1903 – The Second St Pierre

MCGRATH P. T. (Sir), 1903, The second St. Pierre. In New England Magazine May vol. 28 new series (3) pp. 285-298 illus..

The Second St. Pierre
By P. McGrath

THE destruction by earthquake in May, 1902, of St. Pierre, Martinique, suddenly reminded the world of the existence of that unfortunate city, but there happily has been little to call its attention to a second French colonial town, that of St. Pierre, Miquelon. Yet this latter should be a place of no small interest to us, because it serves as a sort of halfway house for the New England fishing fleet on the Grand Banks, and it is the pivotal point of the famous « French Shore Question. »

It is strange that as St. Pierre, Martinique, was the first landfall which Cervera’s fleet made in its now famous dash across the Atlantic, the original design was to make St. Pierre, Miquelon, its objective, and have it threaten the North Atlantic seaboard, drawing the United States fleet from the Caribbean. In that case the whole theatre of war might have been exchanged and the grim naval tragedy of Santiago enacted with the southern coast of Newfoundland as a background.

Ten miles off that seaboard lies the little French colony of St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, popularly known as « St. Pierre. » This miniature province consists of the islets of Miquelon, Langlade and St. Pierre, named in order of size. Their total area is eighty-one square miles, and the resident population 6,500, nine-tenths of these being located on St. Pierre, which, though the smallest of the group, has its only harbor, and hence has become the capital. It is seven miles long by three wide, and the harbor is formed by a low reef, called Dog Island, which lies half a mile distant, the channel between afforded a sheltered anchorage. A bar fourteen feet below water closes this against any but fishing craft; warships, steamers and large sailing vessels must anchor in the roadstead outside.

The archipelago shows but a pin’s head on the map, yet its loss would be a sadder blow to the prestige of France than any since the conquering German entered Paris. She cherishes these barren rocks as the sole remaining fragments of the vast empire she ruled in America in bygone days, and in this remnant is centred the blighted patriotic aspirations of a people who once enjoyed sovereignty from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi, and who « staked out » a continent which others wrested from them. But France has also a practical reason for her attitude. The descendants of the monarch who gave up Canada with the comment that it was but « a few arpents of snow, » retain their hold on these islets to-day with desperation born of declining power. The cause is not far to seek; St. Pierre is the headquarters of the great French coast fishery on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. That industry is a nursery of seamen for the French navy, and with St. Pierre wrested from the grasp of France, her subjects would be without a base of operations, the fishery overseas would be abandoned and the naval training school would vanish.

In the eventful days when Spain was planning a naval demonstration against the United States, a Spanish agent of capacity and understanding paid a long visit to St. Pierre. A reputable authority vouches for this, and many circumstances occurred at the same time which lend it confirmation. This agent arranged, through a merchant there, to have. large stocks of coal brought from Cape Breton, only one hundred and fifty miles awav, and stored in vessels anchored in the roadstead. Cervera’s fleet was to have taken a northern course and the French cable repair ship Admiral Caubet, then on duty on the Grand Banks, was to have steamed off some hundreds of miles to sea, and there pick up and cut a cable, establishing communication with both France and St. Pierre. Then when Cervera hove in sight, she would signal or convey to him all such information as would be of value. He would next proceed to St. Pierre and coal, and three days later would be off Boston, preparing to devastate the North Atlantic seaboard, and with nothing to oppose him but the lightly armored scouts of Admiral Watson’s patrol, the battleships and cruisers being needlessly blockading Cuba. The plan had this in its favor: France was well disposed towards Spain. St. Pierre was France’s only foothold in North America, and the islet was an ideal base for such a project. A French cable runs direct from Brest to St. Pierre, with no alien connection, insuring absolute secrecy for official communications, while the western extension, from St. Pierre to Cape Breton and thence to the American continent, would enable the movements of the U. S. warships to be learned. There is no British consul permitted in St. Pierre, and the American agent was to have been spirited away mysteriously. Very little shipping, except fishing vessels, frequent the adjacent waters, and the long and indented coast line of Newfoundland, only a few miles off, contains scores of harbors, all remote from the telegraph and many unpeopled, where warships could remain for days without their presence being detected. The British and French cruisers were at that time on patrol duty on the west coast of Newfoundland, hundreds of miles away, and with moderate luck the plan might have been carried out successfully, bearing- in mind the amazing- series of fortunate accidents through which Cervera escaped detection by the American fleet for so long a time after he reached the much-traversed waters of the Caribbean.

