1929 : Isles of Romance, George Allan England

Isles of Romance, George Allan England. The Century CO. New York, London. Copyright 1929. [Although copyright has not expired, I have not been able to join anyone related to G.A. England or The Century CO. I therefore assume that the following extracts are for all practical purposes public domain. If anyone related to G.A. England or the estate of the Century CO. disagree with this please contact me.]

Chapter V

France’s Last North American Colony,
a Corner of the Old World in the New.

A BIT of old France lies at our very doors, in the North Atlantic; a fragment of Brittany itself. Very few Americans realize that only one day’s steamning from Cape Breton they can find an actual part of Europe. My sojourn at St Pierre and all through the Miquelon group seemed as truly French as if I’d crossed the whole wide ocean. For in the Miquelons, some fifteen miles off the mouth of Fortune Bay, Newfoundland, the old French life still umimterruptedly goes on. The People speak no patois, as in Canada or the Magdalens. On the contrary, the realest of real French is their mother tongue; and all the habits, customs, ways of France still live. …

In her psychology as in everything else, the gray old town still remains wholly French; though she has had own stamps (the designs, a seagull and a bearded fisherman’s head in a sou’wester), and her money is more Newfoundland, Canadian, and American than of the old country. Not only in her architecture, her unpaved streets with faucets at the corners, her abitious quay with its dry fountain and its broken band-stand, her government house and her gendarmerie, her cathedral and the place in front thereof, but even more in her inner life, her thought, language, viewpoint, and envisagement of the world, she remains faithful to type.

St Pierre was once the liveliest fishing port in the world. The eighties of the last century beheld its greatest prosperity. In those days seven to eight thousand fisheman from St Malo, Fécamp, St Brieuc, and Dieppe, and the arrival of the Terre Neuves, the vessels and crews from France, was a wondrous, treasure producing event. The French and St Pierre armateurs, or outfitters, reaped golden harvests indeed. But those fat days are gone forever. Newfoundland grew jealous of St Pierre’s bursting prosperity, and in 1886 executed a flank attack on the French colony by passing the accursed Bait Act. Ever since, St Pierre has declined in wealth and power.

My own arrival was by a treacherous little motor-boat from Grand Bank, Newfoundland. the men who brought me over those thirty miles of open sea said they were going for some cattle; but as their outbound freight consisted of some barrels of empty bottles, I had me doots. A frightful gale came on; we just got through by the skin of our teeth, and that was wet, too; but we arrived. A little matter of getting drowned is a mere nothing up there. And after you reach St Pierre, you realize that no suffering can outweigh the the delights of that most fascinating outpost of France. … The World War did more than to depress St Pierre financially. It caused sixty five of her sons to be listed in the catherdral as dead or missing. And up on the great gray barren hill behind the town a monument attests that fact, with the inscription « Morts pour la Patrie. » Had our deaths been proportionate, we sould have lost a million men!

Cold and misty the Archipelago has ever been; some folk say that all the fogs of the Atlantic are brewed in the Miquelons! Not even warm and gay French blood can make the islands anything but melancholy. One has sad thoughts when wandering about St Pierre. Many houses stand vacant, crumbling. Up on the mornes, or hills back of the town, you see the ruins of a vast barrack where once regiments of red-trousered soldiers made a brave showing. Now the roof has fallen in, and empty windows stare seaward. The hospital gutted by fire, makes a sorry picture. St Pierre, by the way, has no adequate fire protection, and thrice has barely missed destruction.

Something infinitely pathetic emerges from the attempt of the brave French spirit still struggling to carry on in that harsh environment. « The Guard dies, but never surrenders! »

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.

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