Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 58 > Page 57 - The Great Famine in Cape Breton, 1845-51

Page 57 - The Great Famine in Cape Breton, 1845-51

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1991/8/1 (251 reads)

they cried for something to eat. Mr. Bremner rolled out a barrel of meal and they rolled it to a brook, opened it and poured the water from the brook into the barrel and made raw cakes and passed it around to each person. All ate heartily then each man and woman took their half-barrel on their backs and sang 'Ben Dorian' as they left for their homes over the blazed roads." (From "Katy Mary," an unpub? lished manuscript in the Florence R. MacLeod Papers at the Beaton Institute. Mr. Bremner probably refers to Arthur Brymer (1777-1847), M.L.A. for Richmond County, 1846-47.) Other food-seeking expeditions were less peaceful. At times, panic broke out and force had to be used to prevent supplies being seized. All over the island, starving settlers were begging for food. As the Reverend Norman MacLeod so graphically described it, "the general destitution has made it impossible for the most saving to shut their ears and eyes from the alarming claims and craving of those around them, running continually from door to door, with the ghastly features of death on their very faces." The province had never faced destitution of such scale and duration. Incredulity greeted the first alarming reports from Cape Breton; the Novascotian speculated that stories of the loss of the potato crop in Cape Breton had been circulated to drive up prices. As late as 1847, the newspaper felt that reports of the disease were exaggerated. The Central Board of Agriculture calmly reported that "no real distress, it is believed, will be produced by [the potato rot] except, perhaps, among a part of the inhabitants of Cape Breton...." The situtation was made all the more uncertain since no one under? stood the causes of the disease. Some felt it to be "atmospheric; oth? ers that it is insectile. Some able chemists suppose it to arise from an excess of moisture, or from excessive cultivation. The Indians are of the opinion that 'Kesoult,' or the Great Spirit, has got angry with the earth for the wickedness of its inhabitants." The latter notion was shared by some Cape Bretoners who saw con? tinual crop failures as a "Heavenly Visitation." The belief was particu? larly strong among Presbyterians, who saw the rot as "a judgement from the hand of the all-wise Disposer." The Presbyterian Witness sermonized: "It is, we believe, now generally admitted that the failure in the potato crop is to be traced to the direct interference of the Almighty, and is to be regarded as a punishment inflicted upon man for his presumption in attempting to introduce disorder into the economy of Nature by giving undue prominence to the Potato, to the supplanting of other produc? tions of the vegetable kingdom.... We say nothing as to the ease with which the Potato was cultivated and the indolent habits thereby in? duced. There- a'H'HM'M'HI''HiMHiii'HM'ai''Hi''' fore in punish? ment for this abuse of his gifts the Giver of all Good has sent this disease of the Potato." The Reverend Norman Mac- The dining room We offer seating for 125 people, and many traditional dishes. As well, you might dine on fresh local seafood, sizzling steaks, fresh baked bread and sinfully delicious desserts. A cafeteria-style meal with a difference Perhaps you would like to join us in our "great hall." With its nautical decor and vaulted ceiling, the great hall seats up to 300 people, and meals are served cafeteria-style. Choose from delicious lobster rolls, fish chowder, a selection of hot items, baked goods and desserts. You can dine and be entertained by local Acadian performers. • fully licensed • air conditioning :y accepted Le Gabriel P.O. Box316 Cheticamp, Nova Scotia Canada BOE IHO Tel: (902) 224-3685 While in Cheticamp, don't forget to visit Flora's craft shop, which offers a variety of locally crafted fora*s on the Cabot Trail Best selection of hooked rugs Flora's offers an excellent selection of rugs and other hooked items, made by over 100 local craft ladies. We also feature other quality handcrafts and souvenirs. • Coasters • Sweaters • Chair seats • Quilts • Wall hangings • Placemats • Rugs s ' * Tartans ??Flora's has served the tourist industry for over 25 years. We welcome tour groups for one stop shopping. You're sure to enjoy /' our rug hooking dem? onstrations! U. S. CURRENCY AT BANK RATE. ALL MAJOR CREDIT , CARDS ARE ACCEPTED, p, N.S. BOE IHO PHONE: (902) 224-3139
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