August 11, 2017
I love Nova Scotia. I love living on the eastern edge of Canada. I grew up and went to school in Ontario but the Atlantic tides gradually pulled me here. I like to imagine that if I could skip a stone across the ocean (without hitting the south tip of Newfoundland) that it would land on the shores of Ireland where half of my family lives.
It’s from my home in Hubbards, Nova Scotia, at the very top of St. Margaret’s Bay, that Ed Martin and I begin our journey around the province. Hubbards has an interesting history but if I had to pick three distinct things to characterize it, I’d say: beaches, fishing, and JD Shadford.
JD Shadford is a name that every newcomer to Hubbards learns early. Hubbards is well endowed beyond the size of its population because of him. Born in the village in 1862, Shatford went on to amass a fortune in the US oil industry. He returned to Hubbards in 1955 to be buried in the Pine Hill Cemetery, just down the road from my house. A trust fund, established by his will, built the J.D. Shatford Memorial Library and the Hubbards fire hall. And in perpetuity, local students graduating from high school will have some of their post-secondary education costs covered by J.D. Shatford Memorial Trust. What a guy.
The other thing you learn early is that Hubbards had a rich fishing industry. I emphasize the word “had” because the industry has virtually vanished with the exception of some small-scale lobster fishing. The Hubbards area supported two fish plants: the Burns Fish Plant, built in 1920’s, and the Associated Seafoods plant in Fox Point which operated in the 1940s and 1950s until it burnt down. The Burns Fish plant actually operated in the 1980’s and then sat empty until it was torn down in ????.
What I appreciate the most about Hubbards, and which still draws droves of tourists during the summer months, are the beaches. Since the 1800s, Hubbards has been a popular tourist destination. The Somerset House (or McLean House), now the location of our current post office, operated for more than 100 years and was used extensively as a stopover for stagecoaches.
Finally, one of the coolest things about Hubbards was the St. Margaret’s Bay Training School for the Merchant Marines, which operated out of the former Gainsborough Hotel. The site, which was next door to the McLean house, was sold to the government in 1944. It’s now the location of our JD Shatford Library, built in 1969.
And so with profound affinity to the fishermen and the Mariners who shaped this small Nova Scotia community, we set off into St. Margaret’s Bay today in the spirit of adventure and discovery.
Nova Scotia, here we come!