In Loving Memory of Joan Hope
Joan Hope's IQ
was 152 graded by Mensa in 1949.
All pictures, text, graphs, and maps have been copied from Joan's research journals, self-published book and photo albums she allowed me to digitally photograph. Most files are over 30 years old and had to be adapted for this website.
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Castle in Nova Scotia
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Painting above by Joan Hope
The legend of a trans-Atlantic Arcadia was based on more than just the visits to its shores by Giovanni Verrazano in 1524, two years after news came through of Magellan's death during a round-the-world voyage in 1521. Stories of a European king of fabulous wealth in North America go back to fishermen's tales during the 14th century and to travellers' tales even earlier. El Dorado, the Man of Gold, got confused in people's minds with a mythical country of the same name, and with the Fortunate Isles of earlier times, off the North African coast. Many such names also became associated with the Isle or Isles of the Seven Cities, a land where seven golden citadels were believed to have been built, presumably by the Man of Gold. Also associated was the legend of a rustic paradise of the kind believed to have existed in the centre of the Peloponnesus in Greece: Arcadia. The truth was that the average person had no idea what really lay beyond the vast and treacherous Atlantic and there must have been almost as many tales as there were people telling them. Right up to the time of Christopher Columbus's first voyage in 1492 most people imagined that beyond the great ocean only a few islands separated Europe from all the riches of the Orient. Columbus changed all that when he made his discovery of the Caribbean public. We now know that he was preceded by others who for various reasons remained uncommunicative after their return to Europe, some such as fishermen perhaps because their only objective was to make a living, but others because they wanted to protect their own interests. For instance, if gold had indeed been found, telling the world would only result in a "gold-rush". That was indeed what happened centuries later.
Back to Verrazano: we can say with reasonable certainty that the coast he visited was that of what is now Nova Scotia, then called Sudhrike, a name derived, significantly, together with many others in use by the native peoples of North America, from Old Norse. Being translated, it meant "Southern Kingdom" - the northern kingdom being, one has to assume, in Scandinavia or Iceland and Greenland. The French when they arrived called it Souriquois, but soon it was to become Acadia, possibly a contraction of Arcadia.
Spain and Portugal, England and Holland, all probably had El Dorado in mind, and the seven golden cities. They never found them and in time all the convoluted legends died.
Meanwhile, the "Auld Alliance" between France and Scotland, as well perhaps as Scotland's Norse connections in the past, had led to a Scottish presence in Acadia and a year after the Pilgrim Fathers landed in New England, New Scotland, comprising what are now Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, part of Maine, Anticosti Island and the Gaspe Peninsula, appeared on the map under the conditions set out in the First Charter, dated 1621.
Nova Scotia then faced many years of turmoil, as in the rest of North and South America, caused mainly by what was going on in Europe. What finally happened was that in 1654 Cromwell's men, led by Sedgewick, invaded New Scotland or Acadia and carried out the same sort of systematic destruction of castles and other buildings as Cromwell had done in England. Gunpowder, the ultimate weapon of the time, was used to blow them up. The severe climate completed the task and soon little more than the foundations were left. This led to their existence in the past being denied later. Yet there is no doubt that the "castles and fortalices" as well as the "towns and manors" mentioned in the two charters of 1621 and 1625 actually existed, as did also the gold and other minerals mentioned. The Gold River runs through New Ross and other communities, and there are remains of old gold-mines. Ruins were found at Fort Point as well as at New Ross, which were obviously originally the foundations of buildings erected long before La Have became the French capital in 1632.
Legends back up what has
been found on or beneath the surface of the ground. Gold was
said to have been taken by Cromwell's men to New England.
It was this anxiety on the part of the Stuart kings to keep English marauders out which accounted for the repeated "returning" of Nova Scotia to France. The Stuarts trusted the French; they did not find reason to trust the English even though they were trying to act as their rulers. Also involved was the gold trade, at the time in the hands of Scottish merchants. England's history was, from the Scottish point of view, one of usurpation and treachery. There were many secrets to be kept, such as the true extent of the early Norse voyages, the presence of old Norse merchant families in Scotland and, after the accession of James I to the English throne, in London; and the gold trade associated with them.
Even more interesting was the true identity of Scottish merchants of Norse descent: they were, according to Norwegian historian Fridtjof Nansen, originally from the Greeks of the Golden Age of Athens and Sparta. Arcadia or Acadia: the name was well-chosen as applied to the Sudhrike of those times. A good place to build a beautiful castle.
1972: it was spring and our home on the balmy south-west shore of Nova Scotia was full of excitement and anticipation. After three years in the Loyalist town of Shelburne with its wonderful harbour for boating, we were moving to a more central location in connection with my husband's work. Our new home was to be on the road that runs from Chester Basin to Kentville in the Annapolis Valley. We'd often passed through the village of New Ross on the way to Wolfville for work or courses during the summer and had become accustomed to stopping there for lunch at the village snack bar. There was a hippie colony at a large, red house at the north end of the village. Once when our car had broken down they'd come along in their bus and had given us a lift. It seemed a friendly place and we were looking forward to living there. Remained only for us to find a house or apartment.
So one weekend, the weather being warm and sunny, we drove up there to make enquiries. It was only a small village, population not much more than 300. Would we be lucky enough to find a place? Somewhat to our surprise we discovered that two were available: a house for sale at the top of Porcupine Hill on the Old Annapolis Road - a military road dating back to the 18th century, long before the first settlers arrived after the Napoleonic wars, in 1816; and an apartment upstairs in that big house where the hippies lived.
The house on Porcupine Hill turned out to be unfinished, the basement full of large rocks and most of the rooms inside only partially partitioned off. It was within our price range but would enough work be done by the time we planned to move in? Worse yet was the very steep gradient of the hill. Wouldn't it be dangerous during winter? Well, there had been a few accidents but if you drove carefully.......
We decided to look at the apartment. The hippies had a rock band and we wondered if they would want to practise downstairs while we were trying to sleep upstairs. But no problem: they had moved out and the entire property - house and about three-quarters of an acre of grounds - was in the course of being sold. So we'd soon be getting a new landlord. We liked the apartment. It had been newly-renovated with panelled walls in the two main rooms, and the kitchen door led out on to a balcony from which a lovely view could be had of the valley below, where a stream ran and cattle grazed. And we could move in as soon as we liked.
While my husband was negotiating the rent with our new, if temporary, landlord, I went out to explore the grounds. Although it was sunny, there was a brisk, cool breeze and, unlike the South Shore, snow was still lying. I was glad I had my boots on. The spring run-off was underway and I had to leap over a little stream that ran across the backyard. Long grass, flattened by the snow, showed in brown patches here and there but soon gave way to a thick undergrowth of bushes, with two apple trees to the left and a straggly willow behind a camp-stove to the right. The landlord had pointed to an abandoned truck among the bushes: that marked the end of the backyard. But when I got there I discovered there was a steep drop and a footpath leading along what seemed to be the remains of a stone wall.
The men were still talking outside the back door. "Ronnie, Ronnie!" I called across the half-acre of snow that separated us, "Ronnie, come and look here! It's a castle mound!"
"It's a what!"
"It's a castle mound. You can see the line of the outer wall through the snow and the path runs round the remains of two towers! Come and look!"
But he remained motionless beside the tall, red house, gazing back at me across the white expanse: "No! Come here! I want to know what you think of the place. We've got a long drive home," he added, turning towards our little yellow car.
"But don't you want to look at the back land?" I exclaimed, starting to plunge back towards him through the undergrowth and snow, "It's so interesting. I mean it really could be the ruins of a castle." "Not in Canada," he replied, "Come on, let's go," and he opened the off-side door for me to get in. "Now," he said, "It's your decision. This place or the other?"
"Oh, I thought I told you. This place. Let's go back and tell him we'll buy it." "But we can't. Have you forgotten? This place is only for rent." "Never mind. Rent it then."
My husband obviously didn't share my enthusiasm and took pains to remind me that the other place was for sale, "And it's a bargain. We could easily finish it ourselves." Perhaps so. But it was obvious that a great deal of work would have to be done on it. The upper floor was not only unfinished - it hadn't even been begun. I visualised us facing the autumn under tarpaulins.
By now I had begun to realise that, as far as Ron was concerned, the castle I was sure I'd discovered was, if not pure fantasy, a lost cause. How could I convince him to change his mind? I launched into a discussion on all the advantages we'd have if we chose the upper apartment in the big, red house: the well-finished interior, the space for a garden, the proximity of the stores. And then there was that steep, winding hill leading up to the other place: bound to be hazardous in winter, I emphasized. Spring was starting now, and the roads were clear, but we'd already been warned about how deep the snow could be "up here" compared with what we'd been experiencing down on the balmy shores of south-west Nova Scotia.
So, although the apartment was also on a hill, it was settled and we were to move in at the end of June or early July. The hilltop on which the village itself was situated was approached by a road whose gradient was far less steep than that of Porcupine Hill, which was outside the village and on the way to another one known as The Forties.
"This is just about the highest point west of Halifax," we'd been told over the phone when we were arranging to view the properties. We remembered it not only as a stopping-place on the way to Annapolis Valley, but because of its Farm Museum, a fairly recent project that we'd visited the previous summer: a pretty little village with two white clapboard churches, to greet us: the Anglican on the left and the Catholic on the right.
"The highest point west of Halifax..." Now where had I heard that phrase before? No matter. It was to be our home now, with woodsmen as our neighbours and a large Christmas-tree operation next door instead of the fishermen we'd grown used to and the local fish-plant. Huge logging trucks would go rumbling through the village, while in Shelburne the main activity was down at the wharf.
But what was the significance of "the highest point west of Halifax?" Fortunately I was in the habit of keeping notebooks. Soon I would discover the connection. But for the time being I had to put the nagging question out of my mind: my notebooks were already packed.
Slowly, almost leisurely, during the long, warm days of our last few weeks on the South Shore, I packed our things into the seven trunks that had accompanied us on our travels around the world: England, then back to Western Canada where Ron had grown up: a home for a while on the Prairies; Japan, Vietnam, Singapore; another home for a while in India where we were engaged in social work; then back again to Nova Scotia, where once again we had begun to collect a few pieces of furniture. We needed a home of our own now rather than just a rented apartment and hoped that at New Ross, once we'd settled into the community, we'd be able to find a place to buy. For my part I hoped for a miracle: I hoped that the man who was negotiating to buy the big house with the red shingles would withdraw.
In July we moved in, and at once the neighbours opposite came to introduce themselves and to offer to help. From them we discovered that the place had been built just after the last war as a restaurant, which accounted for its "boomtown" false front. Buses used to stop there and when they were discontinued the restaurant had fallen on hard times. No longer was it the village meeting-place: along the newly-paved road from Chester Basin to Kentville in the Annapolis Valley the cars whizzed by, their occupants eager to arrive at their destination before thinking of a snack or a meal. Even the popular dances once held there became less and less frequent: television was partly responsible for that; and soon, like the village theatre, the restaurant was forced to close down. More and more, local people were staying at home to watch TV.
For a time the lower part was used as a tire store, while the upper apartment passed through the hands of various tenants including the hippie rock group who for a time brought back some of the old colour and excitement. But now the landlord, who had bought the property in a tax sale, felt he lived too far away to keep an eye on the place. That was why he had arranged to sell it, and our new landlord would be living in the lower apartment, he told us, which was being converted. The noise of hammer, saw and electric drill greeted us as we moved in, assailing us via the furnace-ducts, and we wondered what it would be like with a family downstairs if the sounds of what went on there travelled upwards so easily. One night our present landlord held a party down there and we were kept awake most of the night.
Ron began to make enquiries about an alternative property. New Ross was so well situated that wherever he worked in mainland Nova Scotia, a home there would serve his purpose. Moreover, he'd have to retire one day and what better place than this area with its rivers and lakes and the beautiful views from our hilltop? Although it was not on the coast, it was handy to the sea and to the many islands of Mahone Bay not twenty miles down the road, including the fabled Oak Island and its mysterious treasure-pit which we had yet to visit. Some said the Incas had hidden their gold there long ago. But by all accounts there had apparently been plenty of gold mined locally at one time. Why else was our river called the Gold River?
Despite my fascination with our new surroundings, I was at first so busy settling in with Ron and our three cats that all thoughts of a castle, if any, on the site have been shelved. Outside a crop of weeds three feet high had grown where I wanted to start a garden and the few plants we'd brought with us such as columbines, Cape gooseberries and violets had to be temporarily heeled in and weren't at all happy. So the landlord, at our request, sent a student with a scythe to mow our backyard in his spare time. Even so, there was a lot of scrub left, and among it to the north-west of the house, just behind the camp-stove I could now see what appeared to be the remains of a second vehicle: the shiny black top of a car. Beyond it, to the north, the drop was even steeper than the one at the far end of our yard, so that we actually looked down on the roofs of buildings in the Christmas-tree yard. Bashing my way towards what I'd just found, I discovered to my surprise that it was sitting on top of what I was almost certain was a disused well, though if so, being in such an elevated position, it must have dried up long ago. It was eight feet in diameter, and if it really was a well I wondered what house it had served, for clearly it was older than the existing house, which in any case had its own drilled well and electrically-operated pump.
I told Ron about my find and he said that if it was indeed a well he would make a wooden cover for it in case some wandering child should fall in.
Meanwhile I was working on the garden and it was while I was doing so that I came across my first clues as to an earlier building, part of which was in our backyard, and it was not, as it happened, a castle.
During the rest of that summer, everything seemed to be conspiring to prevent me from working in my garden, not only the unpacking but also a new and interesting community and county - Lunenburg County - to explore and more history to learn. First, there was that old 18th-century military road, originally planned to go from the old capital at Annapolis Royal to what was then a military base at Halifax, now the capital. Part of it had been paved and, crossing the Gold River at New Ross, turned right up a dirt road for a little way, then continued along a rough track to the left. That section, which we walked as far as possible, led towards Halifax but was never completed. Accompanying us on this walk was one of the students and it was he who first mentioned a 17th-century mansion that once stood behind our new home. He suggested that the rocks that had been making my gardening so difficult might be part of its foundations.
"My grandfather says it was somewhere up this road," he said, "Right in the middle of the forest in those days. An ancestor of his worked on it as a carpenter. My grandmother's people were connected with it too: one of her ancestors had a hand in pulling it down in 1654 for Cromwell. You see there was a lot of gold - a gold dome. It was all taken down to Massachusetts by Sedgewick........"
Some of this student's ancestors had lived in Nova Scotia for a very long time: they were Micmacs. And that reminded me of where I'd heard mention of "the highest point west of Halifax": it was an elderly Micmac who had first told us that.
Back in Shelburne County we had discovered several abandoned roads as well as the more common woods roads and had often enjoyed hiking in the Barrington, Shelburne and Lockeport areas, accompanied by friends we'd made nearby. Although the woods roads often yielded interesting botanical specimens, it was the abandoned roads that had all the 'atmosphere" and we often found ourselves instinctively lowering our voices or lapsing into silence as if we had to tread carefully lest we disturbed the ghosts of the past. Highwaymen had infested some of those roads in days gone by, and from time to time we would come upon the ruins of a roadside inn once busy with travellers, stage-coaches and horses; or, set back a little, what was once a pioneer homestead with perhaps a gnarled old apple-tree or two nearby still bearing fruit. It was easy to imagine ourselves back in those days, and to experience some of the ever-present fear people must have had lest at any moment a highwayman might leap out of the bushes.
Shelburne, the Loyalist town that had once exceeded Halifax in size, boasted one of the best harbours along the entire North American east coast and had vied with Halifax as the capital of Nova Scotia, has its own old Annapolis Road. It was here that we came upon a little log cabin on the shores of a lake where lived, on occasion, an elderly hunter. The first time we went there he was away, but we noted that it had all that a family would need: wood-shed, outhouse, camp-stove and well - even a dog-kennel; and behind it a little landing-stage. Peeping through the windows, we could see hunting trophies such as moose-antlers and bear-skins.
Next time we were lucky: just as we were about to push on, one of the students who had accompanied us scanned the lake and called us back. We turned to see a small boat making its way towards us across the still waters. It had two occupants, an old man, tall and spare and stooping a little as he came ashore, and a man in his thirties who turned out to be his son.
Indoors, we noticed that he had a lot of things still in use that would now be considered antiques: old oil-lamps, candle-moulds, a rotary egg-whisk over a hundred years old.
But it was the stories he told that interested us most: how he'd taken to the woods at the age of fifteen, establishing his camp, adding rooms to his original one-roomed cabin. "They didn't like it though. They tried to get me out. The government," he added, "They even tried to sell me my own land. But they couldn't do that any more than they could get me out. This land belonged to my people long before Halifax was ever heard of."
By "my people" I thought he meant his own family. We didn't discover until afterwards that he was a Micmac.
"Yes," he continued, "And there was the Queen to back me up. Our land: they call it Crown land and it stretches right across the middle of the province, starting at Yarmouth. Long ago the Queen and them, or the King, whoever it was at the time, reserved it in case they had to come and live here... It was a long time ago... I don't know, perhaps before Bonaparte."
"How do you know about all this?" I asked, fascinated.
"My people were here when it happened," he replied.
It was all because of the royal family, according to him, that the authorities had failed to get him out: "The deeds were indefensible - useless and meaningless if the original deeds turned up."
I asked him what he thought might have happened to the original deeds and whose they were.
"The royal family had them and now they're lost. That's why any other deeds are indefensible."
