Horrid History – A slice of British past in St John, Bay of Fundy
‘In May 1783, ‘Seven ships lie anchored in the Bay of Fundy,
off the mouth of the St John River. The passengers aboard are a curious collection of refugees – they are farmers and doctors, carpenters and lawyers, craftsmen and soldiers – people of every age, from all walks of life. As they gaze grimly upon the rocky peninsular and the Fundy mud flats sprawling before them, they share a common longing for the homes they left behind’, quoted my guide, explaining Canada’s Arcadian history.
‘From the beginning of the American Revolution in 1774, to shortly after its conclusion, some 40,000 British subjects fled north to Canada to escape persecution. The 3000 so-called ‘loyalists’, who arrived in St John in May, were soon followed by 11,000 more; a large British community soon grew in the small city of St John.
The city has few echoes of this bygone era, which are mapped out on the loyalist heritage trail. The fire of 1877 wiped out much of the city, and there is now a clear demarcation between the unscathed wooden structures on one side of the street and the new fire resistant brick blocks on the other.
St John is now predominantly an industrial city, with a big ship building history and a gas refinery. A visit to the Reversing Falls, where the St John river flows out into the Bay of Fundy, is particularly interesting. The outgoing, fast-flowing freshwater collides spectacularly with the incoming sea in a dramatic roar of rapids, with the shere velocity of water pushing waves of saltwater inland. The backdrop of the Reversing Falls is a Pulp Mill; not necessarily traditionally beautiful, though certainly an impressive view.
Don’t miss the city market, which is architecturally wonderful; the roof is built to resemble the inverted hull of a ship. The building plays host to a farmer’s market with a range of local and international delicacies. Visitors can take part in a daily culinary tasting tour to get an idea of the unique food on offer.
Do not miss the Hall of Great Whales in the New Brunswick Museum, particularly for those travelling as a family, with its striking array of whale skeletons on display. If paired with a trip whale watching, this a great way to gain another perspective on the lives of the marine mammals of the region.