As we are on PEI for more than five minutes – three whole nights thanks to our previous intended site being closed (this will be our longest stay in one place) – we have found out some things about it. It is known as ‘Spud Island’ because of the potatoes that grow in its bright red soil. It is also a centre for lobster fishing. The other main claim to fame seems to be as the home of L M Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables.
Today we find our first car park and are able to abandon van and explore Charlottestown. We look round the Founders’ Museum. This celebrates the confederation of eastern Canadian states in 1867. The story is told by a very patronising virtual woman and we learn that the initial meeting, held in 1864 in Charlottestown, was to debate a union between the maritime colonies of PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Somehow, what was then Canada West and Canada East (today’s Ontario and Québec) got in on the act and the discussions moved to Québec, with Newfoundland getting involved. In the end, PEI and Newfoundland backed out; in fact Newfoundland didn’t become part of the Dominion of Canada until 1949. PEI had hoped that confederation would lead to the very high percentage of absentee landlords being bought out but the Québec conference did not want to take this on board. PEI waited until 1873 to join the union, when they were desperate to be bailed out having spent heavily on a railway. The story has shades of our recent Scottish independence referendum in reverse. I really would like to buy a book about the history of PEI but all the museum can offer is Ann of Green Gables and the like. The chances of us finding a bookshop are seriously less than zero. We did well to find a souvenir shop for postcards, which in the absence of a Post Office, lack stamps and will probably be posted in England.
And then of course, could I resist going in to the Archives? This was ostensibly in case I could buy a book, which they didn’t have but we were sucked in. We must have looked like rank amateurs as it was totally unplanned so we had two blunt pencils between us, no reading glasses for Chris, no ID for me (but I was let in on the grounds of my ’honest face’), no notes and no list of what to look for. Dredging up the key names from my brain, we did some research using their card index and I did find out a few things, necessitating a quick revising of my forthcoming talks. There are difficulties caused by the lack of civil registration until 1906 and the fact that burials weren’t routinely recorded. I clearly need to spend about a fortnight here, so who would like to fund that? Ideally I would need to stay within walking distance of the archives please as I am still not comfortable with the driving (or should I say passengering). Who can get their head round a country where you can go when a traffic light is red (sometimes) but going when it is green is clearly neither safe nor appropriate on all occasions (found that out the hard way)?
Then back to the site to run through my talk for tomorrow and to resume our war on the fly population. We thought we had conquered them but it seems some may have bred before their untimely demise and we are now tackling their numerous offspring.