But the St. Pierre project was dropped, though why is a closely guarded secret. Perhaps it was because the Grand Banks, over which Cervera would have to come, are so thickly spread with fishing vessels that it would be impossible for the ships to escape detection. Any fishing craft could approach Cape Race and signal the fact to the station there, whence the news would be flashed to the United States thirty-six hours before it could otherwise reach and forewarn the U. S. naval authorities, thus enabling them to forearm against the danger. But, be the reason what it may, another alternative was ultimately adopted, and St. Pierre lost its only chance, in all probability, of ever becoming conspicuous to the world’s eye.

Still, for the tourist who strikes from the beaten track, it possesses an interest few places in America can equal. It has all the charm of novelty, it is absolutely unique, it exists for itself alone. Too few discover what a field for the enjoyment of a sojourn it affords. Jt is a bit of old France which confronts the visitor, set down in this lonely, sea-girt isle. The town is located on the narrow strip of land between the sea and the gently sloping-hill whose crest forms the backbone of the islet, it fronts on the roadstead, extends along for about two miles, and then straggles backward and half way up the incline. Its houses are two-storied gable-roofed wooden buildings, of the type we know as French, and in their quaintncss seem almost as if they had been transplanted from Brittany and had taken root on this lonely rock. This impression is heightened by the unfamiliar language, garb and manners of the people. One hears the rapid chatter and sees the mercurial movements of the true Frenchman, the lavish gesture, the deliberate courtesy, the countless trivial differences which mark a race distinct from our own. The ox-cart goes creaking » by. The gorgeous gendarmes ogle the maidens. The fishermen in huge sabots, bright blouses and flat caps, pass to their work. The women in gay-colored attire, with snowy headdress, look as if they had just crossed from the motherland. The black-eyed children, the surtouted seminarians, the cassocked priests, the clang of the angelus bell,—all combine to set one back a full century at least,—until one is awakened from the dream by the glare of the electric light, to discover that in this one, and only, particular the canker of modernity has eaten into the heart of the picture. Otherwise, everything is ancient, and provincial, and picturesque. One misses the usual accessories of the elaborate civilization of to-day,—the trains, the street cars, the telephone, the daily paper, the high-class hotel, the « sky-scraper, » the crowds and bustle of city life, the strenuous struggle for existence that marks the larger community; and one settles down here in an old-fashioned four-post bed in a modest little pension, and enjoys a refreshing sleep, unbroken by the babel of noises of a metropolitan caravanserie, rising to enjoy an appetizing repast served in true French style, but with the novel combination of a white enamel cloth and real silver cutlery.

For the eye there is much to please and for the camera much to record. The curious little dog-teams used by the poorer classes always amuse the beholder; horses are very rare on the island, and dogs or oxen do then-work. The town crier, who by beat of drum calls the citizens to the main square, where auctions are held, ventures initiated and official announcements proclaimed, is another object of interest. The same functionary makes his rounds every night at ten o’clock, and as his signal is heard the cafcs must extinguish their lights and suspend business, nominally at least.