I was puzzled: how could the royal family have lost the deeds of their own Crown land? And which British kings around the time of Napoleon had been under such threat that they might have to take refuge in Nova Scotia? Then it occurred to me: this story must have come down from much longer ago. Of course: it was the Stuart kings who had been faced with all those problems. It was James I of England who had given Nova Scotia its first Charter and it was James II who had run away as William III sailed in from Holland to claim the throne. Perhaps he had hoped to get to Nova Scotia and had taken the deeds with him to France along with other papers. Naturally, later on, the Hanoverian kings would have regarded them as lost.
Later we had met another Micmac who was much younger. He lived at Barrington and used to act as our guide through the woods there. He knew the footprints of every animal in the woods and could even tell the sex of an animal from them. I marvelled at the way he could creep up on some small creature such as a chipmunk without making a sound even though there were dead leaves and twigs underfoot.
Next time we met, I mentioned the story the old man had told and he replied, "So you've heard about that. Yes, it's true. There was such a king and he had all this land for hunting and in case he had to come back here from England. It reached from somewhere near Yarmouth to Lake Pockwock, this side of Halifax, and in the middle of the forest a house had been built for him, a little palace in the woods." "But," he added with an emphasis that reminded me of the older man, "we have a right to live on that land and no government can turn us off it. We can go into the woods and build our log cabins and they can't stop us. We have the right by those old deeds."
He added that he himself was building a cabin in the woods.
I asked him where in the woods the little palace had been built and he told me, "West of Halifax - just about the highest point west of Halifax, on a hill. I can't tell you exactly where." But he was sure there would be some ruins on the spot, adding, "It was built on holy ground. It was to be the King's refuge." I assumed he meant holy to the Micmacs.
Now, a year or two later, a student was telling me about his grandfather's story concerning what seemed to be the same palace.
Meanwhile, my wish about our new home had come true: the man who was hoping to buy it had not been satisfied with the renovations downstairs and had withdrawn, so we had immediately agreed to take it off our landlord's hands. I was hardly surprised when the deeds arrived and indicated that the land was not freehold but subject to a grant given by George III. The two Micmacs had been right: our deeds were indefensible. We wondered what would happen if the old deeds suddenly turned up. If they had disappeared with James II, perhaps it wouldn't matter as his son and grandson had apparently left no descendants and the line had therefore died out. But what if, as the younger Micmac had implied, another king had been involved - a king of Nova Scotia? What if his descendants were to lay claim to our property? But our neighbours told us not to worry: many of them were descended from the original settlers, all disbanded soldiers who had been granted land in the New Ross area around 1816 - and nothing untoward had happened since.
So I continued with my efforts to make a garden in our backyard, wondering the while where exactly the "little palace" had stood. I had been removing piles of rocks from my little garden plot, but so far hadn't come across anything that might be called masonry.
One day I had to ask Ron to come and help me to remove some particularly heavy and stubborn rocks. As he dug them out, I noticed that four of them seemed to have been deliberately grouped around a hole. It was only when I came upon another group exactly similar that I knew we'd just dug up, as it were, a post-hole! Even so, I was not certain that these were part of the foundations of any building. There was no sign of any mortar for instance. We asked the student who had been helping us, the one with the tale about the little palace.
"Mortar? There wouldn't be," he said, "This was a 'base-frame' house. My grandfather's people used to have the old plans but they went to the United States with some other relatives, he says. The posts were fixed at the corners and they held up the frame. Then the rest of the foundations could be quite rough, just rocks." In other words the palace had been built on the basis of an ordinary, old-fashioned frame house. That came as a surprise to me as I had expected it to be of stone, there being plenty of stones available in and around the village. But I soon learnt that the severe winter weather and the acidity of the soil would have caused serious problems if mortar was used; which was why all the houses around there were clapboard or shingled.
What I wanted to do now was to get one of our two original informants who knew about the 17th-century house to come and take a look at the site. The older man was now not in good health, but I felt sure that our Barrington friend would pay us a visit if asked. So I sent out an invitation. I was also hoping to meet the student's grandfather, but he too was in poor health. However, his grandson did let me have a rough sketch-plan of the wing of the mansion that appeared to have stood on our land. It was, as it turned out, highly inaccurate, if only because he had failed to indicate where the rest of the building was - whether farther back or extending on to the land next door. Thus it was that while our student was away on his long vacation, I spent some time wondering how a "mansion" or a "palace" could have been so small; for the sketch-plan plainly indicated that the place was only fourteen feet wide. Did the two arrows pointing towards the backyard next door mean that we could expect to find more rubble foundations running in that direction?
To my delight, the entire family from Barrington arrived complete with tent, to camp in our backyard and to attend the local fair that was on at the time, for which the entire community had been preparing for some weeks past and where both Ron and I were manning side-shows.
Our young Micmac was tall, bronzed and auburn-haired: it simply isn't true that they are all dark. In Nova Scotia fair, auburn or even red hair are not uncommon. When I told him that the village was once called "The Cross", he gave me a knowing look and told me, "You won't find that name in the official county history." The name, he said, dated back to the days before New Ross was founded.
He was right. It seemed to be an entirely local name still in use colloquially, but not on any map or in any book. I wondered how it had originated, for although there was now a cross-roads in the village where the Old Annapolis Road crossed that running from Chester Basin to Kentville, it certainly hadn't been there in the 18th century or even during the first half of this century, for the marshland that lay to the south of the two churches had forced all traffic to take a detour down the Old Annapolis Road, over the Gold River and then right up the hill to continue towards Chester Basin.
The causeway that now crossed the marshland had been built only a few years before we first travelled that way.
"Yes," said the young man, "I guess you've found the place."
I was anxious to learn more, for instance what had really been meant by "The Cross" at a time when there were no cross-roads in the village? I was reminded of Britain and Ireland, where that name was often used in reference to an actual cross that had been erected in a village. Had there been such a cross in whatever community had preceded the foundation of New Ross?
But he was giving me one of those knowing looks again, and then he clammed up. Obviously he knew more. Perhaps he would tell later.
But alas, he was never to visit us again: within a few months he was killed in a shooting accident. This was to prove a great blow to me in my investigations, for my other two possible informants were in their late seventies or eighties and wouldn't be able to give me much more assistance. In the end, the young student would be the only one of my original contacts left alive to help. Fortunately he was almost as interested in what we'd found out as I was.
There are roughly three kinds of stone cross in the British Isles. The first kind but the most recently-erected is the Christian cross, based on the wooden one on which Christ was crucified. Then there is what is known as the Celtic cross, found mainly in Ireland and dating back to the early days of the Christian era. It is basically a stele or stone pillar with an elaborately-decorated cross carved, often on all four sides, at the top. Unable to discover whether there had been any settlement at what is now New Ross before 1816, I wondered whether one or other of these Christian crosses might have been erected at this spot on the Old Annapolis Road, perhaps as a grave-marker. If so, the first kind would have been more likely as it was conceivable that there might have been one or more fatal accidents during the building of the road in the 18th century.
The Celtic cross is linked with the third kind, sometimes referred to as the pagan "cross". When Christianity first came to Ireland, the phallic symbols connected with the old religion were often "Christianised" by means of the aforementioned elaborate carving, though no doubt others that were similar were carved and erected by the Christians. In England a few of the old pagan steles remain almost unchanged, perhaps "Christianised" by means of roughly-carved crosses near the top or by chipping away the stone to form a stumpy cross-piece.
Since these pagan steles date back to long before the Christian era I concluded that it was very unlikely that such a "cross" ever existed in Nova Scotia.
It would be two years before I would discover any evidence of a stone cross at New Ross. Yet as it happened the evidence was there from the day we had our property surveyed.
The sudden change from renters to ownership in August, 1972, had been dramatic. It all began one day early in the month when I was outside at the front of the house digging to make a flower-bed when the landlord happened to drop by to collect another month's rent. At least that was what I thought. Unfortunately Ron was out.
"Bad news," said the landlord as he greeted me. I wondered if he was going to raise the rent and suggested he might come back a little later, by which time Ron would have returned. But he seemed to ignore that and continued, "I shall have to tell those men downstairs to stop work: the buyer has withdrawn. Doesn't like the way they've divided it up, says there's no room for a double bed, doesn't like the open-plan idea, says there aren't enough windows where he wants them. Well, he could put them in afterwards, couldn't he? But he's gone now and to tell you the truth I don't want the place. It's always given me trouble, vandals and that. Too far away, can't keep an eye on it. Why, those rock-band people and hippies I had up here turned it into a regular whore-house. Then they gave up work and threw the piano downstairs and wouldn't pay the rent. I don't want anything like that again. Would you be willing to buy?"
"Perhaps," I replied, not wanting to appear too eager. I told him I'd consult my husband.
"Good enough. I'll be back in a couple of days," he told me, and with that he got into his truck and was away.
At first Ron thought the asking price was too high, and I agreed. "But he'll come down," I assured him, "He seems fed up with the bad luck he's had with the place. He's desperate to sell."
We were somewhat concerned about the unfinished work downstairs and arranged for him to come over with the keys so that we could inspect. I was anxious to dig deeper in the backyard and to discover the full extent of the ruins. The ground was full of humps and bumps and in any case would have to be levelled so that we could make a lawn. I felt sure I'd discover more foundations in the course of that work.
But all my work outside came to an abrupt end on the day we inspected the lower half of the house. There was a tremendous amount of work to be done. Our landlord still seemed unable to understand why the other man, who had been willing to pay more, had withdrawn, but when he flung open the door to what he said was the master-bedroom we understood everything: there was no clothes-closet and barely enough room even for a single bed! In fact everything downstairs seemed to have been made awkward to live in: it was really still a dance-hall with only one light-switch that turned all the lights on everywhere at the same time, and no screens to keep the bugs out in the summer or storm-windows for the winter. Perhaps, too, the noise problem had been a factor in the buyer's withdrawal. During his visits he must have been able to hear everything we were doing upstairs: singing for instance, which was one of our pastimes. We'd put on our Newfoundland, Scottish and other folk-song records and sing along merrily as we worked to settle in.
I observed that we could use downstairs as a rec-room and now that we had the house to ourselves would be able to invite our singing friends up from the South Shore for the weekends. But by this time we were in the basement and Ron could see endless work to be done there, especially on the plumbing; and then again, outside there were no eaves-troughs. The newly-installed oil-fired furnace was an asset, but when we learnt that there were sometimes power-cuts in the winter lasting for as long as an entire day, we realised we'd have to look for a wood-burning stove to use in case of emergency. Fortunately there was a brick chimney with an opening for such a stove on every floor.
The outcome of all this was that within three days we had become joint grantees on a small part of that land described to us by the Micmacs we'd met around Shelburne and Barrington.
My one thought, once we had completed the work needed on the house, was to trace the boundaries of our land so that I knew where to dig. In the end we were able to arrange to have it surveyed. Meanwhile, from the deeds we discovered that it had been originally L-shaped but a piece in front had been sold off by the people who ran the restaurant and was now planted with a few silver poplars under which the horses belonging to the children there were grazing. There being no fence, I had at first imagined that our property still extended on to that land and had been planning to dig there. We soon realised we'd have to fence our land in when the horses started to wander over to our house and peep in at the downstairs windows.
At the far end, where the "L" turned southwards and came to an end, the deeds mentioned, surprisingly, a stone wall - a rare thing in Nova Scotia. Scrambling through the bushes, I found this wall: it was almost entirely obscured by a growth of alder saplings and brambles, where large, luscious blackberries were by that time ripening; there were raspberries, too, and choke cherries. At the far end of the wall a number of huge rocks had been dumped by a neighbour who later came and apologized for what he had done but never removed them. A crab-apple tree grew there and a hop-vine had twisted itself around its trunk. I wondered if the people living in the 17th-century mansion had originally planted hops there to make beer. Continuing with my rock-climbing activities, I discovered on the other side of the wall the remains of other walls attached to the main wall at right-angles. Rooms? Stables? No, too small. Privies perhaps.
Next day we had a few people coming in for supper. Then we had to start work on our newly-acquired rooms and basement. So no more exploration, no more digging for a while.
We did, however, take a day off to search out the old deeds at the county offices. From this we were able to ascertain who all the grantees had been from the date of the original grant in 1816 when the village was founded under the name of Sherbrooke, and how the land was subsequently sub-divided. It was all very interesting but of course as far as we could see threw no light on any earlier land use or buildings.
But what we did learn was that when the restaurant people bought the land in 1948, there were already "buildings" on it. For some time it had been part of a one-and-a-half acre lot belonging to the house next door, where a fur-trader then lived. On making enquiries among our older neighbours we eventually discovered that this man had used the then one-storey building on the site of our present house as a store where he apparently also sold "antiques" - this latter we discovered when a man who had been away ever since the war returned looking for antiques at our address. It was probably a junk-shop but no matter: what would really matter to me in my later research was the fur-trading post which I was to learn was already there before the present village was founded and had been in operation, apparently, for centuries. Here, then, was another Micmac connection to the days at least just after the razing of the site in 1654, if not earlier.
Now we had to get down to work in earnest: not so much outside, even though the weather was good, for long weeks of dry weather had made the ground, which was of heavy clay, rock-hard and very difficult to dig. For the moment, hours of scrubbing and cleaning, in particular to get those awful black tire marks off the floor while Ron and others attended to the plumbing, the electrical wiring and the purchase and installation of such necessary items as storm windows and eaves-troughs.
Every night we went to bed tired out after our labours and all the extra meals I had to prepare. But how good it was to wake up in the morning, look out of the window and see cows grazing in the meadow below: a peaceful scene, life as I knew it years ago on the farm where I was born.
It would be September before I could do any digging again: later in that month as it happened.
September and the Labour Day holiday on the 5th; but, anxious though I was to get back to work afterwards in the backyard, the ground remained too hard and I had to content myself completing the work on the furniture we'd bought for our extra rooms downstairs: covers to be made, curtains to be hung and so on. At last rain came in the form of the tail-end of a tropical storm on the 9th and that meant I could at last get back to my digging.
Once again I went over the terrain. The little ditch that traversed the yard not far from the house was now running like a stream again. It had evidently been made to prevent water from the higher ground from running into the basement when the snow melted in the spring or, as in this case, after a summer rain-storm. Now we had it roughly bridged in three places with old boards we'd found around the place so that when the time came we could cross it with a lawn-mower. There was a good stretch of potential lawn to the left, as far as the line of loosely-packed rocks we'd found between the post-holes. This was roughly level with the well among the bushes to the far right, the large boulder behind the camp-stove and the home-made, benchless picnic table where the hippies had obviously used large logs as seats as several of these were scattered nearby. On that side, the ditch ran out across the boundary-line on to the neighbouring property where the horses grazed. It was there in the ditch that I found a strange-looking piece of heavy cast-iron piping, the same diameter as a house down-pipe at one end, where it had been broken off, but fixed with an iron band to an apparently much larger pipe at the other end, also broken off, the whole being about seven inches long.
I puzzled about this odd-looking piece of piping for years after finding it. What could it possibly have been used for? It seemed too heavy to have been attached to our wooden, shingled house. I didn't imagine it could be very old, otherwise it would have rusted away. I made a sketch of it and for a time forgot about it. Years later it occurred to me to follow the lines of the larger part in my sketch and the result amazed me. The curves in its construction indicated a roughly spherical shape rather than that of a larger pipe, and what I now saw was a primitive bomb which could be filled with gunpowder and a fuse led into it through the narrower pipe end. This bomb fragment must have been lying there ever since Cromwell's men blew the place up in 1654.
A few rocks lay scattered beyond the ditch on that side of the property, but beyond the camp-stove they lay thickly, both large and small, among the bushes. Only one relatively small area in that part, roughly rectangular, was free of rocks and bushes, a sort of mini-clearing. I wondered if a small wooden building had once stood there, a shed of some sort.
Ron, interested in making a lawn, was anxious to get rid of a few rocks scattered on the other side, level with the table. In particular there were two central to the "verandah" described by the grandfather of the student who was showing so much interest in what we had found. A better description would be "portico", for they had said there were six marble pillars across the front, surmounted by an arch built in the Palladian style. One of these rocks, round and flat, was obviously too large to move, but the other, a little nearer our house, was smaller and I thought we'd be able to get it out quite easily. I promised Ron I'd take some time off from my fight against the masses of burdocks near the house and dig it out for him while he was away at work.
That evening after he came home the two of us stood staring down on what to us was a mystery: a large, flat, roughly circular piece of stone lying at an angle so that until now most of its surface had been covered; and on it was a deeply-carved cross. It was not a stele: it was too broad for that. But since it had obviously been "Christianised" like so many such stones on the other side of the Atlantic, we could only conclude that Europeans had been crossing the Atlantic much earlier than even the Norsemen and that they had probably established, if not a settlement, then a place of worship on our hilltop.
This find put an entirely new complexion on the whole question of how long our hilltop had been used and for what purposes. There was just a slight possibility that this stone was a grave-marker, but when I finally examined other stones both on our property and on the adjacent hilltop behind the Anglican church and rectory, much larger than ours and flat enough to be used as a cow-pasture, I become convinced that New Ross had once been a centre of pagan worship.
If what we had found was indeed a pagan stone, we wondered if anything else had been carved on it, but it was too heavy and deeply embedded for us to find out. All we could do was to cover it in again and wait until the time when we had the people - and the tools - to help us get it out.
Meanwhile, since I'd dug up the grass around it, I made a little circular flower-bed there ready for planting with annuals in the spring.
Once again, now, I found myself puzzling over what we had found. I knew a certain amount about standing stones, having travelled in Britain and Europe, but this one didn't seem to remind me of anything I'd seen before.
