Their Names Live On

Every headstone tells a story in Halifax's historic cemeteries

Writer: Majorie Simmins      
Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Halifax Magazine (Metro Guide Publishing)

Writer Majorie Simmins investigates Halifax's historic cemeteries and takes an in-depth look at the 250-year-old Old Burying Ground on Barrington Street, a National Historic Site.

Excerpt: The Old Burying Ground has an exceptionally rich and diverse collection of carved art on the gravestones. These include death’s-head skulls (representing mortality and penance), winged heads (signifying ascension), plus bones and skeletons (indicating decay). There is also an astrologer’s potpourri of stars, suns and moons. In order, they represent divine guidance or creation, a soul rising to heaven and rebirth. Animals, flowers, trees, anchors, birds — many symbols with many meanings, not all agreed upon by scholars. Some carved visages have an unexpected folk-art quality. Others, such as recumbent skeletons or skulls and cross-bones, verge on ghoulish.

For more information about Metro Guide Publishing visit: http://metroguide.ca/

Slowcoaster's Fast Track

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Story & Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Muzik Etc. Magazine

A quick catch-up with Slowcoaster front man Steven MacDougall reveals that things are far from slow-moving for the Nova Scotian power trio. The proudly Cape Breton based band, now in its tenth year, continues to evolve in its assimilation of ska, funk, pop, hip-hop, disco, jazz, and blues. Slowcoaster is comprised of founder Steven MacDougall on guitar and vocals, Mike LeLievre on bass, and Brian Talbot (formerly of the band Slainte Mhath) on drums. Talbot,who has been a part of the Slowco beat for as far back as 2002, officially became a charter member in 2006.

I managed to track them down in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, home of the Evolve Festival (evolvefestival.com), their first stop on a mini Atlantic Canadian tour before jet-setting back out west. At the time of interview they hadn’t seen each other since a performance weeks back in Calgary. Talbot rolls in from an all-night DJ gig in Halifax. He’s also been busy with the Rankins and doing sessions for Cape Breton heavyweights Gord Sampson and Jimmy Rankin. MacDougall joined us, replenished from a songwriting retreat in Nashville, while LeLievre emerged from the family island homestead.

Slowco has become a banner waver for the next generation of Cape Breton bands, not necessarily traditional or Celtic, but brimming with energy and spirit. I witnessed their magnetism on their first tour outing: The crowd begins buzzing like bees around a hive the moment they hear the first chord. They hang in for a crazy ride, up and down in tempo, meter, dynamics, and they’re captivated by the carnival of on stage antics. Fans know all the lyrics and sing along with MacDougall, pulsate to Talbot’s compelling beats, and groove to LeLievre’s cool melodic bass lines. The repertoire draws from current past favourites, from funk to pop with the Celtic kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. It’s like this, and it’s different, each Slowco show. Audiences experience a mix of songs and styles. “We think of music as much as a twisted sport as we do music,” says MacDougall. “Every night is different. Crowds seem to respond very well to our new songs.” LeLievre adds, “When we write those songs, Steve is the wordsmith and I’m the melody weirdo. Brian’s the backbeat. It’s about three intricate human beings being ourselves, producing sounds that people can dance to, and it’s about fun. When that stops, so does the world!”

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Slowcoaster finds ample inspiration and time to write new material. “We write in the van, with other people, and by ourselves. Sometimes we’ll jam on stage in front of people because inspiration is one of those things that can come at any time from anywhere. We create the song as it happens. The idea dictates the style and we embrace whatever genre the song happens to fall into at the time. Sometimes we’ll mess with it a bit, such as taking a country song and trying it out as a reggae song, or maybe getting into disco — whatever cheeky little idea we’re feeling that day. Usually, though, a song flows from the get go and stays in the same genre.”

Currently signed to Cape Breton based Company House Records, Slowcoaster works well at the customary island pace. Explains LeLievre, “Company House is a label formed by percussionist Darren Gallop and New York producer Warren Bruleigh and it employs all Cape Breton staff in promotional, distribution, and recording positions. In Cape Breton you have to do things for yourself and often by yourself. People who grow up together and work together fuel the music community in Cape Breton. This helps us export our artists and import other great bands to our little island, building lasting relationships around the world.”

Last October, Slowcoaster commenced work on a self-funded and self-produced album. They’re recording under the attentive gaze of engineer Mike Shepherd at Lakewind Sound studio in Point Aconi on the beautiful and inspiring Bras D’Or Lakes. (Ed: Muzik Etc readers will recognize Lakewind from our interview with Juno Award winner Gordie Sampson, who is part-owner of the acclaimed Lakewood studio). The album will feature the usual mix of styles and the dance factor. Adds Talbot, “The lyrics will make you want to sing out loud! So far, the process is moving swiftly. We’re having a really easy time hammering it out and putting our arrangements together. We’re tracking mostly live off-the-floor so there’s a nice, authentic feel. There are sections where we let the music wander freely and others where the arrangements are sharp and to the point. Since Mike Shepherd has worked with the band in many different scenarios over the years and is a great friend, he knows what we like to hear and how we like to work."