St. Pierre boasts four stone buildings—for housing the official phalanx —and a stone quay. All were built by disciplinaires, convicts sent out from France for this purpose. But the practice has been abandoned of late years, and the disciplinaires are seen no more. Every other building is of wooden frame, those in the main street being faced with brick or stucco, while the remainder are clapboarded. All the wood has to be imported, even the firewood, which is brought across from the Newfoundland shore in schooner loads and sold at a handsome rate. Even the wood ashes are saved by the thrifty Newfoundlanders and sent across in barrels, being- in demand among- the Pierrois housewives for use in the making of soap. The islands are untimbered, and the absence of forest growth or greenery is one of the drawbacks.

St. Pierre lives and thrives by the great cod fisheries of the Grand Banks. For over three centuries it has occupied a position in French history such as St. John’s has held in English eyes respecting- this important industry. When the English chose St. John’s for their fishing base, the French occupied St. Pierre. It was formally annexed by them in 1660, and fortified in 1700. Two years later the British overran it and held it for sixty years, when France obtained it again as a shelter port for her fishermen. In 1778, during- the American war of independence, England recaptured it once more; but after five years the Treaty of Versailles returned it to France. England again assumed its mastery in 1793, and held it until 1815. Then, by the Treaty of Paris, it was ceded to France a third time, and she has ruled it ever since. When the Acadians were expelled from Grand Pre many of them emigrated to St. Pierre, then in the hands of France. In these days war was really « hell, » and when the French secured St. Pierre, they deported every Britisher they found there, and England retaliated when her turn arrived. Thus the unfortunate Acadians were sent packing- a second time, and now they made their way to the Magdalen Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where they settled in peace and where their descendants survive to this day.

The history of St. Pierre the past century has been uneventful. It gradually grew in population and importance, despite destructive fires in 1865, 1867 and 1879. The prevailing use of wood in its buildings made the disasters complete, but still the place was rebuilt each time, on the same old-fashioned lines. It is the rendezvous for all the French codfishers; the Americans, Canadians and Newfoundlanders also visit it, and it does a large trade in summer. Of late years, however, this has been declining, and St. Pierre admittedly has seen its best days. But for the fisheries it would not exist; if they fail its downfall cannot be long delayed. Should France cease to own St. Pierre to-morrow, in ten years the group would be practically deserted, for the outfitting and smuggling by which it is maintained would then be stopped, and it is too barren to support anything in itself. The earth 10 make the little gardens and flower plots is brought from Newfoundland; the graves in the cemetery on the hillside are often blasted from out of the solid rock. Yet the French love for nature asserts itself, and the gardens are contrived with infinite labor and patience and fostered by unceasing attention. And flowers are to be seen, too, on the graves above, though usually metal wreaths and crosses, fashioned into floral designs, do dutv for the natural ones.

Outfitting and smuggling are convertible terms, so far as St. Pierre is concerned.

« What is St. Pierre? » asked a teacher of a boy in one of our schools recently.

« A smuggler’s den, » the youngster promptly replied. For that is its reputation. More significant still is the saving of a Gloucester fishing skipper who, when asked if he had a good fare, replied, « I’ve done very well, but I’ll run into St. Pierre and fill up with stuff, » meaning opium, fine perfumery and costly wines, which he would smuggle home to Massachusetts in his vessel.

During the summer months while the codfishery is in progress, St. Pierre is a busy, bustling place, its population swollen by the 8,000 fishermen who come across from Brittany every season, to engage in this pursuit ; and its trade is augmented by the needs of this host of sun-tanned voyageurs. The Pierrois armateurs (fish merchants) maintain large fleets of codding schooners, and although every Pierrois who is fit for the work goes off to the banks in one of these the supply of men in the islands is wholly inadequate to crew them, and about 4,000 extra hands have to be brought over from Bordeaux every spring and returned every fall. These are carried across in large sailing ships or steamers, several hundred men in each, and a scene of indescribable activity is witnessed as they land with their chests of clothing and personal effects, while the ships’ holds disgorge immense stores of fishing impedimenta and supplies. Last year a steamer carrying 1,200 of these Bordonnais broke her shaft in mid-ocean and drifted about for a fortnight. She was scantily provisioned, and the captain put all hands on short rations; they were on the verge of mutiny when an English steamer sighted her and towed her into the Azores. The armateurs interested tried to hire two Newfoundland seal-ships to go after the men, but failed, and the French Government had to send two warships to undertake this task, for the mob had virtually terrorized St. Michael’s. This mishap was a bad blow to St. Pierre. It tied up nearly one hundred vessels from a month’s fishing », and they never made that up.