In any case I had all the usual misconceptions about such peoples as the Phoenicians and the Celts, whose activities I'd been told had been confined to the opposite side of the Atlantic. It was only when I began to find references in books to inscriptions in Ogam that I realized that the Celts must after all have crossed the Atlantic - possibly using the legendary sunken Atlantis or the mysterious island of Frisland as a stepping-stone; and that what we had in our backyard might date back to at least 800 B.C.
Halfway through September our visitors were mainly students we'd known while we were at Shelburne on their way to one of the universities at either Halifax or Wolfville. New Ross was a convenient stopping-off place for them, to see how we were doing in our new home and drink a cup of coffee with us. Some of them had been to Scotland on a student exchange scheme and were full of stories about how they'd stood on the little bit of Nova Scotian soil in Edinburgh Castle yard where from 1625 onwards Charles I had arranged for the baronets of Nova Scotia to be knighted.
"But they keep quiet about it," remarked one of them, "They'd never have pointed it out to us on the tour if we hadn't asked about it." True, for I'd visited Edinburgh Castle more than once and had never been told about it. To back his statement up, he produced a picture-postcard of the castle yard showing, amongst other features, the commemorative plaque. Yet the "blurb" on the back of the card didn't mention it. They were puzzled and one of them asked the guide why they were keeping so quiet about it, they said; and he replied, "Because of the Jacobites. We in Scotland all know the truth and talk about it among ourselves. We'll tell anybody about it who asks but nobody ever puts it in writing." In schools over there, nothing is ever taught about Nova Scotia and its Scottish connections and many children leaving school still don't know that it exists.
But Ron was interrupting: "Jacobites? In these days?" He exclaimed incredulously. But I could believe it. I'd seen a public house once in England, quite freshly-painted, with a notice on its outside wall, "No gypsies or Jacobites served here". Old causes die hard, the more so in Scotland as well as in Ireland where to this day Protestants and Catholics continue to fight over something that happened at the time of the Reformation. The last time I was anywhere near Glencoe, too, I saw a notice over the door of a small restaurant: "No Campbells served here". The last time there was a Jacobite scare involving Buckingham Palace was in the reign of George V, in my own lifetime. Yet the Jacobites were finally defeated at Culloden in 1746.
Nova Scotia received both its Charters from the first two Stuart kings of England. I was already convinced that the site we'd found in our backyard was connected in some way with the Stuart kings. What I couldn't understand, however, was why in 1972 the authorities on the other side of the Atlantic should be so worried about an issue so long dead. To me, as to us all, Nova Scotia was part of Canada: its history - English, French, Scottish, Norse, Micmac, and possibly Celtic and Phoenician, was purely of academic interest and the politics of 1621 had little if any bearing on today's conditions.
The student with the interesting grandfather had tried to get the various guides and officials they'd met in Scotland to talk. He mentioned the tract of land once owned by the Scottish kings. "Yes," replied the guide in question, "And there was an old road leading right through it to the old capital; and at the highest point a house was built for Charles I..... It was there all right but nobody ever mentions it now, only those of us who still believe in The Cause. It was pulled down and all sold to America. Beautiful marble pillars. I wonder what became of them." He said that after being built in 1623, it was vacated in or about 1630 or 1632.
I was amazed that this story, coming from Scotland, tallied so exactly with what we'd been able to discover in Nova Scotia. In the meantime, I'd met another descendant of Theodore Jennings, the man who had a hand in pulling it down, and she had told me the same story about the demolition, adding one new point: "There were twelve marble pillars in all and if you go down to Boston you'll find them on the State House there along with the gold dome." I didn't have to go: I'd already been and had a photograph. I got it out and counted. Yes, there were, as I'd just been told, twelve marble pillars. And I now knew that, to allow for them, the 17th-century house behind our modern one must have extended across the backyard next door.
But who had been sent over to design such a large mansion and supervise the building of it? The obvious candidate for this was Inigo Jones. Now I must try to discover whether he remained at the court of James I in London during the years the place was being built. It wasn't long before I was able to discover that he had indeed been absent from London during the years between 1621 and 1630 - nine years; and that seven ships in all had been sent over with materials in connection with the building.
I now knew beyond all reasonable doubt that it was Inigo Jones who had been sent by James I to act as architect in the building of perhaps more than one important edifice in Nova Scotia, including the "little mansion" with gold dome and two porticoes behind our home and the house next door. And I fought my way through the undergrowth on the rough ground behind its backyard and was able to locate the exact position of the other portico.
But what of the castle I'd been sure had once stood on our property and those of neighbours all along the road as far as the gas-station near the Anglican church? I hadn't forgotten it: many times I'd walked the ridge of what I believed had been the wall between the two towers. But the area bounded by that wall was completely overgrown with almost impenetrable vegetation. Moreover, the land there was not ours but formed part of one or two of the furthermost backyards. This made it difficult to investigate and I decided to wait and see if I could find any further evidence of a castle on our own part of the site. But I was fairly certain that the 17th-century house whose foundations we'd found had been built within the walls of an earlier castle.
Beyond the "castle" area, however, was that other hilltop, slightly higher, much more extensive and almost completely flat. Although it was now used as a cow-pasture, many of the rocks that had been cleared off it and dumped at the sides or at the edge of the woods beyond appeared to me as if they had been worked by man; and some of them had strange markings on them that didn't seem to be due to weathering.
I would come back to investigate this area later, in the light of other discoveries I was to make on our own little hilltop. But for the time being I was left with another puzzle: why had people sometime in the past gone to the trouble of flattening this hilltop so completely? And what building had once stood on the site of its only feature, what appeared to be the ruins of an abandoned basement or cellar? Had a Micmac village once stood there, whose wooden, hut-like buildings had all disappeared without trace except the one, much larger, central building that had a basement? The land hadn't been flattened by the New Ross settlers for agricultural purposes: from all the enquiries I had been able to make, nothing had ever grown there except grass since the village was founded, apart from the few Christmas trees that were now being planted at the end nearest to us.
I had wondered at first whether there had been some sort of an administrative centre there in connection with the 17th-century mansion, but most of the people I asked suggested "an Indian settlement". Certainly our own backyard had been used by the Micmacs: I'd already confirmed that when by chance I began to find arrow-heads as I was digging, one of them serrated and others in various stages of completion. I'd dug up other stone tools, some of them quite large, but what they had been used for was uncertain. One might have been a net-weight used for fishing; others were I scrapers used in connection with the fur trade.
I had no idea how old the stone implements were that I was finding; I could approximately date the arrow-heads by reference to books on the subject: all seemed to be fairly modern - that is, later than the 17th-century. I was looking for something that could be carbon-dated but all I could find were what seemed to be spigots and a number of spruce-knots that had been split at the pointed end. I couldn't imagine what they might have been used for until an American visitor who happened to be an archaeologist suggested that they were used as primitive clamps to hold hot metal while it was being worked: "small articles," he suggested. I at once thought of gold. Had there been a goldsmith's shop within the castle walls? But then I dismissed the idea: they didn't look very old even though I'd found them up to a foot underground near where the ditch ran.
When an opportunity arose much later to have some of the artifacts I'd dug up carbon-dated, these two examples were the only wooden tools I had to offer. So now we knew they were about 600-1,000 c.14 years older than the 1950s. Even though c.14 years do not exactly correspond to calendar years, these results were far better than I'd expected. Now I knew that the site had been in use as early as the days of the Norsemen. I thought of the Norse sagas. What if the "grapes" Leif Erikson had found had really been gold? It was a fact that he became very wealthy after his voyage to what he called Vinland and that he subsequently acquired the nickname of "Leif the Lucky". I tracked down various versions of the relevant sagas and concluded that although the site recently excavated at L'Anse aux Meadows on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland was obviously where he and others had established themselves, La Have may well have been the "Hop" (pronounced "Hope") or land-locked harbour where, according to the sagas, he had landed during his explorations of the Atlantic coastline. The Norsemen favoured this type of harbour because they could sail in at high tide and then be safe at low tide. There are still enough sand-bars around La Have to provide such a safe harbour if it were needed. The term hope was still being used in this sense in the late 17th century when Pepys wrote his diary, but with modern shipping it seems to have died out as far as the English language is concerned. When I visited Norway, however, I found it still in use there with the original spelling, without the terminal "e".
There is also a place called Hope on the northern coast of Scotland in the county of Sutherland. At first when I visited the area I was puzzled that one of Scotland's northernmost counties bore a name that meant "South land". The explanation was that until the Treaty of Perth in 1266 it was, together with the Hebrides, part of the old Norse kingdom and, being administered from Norway, had formed its southernmost limits.
Not surprisingly, Leif Erikson had passed that way, too: it was in the Hebrides that, according to the sagas, he met Thorgunna, who was to become the mother of his only son and so, with him, founded a dynasty of sorts.
Near Hope, on an island, are the ruins of a castle. The whole area had an air of desolation enough to fill any visitor with awe. Something terrible must have happened there to have caused all the people, like those living in the castle to abandon their homes, all of which were likewise in ruins. "The cruel clearances," a local man explained, "After Culloden it was all sold... They just knocked down the houses over people's heads.... Some were killed. At the end only a few shepherds were left. Now even the sheep are gone." The first settlers, who had given the place its name, had built the castle, the man said, and their descendants had lived there ever since: "1792, the Year of the Sheep. They took the roof off the castle so that when they returned they wouldn't have to pay back taxes. But they never came back and nobody ever knew what became of them. They had ships.... They just sailed away and disappeared."
The Norse connection: I came across it again in New Brunswick when I was asking an Acadian family about the expulsion from Nova Scotia around 1755. They said that their ancestors had been taken by the British to France. But later they had returned to New Brunswick along with a shipload of their compatriots. I wondered how they had managed to mount such an exodus, many of them being penniless after all they had been through. To my astonishment they told me the voyage hadn't cost them a penny: they had been rescued and brought back "by a Viking ship". Vikings, they said, from Scotland.
They had no explanation as to why those who performed this gallant rescue described themselves as "Vikings". But doubtless they were originally descended from them. Could be they were operating out of Hope in Sutherland.
Now, as I continued digging, I thought of many such things as these. I thought of the Micmacs who had called La Have, or Hop, Pijelooeekak or "Having long joints" - Longshanks, a fair description of any Norseman. Anyone who has seen pictures of the Norse burial-ground at Brattahlid, Erik the Red's home in Greenland, will know that all that family had very long legs.
If La Have was indeed one of the "hops" visited by Leif Erikson and Thorfinn Karlsefni, might they not also have come inland later to establish a gold-mine?
During that winter and those that ensued I not only had a chance to read more on the various aspects of what we were finding at New Ross, but found time to write to others working on similar sites elsewhere.
Clamps made from spruce knots, used by goldsmiths to hold hot metal while it was being worked. Estimated at 600-1,000 years old, found behind our house.
In spring a strange madness infects most of rural Nova Scotia. After the snow has disappeared, the spring run-off is monitored carefully: a few encouragingly warm days and a puff of smoke is seen on the horizon or, worse, in a neighbouring backyard, sending any gardeners unlucky enough to be down-wind scurrying indoors. Presently another puff of smoke will appear, and another: it's time for the spring burn-off. Fire-fighters are mildly disapproving of the practice and there is a provincial cut-off date in mid-April every year which only adds to the frenzy while it lasts. Soon the wailing of fire-sirens will be heard across the land as the trucks race to douse a blazing backyard or to the aid of a farmer who has failed to move his tractor in time. Whole families go out at such times to beat around the edges of the designated area and prevent the fire from spreading. Every year in some cases this fails, the trucks don't get there in time and a man perishes trying to save a beloved old family Massey-Harris or a newly-installed mobile home.
Despite all this there is a reason behind this particular form of spring fever. It probably dates back to pioneer days when settlers discovered that a controlled fire was a quick and easy way to clear the land. Most weeds, they must have noticed, did not re-appear, except the tall, pretty pink spikes of willow herb or fireweed as most people call it, for obvious reasons. Soon tender, bright-green grass covers the burnt-off area and, if you're fortunate enough to have them on your property, blueberries.
That was how things stood in the spring of 1973. Soon the tiny frogs known as peepers would be starting to sing their song in the swamp below the far end of our backyard. And now, having just recovered from flu, Ron - despite his having joined the village Fire Department - was preparing to burn off all the scrub and undergrowth covering half our backyard: "Just for this once," he said. It was a Sunday and the last day before the deadline. Undaunted by our lack of beaters and the fact that the man who had dumped wrecked cars and part of a truck among the bushes had not come to remove them as promised, he leapt from the breakfast-table and suddenly announced that he was ready to start. "Come on," he yelled over his shoulder as he disappeared through the door. He didn't seem to notice that, it being Sunday, I was still in my pyjamas and dressing-gown. 'Come on!" He called to me again as he opened the back door.
Useless to try to stop him or hold him back while I got dressed. Even if he came back and waited it would have meant having him around me, pacing the room like a caged animal. I was sure I'd be with him long before he'd completed making preparations: I imagined he'd have to dig a trench around the area concerned first.
Just as I was about to go out and join him he came back in again.
"How's it going?" I asked, innocently.
To my utter astonishment he rushed past me and made straight for the phone: "It's out of control," he said. He was calling the Fire Department.
Before I had a chance to ask him what had gone wrong, a tremendous "Boom!" outside almost rocked the house and, I imagined, those of all our neighbours. One of those wrecked vehicles had been blown clean off our land and down the slope behind the backyard next door, while the flames from the old truck cab leapt brilliantly orange towards the sky. How were we to know any of the vehicles had been dumped with gas still in their tanks? Fortunately that proved to be the only one.
Then I noticed that Ron hadn't dug a trench and the fire was creeping towards the picnic table. Quickly I grabbed the wheelbarrow and spade and began to spread dirt across the grass from a heap left over from my digging operations the previous fall. As I worked I could imagine the headlines in the local paper next week: SPECTACULAR FIRE AT NEW ROSS, for everybody could see it - our back land was almost the highest in the village.
Meanwhile the fire truck had arrived manned by, amongst others, Ron. And I heard him say to some of his colleagues as they finally put away their hoses, "Look, that bit in the corner there didn't get burnt-off. Why not come over here in a few days' time and arrange a practice? I can easily set fire to it again!"
Practice? I felt we'd had quite enough of that already.
Then the sirens started to wail again and off they had to go, Ron included, to the next fire: somebody's lawn was ablaze.
Hardly had our fire heroes eaten their respective Sunday dinners and settled down for their afternoon naps when the sirens sounded again. This time it was a fire in the oil-man's yard with several oil-tanks at risk. Fortunately they were in time and there were no more fires in New Ross that Sunday.
Our own spectacular fire never made the headlines after all: I suppose everybody was too busy to report it.
A few days later the deep ditch that ran between our property and the road in front of the house was on fire. A motor-cycle had gone off the road there. It was soon put out by the same brave fire-fighters. Then at last we were able to get back to normal again and I could begin to think about landscaping our backyard and making a vegetable garden. First I must prepare a small plot for the planting of seeds: I must have the ground ready by the last week in May. Only after that would I be free to attend to the back land that had been burnt off and was destined to become our vegetable garden next year. Meanwhile, the area in front of the well would have to do for our this year's crop as it would be easy to dig out the few small rocks there; and there were no stubborn roots to dig out.
That done, I could concentrate on the exposure of more foundations, if any.
We were now at last able to remove that old car-top that was covering the disused well and to replace it with the wooden cover Ron had made. Peering down the well for the first time, I marvelled at the workmanship. Lacking any cement, it had apparently been built entirely of interlocking stones. One of the students who was helping us came with a rope and tried to measure its depth: the rope went down thirty feet and then he dropped it! Later we tried again with a longer rope and discovered it was at least fifty feet deep. It reminded me of some of the medieval wells I'd seen in England - there's one at York Minster that was sunk in the 13th century. A friend visiting from Belgium was reminded of one at Lamoge, also sunk in the 13th century.
It was dry at the time and soon neighbours were at the door asking us to allow them to get water from that old well: theirs were drying up but they told us that one never went dry, which amazed us considering its elevated position. "It used to be the Indians' well," one of them said; and one of the older residents who was in her eighties later told us she could remember back in Queen Victoria's reign how the Indians insisted on camping on the land "behind the old basement where the cows used to fall in," over which our house was later built. A sugar-maple of great girth had once stood against the north side of that old basement, somebody else told us. We couldn't help wishing it was still there.
But all that was later, after I'd started work behind the foundations I'd exposed the previous year. Once I had started, I came upon a complex of pits and was soon trying to excavate them. They ran right across the back of the entrance-hall, if such it was, whose foundations I'd already uncovered.
But I could find nothing, so put the dirt back in again and eventually planted a few rock-plants there. To my surprise, despite identical soil preparation, those that were near the front part of the pit complex languished and either remained stunted or died off altogether. I transplanted healthy plants from nearby, even changed the soil: same result.
Then I noticed that plants I now had growing elsewhere were exhibiting similar variations in growth. In front of the well, for instance, some of the plants were growing twisted and deformed and others nearby were leaning or trailing away from that area almost as if they abhorred it. A little spruce I'd planted near the picnic table was dying while the others I'd planted, mainly to indicate our boundaries, were thriving. I investigated both spots and came up with nothing in the well area. But when I dug up the little spruce to find out what was underneath, I came upon a massive foundation wall. This, I discovered, ran right across in front of the portico. Obviously this had nothing to do with that house: it was part of an older, much more massively-built structure. No wonder the poor tree had died! But what I had just found was the first evidence within the walls of a castle there. I went over to the well and examined what lay behind it: yes, part of the wall that had once surrounded it still remained. So this had been the castle well and considering its approximate age, I was able to date the castle as having been built in about the 13th century.
