Back to Grand Bruit

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE WEST­ERN STAR — Ni­cholas Mercer is the on­line edi­tor with The West­ern Star. He lives in Cor­ner Brook and can be reached at nmercer@thewest­ern­star.com

Joe Bil­lard, Clyde Bil­lard, Jim Bil­lard, Gord Far­rell and Ge­orge Bil­liard are just a few of the peo­ple who come back to the now-aban­doned com­mu­nity of Grand Bruit ev­ery sum­mer.

The thought of Grand Bruit sticks with you.

The empty houses, col­lapsed fish stages and the dis­tinct lack of light take ahold of you, hes­i­tant to loosen its grip.

Lo­cally known as “Gran Brit,” it has been seven years since the pop­u­la­tion re­set­tled, leav­ing for places like Port aux Basques, Bur­geo and La Scie.

It is hard to de­scribe the feel­ing that comes over you when you’re tread­ing where some peo­ple have not been in close to 10 years.

As much as it feels like you’re in­trud­ing on their lives, you’re ex­cited about the prospect of ex­plor­ing their home.

Mak­ing our way through some of the aban­doned houses, there’s al­ways the sense the front door will creak open and the last res­i­dent will come through the open­ing.

Even with them gone, it is pos­si­ble to catch a glimpse into their lives. From art on the walls, an empty bot­tle of scotch on a shelf and VHS copies of “Dirty Harry” and “Gangs of New York” stacked neatly on a liv­ing room dresser, you get a sense of what made the them who they are.

Even when stand­ing in a school closed for 10 years, there was the sense your morn­ing slum­ber would be in­ter­rupted by the shrill of the open­ing bell or the teacher call­ing her short at­ten­dance list.

Time travel is against the laws of physics, but it feels pos­si­ble on the shores of Grand Bruit.

There’s a sense you’re mov­ing through phases of life as you walk through the com­mu­nity. Well-kept homes sit next to de­cay­ing ones, their vinyl siding a stark con­trast from the chipped paint and clap­board of the oth­ers.

Back home, 2010 does not seem so far away, but here it feels like a life­time away.

Toi­let paper left in the bath­room, split wood wait­ing for the slow burn of the wood stove and a child’s teddy bear placed in the cor­ner made it seem like you were mov­ing through time and space with each step in the aban­doned com­mu­nity.

If you didn’t know any bet­ter, you’d think peo­ple were es­cap­ing some life-threat­en­ing event and had to rush to grab what they needed.

We were not alone in Grand Bruit. A lit­tle over half-a-dozen res­i­dents were spend­ing parts of their sum­mer there.

They go back ev­ery spring and sum­mer to re-live what they’ve lost.

Some fish, oth­ers are just there to make amends. It’s as if they’re say­ing “I’m sorry” ev­ery day for leav­ing for so long.

Grand Bruit is a special place to them. Like all New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, they long for home when they’re away.

I’m like them, in a way. I know I’ll be back.

TROY TURNER/THE WEST­ERN STAR

TROY TURNER/THE WEST­ERN STAR

This house sits on the hill next to the school.

TROY TURNER/THE WEST­ERN STAR

When dark­ness falls, a lone light shines from this home near the falls.

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE WEST­ERN STAR

A pair of crows sit on the front bridge of an empty house in Grand Bruit.

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE WEST­ERN STAR

The walk­way to this home has fallen af­ter years of be­ing beaten by the el­e­ments.

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE WEST­ERN STAR

This green­house has been beaten by the weather and is over­grown af­ter years of ne­glect.

TROY TURNER/THE WEST­ERN STAR

A pair of aban­doned pho­tos rest on a chest in an empty room inside of the homes in Grand Bruit.

TROY TURNER/THE WEST­ERN STAR

A watch and lantern are just a few of the house­hold items left in Grand Bruit.

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