Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Athens of the North

It turns out my estimate of how long it takes to get to King's Cove was a little low: eight hours it was, with a small detour for lunch. We were ever so happy to see this sign nearing the end of the Bonvista Peninsula road.

We were slightly confused by this sign.

The Athens of the North? We never learned why King's Cove achieved this metaphoric title but we accepted it fully.

Here is how Lucy spent most of her eight hours in the car.

Finnian's hands were not idle either but I don't have a photo of his knitting. He likes to keep it secret (and I just spilled the beans!)

The view from the top of the hill in King's Cove. Lovely!

At some point late in our trip, I began to despair that this experience was going to be as meaningful for my mother as I had been hoping it might be. We were driving down the winding road that extends from Port Blanford to Bonavista, and my mother was saying things like, "oh there's a lovely new home. I love those large windows" about some hideous pile that, in my humble opinion, totally ruined the landscape with its mainland McMansion ugliness. So, there we were: I was having flashbacks to past lives that I probably never even had - getting all sentimental and nostaglic about things I don't even know about, and my mom was complimenting some 3,000 sq.ft. monstrosity that was a pock mark on the face of the earth. Then I had a little moment of realization that my mother has a quality that has allowed her to survive and thrive in the face of difficulty. She doesn't get sentimental about things, she never romanticizes people or places and she doesn't spend a lot of time wondering about the unknown past. She enjoys what is in front of her and moves along.

As I was absorbing this realization and prepping myself so as not to be disappointed in her reaction to King's Cove, we finally reached our destination and saw this:

It is the Anglican church in King's Cove. A sign on it revealed that my mother's great grandfather, Rev. William Kirby, was instrumental in getting it built in the mid-1800s after the first church on that site burnt in a fire.

The door was unlocked, so we went inside where we found a stained glass window commemorating some distant relative.

And I was able to take a photo that re-creates a photo I have in my bedroom of Rev. William Kirby standing at the pulpit. Almost nothing has changed.

We found a booklet that the church members prepared about the history of the church with many mentions of Rev. Kirby and several of Mom's grandfather. For a small donation, we obtained a couple of booklets.

Rev. Kirby and his wife, Ellen, were given the place of honour in the cemetery, which is now sadly in need of some upkeep.

And Mom? I think she was genuinely moved. I don't think she expected to encounter such explicit connections to this place where she had never been. She really loved it. But, in good style, she hasn't gone on and on about it or decided to move there next week or pretend anything of the kind. It was a good experience, an unexpectedly great experience, but Bonavista was nice too.

Our bed and breakfast breakfast featured 40 kinds of homemade jelly and jam. Someone let Olive know that she has some east coast competition.

Finnian amazed us all on the second morning by trying nearly all of them, including the turnip jelly and one labelled "tomato and prune". A man on a mission.

The day after our arrival was something of a hurricane (not kidding). We tried to go to the famous lighthouse at Cape Bonavista but we didn't dare to get out of the car for fear of being blown off the cliffs (not kidding!). Here's the same view, the next day:

And here is the beautiful lighthouse. The inside is restored to the late 1800s, complete with guides in period dress.

This is the inside of the light tower. The lights are kerosene lamps. They are turned by cranking up a rope that raises a 200 lb stone weight (a task that takes 15 minutes to complete) and then letting it slowly drop back down (an action that takes less than two hours). Each night, the keeper would have to crank it back up every hour and 45 minutes. Like a newborn, only, you know, with a rope and a 200 lb weight.

After hiking a bit around the lighthouse and the obligatory visit to the craft shop, we got back in the car for another eight hours of Trans Canada Highway.

Gillams had a little gift waiting for us.

(photo courtesy of Finnian)


island sweet said...

welcome back. i think you've just given the yarn harlot a run for her money. there is a newfoundland on the other side of the overpass. xxx

Paul Kirby said...

Hello Robyn. I've enjoyed your trip to King's Cove. Like your mom, I too am a great-grandchild of William Kirby. I would enjoy sharing our family connections. I tried your museum email, but it didn't work.
Here is my name and email address.

Philip said...

Interesting grave stones. William Kirby was married to Amelia Skelton who died in 1878. Perhaps he remarried.