Before I started work on the land behind the 17th-century house, I took a walk to check on the boundary-lines which had recently been confirmed by a surveyor. He had placed a large rock at each corner and one of these looked as if it had been carefully shaped - round at the top. I couldn't think what it could have represented, if anything, or what it had been used for in the past. Yet it looked somehow familiar to me. I turned it over: underneath its surface was rough, as if it had been broken off. Every time I passed by that corner my curiosity was once again aroused.
I began to work now towards the right, that is along the old wall that ran in a northerly direction towards the well where it stood high above the Christmas-tree yard. Tangled strands of wire lay among the bushes there, this being the corner that had not been burnt-off. So there had been a fence around our property at one time and we decided to put a new one up, if only to keep the horses and roaming dogs out. The dogs not only scared our cats but were in the habit of leaving deposits in unexpected places.
The remains of the wall petered out at the far end and now I could see that the stones had been washed down the slope together with part of our land. I had to bring the land up to its original height, retrieve the fallen stones and then make a dry-stone wall there to prevent the garden I was making from being washed away down the slope of the mound again.
We now had three students working with us from time to time, and it was our third volunteer who came and helped Ron with the stakes and wire for the fence.
One day, another student - the one who had mowed the long grass in our backyard - was helping Ron with some work at the front where the land sloped down to the ditch where the motor-cycle had crashed. After a while he broke off and came across to me where I was digging: "You like old things, don't you?" he said; and he handed me a heavy object about 5 inches long, made of iron. When I'd cleaned it I could see that it was part of an ancient iron sword: the channel for the blood to run out was there.
This was no 17th-century sword-tip: it was identical with those I'd seen in museums in Europe that had been used in the days of the Viking raids.
For some time now another person had been witnessing all that was going on at our home: a young teacher had come to live temporarily in the small room downstairs until he could find other accommodation in Mahone Bay. One day another man called to see if we had any "overnight" accommodation. After some discussion concerning the suitability of the large room from which the smaller one led off, and a promise "not to disturb" our existing lodger, he suddenly whipped out his business card: "Oh, didn't I make myself clear?" he said.
The card was that of a funeral-home. Ron came in at that moment and, seeing the horrified look on his face, the man prepared to withdraw: "Look, I'll leave this card with you," he continued, "If ever I can be of any help to you don't hesitate to contact us...."
"But," I said as he left, "We'd have to be dead!"
"Must think we're going to have an accident," I remarked as soon as he was gone; for surely he didn't expect anybody of our age and stamina to need him otherwise.
Then we both began to laugh.
In the morning over breakfast we told our lodger, who'd been out at the time, what he'd missed. I'd never known Ron to be so conversational at that hour, and we were all laughing so much that even I, an avid news-hound, forgot to listen to The World at Eight.
Meanwhile my digging had gone on apace. In addition to the corner-stones I'd found last fall, there were yet more farther back. Some roughly fan-shaped stones appeared to be cobble-stones: I found them under the grass - now a lawn - in front of the portico, indicating that this was the site of a courtyard. They were now about nine inches down. Others from among the ruins behind, apparently polished on one side, seemed to have been part of a mosaic floor.
By now I was saving specimens of everything I found, photographing them and putting them in a show-case indoors, together with the arrow-heads and other Micmac artifacts, some horse-shoes I'd found, a large collection of potsherds mostly European in origin, and of course the Viking sword-tip.
Ever since Halloween, 1972, people who came to visit us had been suggesting that our new home was haunted. "Everybody who has ever lived here has had bad luck," said one of them. But most of the tales we were told seemed so improbable that we took them as a joke: "Well, if it's a castle, wouldn't it be haunted?" seemed to be what they meant. Yet I couldn't ignore the possibility. Then one day as I was working near the far end of our yard I looked up and saw an "Indian" straight out of a history-book, feathers in his headband and a quiverful of arrows, sitting on a large rock and watching me. He promptly evaporated and I knew I could no longer take any tales of hauntings as a joke. My heart sank, not because I was afraid of ghosts: our old house in Shelburne had been haunted - I was even born in a haunted house. What concerned me was that they might hold me back in my work. Getting rid of hauntings is always a problem, and so it proved to be now. As soon as we thought we were free from interference, another ghost would pop up and have to be dealt with. The more I dug, trying to make a garden, the more they would come to hinder me. Sometimes, when I threw a rock on to the pile that was collecting, an unseen hand would throw another, ghostly rock in its wake. It was as if they were monitoring everything we did.
Our cats were continually being frightened by them and never seemed to settle down. On some nights they would sit on one of the back window-sills, peering out into the blackness across the backyard, fur bristling. In the end, those that didn't die of natural causes left us. We didn't replace them, for there was also the matter of the very heavy traffic passing by and several of our neighbours had lost their pets that way. I missed them and there were times when Ron, who had loved them too, tried to persuade me to give up my work on the site and move to a quieter place where we could keep pets again and be happy.
"One day perhaps," I would reply. And then I would turn back to my work on it and its history with renewed vigour. One day the project would have to be complete.
But the replies I was getting, if any, from those to whom I'd written about the site's significance were not very encouraging. Nevertheless I continued to report my finds: one day somebody would be interested if I was persistent enough.
I also tried to maintain my personal contacts. Our visit to the old grandfather carpenter was pleasant: he was full of stories of the old days and had an unending repertoire of jokes, practical and otherwise. I could imagine him, years ago, sending a new apprentice down to the local store for a "long stand" or some "sky-hooks". But for some reason he had little to say to us direct about the old plans or what the place was like in the past, except that it was there and he "knew it well". He referred us back to his grandson, with whom he had a very close relationship, and through whom he suggested we should work. So until the day he died I was able, by proxy, to get most of the information I needed.
He laughed when we told him the story of the man from the funeral-home and no doubt added it to his repertoire, if only because until the last moment I'd thought the overnight visitors would be alive!
Then he said, "Take care he doesn't run you off the road!" I hadn't thought of that.
I returned to my digging. As I dug behind the area where I'd found all the small pits, I came on yet more foundations, and about nine inches down discovered ashes against a wall foundation. They were surrounded by a semi-circle of loose stones, but I found nothing more. I filled it in and planted more flowers there. There was no way I could tell how long those ashes had been there.
Unlike the previous year, there had been sufficient rain in the end for me to dig most of the time. In fact, the rain was sometimes a problem, driving me indoors, making the heavy clay subsoil too wet to work. Boggy areas materialised on the lawn and a spring came up from the ground at one end of the picnic table. I had to dig trenches and line them with rocks and pebbles so that the water was carried down to the ditch underground.
Meanwhile Ron was working in the basement, lowering the floor, which had been roughly covered with cement, for it was too high for us to be able to walk without bumping our heads. He wanted to make himself a workshop there and to fix the old wood-stove we'd recently bought to help us deal with the very long power-cuts. Once we'd fixed our stove to the chimney, where obviously one had stood before, he intended to partition off that corner, where there was also a window, and make a small room for us.
One day he called me back in from the yard: "Come and look here!"
I followed him down the basement steps and halfway across the floor, where he lifted a small, rough concrete slab to reveal a hole underneath where water ran. The slab, he said, had been completely covered with cement, so it had nothing to do with the drains which ran out at the left-hand corner beyond and into the roadside ditch. It seemed to be a spring.
Ron covered the hole again and walked to the front end of the basement where he tapped the wall: "See this, it's different from all the other walls. Older." The other three walls were of concrete. He continued, "If you examine these cracks you can see it's like the well - a stone wall." That had been cemented over so it was difficult to see much, but it certainly was a stone wall while all the others were of concrete blocks.
We remembered such tales as that of the "old basement" the cows used to fall into and the fur-trader's store. Had we now found one more example of an old building dating back to the days of the castle?
Not long afterwards I went down to the basement alone to get some potatoes and had an uneasy feeling that I was not alone. At once the words, "Women's prison" came to mind - I didn't know why until I turned and saw an already-fading group of ghostly women crowding around the water-hole we'd found, dipping what seemed to be metal cups in and drinking the water. They were gone before I could discern the nature of their clothing. But I no longer felt uneasy now and it seemed they'd come to let me know why there had once been access to water in the basement floor.
One day one of our student helpers asked me, as we were drinking our coffee upstairs in our apartment at the end of an afternoon's digging, "Do you know this place is haunted?"
Of course I did, and replied, "Lots of old places are, that's what gives them their 'atmosphere'," and I told him of our experience when we went to live on the Prairies: "The place seemed like the middle of a desert," I said, "Yet it wasn't much different from New Ross, about the same size. Then they told us it had been built on the site of a drained lake. Nobody had ever lived there till 1927 and those people were still living. No ghosts, you see."
"I don't mean ghosts, I mean leprechauns," he then told me, "Look, there go a couple now," and he waved his hand towards the window. Down in the driveway of the Christmas-tree yard below the neighbours, he said, were getting into their car. "Watch," he said, "The leprechauns will follow."
There was only one problem: the neighbours were away and had left the car locked in their driveway. Yet, as we watched, we could see that the off-side door was swinging open.
Neither Ron nor I could see the leprechauns, but our lodger said he could; and he brought a friend in to watch.
"I've seen them before," our student confided, "Little men in green, they often like to sit on a round, flat rock. They come because this is a good place. They draw strength from it. Wait till it gets dark, then I'll show you."
We looked out of the window again: the neighbours' car had vanished. Not to worry, our student said, they'd gone for a joy-ride. They'd be back.
We waited, doing the washing-up the while. Then he motioned us to look out of the window again. The car was back as he'd said it would be, and soon the door opened to reveal three small figures inside, two on the front seat and one on the floor, apparently having got down there to work the pedals. Even I saw them this time, though they looked grey to me rather than green. Others of their kind greeted them and then they all dispersed into the bushes. Little lights now appeared among the bushes next door. We tried another window, one that looked out on to our backyard. Same thing, little lights in all the trees, some dim and yellowish, others almost blue. We all saw them. And we were all wondering how they'd managed to unlock our neighbours' car without a key.
They all seemed to be holding flashlights directed at our windows. After a time this began to have a strange effect on us: we all began to feel weak. The "flashlights" were in fact the energy they were taking from us, by what means we couldn't tell.
We withdrew from the windows as soon as we realised what was going on and soon regained our strength and felt none the worse for it.
It was then that I decided I must do something about the hauntings. We'd had visitors who said they couldn't sleep in our house. Even our South Shore friends with whom we used to sing were keeping away. And then there were all those stories about bad luck.
But not all ghosts bring bad luck. Some do exactly the opposite. Good people had lived on this spot too: the Micmacs had told us that. Somehow we must try to encourage the good ghosts, those of people who had once lived happily here and would perhaps be only too glad to defend the place not only against the tricky little leprechauns but against all comers.
Not long after that there was a terrible storm and several shingles were torn off our roof as well as off those of some of our neighbours. A little water had come through one of the ceilings upstairs and, our lodger having left for Mahone Bay, we began to move downstairs. Fortunately we were well-insured and soon had a good new roof. We were certainly luckier than many others who were not insured. Obviously there were no leprechauns or other malevolent ghosts around now.
The dry period we'd had towards the end of July came to an end and soon we had more rain and I was able to resume my digging.
Then the film I'd sent in for processing came back and with it another ghost. It was the photo I'd taken of those stunted plants in our little vegetable garden in front of the well. To the left was a large boulder, from which some of the plants were trailing away. But in the photo a female lion was sitting on it, ghostly white and semi-transparent. Close examination of the ground in front of it revealed what seemed to be the outlines of human faces. None of these things was visible to me when I took the photograph.
Another ghost soon appeared and seemed to confirm the presence of the lion and the human faces among the stunted plants. It was that of a Japanese lady in a shantung silk kimono with a large floral pattern in red, blue and green, silently walking towards the buried stone with the cross on it. She faded out before she got there, while a man, not visible, intoned, "Don't throw Mother to the lions." In medieval times, this was commonly the fate of felons. I gathered from the tone of his voice that he was not on very good terms with his Japanese mother. But Japanese, perhaps centuries ago (assuming all three of these ghostly manifestations were contemporary with one another) well, the Vikings were seafarers: perhaps one of them did indeed bring back a Japanese wife.
Inside the house there were strange incidents too: a man's voice in our rec-room downstairs, apparently confessing his sins concerning the upbringing of his son, whom he referred to as "the nipper". And then again one of those disbanded soldiers, roughly-dressed in a cloak and accidentally falling on his gun: "Ping!" - and he was dead. Another time I glimpsed a family of four Micmacs lying dead near the fence where I'd been trying to establish a flower-bed but nothing would grow. Perhaps that was why. A small but ferocious, domineering woman with frizzy red hair appeared once, just her head floating across the backyard. I wondered what had been her fate.
But most of the ghosts were quite pleasant: European men dressed as in medieval times and up to the 19th century, some dark-haired, others red-heads, with or without red beard, all with ruddy, weathered complexions. This last-mentioned group whom I took to be Vikings and later seafarers, seemed concerned about the unfriendly behaviour of some of the others and were particularly worried about "dark", haunted corners, the leprechauns and the animal ghosts that were appearing at the same time. Some were riding ghostly horses and all carried swords.
The comparatively few malevolent ghosts were of the "poltergeist" type who could create "cold spots", wrap themselves round a light and cause it to dim or cause things to fall and break. Once one of them opened a locked door; often their presence caused people to feel sick. Sometimes they would appear as a black or bluish streak whizzing by, or as a black ball hanging from the ceiling.
After a while I discovered there were certain areas both indoors and out where things would disappear in mid-air, for instance, a sheet of postage-stamps falling off my desk, a small ornament, the lid off a jar. Usually things lost in this way were gone forever, but sometimes they would re-appear where they were usually kept. I lost three rings in this way, two inexpensive ones indoors and one outside - my wedding band, which I dropped at my feet when a mosquito bit that finger and I was changing it to another. It reached the ground - I heard it - but then it disappeared. I always hoped it would turn up but it never did.
There was one room in the house where, if it was raining outside, people could feel the raindrops on their faces and hands. And one day when I'd set the breakfast-table overnight, I found my cereal-bowl brim-full of water in the morning. I was the only one given this gift of water! And although none of my rings ever re-appeared, a gold and amethyst pendant appeared as if in consolation.
Frost-pictures on the windows were another pleasant surprise in winter-time. One Valentine's Day Cupid appeared on our bedroom window, handing a posy to a lady.
It is sometimes claimed that hilltop sites such as ours produce energy that can be detected by sensitive instruments, although its origin is uncertain. Sometimes this is accompanied by humming, and we heard that at New Ross too.
There were also the years of the UFOs at least one of which came down on the other, larger hilltop. But they were appearing elsewhere in Nova Scotia and, being what they are, usually only spent a limited time in the sky above our property.
As the summer of 1973 drew towards its end, I began to work towards the rocky area in our backyard where some of the bushes had escaped our burning-off efforts: here my digging and landscaping would have to come to an end. There I came across some more foundations of the same kind as those of the 17th-century house. They appeared to belong to a small, wooden building resting on cross-trees and circular or octagonal in shape, only about eight feet in diameter - a little summer-house or look-out tower I imagined. We later discovered such a tower down in Chester which at the time was being restored. As it was on the highest point in our backyard, right by the dry-stone wall I'd built, we classified it as a look-out and dubbed it "Tom's Tower". The rubble foundations of a much smaller building close by were, we concluded, those of a privy that went with the tower. As it was such a small tower, we wondered if it had been built for a child and speculated on the mystery of the life of Inigo Jones, if he was indeed working on the site in the 1620s, whose birth in 1573 was being celebrated at the time. Had he after all been married with children? Who was the "kinswoman" whose marriage was so important to him? And was one of his masques created to celebrate a son's marriage? If so, had that son as a young boy sat up there in his tower, dreaming, as his father had done, of travelling to "foreign parts"? Tom Jones: a good name. Then I remembered: there was a modern Tom Jones, the one who used to sing "It's not unusual" when Ron and I were about to get married.
Between Tom's Tower and the little rectangular area where we'd noticed rocks were few, I found what appeared to be a cobbled area. But when I attempted to dig I discovered yet more rubble foundations. At the time I was unable to guess why they were there, being so far within the line of the outer walls, but later I discovered they had been niched there to allow for construction outside them. There was another niche to match, the other side of the well - or well-tower which was what it must have been.
Near there I discovered two large horse-shoes. These may have been more modern. They looked as if they would have fitted the hooves of a Clydesdale. But the 17th-century house must have had a stable or stables somewhere, so I tentatively dubbed the area "stable", though I think it was more likely that any stables were outside our boundaries. Next I discovered more rubble foundations and corner-stones indicating that there had been a little wooden frame building on the small rectangular area nearby. Wild roses were now flowering around it and the lawn I'd made there was well-established. It was a pretty little nook with rough stone seats provided; and in the end it became, to us, Lovers' Nook.
Before the snow came - and it often started in late October in New Ross - we decided once again to attempt to dig out the stone with the cross on it around which nasturtiums had been blooming. If we dug deep enough perhaps we could get it out. So we started on it again. This time we came, to our surprise, upon two shoulders or ledges below the upper part that we'd uncovered in 1972. What could it have been used for? A mounting-block? I still had horses in mind. We dug deeper, still hoping to raise it; for it looked as if it should be standing erect. With its two shoulders it took on an almost human aspect and although we thought it could have been used as a mounting-block, we dubbed it the "headless statue". Its front was completely flat and we wondered whether anything else had been carved on it, but it was so badly weathered that even after we'd scraped the dirt off it was impossible to tell. Although we now had the tools, we still found that, even with the assistance of a student, it was impossible to move it. So once again we covered it in. Next year perhaps we'd be able to arrange for more help.
