Thursday, October 16, 2014

Some shipwrecks you probably didn't know about

Design for "La Macrée".  Photo: L'Avantage and Alain Ross.
Shipwrecks, shipwrecks, shipwrecks.  Lately, it's been the lost ships of the Franklin expedition of 1848, especially the lost-no-more HMS Erebus.  Earlier this year, it was the Empress of Ireland, which sank in the lower St. Lawrence in 1914.  And you might recall the ongoing searches for Cavelier de La Salle's Griffon and d'Iberville's Pélican.  In case you haven't had enough yet, let me turn you on to the story of L'Aigle.  Bet you haven't heard about that one yet.

It was in the news this week because a fouresome of artists are currently working on a monument, entitled "La Macrée", to be built in Rimouski.  The local paper, L'Avantage, has the story here.   I quite like the preliminary design, show above.  The challenge will be to raise the $50,000 necessary for its construction.  Money, money, money.

In 1758, following the fall of Louisbourg, France sent a fleet of twelve ships to contribute to Canada's defense against the impending British invasion.  The admiral ship, L'Aigle, with three hundred troops on board, was wrecked at a place called Gros Mécatina along the Basse Côte-Nord, aka. the lower north shore of the St. Lawrence.  The two ships which Intendant Bigot sent to undertake salvage operations met the same fate.  They crashed into each other, actually.  Another ship, which may or may not have been called La Macrée, was more sucessful and managed to ferry the survivors to the small settlement of Rimouski where they spent a difficult winter.

This story is particularly interesting, because -- if I may dig a little deeper than L'Avantage's reporter -- it turns out that it is partly grounded in and clouded by oral tradition.  Well before traces of this event were found buried in the colonial archives, journalist and politician Jean-Charles Taché collected its echo from old timers in his native Rimouski and published it in the magazine Soirées canadiennes in 1865.  Charles Guay's Chronique de Rimouski (1875) republished Taché's text, adding a few other details apparently also drawn from local lore.  These accounts quickly get confusing, but Béatrice Chassée does the best job of untangling the facts and reconciling the archival and oral records in her Rimouski et son île (2003, pp. 32-35, available online here).  Worth a peek, if you like this sort of stuff.

Incidentally, Joseph-Charles Taché was the nephew of Étienne-Paschal Taché, who presided over the momentous Quebec Conference precisely 150 years ago this week.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Les Ursulines et l'Évêque en pélerinage

Le 2 avril 2014, le pape François canonisait Marie de l'Incarnation et François de Laval (voyez ce que Charlevoix en disait ici).  Un groupe de fidèles vient d'entreprendre, ce dimanche, un pèlerinage sur les traces des deux personnages.  Plusieurs Ursulines de Québec ainsi que le cardinal Lacroix, évêque actuel de Québec, sont eux-mêmes du nombre des pèlerins.  Après Paris, Montigny sur Avre, Chartres, La Flèche, Solesme et Tours, le groupe prendra la direction de Rome, où le pape célèbrera le 12 octobre une messe d’action de grâce en l'honneur des nouveaux saints.  Les intéressés pourront suivre leur trajet "virtuellement" grâce au portail ECDQ, celui de l'Espace Média de l'Église catholique du Québec, qui propose de suivre le groupe dans une série de vidéos : le départ, visite à St-Germain-des-Prés, etc.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Early Fall Varia

In an op-ed for Le Devoir, Michel Morin took up the challenge posed by Christian Néron's crazy denial of the Treaty of Paris, to which I alluded in an earlier post.  Morin, a law prof at Université de Montréal, demonstrates how this treaty was perfectly in accordance with international law.  That settles that, then.

On September 14, a solemn mass was held at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec to commemorate its 350th anniversary.  Pope Francis had New France on the mind, naming an envoy to preside over the mass and issuing a statement about the significance of the event, urging this envoy to "sweetly exhort the priests and faithful present there to follow Christ with perseverance and to venerate His Mother piously, as was the custom in these rather large regions."  Sweet, sweet exhortations.

In early September, CBC News - Nova Scotia published a story on Troilus de Mesgouez's failed attempt at settling Sable Island in 1598.  Another ill-fated, short-lived sixteenth-century settlement is the subject of an ongoing controversy.  Its precise location has never been clearly identified. Archaeologists have long thought that René Goulaine de Laudonnière's Fort Caroline of 1564-1565 was located on the banks of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida -- there's a "Fort Caroline National Memorial" there.  Maybe it wasn't. The issue was stirred anew back in February when someone made a presentation during a conference at Florida State University claiming that the colony was actually far to the north, in Georgia.  This and other theories were debated by two groups of scholars at the University of North Florida a few weeks ago (see here, and here).  Fight, fight, fight!

What else?  The Ganondagan site, which interprets Seneca history near Rochester, NY, held a reenactment of Cavelier de La Salle's visit in 1669.  Down au Pays des Illinois, there is a project afoot to expand the Bolduc House Museum in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, into an "expanded and rebranded tourist destination", a complex to be called "New France ... The Other Colonial America."  Neato.  In fair Belleville, Ontario, there is meanwhile a plan for a monument to commemorate to the 400th anniversay of Champlain's visit. 

That's all for now.

PS: dear readers, thank you for your patience while we fiddle around with our look.  It was time to get rid of the old Blogger template background.  But damn it, Jim, Charlevoix is an historian, not a damn graphic designer or web developer.