The Pierrois fishing- fleet comprises 350 schooners crewed by some 5,500 men. The season lasts from May to October, and the importance of the industry to France has already been indicated. When the autumn gales drive the fleet off the Banks, the Bor-donnais and their catch are transferred to the waiting transports and sent home, while the schooners are laid up in the inner harbor of St. Pierre anchored head and stern, and bound in a solid mass with chains and tackle to resist the fury of the fierce mid-winter blizzards which rage about the unprotected little archipelago. Beside these there are the ships fitted out from the « Metropolitan » ports—St. Malo, Granville, Dieppe and Cancale —which sail across to the Banks from France direct and run in to St. Pierre only to land their fish or procure bait and supplies. There are about 120 of these ships, square rigged vessels, built in France, and invalided into this industry as they grow too old for other pursuits. They carry about 4,000 men, all told. The Pierrois vessels are bought in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, usually after they have seen many years of service. The French government is notoriously indifferent as to the seaworthiness of these vessels, and the result is that the loss of Frenchmen and ships every year is abnormally heavy. In one gale in September, 1900, twenty-two of their ships, with nearly 250 men, went down on the Banks.

All through the fishing season this tide of shipping sweeps in and out of St. Pierre. Americans, Canadians and Newfoundlanders, united by the bond of a common speech, combine for good or ill. If it is to help a shipmate perform a daring deed, or mayhap to take charge of a cafe, the flag- is subordinated to the kinship of tongue. The Yankee will shout the refrain of the British national anthem, and the « Bluenose » will join in « The Star-Spangled Banner, » and the Newfoundland bait-smuggler will unite with both. If one is struck all are ranged beside him, and their common contempt for « Froggie » is scarcely concealed. When they sally forth after the closing of the wine-shops woe betide the hapless Pierrois who comes their way, especially if a gendarme. He is their pet aversion, and there is always bad blood between them. Sometimes reserves are at hand and the fishermen must flee to their boats; on other occasions the roysterers withstand the few who appear and a turbulent affray ensues.

St. Pierre is also the Mecca of the defaulter. To it as a sanctuary fly absconders from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New England. The extradition laws are nominally in force, but the authorities rarely take the initiative unless compelled. Two years ago two Newfoundland bailiffs went there to secure an offender. The Pierrois hate the « Terranovans » bitterly, and it only required a judiciously circulated report, by some friends of the fugitive, that the officers were really spies of the Newfoundland government in quest of evidence as to fishery matters, to have a mob of infuriated Frenchmen awaiting them at the Quai. The demonstration was so threatening that the commander of the gendarmes advised the two objects of it not to land; and they saw the wisdom of his counsel, preferring- to return empty-handed rather than with a skin full of bruises.

While the trade of St. Pierre is necessarily large, its legitimate commerce bears no proportion to the total volume of its annual turn-over. Canada’s commerce equals $60 per head;