Now I must prepare the garden for winter. Despite the effects of the hauntings our garden had produced well, both flowers and vegetables, especially considering that nobody had ever tried to make one there before. The dahlias I'd planted across the front of the vegetable patch had produced masses of beautiful, crimson flowers. Now I must dig them up for replanting next year.
1973 ended for us in triumph; or was it somebody else who was really triumphant - our mysterious visitor? It all started on December 1st when our Shelburne student was spending the weekend with us on his way home from university. He'd brought me a fresh supply of books from the library, mainly on Inigo Jones and on Sir Francis Bacon, his contemporary who, I'd discovered from an article in a magazine picked up in India, had written a fair description of a pit used by the Chinese that seemed remarkably like the one at Oak Island in Mahone Bay. What if the Oak Island pit had also been used by the emissaries of Charles I? It was generally believed to have been of much earlier origin, but it certainly could have been used later as all investigations seemed to indicate.
We were discussing this when suddenly Ron, who had left the room to answer the door and had been chatting with a neighbour, called us to the back kitchen window which looked across the yard to that other, more extensive hill adjoining ours. There, apparently trying to land, was a semi-transparent globe, apparently outlined in gold and containing one occupant, a shining human figure, that of a man clad in gold: a UFO! We watched as it tried to touch down, rose again, bounced a little, then moved off towards the woods and disappeared, whether into the woods or over the horizon we couldn't tell.
This was to mark the beginning of a series of sightings, not only by us but all over Nova Scotia and in the adjoining provinces as well as occasionally farther afield. We got into the habit of looking for UFOs on clear nights, when sometimes they would put on a spectacular display, flying in series from west to east as if to make sure we didn't confuse them with some planet, sometimes racing across the sky faster than any aircraft, sometimes lazily drifting. They would change colour too, or flash out altogether only to re-appear in some other part of the sky and then perhaps hang there motionless for hours. Once two of them played leapfrog; and on another occasion a shining, manlike figure leapt out somewhere over the woods along the Chester road, leaving his UFO to await his return but much dimmer and altered in shape from "flying saucer" to crescent. Once, too, we experienced a time-warp. I was home alone with only our one remaining cat and had a record on the player. As the UFO passed by, the record started to re-play almost from the beginning and the cat was back on the chair from which she had previously leapt - soon to leap off again in exactly the same manner.
Our student was delighted when we all watched this first celestial visitation; "Didn't I tell you I could see little green men?" he exclaimed. Yes, but we'd caught sight of them too and had concluded that they were leprechauns; this man in the UFO was quite different.
He left to continue on his journey, so we were by ourselves when we went to church on Christmas Eve. As we walked there through the snow, I noticed what appeared to be a UFO hovering as before over the woods behind our property. After church, we proceeded to an all-night party with our neighbours across the road and I observed that the UFO had moved: it was now hanging directly above our house. One of the people at the party had noticed the bright "star" above our house which, like all the others in the village, was decked with twinkling lights. He remarked on it, saying how lucky we were to have a "Christmas star".
When we left to go home about four hours later, it was still there; and it came back again several times during the Christmas season.
Visitations of this kind continued undiminished for about three years, then gradually became less and less frequent. Data on them were collected by a professor at Acadia University but I don't think either he or anybody else ever really solved the mystery. They were often very beautiful and we missed them afterwards.
Meanwhile we liked to think that these space-visitors were our friends, come to watch over us as we worked to uncover our own particular mysteries below.
I tried, not very successfully, to rig up a telescope in order to watch them more closely. Then, since it had proved almost impossible to photograph them, I tried to make sketches. These were highly inaccurate at first as I was getting a lot of refracted light due to the "telescope" not working properly: very pretty but it almost obscured the object altogether. We finally bought a small telescope and then I was able to keep a fairly good record.
But we still didn't know why they came, why they left or where they went. But rumours of a dolmen, commonly referred to as "table-stones", that had been unearthed during some construction work to the east of us across the Gold River soon confirmed what we had suspected: there had once been a stone circle on the larger of our two hilltops. Those who built stone circles as places of worship always erected a dolmen to the east so that at the summer solstice the rising sun would direct its rays through it to strike an "altar stone". Perhaps, then, the stone circle site was the attraction: it was on that hill that our first UFO had touched down.
During the spring of 1974 I began to study the Norse sagas more closely to see if I could discover how a "Viking" type sword-tip could have found its way to New Ross. I'd always been interested, since we moved from the Prairies to Nova Scotia, in that older history-books cited this province as a prime candidate for the location of the legendary but elusive Vinland. A runic stone had been discovered near Yarmouth early in the 19th century by Dr. Richard Fletcher and the inscription translated as "Leif to Erik raises this (monument)". From that time onwards Tusket had been regarded as the possible site of Leifsbudir. Now, since the discovery of so much more at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, claims were being made by that province. I was soon to discover that, to complicate matters yet further, the United States had been claiming Leif as their own for years and had even set aside October 9th as Leif Erikson Day. Feuds and rivalries between archaeologists had apparently clouded the issue even further, most British sources appearing to deny that Leif ever existed. Norway, on the other hand, like Iceland, seemed to have written them into their history. Even in Scandinavia, however, I found that opinions differed, some claiming that Leif's son Thorkel was the last of the line at Brattahlid, while others mentioned that a hundred years later a descendant called Sokki Thorsson and his son Einar were "in authority" there. "Sokki" I was soon to discover means "strong" - in Algonquian.
It seems not to have occurred to those taking part in these arguments that the Norsemen, being constantly on the move, probably had many small "settlements" and hops, perhaps used by them intermittently, all down the eastern seaboard of North America and probably Central and South America as well. A great deal must have happened, too, during the five hundred years that separated Leif's exploits from the beginning of the post-Columbian era. It would have been entirely out-of-character for Leif Erikson, Thorfinn Karlsefni and any of their descendants to have remained just at L'Anse aux Meadows, Tusket or Newport as some have claimed. And it was interesting to me in this connection that red-haired "Indians" could be found scattered everywhere from Labrador to Peru. The discovery of red-haired Inca mummies also seems to link Peru and its rulers with the Norsemen, lending support to the theory that Inca gold was at one time brought up to Nova Scotia and "banked" in the "money-pit" at Oak Island. I was becoming more and more convinced that Nova Scotia was once the hub of the gold trade and that the buildings that had been erected on our site were connected with it.
Turning again to the sagas, the descriptions vary so much that either those who recounted them had very fertile imaginations or else, as seems obvious, Leif made more than one Atlantic crossing.
Of particular interest I found a quotation from the Icelandic Annals under date 1342, as copied out by Bishop Gilsli Oddson later, after a fire, to the effect that the Greenlanders had, by that time, "of their own will abandoned the true faith and the Christian religion, having already forsaken all good ways and true virtues and joined themselves with the people of America."
This says quite plainly that they migrated to America, just across the Davis Straits, doubtless in search of a warmer climate farther south, since by that time the "Little Ice Age" was underway in Greenland and the people could no longer grow enough food there to subsist.
What interested me even more, however, was the very early, pre-Columbian use of the name "America". It is no doubt true that the German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller suggested "America" as the best name for the trans-Atlantic continents in honour of Amerigo Vespucci in 1507, but he probably did it partly to satisfy the demands of those who would otherwise have changed the name to Columbia. I'd always thought it strange that, if he wished to name it after him, he didn't suggest "Vespuccia". Now, examining old maps, travelling to Ottawa to check on the originals, I found that the name "America" was in fact in those days and almost throughout the 16th century, applied only to the northern continent, while what is now South America, where Vespucci landed, appeared to be dominated by Peru and a number of small, individual states with no name being attached to the continent as a whole.
I would later discover something even more significant: the name "America" was derived from the Old Norse Mer Rika - "Sea Kingdom". How many times had I watched, in a parade, a float going by honouring the "Kingdom of the Sea"? I have since read that the name came down to us through the Algonquian language which, like English, is partly Norse-derived. According to the Leif Erikson Society, the prefix "A-" was originally an "O", altering the meaning to "Distant Sea Kingdom".
In the same way, the old name for Nova Scotia, Souriquois, is derived from the Old Norse Sudhrike, also used by the Micmacs, which has been variously translated as "Southern Domain" or "Southern Kingdom" - south, it has to be assumed, of a northern kingdom in the Scandinavian area.
But why "Kingdom" when, until Harald Fairhair took over in Norway, the general practice had been to set up small, individual earldoms or city states; and when the main reason for the movements west to Iceland, Greenland and Vinland (which never became kingdoms) was in protest against Harald's rule?
The most probable explanation is the Norse habit of "melting into the indigenous population". In that way they were more likely to be accepted and not only avoided being harassed but were appreciated by them. If they were accustomed to being ruled by kings, so be it; and the same applied to religious practices.
In due course I had to put my books away: it was digging-time again. But 1974 was, for us, a visitors' year, and I was so busy entertaining and, with Ron, introducing them to our beautiful province that I barely had enough time to put in a garden, especially as that year the snow lasted, off and on, until the end of May.
In the course of our travels around the province we were able for the first time to visit Oak Island, which had just been opened to the public. In one of the museums were several carved stones. One of them was thought to conceal the treasure and so was blown up in 1897, the inscription still unrecorded. All that was left was a piece cracked into two with the only indication of the inscription being "...PE/DOES..." This was in the museum together with another which, viewed from one angle, seemed to represent a small ship. But if turned on its side, it could be read as the initials "TH". I was interested because my grandfather and great-grandfather had those initials and, being sailors as well as artists, might have passed that way.
Finding these inscriptions led me to hunt again among the rocks on our property to see if there might be anything of the same kind. Alas, I could find no similar inscriptions. But I did find a few other interesting rocks. One had a "Z" or an "N" with a line running from it, but not in a northerly direction although the rock was very large and immovable by any ordinary means. Another had a deeply-carved small semi-circle or crescent with a line attached to it at right-angles. I was later informed by an archaeologist working with Sir Geoffrey Ashe at Glastonbury that this represented a double-headed axe. By co-incidence I had dug up a double-headed axe nearby, but I think this was of quite recent vintage. A third, which was to puzzle me for a long time, bore a small shield within a larger one, deeply-cut on one side, less so elsewhere: a "shield-escutcheon" stone. It was even larger than the "N" stone, so impossible to move, which we would have liked to do as it was near the house where we were making a tomato-plot. In the end I was able to link this stone with Stonehenge and back to Brittany, where there are several of them. Archaeologists estimate them to date back perhaps as far as 1,500 B.C.
This stone was definite confirmation that our site was once associated with a stone circle of the kind so familiar to us at Stonehenge.
Remained only for us to investigate further the "headless statue", which by this time I was almost certain was what is known as a Celtic herm.
Phoenicians, Celts, Micmacs, Norsemen and other Europeans: all had used our property through the ages, if not to build their homes there, then as a place of worship. When all this began is lost in time; but we can say that the site has been in use, often as an important centre, for at least about 3,500 years.
We had let it be known that we needed student help over the weekend if we were to dig out our mysterious headless statue. Students enjoyed helping us: good exercise in the fresh air, interesting artifacts sometimes found, something good to eat as we proceeded, and discussions, singing, sometimes a party afterwards, their girlfriends helping with the cooking. So far we hadn't found any girls interested in digging.
When one of the students phoned and offered to come along that weekend I'd already done plenty of advance cooking and stowed it in the freezer; even so I also cooked all meals in advance for the whole weekend, thus freeing myself to help the men in their task. I also wanted to take a few photographs of the work as it proceeded.
Finally, the day before work was due to start on the project, I went out, spade in hand, and dug out all the turf from the surrounding area to expose the entire site and any masonry, for the headless statue was lying very close to the massive foundations I'd already discovered running in front of the portico.
"I've been reading it all up," the student had told me over the phone, "I mean how they used to raise blocks of stone that size in the olden days: they used a 'block and tackle'." He was using the local pronunciation. The block and tackle seemed to have consisted of three pine-tree trunks and a pulley system. I at once offered Ron the clothes-line pulley but he said it wouldn't be strong enough. He intended to work with spades, crow-bar and the jack he usually carried in the car. We hoped at least one high-school student would also turn up.
My days between the phone-call and the weekend were full and varied, for I had also to finish my library books so that the university student who had phoned could take them back to the Valley where he had access to the library. Those were the days before the bookmobile service was started. There was no library in any of the small villages like ours. Into those few days I now had to fit extra work on the headless statue site. Now I could afford only two hours a day for my studies, so I chose directly after breakfast, a time when I could work better, the light being good and the risk of interruption minimal, Ron having just left for work. After that I was supposed to clean up the house, but finding so much to interest me I was often so absorbed in my books that I couldn't lay them aside and had to rush over my cleaning and perhaps leave some till later. After lunch came another hour's study; then to my gardening and digging. On the last day I spent the morning digging as well and had to do the cleaning in the evening, after dark. Ron always hated it when I did that! But he also always forgave me.
As this was in the nature of a "dig" rather than what I'd been doing up till now, landscaping, digging out rocks and dead roots and gardening and happening by chance to come upon something interesting, I had to work very carefully in case I hit a subterranean wall, or, more important, disturbed any small artifacts that might be associated with the headless statue. If it had been used as a mounting-block, little things might have been dropped there; if, as I suspected, it was a herm, something associated with the old religion could have been buried beneath or near it. I certainly didn't intend to dig up anything as important as corner-stones again!
During the evenings our favourite TV programs often interrupted my work and any that Ron had brought home with him. Mine usually consisted of making notes and checking. We used to sit side-by-side on the chesterfield, Ron cross-legged in pyjamas and dressing-gown, pen and papers to hand; I in voluminous caftan, a TV dinner-table full of my study material close by. Sometimes the only item that would interrupt me was the National News, but Ron would break off to watch something like wrestling, Cannon or Police Story. But we'd both take a break for Front Page Challenge and This is the Law. Soon Ron, tired out after a heavy day at work, would go up to bed, a signal for me to begin my overnight breakfast preparations. A final glance at the sky, for we were sighting several UFOs about that time and keeping tabs on them all, rounded off the day for me.
By the time our student helper arrived I had everything ready for digging - or hauling - the headless statue out, and most of my studies complete as far as the books were concerned that had to go back. They had proved to be particularly interesting this time. Since Inigo Jones and Sir Francis Bacon were colleagues at the Stuart court in London, and Bacon was able to quote China in a possible Oak Island connection, it had occurred to me that there would be no harm in investigating the life of Marco Polo. I had therefore asked this particular student if he could find such a book in the library. So a fortnight before arranging to come and help us to raise the headless statue, he had brought along a 19th-century book which in many ways proved to be more interesting than I had anticipated - not as it turned out in connection with any Oak Island-type pit but to do with the Polo Coat of Arms. There were two versions, both with ravens described as "graculi or pole".
That was the connection, for the raven was Leif Erikson's bird. It appeared on his ship's flag, black with wings outstretched on a white ground. Was Marco Polo, then, descended from Erik the Red and Leif? Was that why Marco, like Leif, was such an enthusiastic traveller? Had Leif's "lost" descendants turned up in Venice? I was fascinated.
But I had work to do. Now I must wash the dishes and get out there to help the men with the headless statue and, if possible, place it on the rough-hewn stone plinth I'd discovered in my preliminary digging there. No other student had turned up, so I would have to take his place.
That Saturday afternoon, then, we all three went out with two spades and a crow-bar and collected a few odd poles and fencing-stakes that were lying around at the time, the latter to use as rollers, the former as levers. As the men raised the "head" end of the great block - we were still not sure how long it was -1 had to run around and find large pieces of rock to push under it. It was just beginning to get dark when we brought the jack on to the scene. No good: we couldn't see well enough now to carry on, at least not without taking unnecessary risks.
But on Sunday morning we went out again. By now it had slipped over on to one corner of the plinth and was no longer facing our house, no longer back to the portico as it must have been originally. It was too heavy to push back again so we had to leave it as it was and try to raise it to face the fence. Slowly at last the headless statue was raised, packed around with rocks and stood there like a man's torso facing the backyard next door. Of course it was not on its plinth, but we could do no more.
All the time we were working we'd been speculating as to what its other side would be like - its "back". The front seemed to have had something inscribed on it at one time. But it was so badly weathered that when we tried to rub dark-blue powder into whatever was there, most of it just accentuated the cracks. But the back proved to be even more disappointing: it was just rough. It had never even been dressed. In fact it seemed that, unlike most statues, this one had spent most of its time lying on its back.
The lower end, however, had a "tide-mark" on it indicating that it had indeed been standing upright and fitting into the socket on its plinth at one time for some years before it finally fell. The shape of the end, however, interested me: it was familiar, for it almost exactly matched the shape of two broken-off stones nearby, one being that with the "N" or "Z" on it. This led me to conjecture that these two stones might also have been
headless statues originally. If so, however, the "N" stone would have been very long, for the rest of the pit in which it lay would have made it about seven feet long. Then I noticed that the pit beside it was roughly the same length as the headless statue itself: four feet. Was this, then, where it had earlier lain, side-by-side with another? And what of the other broken-off lower end? Besides, if so, what for? And why the difference in size?
