Riding into history
Ceremony marks opening of renovated railway station, Carbonear Island exhibit
Efforts to preserve and promote the history of the Carbonear area were celebrated last week during the official opening of the renovated Carbonear Railway Museum.
Among the highlights of the ceremony was the introduction of a new exhibit dedicated to the long and tumultuous history of Carbonear Island.
The exhibit is called “ Traces of the Past.”
The exhibit highlights how residents in the late 1600s and early 1700s gathered on Carbonear Island to successfully repel Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and his forces, which were attacking Newfoundland’s coastal settlements.
A video interview with Peter Pope, a Memorial University professor, sets the historical context. A display of artifacts, found during an archeological dig last summer, shows the island’s use by civilians and the military.
The main exhibit room allows visitors to review the history of the island under six thematic areas, from exploration and early settlement in the 1600s to the present day.
Deputy mayor Ches Ash acknowledged the exhibit’s importance to the town’s history.
“ We believe it’s of national significance. If the people of Carbonear had not found refuge on the island, which withstood the French attack, it could very well be that English settlement in Newfoundland would have taken a different turn than it did,” Ash said.
A humorous lieutenant-governor
The guest speaker was Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, spoke about the need of doing “all we can to point out to people wha t w e h av e i n thi s province.”
He called the exhibit a “ very important local initiative” and a “major step forward for Carbonear. You’re going to find this a major asset for this community and this beautiful part of Conception Bay.”
Other invited dignitaries included Avalon MP Scott Andrews and other representatives from federal, provincial and municipal governments. The Carbonear Heritage Society was also represented.
The project was made possible through funding from both government and private sources, amounting to in excess of $250,000, including the following:
• Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency — $100,000;
• Innovation, Trade and Rural Development — $60,000;
• Human Resources, Labour and Employment — $67,672;
• Town of Carbonear — in-kind and other cash contributions totalling some $30,000;
• Funds to finance an archeological dig on the island in 2010, and again this year, were provided by the philanthropic Gill Ratcliffe Foundation.
Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, whose mother was born in Carbonear, enthused, “ I feel I own part of this place ... I couldn’t be more pleased for you all.”
She and her late husband, Edward Ratcliffe, founder of Arriscraft International, have funded numerous projects around the world.
The official ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed by the lieutenant-governor and his wife, Jane.
Mayor Sam Slade referred to what the exhibit “does for us as a town” in attracting tourists.
“ We help preserve our history, we help promote it, and we contribute to the economy of the area,” said Ash.
Elinor Gill Ratcliffe of the philanthropic Gill Ratcliffe Foundation funded an archeological dig on Carbonear Island in 2010, and again this year.