“Freedom and a Farm.” The promise was exciting to the thousands of African-Americans, mostly runaway slaves, who were encouraged by the British to fight in British regiments against the Americans. They joined the tens of thousands of American refugees who had sided with the British during the American Revolution, and who pinned their hopes for a brighter future on the British slogan. The refugees left the newly independent states for British North America and pledged their loyalty to King George III.
February is Black History month. We’ll help celebrate it with two entries dealing with music inspired and produced by two very different Afro-Canadian communities. The first is from Nova Scotia. You can get directly involved in this one by going to your post office where two stamps issued for Black History Month are on sale. The one I bought features the face of Viola Desmond. If you buy a booklet of ten you get her story. Stranded in New Glasgow in 1946 and waiting for her car to be repaired, Viola went to the movies to pass the time but found that the theatre was segregated. Blacks sat in the balcony. She refused to move from her orchestra seat and was jailed and fined. She appealed and finally, after a decade, won and destroyed Nova Scotia’s segregation laws. Buy the stamps and read the story.
En 1863, une mystérieuse jeune Française arriva à Halifax par bateau, de New York. Ne pouvant à peine s’exprimer en anglais, elle eut beaucoup de difficulté à demander au cocher de la conduire à l’hôtel le plus proche. Il l’amena donc à l’hôtel Halifax Hotel, où est érigé maintenant le Ralston Building sur la rue Hollis, car le propriétaire des lieux parlaient français et allemand. La jeune femme s’enregistra sous le nom de Mademoiselle Lewley et dit qu’elle était venue pour retrouver un membre de sa famille installé dans la ville. On lui suggéra d’aller voir un certain Philip Lenoir, avocat francophone. Elle lui raconta qu’elle était à la recherche de son cousin, Albert Pinson, un officier britannique stationné à Halifax.
In 1863 a mysterious young Frenchwoman arrived in Halifax on a packet-boat from New York. She spoke broken English and had difficulty asking the carriage-driver to take her to a hotel. He brought her to the Halifax Hotel, where the Ralston Building now stands on Hollis Street, because the proprietor there spoke French and German. The woman registered as ‘Miss Lewley’ and said she wanted to locate a relative in the city. She was directed to Philip Lenoir, a French-speaking lawyer, and told him she wanted to locate her cousin, Albert Pinson, an officer in a British regiment stationed in Halifax.
Nova Scotia is the perfect setting for scary stories. It’s somewhat remote, is foggy more days than not, and its residents love to tell a good tale. Its sea-faring culture has bred oral traditions that have cast the sea as a mighty provider and destroyer that gives and takes away. Unsurprisingly, the sea is at the center of many of Nova Scotia’s best ghost stories.
“He drank like a fish.” “The early bird gets the worm.” “It’s raining cats and dogs.” “You can’t get blood out of a stone.” “As quick as a wink.” “Six of one and half a dozen of the other.” “There’s many a true word said in jest.” These, and many other expressions, colour our vernacular without our being aware that the satiric voice behind them belonged to Thomas Chandler Haliburton, a prominent Nova Scotian.
Haliburton was born on December 17, 1796 in Windsor, NS, the son of a judge and grandson of a lawyer. An upper crust Tory, he was also a successful lawyer and businessman and was appointed to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. He held office in England after his retirement from the bench. He was wealthy, respected and influential, but, despite his accomplishments, he was deeply frustrated.