Newfoundland’s, $40; St. Pierre’s, $280. Smuggling accounts for the difference. The import duties at St. Pierre are very low, the customs regulations very lax, the official chiefs very complaisant. The « Yankee » lavs in stocks of champagne, perfumes and opium; the Nova Scotian fills his bulkheads with whiskey and gin, the Quebecker procures brandy and light wines; the Newfoundlander’s tastes include liquors, tobacco and ships’ stores. The extent of this smuggling traffic was almost incredible until the past three or four years. Half the intoxicants consumed in the « prohibition » state of Maine were landed on its coast from St. Pierre; whole cargoes of corn-spirit were conveyed up the St. Lawrence and distributed among the Quebec villages. Cape P>rcton paid scarcely a dollar to the Canadian excise, and yet it never lacked for whiskey; and the south coast of Newfoundland was one vast depot of contraband goods. But a lucky accident enabled (lie Newfoundland government to break up a rcg’u-lar smuggling « svndicatc, » whose principals were found to include even some members of the colonial Legislature. The crusade caused a cessation of operations on the neighboring coast line, and the American and Canadian authorities cooperating, the extent of the traffic was very appreciably reduced. An American agent once accompanied a shipment of alcohol from Chicago to St. Pierre in bond, and its return to the Maine coast as whiskey,—it having been « doctored » at St. Pierre;—and his arrest of those involved was successful in curtailing the business. Canada is the worst sufferer yet, for the racial kinship between the Pierrois and the Quebeckers makes it difficult to secure the evidence necessary to wholesale conviction and the stamping out of the traffic.

Life is easy in St. Pierre, and the people make the most of it. The town boasts thirty-three cafés of different grades, from the high-class ones, where the aristocrats assemble, to the plain cabarets which the fishermen affect. She enjoys the distinction of having the greatest variety of liquors on sale of any place in the world. The costliest vintages can be procured there, and the vilest concoctions that ever were tasted are on sale in the poorest saloons. Sometimes the foreigners forgather with the French, and the meeting almost invariably ends in a disturbance. On one occasion an unusually fierce outbreak occurred, and six foreigners—two Americans, a Nova Scotian and three Newfoundlanders—were set upon by twenty infuriated Frenchmen. My informant, who was one of the Newfoundlanders, knocked down the chandelier with a blow of a chair he wielded, and the six made their escape through a rear window as the gendarmes were thundering at the front door. These, on entering, had much ado to separate the Pierrois, who were clawing and biting one another on the floor, each supposing the other to be the hated aliens, and then all had to turn in and act as fire fighters, for the oil from the lamps had blazed up and caught the woodwork, and serious conflagration was threatened. It was many a day before the aliens involved in that fracas could show themselves ashore again.

The French fisherman has an immense capacity for liquor, but he is not quarrelsome as a rule. He is usually provoked by the more pugnacious aliens, and when many of these are in port the little force of fifty gendarmes, which forms the only military or police organization, is worked overtime in the endeavor to keep the peace between the warring- factions. During the winter disorder is at a minimum and felonious offences are at all times rare, although a few years ago a murder was committed there, for which the assailant in due course paid the penalty by death under the guillotine

The animated panorama of St. Pierre and its ship-thronged roadstead is best enjoyed from the hilltop behind the town. It is somewhat of a climb to the summit, which is crested with a big wooden cross, visible many miles at sea; but the view well repays one. Half way down is the cemetery. Beyond it the outskirts of the town. Then, spread along the foreshore, the little city itself, gray and straggling, its peaked roofs and gabled windows looking so odd. Farther off is the harbor, with its fishing smacks; the roadstead widens out, with its larger vessels flaunting the tricolor. Dog Island lies like a smudge across the picture, and away beyond is the blue sea, save where the outline of the Newfoundland coast marks the mother horizon. All tells of peace and contentment, nothing more so than the little cemetery in full sight of the town, and the upraised cross, which symbolizes the common haven of us all. The cemetery is what one might expect in a fishing town. Few costly monuments; many plain little wooden crosses bearing the legend that tells the life story of the sleeper beneath. Trees, shrubs, even grass plots, there are none. All is desolate and forlorn, save here and there a little mound of flowers, the object of much loving care. Each section is railed off, that wandering animals may not encroach, and all through the summer workmen are busy digging graves for the coming winter, as in these latitudes the frost hardens the soil like flint. Rows of crosses in one corner record the memory of the unknown dead, picked up at sea and buried here. In this section are to be seen the names of many foreigners, while many more of alien race are interred whose name and nation remain a mystery. The disasters which contribute to fill this area are usually those occurring about the islands, for a Frenchman has a superstitious horror of being long with a corpse. Hence, when he finds a dead body on the Banks, he strips it of its boots and clothes, if they are worth the trouble, and then tosses it overboard again, to find a resting place in the oozy depths until the last trump shall sound,

