron of mariners.” The British had assumed control of Acadia in the early eighteenth century, and fears of disloyalty prompted them to expel its inhabitants during the Seven Years’ War. They couldn’t get them all, of course, and later many returned, to form a distinctive community that exists to this day (we stopped in Grand Falls, N.B. – the town was bedecked in Acadian flags, since the Acadian Games had just taken place there). That the Acadians should have adopted the French revolutionary tricolour, when they never lived under that regime, and were clearly quite religious themselves, has always been a bit of a mystery to me. 

Flag of the Francophone Community of Newfoundland, flying at Cape St. George, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Outside of Quebec and Acadia, other Francophone communities in Canada have their own flags. That of the “Franco-Terreneuviens” was flying at Cape St. George in Newfoundland. 

Flag of the Mi’kmaq Nation Grand Council, flying at the ferry terminal at North Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Another minority group in the Maritimes: the First Nations people known as the Mi’kmaq. I saw the flag of the Mi’kmaq Grand National Council flying here and there, although apparently it is only supposed to be hung vertically. According to Flags of the World, the white represents the purity of creation, the red cross the four cardinal directions, the sun the forces of the day, and the moon the forces of the night. (I guess the five-pointed star denotes the sun here.)

Micmac National Flag, flying at Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

We spotted another Mi’kmaq flag outside Confederation Centre in Charlottetown. In addition to the flag of Canada and all the provincial and territorial flags, the so-called Mi’kmaq National flag flies. It’s not as well designed as the National Council flag, but it’s certainly symbolic. Flags of the World states that the three colours, white, red, and blue, signify the three divine persons, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, and the cross signifies Christ. The letters “NMAT” on the right stand for “Nin Alasotmoinoi Mento Tooe,” which can be translated as “I am a Catholic; you, devil, get out.” The letters on the left read “MIGMAG” (an alternate spelling of Mi’kmaq) “SA” (interlaced – a reference to St. Anne), and “LNOG” (meaning “the people”).

Flags of the Province of Quebec flying near the church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, Lower Town, Quebec City.

I am a huge fan of the of the fleurdelisé flag of Quebec, easily Canada’s most attractive provincial flag. The odd thing is that the flags in the photo are the wrong dimensions: the official ratio is 2:3, but these ones were made 1:2, the same as the national flag of Canada. For shame! Where’s their independent spirit?!

Flag of the City of Quebec, flying on Rue Saint-Louis, Quebec City.

The City of Quebec has a cool flag too, which was granted in 1988 by the Canadian Heraldic Authority. 

Flag of Montreal, flying at Quai Victoria, Montreal.

Montreal has a good flag. They added the golden pine tree in the middle a couple of years ago. 

Cross of St. George, flying at Signal Hill, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Finally, to round out the post: a cross of St. George flag flying from Signal Hill, a lookout tower guarding St. John’s harbour. I liked this: I read it as a reference to both Henry VII of England and John Cabot of Genoa, who sailed for Henry and who rediscovered Newfoundland in 1497. (Both England and Genoa used the cross of St. George.) 

Washington and Lee

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Washington and Lee University has decided to make changes to the names of some campus buildings after concerns from students and faculty.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees announced that it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.

The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing. The board also ordered the doors to the statue chamber in the 1883 addition to Lee Chapel to be closed during university events.

These changes are not particularly radical, although I would be keen to know exactly how many “students and faculty” we are actually talking about here (university administrators love to sniff out mandates to do things they want to do anyway). Dropping the “Lee” from the university’s name, so that it reverts to “Washington University,” or changing the name entirely (cf. “Arcadia University“), would be very radical indeed. (Robert E. Lee was president of Washington College after the Civil War and promoted some innovative changes; the trustees appended his name to the place immediately upon his death in 1870.)

Here are some photos from the last time we were in Lexington, Virginia (2006). It is really quite a pretty town – featuring not just Washington and Lee, but also the Virginia Military Institute, the alpha chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., and the grave of Stonewall Jackson.

Payne, Washington, and Chavis (formerly Robinson) Halls.

The Lee Memorial Chapel.

Outside Lee Chapel: Traveller’s grave.

And heraldry! This is the Washington and Lee coat of arms on Lettie Pate Evans Hall.

Saint Louie

We’ve been to and from St. Louis many times, and we always try to see something new en route or while we’re there (along with McKay’s in Nashville, of course – that is a staple!).

This time we stopped at the George Dickel Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee. I had visited the Old Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland and was keen to learn how American whiskey was different from Irish. (Answers: the composition of the mash, the state of the aging barrels, and in Tennessee, the Lincoln County Process.)

In St. Louis itself we got to see the refurbished and newly-reopened Museum at the Gateway Arch. It’s larger than the previous one, and deals with westward expansion in more detail and from a greater variety of perspectives. There’s also some good background on the arch itself, and no longer an animatronic Red Cloud.

The City Museum is like nothing you’ve ever seen. It occupies the former International Shoe Company building and is constantly colonizing new areas of it. The “museum” aspect consists largely of architectural detailing (I was pleased to discover the St. George pictured above), recovered nineteenth-century trash, a large insect collection, and other found objects; these are interspersed throughout an artificial cave system, a ten-story spiral slide, a ferris wheel on the roof, giant ball pits, skateboard ramps, a miniature train for people to ride, a space for circus performers, welded creations to climb on, and much, much more, all eccentrically decorated. As you can probably surmise, the museum appeals mostly to children, although it is fun for anyone to visit; what I like about it is that it’s dark and mysterious, even slightly sinister, an exciting contrast to much of the pabulum served up to kids these days.

Our event took place at the Contemporary Art Center, which we had never before seen. It’s what you’d expect: a brutalist building, with installation art like that depicted above (Jacob Stanley, TIME). It’s worth a visit, and it’s free.

At the St. Louis Science Center we saw a traveling Smithsonian exhibition entitled “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission.” The showpiece is the actual Columbia capsule that took Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins to the Moon and back; this was accompanied by Aldrin’s helmet, a part of one of the Saturn V engines that Jeff Bezos fished out of the Atlantic, and other such objects. I especially liked all the Space Race newspaper headlines, videos of Kennedy speaking to Congress and giving his “We choose to go to the Moon” speech at Rice, and the midcentury-modern living room that you entered through (although I doubt that the television depicted above was all that common in middle America!).

On our way back, we stopped at something called the Arant Confederate Memorial Park, an SCV project situated beside I-24 just outside Paducah, Kentucky. This has appeared recently, and advertises itself, like a car dealership, with a massive flag. But the Battle Flag is not the only one on display: as you can see in the photo above, there are other ones, including all three national flags of the CSA, and the Bonnie Blue Flag.

The flag I was most curious about (as I had never seen it before): the flag of the Orphan Brigade, a Confederate brigade recruited in Kentucky (so-called as Kentucky was not really a member state of the Confederacy).

The flea market next door was festooned with American flags, and I can’t help but think this was some sort of a riposte to Arant Park.