Wherever the headless statue had stood or lain earlier on, however, it had obviously been standing for some time where we'd found it and could have been used as a mounting-block in the 17th century: it would have been only a few steps from the portico to a waiting horse.
Our student, who was studying Theology, was interested in the fact that the pit complex happened to be one of those places where plants would not grow well. Doubtless, he said, these had been used as sacrificial stones in pagan times when they had lain in those pits. Then, linking one poor-growing area to another, he suggested that the smaller stone, the headless statue, had been moved to the vicinity of the well, where it had served as an execution and/or punishment block. But the mystery deepened when we found a pit at the foot of the plinth against which it had been leaning. Lined with stones, it contained blackened ashes; and in the ashes were scraps of bone, rusty nails and pins, one of which resembled tweezers, part of a sword-blade and other small iron objects too rusty to identify. The nails were hand-made, similar to those in the Oak Island museum, but the sword-blade was of a much later date than the one we'd found earlier. Ron even suggested that the pit might have been made by somebody camping on the site who had cooked a meal there. If so, this would have been a camp-site dating back to about the 17th century, judging from the sword-blade.
Later, when our photographs had been processed, we were able to detect a number of very faint markings on the front of the stone, One of these was a concentric circle; another seemed to be a "Thor's hammer", a symbol often used by the Norsemen. Much later our visitor from Glastonbury identified most of the markings as the remains of a Celtic inscription. She couldn't decipher it: it was too worn for that.
After much reading around the subject during the months after we dug it up, I was able to conclude what I had already been suspecting - that what we had on our hands was a Celtic herm - a battered one, but a herm none-the-less, i.e. a man-shaped stone dating back to at least 800 B.C. Herms are said to have been representations of a pagan fertility god and were placed on roadsides or in gardens, where worshippers would deck them with garlands of flowers.
Identification of yet another fertility-stone from that era convinced me that our hilltop had once been used as a place of worship - fertility-worship. This was the familiar-looking stone placed at one of the corners on our land by the surveyor. It was there right under our eyes, round side upwards but still unidentified by us until one day I happened to be leafing through some of my European records. Long ago in England I had come across a number of strange monoliths, some of them called "The Cross" but bearing no resemblance to one. They were obviously of great antiquity, some of them in remote places such as Dartmoor, unconnected with any recorded human habitation, while others occupied a central position in some town or village. Now I was looking at a photograph of the "Stone and Cross" at Tockholes in Lancashire and could see that the Stone was exactly like the one in our backyard, while the "Cross" was undeniably phallic, its top broken off but its plinth intact though much worn.
So that was it: this little hill on which our house now stood had for centuries - millennia perhaps - been a place of worship, a sacred place to the Celts amongst others, "Christianised" by those that followed and given the name of "The Cross". The Micmacs probably knew about all this, which would account for the strange looks at least one of them gave me when talking about the place.
Stones such as the one I'd just identified are known as testicle-stones. On most such sites only the "Cross" remains, the Stone having been broken up by zealous Christians many centuries ago. In New Ross, despite the name attached to it, it seems that it was the "Cross" that was destroyed.
Our Herm 1973
Celtic Herm (Headless Statue) September 2007
I was still puzzled by the foundations I'd found behind what
we now called Lovers' Nook. Why were some of them so
massive? Then, clearing a way through the bushes just within
the ruins of the outer wall, I came upon what looked like a
row of four disused wells, the first one almost adjacent to
the ruins of Tom's Tower. After a while I thought of the
classical castle garde-robes or latrines: four in a row all
together seemed to make sense, the effluent running away
into the moat below. But our student helpers were still keen
on the use of the herm as an execution or punishment block:
if all that was going on, there had to be somewhere for the
prisoners. I suggested that the remains of small "rooms"
that I'd seen on the other side of our boundary wall might
have been prison-cells. As they were not on our land I had
not been able to investigate them.
But, "Dungeons," one of the students insisted. I pointed out that the "wells" were too small, but they thought this was part of the punishment: "They were dumped in there from above and a heavy stone lid clamped on top with just a crack to let in a little air. They couldn't get out. It must have been awful."
Yes, but I couldn't agree. I'd never heard of or read about such a form of torture. Still, although I persisted with my theory about the latrines, I couldn't reject their idea altogether. There had to be something to account for the very thick walls there which they were sure were built to keep the prisoners in.
I had to wait until 1975 to carry out these plans.
As to the "prison" idea, it was normal in medieval times to use castles as prisons as well as for other purposes. A king would spend only part of his time there as he moved from one castle to the next. This one, I had been told, was the king's inland refuge. There must have been another castle of some sort on the coast - perhaps several if we included the entire eastern seaboard. As in Europe, castles would have been built, in the normal course of events, wherever there was a Norse settlement. Most of the royal families there claim Norse descent. What seems to have happened was that the shipping route via Greenland got cut off by the "Little Ice Age" and that had the effect of isolating the descendants of men such as Leif Erikson who according to the Icelandic annals had "joined with the people of America".
Since La Have bears a name that could have been translated from the Norse Hop, and since also it was known to the Micmacs as the place where lived the people with "long joints", it might be expected that ruins similar to ours would be found there. There was Fort Point, of course, but there things were complicated by its use as the French capital in 1632. They didn't stay but left for Port Royal, later to be renamed Annapolis Royal after Queen Anne, only about four years later. Fort Point was attacked and razed by fire in 1654 - the year of Sedgewick's invasion. That was the same year in which, according to legend, the mansion at New Ross was destroyed.
Little was going on there when I visited it in 1975, but the topography of the area with the long, curved sandbank known as Crescent Beach at the mouth of the La Have River there gave me the impression that a typical Norse hop might well have been found there by Leif Erikson or Thorfinn Karlsefni around the year 1000. Later I was fortunate enough to be able to visit again when an archaeological "dig" was in progress and, although it was impossible to say for certain, the foundations exposed certainly seemed to be very similar to those found at New Ross. In other words although some may have dated back only to about the 1620s or 1630s, others were much more massive and could have been several centuries older. Some of the building-stones had been worked in much the same way as those on our own site. Nobody seemed to know when the buildings occupied by the French were actually erected and we are left with "presumably 1632". As the French didn't get there until the autumn, it seems unlikely that much building was done then, with winter upon them; much more likely, they occupied or built on to buildings that were already there. A sketch made on Champlain's arrival would seem to confirm this: it shows a settlement with many buildings both large and small.
I was now certain that we indeed had a medieval castle site, but unfortunately in 1975 my activities were curtailed by a very nasty flu epidemic. So I was confined to bed that spring. My bedroom window looked out on to the backyard where I'd hoped to be working again, but all I could do was to watch our little tree-swallows coming and going as they made their nest in the bird-house Ron had built on our balcony-rails. The male bird used to stand on guard on our clothes-line much of the time, so we nicknamed him "0 Canada", while his mate became "Waltzing Matilda" in honour of my Australian cousins who had just been visiting us. Their activities helped to take my mind off my health problems and our sadness over the loss of our last remaining cat.
We were also fortunate in the help we were now receiving from the student whose ancestors had been so familiar with our 17th-century mansion. His grandfather had died but had passed on some important information about what was on the site at the time the 17th-century house was built. Now I was given rough sketch-plans of the castle: "It had seven towers," he said, "and the great gate was at right angles with the present main road, just before you get to the garage." I already knew from my own investigations that the remains of the walls ended about there. Moreover, it looked as if a road had once run past where he now said the gate was, leading to the larger hill adjacent to ours, a little way back from the main road. But I'd found no evidence of any tower foundations: until I saw the plans I had been able to locate only five towers.
"No," he told me, "The gateway and its two towers were gone long before the rest of the castle. The mortar used in the archway gave way due to the extreme cold and it came down, dragging the two towers with it. The others were all in ruins by the 17th century, but less so here at the back. This back part was still in use to a certain extent, I believe."
He handed me his sketches of the outer walls of the castle and the great gate: "There was a lot of gold everywhere, the roofs of the towers, the cross above the arch, even the hinges. And there were little doors in each of the big doors there, for pedestrians." I was reminded of a mansion I'd read about that was reputed to have gold fitments throughout, at least until the 19th century. It was in Scotland and I wondered whether it had anything to do with the Norse Scots. It wasn't in the north, however, but somewhere south of Aberdeen. Tyninghame: I was never able to visit it.
He told me that in the middle of the castle grounds stood a very ancient building, long and narrow, "and on to that my ancestor helped to build the new house."
I now had a fair idea of what the castle may have looked like at one time. He didn't show the niches I'd found in the outer wall, but then they could have been made later after the original walls began to crumble for the same reason that the gateway had fallen. Later I was able to find the sand from the old walls and towers, all that was left of the mortar.
Apparently the niches were once again not there when the 17th-century work was done. But, "Inside the castle," he continued, "there were two long internal walls, starting at the well and running to the gate-towers." These too had fallen long before the 17th century, but the massive foundations I'd found running across the portico may have been part of them. There had been so many changes over the centuries, some features being erased, others left with at least the foundations intact, that it was difficult to trace the lines of the two internal walls when we tried to do so across the rough land behind the backyard next door. It seemed to be full of ruins, but was also full of trees and undergrowth, and of course we couldn't disturb anything.
I knew now that our house was built at least partly on the site of one of the towers. Along the road, it seemed, another house had been so built, since according to the plans I had been given another tower should have stood there. That house had been built on a mound which corresponded to another one I'd discovered opposite, on the rough land behind all the backyards.
That one, of course, was completely overgrown so that until I investigated, I had mistaken it for a clump of trees among the bushes. Actually, it was covered with more bushes. Unfortunately, later on when the rough land changed hands, this vestige of the castle that had survived for perhaps seven hundred years was razed, together with the footpath that ran along outside the castle walls there. But in 1975 it was still there and I bashed my way through the bushes and stood on top, my head level with the nearby tree-tops.
"The old castle," said our student friend, "was almost exactly oval, with the pointed end of the 'egg' at the well tower."
Despite my poor health I was very happy with the way things had gone in 1975. Next year I hoped to investigate the other castle walls, one of which I now knew ran parallel to the back of our house between it and the ditch, then turned up the slope towards the well.
Meanwhile, a newly-published book by Frederick J. Pohl had linked Nova Scotia with a land shown on some of the ancient maps as Estotiland. It looked to be somewhat farther to the north, but the features described in the book left no doubt as to its real location. The source of all this was the Zeno letters, dated 1398 and discovered by some of their descendants in the 16th century. That they were not made public until 1558 had made them suspect in the opinion of some authorities. With the letters was a map that, if authentic, would predate the "Vinland" map by more than 40 years. The origin of this map was said to be even more suspect than the letters. But then for many years the experts refused to believe that the "Vinland" map was genuine and they have been proved wrong. So it's worth considering the Zeno letters. According to the Zeno brothers, a Prince Zichmni of Malta and/or the Isle of Orkney, a member of the Order of the Temple or Knights Templar, heard a strange tale of trans-Atlantic adventure from a fisherman who, along with five others, had been shipwrecked and washed up on the shores of Estotiland. They were taken in and cared-for by the inhabitants and introduced to their king, a learned man with a large library of books in Latin. They were then introduced to other shipwrecked sailors and told that, like them, they must remain for five years. Later the six got mixed up with cannibals farther south and Zichmni's informant was lucky to escape. Now, twenty-six years after the shipwreck, he was telling his story to his prince. Zichmni was fascinated and ultimately arranged with the Zenos to take him across the Atlantic. They did so and left him there in Estotiland where he planned to visit the king of that country. Throughout the Zeno narrative the prince is referred to as "Zichmni" but during the 19th century researchers, having failed to track down a prince of that name, noticed that in the script in use at the time, 1398, the letter "Z" looked much the same as "d'O" - that is, "d'Orkney" - hence the identification of the prince as Prince Henry Sinclair of Orkney.
Had Prince Henry been a visitor at what is now New Ross, then, at the castle at The Cross? Strange: we now knew the name of a possible early visitor, but not the name of the king he was visiting. More interesting still, though, at least for us, was that what we'd been calling the "N" stone in our backyard could actually be a "Z" stone. Zichmni? But then by all accounts Zichmni didn't exist. Now, we supposed, we must look for an "H" stone. Unless of course the markings were as some suggested just fortuitous.
The only inscription in our backyard that was ever authenticated was that on the front face of the herm.
But I was happy about Zichmni's visit, whoever he was; for if he came to see a king as early as 1398, that king must have lived in a castle -probably our castle.
Our second project was by way of a vacation, something we felt was owed us after four years of settling-in and entertaining visitors. We planned another visit to the Far East, by plane this time so we wouldn't be away so long. The advent of jumbo-jets had completely changed world travel since our last trip there only seven years ago.
Alas, as time went by I realized I'd have to give up all hope of accompanying Ron on any flight: last year's flu had left me with altitude sickness - pulmonary edema, only a slight problem most of the time but triggered by the slightest drop in temperature or change in pressure. That meant that from time to time I suffered from oxygen-shortage and unless the worrisome problem cleared up in time, I'd have to remain safely on the ground at home.
Ron was worried: "I can't leave you here alone if you're likely to get sick." But I still insisted, as I had from the outset, that he should go ahead: "You've worked hard all these years without a proper break. It'll be summer-time and I'll be all right."
I was now studying possible Norse connections in what is now the United States. A carved stone to celebrate a marriage attracted my attention: the bridegroom was European. There he was, "joining with the people of America".
But I was soon busy outside again. May had hardly come in when Ron announced that he'd contacted a neighbour who said he wanted to sell his woods "camp" which consisted of two log and tar-paper buildings. Ron had already been to inspect and had bought the smaller of the two: "They used to sleep in it," he said. It was sitting there on blocks, so now we'd have to set up wooden blocks in our yard as he'd arranged for the truck and crane to do the job next weekend.
That sent me out into the garden again, where I already had the ground prepared for seeding later in the month. I'd also been removing turf from behind our house where I thought a wall should run. I'd guessed correctly: I'd exposed foundations five feet wide running up towards the well. But then a cold day had driven me indoors with shortness of breath and I'd been forced to leave the rest of the work till later.
Now I'd have to get out there again and I could only pray for good weather and the necessary strength, for there was much to do. The shed had to be placed handy to the back door and near where we parked our car, which meant there was virtually only one place for it and that meant altering the course of the ditch that ran beside our driveway down to the large ditch in front. To make room for the shed it had to be dug near the fence and the ground levelled. Also to be levelled was a large hummock about two feet high known to us as "the Indian grave", which was why we hadn't flattened it earlier. It was near the ditch and so not in the way until now. Most of this work would devolve on myself as Ron was out at work all day and would be busy enough cutting up our old clothes-post which we'd recently had to replace with a metal one as it had rotted at the lower end. It was otherwise good and sturdy and well-suited to our purpose. Then he had to creosote the blocks in readiness. In the end he found the wood so hard that he had to solicit the aid of a student with a chain-saw.
I was fortunate, too: another student came to help me and, while I attended to the grassy hillock, he probed with a crow-bar. Next thing I knew, he had discovered another piece of wall running towards that where I'd previously been working. It was in pristine condition and, although only three feet wide, further investigation proved that it had been built on top of an earlier one that was two feet wider.
Also under the hummock was part of another small structure, half of which was under the fence and in the neighbours' yard, which was higher than our yard. Sand from the mortar was all around. Perhaps this small structure had been built around a garden-seat to protect those sitting there from the cold north wind. It was there that the ghost of that Japanese lady used to walk and even as I dug I glimpsed her again, as if she was upset that I was digging out what once had been hers. I only hoped this was not her grave. I found no evidence to suggest that it was and we never saw her ghost again.
While the student was available, he helped me to fill in the other ditch, the one that ran parallel to the back of our house, as Ron found the little wooden bridges difficult to get over with the tiller. We put it underground as a drain, widening it at the same time.
Meanwhile the old wooden well-cover Ron had constructed from wood found under the car-roof had had its days and he'd ordered lumber to make a new, gabled cover. He was also fixing a pump there that he'd just bought. I was happy about the gabled well-cover: less likely to be affected by the weather and much more attractive.
But first we had to prepare the ground for the shed. There was still much digging to be done there and poor Ron got sciatica trying to help. But we finally had the land under where the shed was to stand flattened and solid and were able to measure up the site and place the wooden blocks where they should go. I worked long and hard that day, even after Ron had given up and our students gone home. Perhaps after all I was regaining some of my old strength.
But the sand from the mortar puzzled me and we still don't know where it came from, for it was not local sand, which tends to be either white or slightly reddish, as instanced by the gravel on our driveway which came from a pit close by. But the sand that had been used for the mortar was of a beautiful golden colour. We could only conclude that it had arrived in a ship as ballast.
It would not be long before I was digging where I thought the towers might have fallen: the well tower to the left among the bushes where the ground was raised and I hadn't dug before; the next tower along near the crab-apple tree where the alders used to grow that Ron had grubbed out for me. Both areas produced what I'd expected: small building-stones and sand - and that meant mortar.
But long before I got down to that the rains started and as a result the truck and crane couldn't get into the woods to bring our shed out, for the logging roads were deep in mud and the machinery was too heavy. So we were given respite and Ron even got the new well cover built and the pump fixed there so that we could water the garden more easily during the next drought. In the end the truck and crane didn't arrive with our garden shed until the Saturday before Victoria Day. By that time everything was so wet outside that we couldn't even mow the lawn.