The picture of St. Pierre in its details is as interesting as in its ensemble. On entering the town one notes the healthy, comfortable and contented appearance of the people, the quaint-ness of the houses, the cleanliness of the streets (although there are no sidewalks) and the nattiness of the garb of all who pass bv. The Quai, or government pier, is the pivot of the whole ;

the public buildings front on it, and the policy of the town is directed from this centre. The prices of fish are decided here, bargains and sales are made, vessels are chartered or reported, and crews are hired or discharged. The curing of fish is not permitted within the city limits, and to witness these somewhat unsavory operations one must ramble along the beaches which encircle the island. These are of pebbles and round basalt stones, and are partly natural and partly artificial. The cod are landed from the vessel and conveyed to the beaches, where thev are immersed in crates sunk in the surf, and stirred with long- poles until they are thoroughly washed. Then they are spread on the stones to dry. The process is repeated daily, the fish being- exposed to the full, strong sunlight, with a current of air circulating beneath. For the nights, and when rain or fog threatens, the fish have to be gathered up and stacked in circular fagots under tarpaulins, for the best-cured cod are absolutely devoid of moisture and hard as leather. Three-fourths of the cod consumed in France goes from St. Pierre and the industry is stimulated by an elaborate system of bounties covering every phase of the business, and every man-merchant or fisher—interested in it, the bounties being equal to two-thirds of the value of the catch. The Newfoundland government has partly offset this by forbidding its people to sell bait to the French, and although some daring smugglers evade the law and run cargoes across the twelve-mile channel, the Pierrois fishing has been seriously crippled by the Bait Act, and the rival administrations pursue a policy of deadly hostility which serves to keep alive that long-standing international complication, the French Shore Question. But that’s another story!

The curing of the cod is done by the women, the old men and the beach boys. The latter are lads of 16 to 18, recruited in France by the government and sent out to act as helpers to the fishermen and to learn the trade, so that after three years they may be drafted into the navy. They receive $30 for the season, besides food, clothing, shelter and transport. They are all registered and numbered, and are subject to the ministry of marine at St. Pierre and to the commanders of the warships on the station. The first year they usually spend on the beaches, going to the Banks the next and third seasons, and if hardship is any training for naval service, they are certainly well qualified, for it would be difficult to imagine any more despairful life than that which they undergo during tins apprenticeship. Indeed, for the men as well as the boys, this fishing industry is a terrible one, and revelations two years ago bythe surgeon of a hospital ship sent out with the fleet are slowly bringing about an improvement of the conditions.

