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

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID JALA david.jala@cb­post.com

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

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