What a surprise it was to see it suddenly there, sitting in our driveway on the back of its truck! A car followed the truck and out jumped the driver to buttonhole Ron and ask him if the shed was for sale! I thought, "What next?" But all then went smoothly, though we had to hurry over the rest of our dinner. Then it all began. The huge red-and-yellow crane arrived and was maneuvered into place beside the rectangle of wooden blocks just in front of our newly-exposed piece of wall. Then down came two huge metal feet and I narrowly missed being pinned to the ground. Next, an elderly man - the one who'd sold us the shed - was picked up by the crane and deposited on the roof of the shed while it was still on the flat-bed truck. He was up there to fix the chains and in moments the shed was being swung over its new site. Then it was carefully deposited on our wooden blocks. I'd never seen a job done more efficiently. I was delighted and told all the men so. No damage whatsoever was done to the garden plots nearby or to the shed itself.
Soon I was inside with Ron, cleaning up while he removed the wooden bunks we were not going to need. It had come complete not only with table and bench but with stove and toilet can!
It was not long before I was back at my studies, trying to find out if there was any mention of a castle that could be ours somewhere far back in North American history and if so, what it looked like and what its name was.
Examining again the maps produced at this time, I emerged even more confused. Not only were they, as I already knew, highly inaccurate, nobody until the beginning of the 17th century included anything even remotely resembling Nova Scotia on their maps as far as I could discover. I was now looking at 16th-century maps that I had not till now examined. They were all the same in this respect. But Norumbega was there as a city on a river inland, and again as a territory which seemed to be what we now call New Brunswick and part of Maine. Cartographers often placed the city within Norumbega territory. Refugio was usually in evidence, and also the Bay of Many Islands, which could have been an early name for Mahone Bay where there are reputed to be 365 islands, some of them inhabited, including Oak Island.
I soon discovered I was not alone in my confusion. Others had run up against the same problems, notably the 19th-century investigator Eben Norton Horsford, who based his researches on the latitudes quoted and came to the conclusion that Norumbega city had been in what is now New England. He searched for its remains on the Charles River at Watertown, near Cambridge, Massachusetts, but without any real success and finally consoled himself by erecting a castle-like tower there which to this day boasts a sign-board saying NORUMBEGA. There must have been, he claimed, a conspiracy among cartographers, with their duplications and their wandering ports, capes, cities and islands, to mislead their sovereigns. Others looked in Maine and New Brunswick, equally unsuccessfully. The conspiracy theory held.
My own feeling, on reading all this, was that it was probably the other way about: their sovereigns were probably united in insisting that Souriquois be kept off the map. This could have led them to place Norumbega city in Norumbega territory.
The truth, as far as I could see, was that Souriquois or Sudhrike was the earliest-settled Norse land across the Atlantic. At first they had coastal settlements, in Sudhrike along what is now the South Shore of Nova Scotia. When they went inland, being a little farther to the north, they called their settlement Nordhan Bygdh - Northern Settlement. When they penetrated yet farther north they acquired a much more extensive "northern settlement" and gave it the same name. Thus both city and territory came to bear the name Norumbega. The Bay of Many Islands had to be Mahone Bay: it was usually shown in the right place on the map.
Later I was to discover that even the name Micmac could be traced back to a Norse origin, referring to the "main" or "most important" land, meaning Sudhrike. It was important because of the gold trade.
The French, when they came to Souriquois, found that the inhabitants called themselves Ricmanen - the "rich men". This seems to be another clue. If, as I was already certain, Leif Erikson found gold in Nova Scotia, and if that gold was mined during the pre-Columbian period, there would have been good reason for the Souriquois people to call themselves that. And if the European kings were obtaining their gold from "over the ocean" as indicated by the coat-of-arms of one of the Knights-Baronets of Nova Scotia, Sir Thomas Hope (a significant Norse-Scottish name), might they not have wished to keep the fact a secret? Perhaps so. James I of England often talked of "secrecie" as an essential. But perhaps after all it was the Norumbegan rulers themselves who instructed the cartographers to produce confusing maps. They probably rewarded them with gold.
Perhaps furs as well.
Oak Island, with its buried treasure, would fit well into this picture.
As I pored over the 16th- and 17th-century maps, trying to make some sense out of what I saw, examining the often minute features with a magnifying-glass, I suddenly realized that on some of them Norumbega Castle had been given recognizable characteristics: number and shape of towers, for instance, and a strange, shield-like outline on the foremost tower. Had an attempt been made on these maps to show features as they actually were? Hard to say but it seemed to be so. Moreover, the castle illustrated looked remarkably like one that could have fitted into our end of the original castle site - partly on our property, partly next door. It also to some extent resembled the sketches I'd been given, with the "very old" long building occupying a central position: some of the maps showed a castle built on to and over this single-storey building. Very little of this was on our land: just one end, with no post-holes. It could have been, from its proportions -only about 12 feet wide but an estimated 75 feet long - an old Norse hall.
I was now almost completely certain that while the 19th-century investigators had the name but not the castle, we in Nova Scotia had the castle but not the name; and the same would apply to the city. There were too many indications in what I had discovered for them to be mere coincidence.
But then, as I ruminated over all the at first confusing information I had gleaned, something happened that was to side-track me and was to mark the beginning of a series of events that would hold my investigations up for months.
At first I was optimistic about the turn of events: through some of my contacts I at last had the opportunity to pass on the information about the New Ross castle site, for which I now had a name: Norumbega. The news was beginning to get around. George Young, author of several books on Nova Scotia including "Ghosts in Nova Scotia" and "Bluenose Capers" eventually came to see us, having just brought out another book, "Ancient Peoples and Modern Ghosts". He knew all about the dolmen east of our property, had examined it and had been speculating about a possible stone circle nearby. But long before that came Helen Creighton, author of "Bluenose Ghosts", "Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia" and many other books. She, like many others, was more interested in the hauntings than in the castle as such.
Then members of the press arrived. They seemed more interested in how I'd met my husband and whether I knew the whereabouts of "the present Jacobite pretender to the British throne". Others probed me about how exiled royal families protected themselves. Well, there had to be some descendants of the king Prince Henry came to visit. Sometimes these "media people" came in on the heels of another visitor, pretending to be no more than "a friend" - until out came a notebook and personal questions ensued. One, when I tried to divert her attention away from me and to the castle ruins she had just been inspecting, responded with, "What castle?" No articles ever appeared in the newspaper at first, but much later the local press took an interest in the site, on which by then we had begun to build rough replicas of such wooden buildings as Tom's Tower and one of the workshops. Once a whole-page illustrated article appeared, showing one of the additional buildings and the herm, and I readily forgave them for stating that the herm was "part of the castle"!
One of the visits by interested people from Halifax took place during the month Ron was away on that trip we'd promised ourselves - the one on which I'd been unable to accompany him. I'd been hoping to work on a maze around Lovers' Nook and Little Lovers' Nook, but was defeated by my breathing problems and the nature of the terrain. I had a pile of wood to split ready for the winter, so consoled myself by piling it to form a maze in the driveway behind our car, which was standing there awaiting Ron's return. It was a new one and had just been back to the dealer for some adjustments to prevent it from pulling to the right, which made it difficult to drive. How were we to know it was a "lemon"?
I had no time to discover how much the children would enjoy the "wood maze" I'd built: the day after Ron returned we were out in the car for the first time since it came back from the dealer's and were on our way home, only a few miles down the road when the car pulled right again and the steering wheel came right off, sending us crashing into the only large rock between New Ross and Kentville. Ron, who was driving, was hardly injured; but I landed up in hospital for about five weeks, came home on a stretcher unable to walk and had to have my bed moved downstairs, where for many more months I struggled to get on my feet again.
All I could remember of the crash was the beautiful, starlit night on which it had happened, and the still, dark waters of a lake we had just passed. I'd been checking the sky for UFOs; now I would spend hours in bed or on the chesterfield, helped across the room by Ron to watch for them from my window.
Meanwhile, as we were having a back porch added to the house Ron got the carpenter to fix a stair-rail for me, a feature strangely lacking in that house. Aided by two canes, I began to totter through the kitchen and after a few months was able to attempt the stairs. It was a long and slow process. But fortunately by spring I was able to hump a chair out into the yard and, sitting on it, attend to my garden with the aid of a hoe.
The maze I'd started to make around Lovers' Nook never did get completed. But the garden I'd made flourished and I was glad I'd achieved that much before the accident.
During my long convalescence and gradual return to some sort of normal there was ample time for additional study and to add more information to reinforce what I had already discovered. Occasionally I had to make a small adjustment, already allowed for in this account for the sake of clarity and to simplify matters.
It was in 1980 that at last I was strong enough to resume heavy
work outdoors and to go for the long walks we both so much
enjoyed. In that year I was approached by people in Halifax
who suggested I should
open up our property to tourists. It was advertised as being
on the site of an ancient castle and many of those
who subsequently stayed in our home or camped in the grounds
were fascinated by its history. It was one who happened to
be an archaeologist who identified the split spruce-knots,
carbon-dated as being at least 800 years old, as clamps to hold hot
metal. In fact, on noticing them in our display-case
he immediately told me, "I see
you had a goldsmith's
shop out there." He then went on to explain about the
So that summer I examined the whole area where I knew a small building with a dirt floor had once stood, doing heavy digging once again for the first time since the accident in 1976. I was even able to lift out a large rock about a foot high and eighteen inches across. The work tired me out and most afternoons I had to rest before going out again to dig in the evening. For two days I found nothing except a very modern screw-driver that Ron had lost and which had become embedded in the lawn. This building, ten feet wide, must have had a door facing our house, as that was where I had found all those little clamps. Tracing the side-walls to the far end, about eighteen feet, I came upon the foundations of the back wall. There were two breaks in the wall at the level of the surrounding cobblestones, nine inches down, which I took to be for drainage. This was on the left-hand side; perhaps there was a sink of some sort there. To the right of it the foundations were thicker than elsewhere and the darkness of the soil, in contrast to the yellow clay of the workshop floor and the subsoil under the cobble-stones, confirmed what I had suspected in an earlier cursory examination, that there was a chimney at that point.
I covered the site in again, two clamps, but no gold, the richer. As usual I found them at the end nearest our house, where they must have been swept out when the workshop was being tidied. That any had been preserved for such a long time must have been due to the dampness of that part of our yard, where water usually tended to collect. It is known that wood may survive a long time if submerged in water and not exposed to the air.
There were indications of another workshop just behind the goldsmiths' shop, but the picnic table had been fixed there and so I left it for the time being.
It was a German visitor who was more enthusiastic than any other about the castle site. He would have liked to rebuild the whole thing, but had to content himself at first with making a very beautiful model which I helped him to finish off in papier mache. When he'd finished, it emerged as an ornate German edifice with a Norwegian flag proudly flying atop one of the gold-roofed towers. Of course the castle had never looked like that, but how could I criticise such devotion and workmanship? I later made two more accurate models of the castle in various stages of disintegration to indicate what may have happened on the site over the years.
Meanwhile our German friend returned year after year to help us build a rough replica of the goldsmiths' shop - without the sink and chimney, for it was to be used as a bunkhouse for the campers in case of bad weather.
Finally, we managed to track down the man who had operated the fur-trading post in the lower part of our house when it was only one storey high. He was living in retirement in the village. Right up to the Second World War Micmacs and others had been bringing their furs to his trading-post, a tradition that apparently had not been broken since the days of the Norse settlement.
Visitors were coming and going right up to 1990 and at least one of them continued to do research there and in the vicinity long after we had left. He it was who discovered that there was a second Oak Island, now attached to the mainland due to the collection of silt in the Bay of Fundy. That placed New Ross halfway between the two Oak Islands. What was the significance of this? Did it have anything to do with oaks being held sacred in the days of the old religion? The last I heard was that he was investigating the possibility of ley lines connecting the three spots to another near Middleton where an interesting stone had been unearthed.
And so the work continues.
Chronology: A Few Notes
About 1500 B.C.Early contact with Europe indicated by trail of shield-escutcheon carvings on stones: Brittany - Stonehenge, England - New Ross, Nova Scotia: Carthaginians, a.k.a. Phoenicians.
About 800 B.C. Celtic herms in Brittany this date or earlier; and in New Ross, Nova Scotia, and Vermont.
Contemporary with these: Other carved stones in Europe and North America, including star maps as at New Ross; steles or stones associated with them, double-headed axe carving at New Ross.
About 1000 A.D. Leif Erikson's arrival from Greenland; Norse ruins found at New Ross: foundations with proportions of Norse Hall; tip of Viking-type sword found at New Ross site; Gold River may date back to Leif's discovery of gold; The Ovens - name may refer to smelting-ovens, it was being used before "little gold-rush" of 1880s; La Have in Norse is Hop - Leif Erikson or Thorfinn Karlsefni may have been early settlers - Micmac name for it refers to people with "long joints".
13th C. By comparison with structures in Europe, castle with seven towers probably built then but all fell down due to failure of mortar in severe weather, and to the acidity of the soil. Five towers and parts of wall traced but wide, low wall built later, probably in same century - shallow foundations. Towers of castle reputed to have gold roofs. Well: 13th C. or older. Clamps used in goldsmiths' shop: 13th C. or earlier.
16th C. Truncated castle existed at "well" end of original castle site and also comprised North, West and Great East towers; incorporated into it was the old Norse hall. Some contemporary maps show this castle's features. Beginning of attempts to hide castle and city of Norumbega by means of inaccurate cartography. Colonisation of the Americas; Spanish conquest of Central and part of South America. Some visitors described what they found, including Norumbega and its wealth. Inca gold no longer being shipped to Sudhrike (N. S.); may have been "banked" in pit on Oak island. Publication of Zeno letters indicating European prince's visit to King of Estotiland, by description really Sudhrike; European, large library.
17th C. Champlain disclosed existence of Sudhrike as Souriquois or Acadie in first decade. 1620: arrival of Pilgrim Fathers, New England; 1621: First Charter of kingdom of New Scotland or Nova Scotia. 1623: Inigo Jones: small mansion built on castle site, incorporating old Norse hall, wooden with two porticoes and gold dome, Palladian style; building E-shaped, as in England at that time. 1625: Death of James I, accession of
Charles I; Second Charter. 1628: Master Thomas Hope knighted as Baronet of N.S., Edinburgh Castle, a Norse Scot. 1629-30: Inigo Jones back in London, had been away nine years. Walls only three feet wide built, often on top of old, wider castle walls probably while he was in N.S. 1632: Charles I turned New Scotland over to France; "Roundheads" beginning to oppose him in England. New French capital at La Have - lasted about four years.
1649: Charles I executed: Oliver Cromwell in power. Charles II a "wandering prince". Many Royalists had fled to Barbados. 1654: Cromwell's men under Sedgewick invaded Nova Scotia, razing important buildings, Fort Point included. Mansion on old castle site pillaged and destroyed, parts blown up by bombs.
18th C. 1707: Act of Union between England and Scotland; Scotland lost its independent parliament. 1713: Treaty of Utrecht, France gave up mainland Nova Scotia to Britain; 1714: transfer complete; death of Queen Anne, last Stuart monarch; accession of George I, Hanoverian; Jacobite rebellions 1715, 1719; final defeat at Culloden, Scotland, 1746; 1755: expulsion of Acadians from N.S. mainly from farms in Annapolis Valley; 1763: Cape Breton Island and P.E.I, added to N.S. after raid on French fort at Louisbourg, 1758; 1786: trail/military road from Annapolis Royal to Halifax, military base since 1749, passing through The Cross, but never completed as Halifax became administrative centre, then capital; only a track from The Cross onwards; likewise built from Halifax towards The Cross but never linked up. Germans and German-Swiss who arrived in Halifax 1752 moved to La Have area: beginning of Lunenburg County, mainly German-speaking, with The Cross just within its borders.
19th C. After Napoleonic Wars, disbanded soldiers granted land around The Cross; Sherbrooke founded there 1816; settlers continued to arrive till 1818; as there was another Sherbrooke in N.S., the name was changed to New Ross in 1863. Military Road: since 149 lots had been laid out between Annapolis Royal and "Windsor-Chester cross-roads" - a reference to two T-junctions, one at either end of the village - demand for more than the existing trail/track led to completion of road as far as Sherbrooke 1820 -1840.
20th C. In the late 1960s the causeway was built across the marsh below the two churches; detour over the Gold River and back to the main road no longer necessary. Intersection thus created became colloquially the new "Cross".
"The Cross" appears to have wandered somewhat over the years and its name has changed too: it was at one time called "Charing Cross" but now seems to have reverted to just "The Cross".
Direction of fall estimated by the presence of small building-stones and, particularly, sand from the mortar.
Gate Towers: site at far end, near garage: no obvious signs; private land, backyard. According to legend the Great Arch collapsed, dragging the towers inwards; probably not long after it was built.
South Tower: stump remained until the 1980s, when it was razed, together with adjacent wall foundations and footpath leading to the other hilltop, as part of a project to build a retirement home. This was then abandoned and the home was built elsewhere. When I investigated it, the stump was covered with bushes, those on top being the same height as nearby trees. Private land so no further investigation possible, but no sign of sand outside the line of the wall.
West Tower: at far end of our property with boundary stone wall running down from it; large rocks recently dumped on stump, but it is visible from the footpath that still goes round it, though it now peters out farther on; fell inwards, north, at least in part; small building stones and sand found on our side of the stone wall, though not in such large quantities as elsewhere so parts may have fallen in other directions as it crumbled away. A hop-vine growing there emphasises the importance of beer in medieval times when it was drunk as much as tea and coffee are now. Three apple-trees were growing adjacent to it in 1972, two old and gnarled and one a younger crab-apple. The others were custard-apple trees, an ancient variety that has virtually died out. These two trees died within about two years of our arrival. A raspberry-patch still produces fruit on our side. The presence of so much fruit and also the hop-vine led us to believe that the kitchen was once there. A breach in the wall just beyond the West Tower, large enough for a man to crawl through, may be another relic of Sedgewick's attack or some other raid on the castle.