On the Banks there is no observance of the Sabbath by the French. but in St. Pierre it is the day of days. The social life of the town is brisk, and the people are noted for enjoyment. The governor is a Parisian appointee, and the chiefs of the colonial administration also come out from France. The armateurs and large traders educate their boys and girls in la patrie, and the elite of the city is therefore a la mode. Balls are frequent, and often are held on Sunday night. The elections for the Municipal Council are held on that day also. The recognized event, however, is the high mass at the Cathedral at eleven. This is attended by everybody, and the church is invariably crowded to the doors. The women in elegant attire, fill the front of the edifice; the older men accompany them, but the younger ones gather by the doors till the service begins, when they pour in with a rush, each one paying a son for the privilege of a chair. The church is ornately decorated and the service is impressive, the singing being by well trained voices. The collection is taken up by two good-looking young women, preceded by the beadle, an imposing personage over six feet high, dignified by a long, black beard, a gorgeous military uniform and a gilded staff of office. After church the young people pair off and enjoy a promenade until dinner time. This is at one o’clock, and is a course dinner, the cooking and serving being excellent, and the wine in full accord. The visitor, if invited out, will find the meal a long one, but the younger folks can speak English fairly well, so that it is preferable to the inevitable silence of the pension, unless one can accommodate one’s school-day French to the (flexible Pierrois dialect. After dinner all stroll out on the wide road that stretches across the island like a ribbon, and at the farthest end of which lies a little fish-curing hamlet, where the beach-boys are housed. From here is obtained a splendid view of Miquelon and Langlade, the two other stars in tins ocean constellation. Miquelon is the farthest off and the-largest. The coves in its rock-ribbed face shelter a few hundred hardy boat fishermen, who ply their quest for cod in skiffs around its rugged coast. Langlade has a thin covering of soil, and a small contingent of farmers eke out an existence by tilling this sterile area. The two islets were formerly separated by a navigable channel, but it gradually silted up, and now one may walk dry-shod between the two at low tide. Many shipwrecks contributed to obstruct this passage, for in times of storm mariners would mistake it for the channel farther south which separates St. Pierre from Langlade, and running head on, their vessels would bury themselves in the sand, the crews being frequently lost. The Dunes, as the shoals are called, have an evil reputation with the superstitious Frenchmen, who will not approach the place when storms are raging now, for they say the spirits of the shipwrecked mariners of long ago can still be seen and heard when the elemental conflict rages, and the furious waves tear the sands from the rotting fabrics which in olden times were stout ships, and which are now exposed so that the wandering Kodaker may record a picture which tells of the vanity of all human purpose.

Church and State have their celebrations annually in St. Pierre. That of the Church is the Corpus Christi festival, when there is a religious procession through the streets, with the prelate carrying the Consecrated Host and imparting benediction from altars erected at each side of the square. The procession is a picturesque one, with its files of girls in white dresses and veils, boys in the uniform of French soldiers, acolytes in surplices and soutanes, collegians in black surtouts, and the priests in the gorgeous vestments of the Roman Catholic ritual; while bearded sailors line the route, and bear aloft crosses and lanterns and religious emblems. The festival is attended by practically the whole population of the three islands, and the devotional exercises are -participated in with fervor.

The State celebrates on July 14 the fete day of the Republic. The warships are in port and fire salutes, and the fishing vessels display their bunting lavishly. There are boat races in the harbor and firing competitions by the bluejackets near Point-aux-Canons. The guns mounted there are purely ornamental, being quite obsolete; and to fire one would mean destruction to the weapon and probably to the gunner also. On this day the Pierrois manifest much the same kind of enthusiasm as animates the American on « the glorious Fourth. » The Pierrois are kindly and hospitable, welcome strangers with cordiality, and strive to make the visit pleasant. The place is the very embodiment of peace, and rest, and content; a lonely, forgotten eyrie which the stress and strife and turmoil of the great world never disturbs. The one drawback to the full enjoyment of a visit is the prevalence of fog, which during the greater portion of the year envelops the Grand Banks and the south shore of Newfoundland. This gray, wet, clinging veil of mist enshrouds St. Pierre all too frequently, and makes its varied surroundings only a series of dull smudges. As we sail awav from its picturesque harbor the curling fog-wreaths steal in from the sea and envelop the island in their ghostly vapor, and thus we leave it to what the future has in store for this new-century paradox—a French community, self-contained and independent, set down on a lonely rock in the North Atlantic and with English speaking provinces surrounding it.

Grand Colombier

Le GrandColombier.com est un site recensant tout document historique ayant un lien avec les îles Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon : traités, cartographie, toponymie, archives, sources primaires, études, recherches, éphémérides. Le site est dirigé par Marc A. Cormier.

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *

Social Widgets powered by AB-WebLog.com.