Skating through time
Cape Breton Post reporter David Jala was on hand as more than 600 people took advantage of favourable conditions on Sunday when they helped resurrect a centuries-old tradition at the Fortress of Louisbourg as the renowned former French fortification hoste
The present caught up with the past on Sunday when a centuries-old tradition was resurrected at the Fortress of Louisbourg.
More than 600 people showed up at Parks Canada’s reconstructed French stronghold for a skating party in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Canada’s first national historic site.
Terese MacMullin was one of the few visitors not wearing skates, but that didn’t stop the Glace Bay woman from helping her grandchildren make their way around the flooded rink in front of the King’s Bastion that overlooks the fortification and nearby harbour.
“It’s the outdoors, so it’s great to get the kids outside to enjoy the winter activities and for us this is a great day out,” said MacMullin, who was off the ice for just moments before she was dragged to a nearby building for some warmth and hot chocolate.
Back on the rink, Brenda Davis and daughter Christy were enjoying a few laps around the ice before they also made their way in the Parks Canada building that served as the warm-up hut and hot chocolate dispensary.
“This is lovely — it’s a wonderful atmosphere and a great idea,” she said, echoing the sentiment of the rosy-cheeked skaters.
While the wind may have been on the cool side, the sunny skies and outdoor physical activity created an energetic and festive atmosphere, which was the intent of the event according to fortress visitor experience manager Eddie Kennedy, who showed up dressed up as Michel de Gannes, an Acadian-born solider who attained the rank of captain while based at France’s Cape Breton sprawling fortification.
Kennedy says archaeological findings at the fortress indicate that skates were definitely used at the settlement as far back as 300 years ago.
“We have metal (skate) blades that were found in the archaeological digs here and the archives show that skates were listed on the officers inventories,” he said.
“We’re just not sure whether they were used for military travel or for recreational purposes, but we do know that in Québec they were used recreationally so the assumption is that skates were used here for that purpose here, too. And, the archival lists show that women’s skates were also on the inventories.”
Kennedy notes that back in the fortress’s heyday there was probably no need to build a rink.
“Imagine the road out there if there was no sand or gravel on it, they wouldn’t have had to build a skating rink because in the middle of the cold winters the road would be the skating rink, so that’s likely when they used the skates,” he said, adding that the popularity of Sunday’s event likely means more such initiatives in the future.
“It’s a fantastic day out here — this was our first time trying an event like this in winter and if this is any indication we’ll have to do it again next year.”
While the skating party was held in acknowledgement of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Canada’s first national historic site, the Fortress did not gain that distinction until 1920.
Of the almost 1,000 national historic sites in Canada, some 88 are located in Nova Scotia, including Baddeck’s Alexander Graham Bell Museum, the Glace Bay site where Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic radio telegraph message, and Chapel Island on the Potlotek First Nation near St. Peter’s, where Chief Henri Membertou became the first native North American to be baptized.
Glace Bay’s Terese MacMullin holds onto nine-year-old granddaughter Victoria MacMullin, right, and neighbour Lilly Moussa, 6, during the Fortress of Louisbourg’s skating party on Sunday that was held to commemorate the centennial of the establishment of Canada’s first national historic site.
Brenda Davis and daughter Christy were all smiles as they enjoyed some outdoor skating at the Fortress of Louisbourg on Sunday. An estimated 600 people took part in the event that was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canada’s national historic sites program.
Fortress of Louisbourg visitor experiences manager Ed Kennedy poses with real life wife Christiane during the national historic site’s skating party on Sunday. Kennedy was dressed like 18th century Capt. Michel de Gannes, while Christiane portrayed the soldier’s wife.
Owen Mahon, left, samples his roasted marshmallow while Bretton Crysler puts the finishing touches on his treat during a break from skating at the Fortress of Louisbourg on Sunday. Hot chocolate was also offered up to the more than 600 people who took part in the event.