Fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

7 10 2013

Louisbourg, on the north east coast of Nova Scotia is an amazing visit and was the highlight of our trip to Cape Breton, last week.

You get an idea of the size of the town as you approach from across the bay.



This is the Frederic gate, the access to the town from the sea. You can see it in the photo above too.


This was how the harbour looked in 1730, with ships coming from France, Quebec, New England and the Caribbean.


We walked to the Kings Bastion Barracks and Governors Apartments.


This part of the building was the barracks.


There we met a soldier who told us his sad tale. He had been enlisted into the army from the streets of Brest. He was promised a secure job, with good pay, food, a bed to sleep in and a roof over his head. All this in an exciting new country. He grabbed this opportunity and signed up for 6 years. After a stormy crossing he arrived in Canada and found that the reality was not what he’d hoped for.

AbpngHe had to stand on guard at this guard house for 24 hours – non stop, with no sleep. Anyone caught sleeping was punished. Usually made to side astride a wooden horse, with weights attached to their feet. Beds were shared by 3 soldiers, 2 sleeping while the other was on duty.

The pay was good, 9 livres a month, but after money was taken for his food and bed, he was left with only 1 1/2 livres a month. What was there to do, but drink that away to console himself. This poor soldier was only 30 years old, but looked much older. He did not think that he’d ever marry as the few women in the town preferred fishermen who made a lot of money and could support them.

As for getting out of the army, that did not seem possible as he had no money and was already in debt, so would be forced to sign up for another 6 years. It was all very depressing, yet he still managed to give us a smile. I hope he was not punished for speaking to us!


The Fortress – a Fort is manned solely by military but a Fortress is a fortified town with civilians, like any other town – was founded by the French,  in 1713.

The main reason for this settlement  was the cod fishing on the Grand Banks. Cod fishing was so lucrative that it brought in more money in one year than all the years of fur trading!

The fish was salted and laid on stages to dry, before being exported.

The harbour was well defended, but on the landward side, there was little defence. The story goes that a British officer was being held prisoner at Louisbourg, but was allowed to roam free, as was the custom. He saw all the weaknesses in the landward side and when released back to New England told them how to attack. His information was actioned and led to the first fall of Louisbourg in 1745. This officer was deemed not to be a ‘gentleman’ for telling and was expelled from  the army.

Three years later the town was restored to the French, but was besieged a second time, in exactly the same manner as the first! The French had learnt nothing from the first attack!


Opposite the Frederic gate is the Hotel de la Marine. This was where the soldiers, sailors and townspeople spent their money on food drink and entertainment.

There we had a very good meal of pea soup, followed by haddock and vegetables, served by costumed servers. We ate from pewter dishes and had only a pewter spoon to eat with.


A juniper branch was used above the signs for ale houses and eating places as the towns people could not read.


Further along the waterfront is the home of the Commissaire Ordonnateur. This was the person who kept all the accounts, paid the colony’s bills, compiled statistical accounts, and had a hand in local justice. Francois Bigot was the Commissaire Ordonnateur from 1739 to 1745 and was the sole resident of this huge house with 6 female servants. The system allowed  Bigot to misuse funds and build up his own fortune. This was his eventual downfall. He was tried, confiscated of all his property and exiled from France, in 1763.


This was the home of Joseph Lartigue. He came to Louisbourg with the first settlers, from Newfoundland. He was a fisherman and trader, but because he could read and write, he became the town magistrate. Part of the house was used as a courtroom.

Lartigue and his wife had 12 children and several servants in this house and were thought to be well off in their day.


The Dauphin Gate was the main land entrance to the town. It was manned around the clock by an officer and thirty soldiers.


The  Royal coat of arms sat above the arch.

You can walk around the ruined part of the town and see where the hospital, convent, mass graves, and breweries used to be.

Parks Canada has certainly done an impressive job of reconstructing Louisbourg and anyone who gets the chance should pay it a visit.


Shark Week in Lockeport, Nova Scotia

17 08 2012

This was meant to be a fishing Blog telling about our trips fishing for mackerel and striped bass.

However, last week-end we headed to Lockeport to fish for mackerel, to find that the local Sea Derby was in progress. We fished for a short time at our usual pier, but nothing was biting, so we went over to the Government wharf to see what was being brought in.

Several fishing boats were waiting to land their catch. This boat above has a long look-out platform for spotting sword fish.