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The band’s discography includes Jody’s Garden (2000), Volume II (2001), Leaves (2002), Accidents & Excuses (2003), Where Are They Going? (2004), and Future Radio (2007). Slowcoaster’s repertoire is all over the map. “We have always straddled the line between what is mainstream and what is totally insane,” MacDougall quips. “Our plan of world domination seems to be working out.” You may succumb to their grand designs. Give their album a listen one i-Tunes, then wait for their tour to hit your town or nearby urban center. 

Slow Co Gear
LeLievre plays a Fender Precision bass, the four-string unadulterated standard of stage and recording worlds. MacDougall’s arsenal includes a doubleneck Gibson SG, Fender Strats and Jaguars, and a prized Vox AC30 amplifier, a retro/classic stalwart amp back in the spot lights. Talbot plays live gigs and sessions on Yamaha Absolute series drums, choosing the maple shell version (as opposed to birch or beech). He says, “You can’t beat the tone and consistency of Yamaha drums. And for cymbals I prefer Sabian HH and HHX lines. I’ve always liked big, dark, and colorful cymbals."

Tetagouche Falls - Nature Reclaimed

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Story and Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Saltscapes, Canada's East Coast Magazine

As kids growing up in Northeastern New Brunswick, we had an abundance of time to spend our summer days swimming and exploring Tetagouche Falls, located 10 km's outside Bathurst city limits in the community of South Tetagouche. Generations of the area’s people felt as we did about Tetagouche Falls, beginning with the Mi’kmaq, who first named the river “Tootoogoose.” According to local Mi’kmaq historian, storyteller, and folklorist Gilbert Sewell, “Tootoogoose” means “Squirrel Cliff,” or “Squirrel Jump.” The name refers to flying squirrels that leapt across the river gorge on outstretched pine branches.

At Tootoogoose, the Mi’kmaq wove baskets, sang, and told stories, sometimes about the “little people” or stone cave-dwellers who lived here long ago. It is said that these mysterious dwarves enjoyed playing tricks on the local settlers, and that their mischievousness could only be deterred with offerings. The Mi’kmaq also customarily offered tobacco to the river in exchange for provisions of food and medicinal plants, including indian turnip, sweet rag root, sweet grass, wild raisins, blueberries, cranberries, and fiddleheads. The river and its environs provided a bounty of wild game, such as trout, moose, and deer.

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The Tetagouche River, often referred to as one the purest rivers in New Brunswick, is fueled by a complex network of other rivers, brooks, streams, ponds, and lakes. Home to salmon and brown trout, the river bends and grows from among the Upper, Middle, and Lower Tetagouche Lakes for a distance of approximately 25 miles, eventually emptying into the north side of Bathurst Harbour.

The South Tetagouche Road (Route 180) makes for a memorable drive through a beautiful ascending countryside. The hidden sylph-like river gorge runs somewhat parallel to the road, emerging at times from behind the farm fields on the right. Large, weathered farmhouses and aged barns dot the countryside, offering a nostalgic glimpse into the lives of pioneer mining families who settled here from England, Ireland, and Scotland in the early 1800s. The families cleared land along the riverside, built houses, and planted crops in this landscape they named Patrick’s Landing.

The South Tetagouche Road plateaus near the falls. On the left, a small white church appears, then, after a strong bend in the road, the park sign. Inside the Tetagouche Falls park, follow the road that veers right to the look-off and picnic area, perched high above the falls and gorge. The fenced look-off point is sure to give you a new appreciation for the raw power of nature. Feel the roar of rushing water, mist, spray, and the trembling of the falls. From here, you have a clear view of the falls, hydro dam, and river. Far below the100-foot cliff side, you may hear the cheers of kids swimming in the cool waters, their voices echoing in the deep gorge. If experienced hikers feel so inclined, there’s a hiking trail that begins at the end of the parking lot. The trail, a short 10-minute walk, is the best way to enjoy the area’s wild scenery. The dense fragrance of the pines, the fresh air, and the rocky terrain will absorb you during the descent into the river gorge. Be sure to stay on the designated trail, as the surrounding cliff sides areas are rugged, and not always fenced off. It’s also a good idea to fill an empty container with cold Tetagouche spring water before the hike. When you find yourself at the river, follow the intensifying sounds of the falls upstream. At the pebbly beach, you will find yourself in the open amphitheatre of the spectacular cliffs surrounding the gorge. Piping and a large turbine, once active as part of Tetagouche’s hydro-electric dam, protrude out of the rock cliff, a reminder of the falls’ industrial past. From the pebbly beach, the falls themselves are still obscured behind a rock wall. Mist and spray splashes out from behind this cliff, where a naturally occurring ledge provides an open view of the falls. Another option for a clearer look is to take a swim.