North Tower: modern house - ours - on the site; old wall remains in basement. "Old basement" said to have been there before any 19th-C. building was erected there; small building-stones found behind it but much sand to the south indicates that it fell in that direction.
Great East Tower: a large mound remains with a house built on it. No chance to investigate but it looks as if it just crumbled away.
Well Tower: well still intact and apparently unchanged below ground level-tower fell sideways to the left if observed from the 17th-century ruins -much sand and many stones, including some interlocking well-stones still lying there.
Aerial Photograph taken about 1966 shows the oval of the castle site very clearly and several castle features remaining which are now gone. Two rocky humps at the "garage" end of the castle area could be remains of the Gate Towers. Land directly behind ours had not yet been excavated to build the causeway. To the left in the photo the Catholic church stands diagonally opposite the Anglican church. Opposite the Catholic church is Boylan's Hotel, the only building known to date back to 1816: it was burnt down soon after the photo was taken. All the roads are gravel and dirt and there is no main road leading past the square building to the left of the Catholic church as there was marshland along there. The lane leading up behind Boylan's hotel and to the left is a "dead-end" one serving the houses there. The turning towards Chester is off the photo at bottom left-hand corner; the Windsor road is off the photo to the right. When we arrived in 1972 it was all stones and mud, almost impassable and little used except by logging trucks. Most of the other roads were like that in the 1960s. In 1972 virtually only the main road was not a dirt one. The road leading past the Anglican church and taking a broad sweep through the woods is Porcupine Hill; the church at the edge of the village there is the Baptist Church; the Legion Hall and war memorial are opposite. The house just along from the Anglican church is the rectory, and behind it the parish hall which has since fallen down. Behind these, to the right in the photo, is the larger hilltop with what seems to have been a large basement in the middle. On this hilltop, which actually extends to where there are several trees to the right, there is evidence that a stone circle once stood. At the far end behind the trees is the large block of stone with a star map on it, now among the softwood trees growing there. This is the hill where Norumbega city probably stood.
995-1000 A.D. Leif Erikson set sail and found Vinland; returned a very wealthy man; nicknamed "The Lucky". After that, this is what probably happened:
998 A.D. approx. After a visit to the new king of Norway, Olaf Trygvasson, Leif returned to his parents in Greenland to bring Christianity there. His father opposed him but his mother changed her name to Thiodhild, had a church built and became a Christian of great influence. Leif returned to Vinland.
999 A.D. approx. Leif's son Thorkel born to Thorgunna, whom he had met when he was blown off course, in the Hebrides.
1000 onwards: Vinland expeditions by Leif's brother Thorvald, who was killed, and by his sister Freydis, who had brothers Helgi and Finnbogi killed, while she herself killed five women. Erik the Red had wanted to go too but he fell off his horse on his way to his ship; and his other son, Thorstein, who had married Gudrid, died in western Greenland in an epidemic. Thorfinn Karlsefni left Iceland for Greenland, married Gudrid and sailed for Vinland. All who made the crossing stayed at one of Leif's outposts which he agreed to lend but not give. Leif in ascendancy in Vinland. Leif guarded his secrets but his foster-father, Tyrkir, knew of the gold and that explains his grimaces and the talk, in front of others, of grapes.
Up to 1025 A.D. Leif continued to make regular calls at his Hop in Vinland, bringing back valuable furs and gold as well as timber, Greenland being treeless. He left there at least one inscribed stone. He may have hidden gold in the pit on Oak Island. Erik died in this period. 1025 A.D. Leif's son Thorkel Chieftain at Brattahlid, Greenland, and apparently not Christian. Leif is assumed to have died there at this time, though it is possible he was in Vinland. Born in 971, he was 54.
About 100 years later early 12th C. Sokki Thorsson and son Einar "in authority" at Brattahlid. The name Sokki means "strong" in Algonquian, indicating Vinland connection. Christianity had lost its hold in Greenland and at the same time the climate deteriorated. But there is evidence that some form of Christianity persisted across the Atlantic. There, the settlers flourished. A man who was apparently fair-skinned and Christian arrived in Peru and founded the Incas. Stories brought back to Europe by stranded fishermen indicated that the Norse settlements had continued and relevant artifacts have been found in the far north and down the east coast.
1261: By agreement, Greenland became Norwegian territory, but Vinland remained independent. Another Hop established in northern (Norse) Scotland. Probably during this period another Norse (but not Norwegian) kingdom was established across the Atlantic called Mer Rika (Sea Kingdom), later to become O Mer Rika (Distant Sea Kingdom) - Amerika.
1266: By Treaty of Perth, the northern shores of Scotland and the islands became part of the kingdom of Scotland. Hope is the Scottish and English form of the Norse Hop - same pronunciation.
1325 onwards: In Greenland, advancing ice cap became a problem; growing-season shortened. Main industry: whaling. Ships going to Markland and Vinland still called there but less frequently. Greenland was trading with the continent to the west.
1342: Icelandic Annals: Report that Greenlanders, having "of their own will abandoned" Christianity, had "joined themselves with the people of America" (as written in Latin, "ad Americae populos se concerterunt"). Probably earliest use of name America.1398: Zeno letters record visit by "Prince Zichmni" to King of Estotiland (apparently what is now N.S.) - a European with large library.
16th C. Gold trade in both Norumbega and Scotland; Henry de Hope; fleet of merchant ships including whalers; fur trade; gold, precious stones and other valuables. Norsemen had no surnames; descendants called themselves after the place where they lived, meaning that, for instance, the "de Hopes" came from Hope.
17th C. Sir Francis Bacon, who had Scottish
connections, wrote in his Novum Organum a description of a
flooding system similar to that discovered in 1795 on Oak
Island. Gold from Peru said to have been "banked" there when
N.S. was the hub of the gold trade.
Much must have been spent trying to regain lost territories after Columbus and Cabot opened up the Americas and colonization began. Because Leif's descendants had apparently moved to Scotland, they became involved with the Stewart/Stuart monarchs. When England took Scotland over after the Act of Union in 1707, the Scottish parliament came to an end and Queen Anne who died in 1714 was the last Stuart monarch. Since Leif's descendants had been working closely with the Scottish monarchy for centuries, it follows that they continued to do so, supporting the exiled Jacobite kings. They probably financed the various rebellions and campaigns, all of which ultimately failed. There is historical evidence of their continued support for the beleaguered exiles. In the process writs of attainder were issued which must have affected them as well all other Jacobite supporters; property in Britain was taken from them and funds confiscated. They became hunted men, fugitives. It was also common when a Jacobite died for his money not to be distributed according to his will. Families were rend apart at that time - Leif's descendants no doubt included. Stripped of their Scottish titles, they must have merged with the general population. A sad end to an enterprise that had lasted for about 800 years.
Many of us believe that nobody, certainly nobody of note, crossed the Atlantic between the llth C. and 1492, when Columbus sailed to the Caribbean; and that the only person to follow immediately after him was John Cabot in 1497. Evidence to the contrary exists. 1070: Danish visits. Adam of Bremen wrote of these after visiting the King of Denmark.
This is also the date various authorities believe the Norse coin was taken to Maine. It was found in 1961.
1117: According to Vinland Map, discovered 1957 and dated about 1440, in the "last year" of Pope Pascal II (died 1118), Erik, Bishop of Greenland and neighbouring regions (Vinland included), "sailed towards Greenland" in the course of his work in his diocese.
1121: Icelandic Annals (6 different sources) state that Bishop Erik Gnupsson "went in search of Vinland".
Lacrosse: a Norse game called knattleikr that was being played at the time is exactly the same. It is now regarded as a Canadian "Indian" game.
1050-1150: Romanesque or Norman arches being built in Europe; the same found at bottom of Newport Tower, Rhode Island. Other characteristics of the tower support this date.
Pre-occupation of Europe with Crusades 1095-1272 had a negative influence on contact with Vinland.
Annals of Greenland were lost later when churches were pillaged and burnt. But much information on Greenland may be found elsewhere.
1342: Entry in Icelandic Annals about Greenlanders having joined with the people of America. Icelandic Annals refer to both Greenland and Iceland.
Where the missing Greenlanders went: (1) Northern Canada: fair-haired Eskimos; small wooden figurine as evidence. (2) North Dakota: Lewis and Clark in 1803 found Madan tribe, fair-haired, blue-eyed with houses and way of life that suggested European connections. (3) Stones: One in North Dakota, 1738, but has been lost; one in Kensington, Minnesota.
1347: Small ship from Greenland had been to Markland: arrived in Iceland with this news, and that it had been blown off course by storms.
1354: Letter written by Magnus, King of Norway and Sweden, commanding PaulKnutsson to organize and lead an expedition to Greenland. He left about 1355.
1364: Ship with only 8 survivors returned from Greenland to Bergen, Norway.
1398: Zeno letters: the brothers' story about visit to Estotiland (N.S.), mentioning trade between there and Greenland.
1406: Icelandic ship sailed to Greenland, stayed 4 years; wedding that took place at that time there recorded.
1410: Pirates. " Wedding ship" left Greenland, but others came - pirates. Farms marauded, churches pillaged and burnt. Annals probably lost at this time.
1424: Antillia appeared on the maps, indicating that people had gone across the Atlantic.
First half of 15th C. 3-4,000 Greenlanders remained in the Eastern Settlement but left about this time, probably driven out by pirates. Rumours: most of them went west. Eskimos moved in.
Before 1481: Letter to Christian III of Denmark refers to "lost voyage to America (another pre-Columbian use of this name) in his grandfather's reign (died 1481), led by Pining and Potherst.
1475: Globe made 1537 by Frisius and Mercator had record of voyage to the St. Lawrence River in 1475.
1621: New Scotland came into being as an existing kingdom, i.e. Sudhrike.
Because the Norseman relied on sagas, it has been assumed that they were not very literate. In fact it was probably their need for secrecy that discouraged them from writing it all down: they could and did write in runes. Fridtjof Nansen and others have described how the descendants of the Greeks of Athens and Sparta, who had been living just north of the Black Sea, travelled overland to Norway after the fall of the Roman Empire in 455 A.D., their leaders having gone in advance by ship to look for the "Thule" discovered by Pytheas, 330-325 B.C. It took them about 50 years to bring their people there; they arrived in 512. Tall, fair and lightly-armed, they were known as the Eruli, a name probably derived from the Latin hems (master). Their rulers were aristocrats descended from the rulers of ancient Greece. After their arrival, they set up Greek-style city-states in Norway and later in Iceland, Greenland and Vinland. Until Harald Fairhair became King of Norway, they had no king, always claiming, "We are equals". It was because of Harald that Erik the Red moved westwards: neither Iceland nor Greenland ever had a king, though it appears that Vinland did. It is interesting that most of the royal families and many of the aristocratic families of Europe claim descent from the Norsemen; equally so that the ideals of ancient Greece are still with us. The Norsemen believed in Greek-style democracy and were mindful of the people's wishes; many of them became kings because the people among whom they had come to live were used to having rulers.
Cape Cod: Shorings for wintering of a ship found in gulley of south shore of Follins Pond, Bass River.
L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland: wall, artifacts, ruins.
Ungava: Buildings of Norse proportions; fireplaces, iron axe.
Byfield, Parker River, Massachusetts: six runic inscriptions on large rocks.
Newport, Rhode Island: Round stone tower, apparently built to Norse measurements; inscriptions on stone. But some debate about this.
West Virginia, Heavoner, Oklahoma and Castalion Springs, Tennesee: Runic inscriptions.
Great Northern Peninsula, Newfoundland: About 20 miles from L'Anse aux Meadows, inscribed stone. May be Ogam, even older.
Maine: Norse coin found, believed to be 11th C. and made for Olaf Kyrre, son of Harald Fairhair.
Kensington, Minnesota: Runic stone left by party travelling west from base camp in Vinland.
Baffin Island: Carved figure of man in hooded cloak with cross on his breast, typically Norse in appearance.
Peru: Mummified bodies of Inca rulers show that some had red hair.
Fair or red hair, blue eyes, fair skin found among native peoples from the time of John Cabot down to the present day, especially along eastern seaboard. The same in many different tribes
"White Eskimos" living in far north reported to Jacques Cartier (16th C.). More than one such report, e.g. the mysterious Tunnit or Tornit people; and in the 20th C. On the shores of Coronation Gulf, central Canada above the Arctic Circle, a tribe of "blond" Eskimos was found, about 200 strong.
Baffin Island: A link with the carved figurine: in 1656 a Dutch ship sailed there and two different kinds of people were found: short, dark, with mongoloid features and tall, fair-skinned with blond hair.
Much of the above is disputed. There seems to be a reluctance to believe that the Norsemen got much farther than Newfoundland; a few years ago it was Nova Scotia; and the U.S. has always laid claim to at least visiting Norsemen.
Norse roots found in Algonquian language including some derived from Sanskrit.
Evidence that earlier peoples came to the shores of the Americas from elsewhere and settled abounds.
Stone circles have been found not only in Vermont but across the entire continent e.g. North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta (where native peoples have used them as "medicine wheels"), and various places to the east.
Inscribed stones indicate the presence of various peoples from the Mediterranean area during pre-Christian times, including Egyptians, who left inscriptions in hieroglyphics, and Carthaginians, Libyans and others of Phoenician descent who left inscriptions in Punic. McNutt's Island, Shelburne County, N.S. has stone carvings. Once again, much of this evidence is disputed, as it is even in Europe, where paganism is still feared. Some authorities have even suggested that some unnamed hoaxer has been at work across the land.
Old Norse contains many words derived from the Greek, and in turn other languages also contain words derived from Old Norse - further proof that the Norsemen not only crossed the Atlantic but stayed on.
Sokk, strongly, firmly, is derived from O.N. dialect seig, tough, stubborn. Sokki of Brattahlid bore an Algonquian name.
Ab- is a prefix derived from av-, from.
Brador, deep (broad) bay is derived from breidh aar, broad river, and is the meaning of "Bras d'Or", Cape Breton, a French interpretation.
Labrador came down to us from Terre de la Brador.
America, from O.N. Mer Rika, Sea Kingdom, spread all over both continents and appears in Mayan as Merica.
Hoop, small land-locked bay, is the same as O.N. hop and English hope (17th C.) and was used by Ben Jonson to taunt Inigo Jones as "Vitruvius Hoop", which indicates that Inigo Jones was probably of Norse descent. He may well have been familiar with Nova Scotia before he was sent there by James I.
Micmac is derived from O.N. megin or megum and O.N. akr, meaning most important land. It appears that it was applied first to the land, then to its people.
Ake, land, is derived from O.N. akr, same meaning; so is English acre, but the measurement is based on the amount of land a team of oxen can plough in a day.
Herms as part of a fertility cult date back to the earliest times in the Middle East and the Babylonian civilization, whose people worshipped the god Bel. The Semitic people who lived around Tyre and Sidon were among them; they called their land Phoenicia and so became known as Phoenicians. As traders and navigators, they travelled the entire Mediterranean area and later established an outpost at Carthage in North Africa, so became known as Carthaginians. It is believed that from there they crossed the Atlantic direct, bringing their cult to the North American continent. But meanwhile the cult had also spread to Greece. Until then, what we now call herms were named for Bethel and so a herm in Greek was a baetylus. These early herms or sacred stones were said to have at first been meteorites and thus regarded as gifts from the gods. So they were originally shapeless. Only later were they given the phallic shape as steles or pillars, or alternatively a human shape. Steles and herms, though sharing the same origin, later became separate objects of veneration.
The custom of grouping them in threes, as at our site, had already become established in ancient Greece.
The origin of the name herm seems to date back to the earliest times, too, as herma in Greek means a piece of rock or simply a stone - in this case, a meteorite or stone from the gods. In the Greek pantheon, Hermes, the winged messenger, was a son of Zeus - later to be known by the Romans as Mercury. It would appear that his name was derived from herma. Although Mercury was not worshipped as a fertility god, Hermes, protector of sheep, cattle and travellers, was in addition worshipped by the Greeks as a fertility god. He was also the god of dreams, so was the last god to be invoked before retiring for the night. In Athens, an annual festival was held in his honour and statues of him, by this time not only man-shaped, but with recognisable human features, sometimes bearded, sometimes with a hat, abounded. All were known as herms; but in the countryside where the people were more primitive, a herm might still be only roughly-hewn or even just a wayside cairn.
To damage a herm was regarded as sacrilege so when the people of Athens opposed an expedition to Sicily in 415 B.C., they smashed all the herms in the city and as expected, the expedition failed.
One reason why herms were by that time so numerous was that, as protectors of travellers, they were used as milestones, while as fertility-stones they appeared all over Athens in their own little parks or gardens.
Rome later took up the cult and gave their herms the features of several different gods; but it was as Priapus, the fertility god, that herms continued their march westwards.
In western Europe, herms were erected in honour of whatever fertility god was being worshipped by the people at that time. In the northwest, the fertility god was Frey, for whom an annual festival was held and after whom Leif Erikson's half-sister, Freydis, was named.
By the time herms arrived in western Europe, they had lost many of their human features but were still man-like and still often being grouped in threes. Eventually the cult reached the Celts of the British Isles and their script, Ogam, has been found, often along with Punic, the script of the Phoenicians, on or associated with herms in North America.
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