I liked the name of her.

It also has these seats up high for spotting the fish.

Some cod had been landed and were being weighed and measured. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the size taken, but there is a maximum of 10 rule. I remember when we used to catch huge cod on the West Coast of Scotland in the 70’s, it’s good to see they are returning.

Mackerel are plentiful at this time of the year. We caught 14 one day at Lunenburg and 8 at Lockeport in a very short time.

The Governement body, the Department of Fisheries, was present to check what was being landed.

The shark had to be winched from the boats up into a shed.

Where they were weighed, and measured and the contents of their stomachs examined.

This one weighed about 350lb!

I had never seen a shark up close before. These were Blue Sharks – what a beautiful colour!

We had a very exciting day and might go fishing at the Sea Derby next year.

This Great White Shark was caught in a fisherman’s trap, last year, in the Bay of Fundy. I have taken the photograph from a CBC page. It was a baby female, 3 metres long and weighing 272 Kg.

This was taken from the CBC report of August 17th, 2011.

Steve Campana, head of the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory, said the shark was likely looking for fish when it got trapped.”They’re interested in fish and perhaps small seals and dolphins. It’s very unusual for a great white to attack a person and usually when they do, it’s because they look up and see a surfer on a surfboard and it resembles a seal, which is one of their favourite prey,” said Campana.

He pointed out that in the 1930s there was a shark attack in the area that sunk a boat but left the boaters unharmed. “They’re not interested in people.”

“Canada is within the range of great white habitat, so they’ve undoubtedly been coming up here since time immemorial,” he said. “It’s just that the population of great whites used to be much larger, at least 10 times larger, just 30 years ago than it is now.”

But this Mako, caught in  2004 was a giant!

It was caught by Jamie Doucette, when he was fishing in the Annual Shark Scramble at Yarmouth, NS.

The shark weighed in at an astonishing 1,082 pounds and was a Canadian record.

I’m really not sure what I’d do if I caught any of these huge fish.

There is another Shark Derby on 25th August at the Seafest at Brooklyn, Liverpool. We’ll go along and see if there are any records caught there.

Lunenburg Fish

29 06 2011

One of the sights of Lunenburg is the metal sculptures attached to the electric poles along the streets of the town.

Like this shark.

Or these mussels.

It is very fitting that Lunenburg chose fish, having had a thriving fishing industry for over 200 years.

I particularly like this lobster.

The  Fish Project was commissioned by the Town of Lunenburg in 2002. The plan was to replace the flower baskets decorating the town utility poles with something low maintenance.

This idea developed and the the town now has a very enjoyable public art exhibition.

The tuna fish was a very important fish for Nova Scotia.

I have scanned these photos from  ‘A Pictorial History of the Aspotogan Peninsula’ to show the size and volume of tuna caught off these shores.

These photos were lent by Ned Norwood of Hubbard’s Heritage Society.

And were taken about 1947.

This great book of old photographs was published by Lighthouse publishing and is very enlightening of life in the past.

I think this is a monk fish, which we still love to buy here, when it’s available.

Boats went out off Cape Breton to fish for these swordfish. I met one man who was the cook, at 10 years old, on a fishing boat that went after the swordfish!

The other sculptures are Blue shark,

the deep water Redfish,

the famous cod,




and Herring

The 44 hand-painted aluminum sculptures were designed and painted by Laura Fisher

Interesting Weather Vanes

17 01 2010

In the UK, we were used to seeing the traditional weather ‘Cock’ on the top of a church spire.

But here in Lunenburg, there is a much more significant shape on the top of the spire of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Lunenburg became famous for boat building and cod fishing . Fishing schooners, fished on the Grand Banks and the largest cod brought in to Lunenburg was 211 pounds. So it is only fitting that one of the churches here in Lunenburg should have a weather ‘Cod’.

Today we walked at Indian Point and saw an assortment of weather vanes. Common birds, like the heron

and goose/swan?

Various forms of sailing schooners, from copper,

to painted,

to black,

to white.

This whale, like the cod is pretty unusual.

And I’m not sure what inspired this Flying Pig, but it looks fun.

The next photo is not a weather vane, but is on the roof of a house in Lunenburg. Does anyone know the inspiration? It’s not the Owl and the Pussy Cat, but is probably from some children’s story.

If we put a weather vane on our house, what should it be? Any ideas?