Tetagouche Falls’ mining history began in the 1840s, when prospector William Stevens of Cornwall, England began exploring for minerals in the area. A manganite bearing quartz vein was spotted on the south bank of the river in 1842, and that same year the Gloucestor Mining Association shipped 125 tons of manganese ore out to England. This operation, which also saw some copper extracted, is possibly the earliest example of underground mining in New Brunswick. Mining activity continued at the falls until 1864, when the ore could no longer be mined at a profit and the workings were shut down. It was a decisive moment in Tetagouche’s history, as families chose between returning to their native countries, moving to other mining towns, or staying to adapt to farm life. Many chose the latter, and descendents of the original Smyth, Ward, Payne, and Macintosh families still reside in the South Tetagouche area.

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Throughout the 1900s, the Tetagouche River hosted spring log drives, and powered saw, grist, and carding mills. The Irish and British protestants living in Patrick’s Landing (today’s South Tetagouche) and the Irish Catholics in Kinsale (North Tetagouche) were friendly neighbours who overcame the natural obstacle of the river by constructing cedar log bridges to join their communities. The early Kinsale families of the day included the Powers (Power-Croft Apple Orchard) and the Calnans, who farmed potatoes, corn, various vegetables, and fruit.

In the early 1900s, Tetagouche Falls was targeted as a possible source of electricity by established Bathurst businessman John P. Leger. Leger, who had a dream of bringing electricity to Bathurst, figured that a dam at Tetagouche Falls could power the city of Bathurst for a good part of the year. In 1904, the incorporation of Bathurst Electric and Water Power Company Limited was formed by Act of Assembly leading to the early construction of a hydro-electric plant at Tetagouche Bridge. Even though many people discouraged Leger, he continued to follow his dream, finally acquiring the right to harness power at Tetagouche Falls in 1911. Leger used up nearly all his financial resources constructing the dam, and it was completed the next year. This high-risk gamble eventually paid off for Leger, and also helped accelerate the town of Bathurst into modern times. Tetagouche Falls’ hydro-electric dam was not only the first in New Brunswick, but possibly in all of the Maritimes. In 1919, the Bathurst Lumber Company amalgamated with the Bathurst Electric and Water Power Company, leading to the construction of a much larger dam at Grand Falls, on the Nepisiguit River. The Tetagouche Falls dam continued to power the city of Bathurst until 1921, when the newly completed Grand Falls dam took over the burden.

The dam’s remnants still stand high above the falls, as a reminder of its industrial history. However, over the years, erosion has withered away the vulnerable center portion of the dam, leaving only the side walls and piping. Signs of nature’s powers of reclamation are also evident at the mouth of the river. Here, in 1986, several thousand Bathurst aster (Aster subulatus obtusifolius) plants were re-discovered. These largely forgotten fresh and saltwater plants were originally discovered by ML Fernald and Emile F. Williams in 1902. In 1992, COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) listed the Bathurst Aster as a species of “special concern,” because its riverside habitat is particularly sensitive to human disturbance. Currently, there are efforts underway to preserve the Bathurst aster, which is known to exist only on the Tetagouche and Middle rivers in Bathurst, New Brunswick. At Tetagouche Falls, nature is reclaiming its rightful place, for all to enjoy and reflect upon. One can only hope that it will remain pure for many more years of appreciation.

“The Tootoogoose Troll

Excerpted from Maude Smyth’s “Tetagouche Falls— A Little Known Natural Beauty Spot.”
An Outline of the History of Bathurst, by Gail MacMillan. The Tribune Press Ltd. Sackville, NB. 1984.

“A family named Smyth settled directly south of the Falls about three quarters of a mile from the river and they were the first to see a “little man” sitting atop a huge rock sunning himself. The rock was by the roadside and can still be seen. A pleasant little fellow he was by all accounts, about two or two and half feet high with an extra large head and shoulders. Whenever members of the Smyth family sighted him they always described him as smiling or leering at them near-sightedly. A favorite trick of this Rumpelstiltskin-type of person was to scare the horses of those travelling the road late at night. It seems that his appearance always spooked the horses and they’d take off at a mad gallop. This wasn’t too bad in the winter time as the sled ran smoothly, or when the traveler was on horseback but in a box cart it was a rather boneshaking ride. It was this horse-scaring trick that finally was the undoing of the little man. Apparently one night he fell beneath the horses’ hoofs. “His dying screams rent the air, the like was never heard” and he was never seen again. But tales of him were told around many a fireside for many a year.””

For more information about Saltscapes Magazine visit: http://www.saltscapes.com/