Monday, October 17, 2016

St Boniface and the Grey Nuns

A photographic view of the Cathedral and the Convent in St Boniface taken in 1858
The Cathedral shown above (the second church on this site) was destroyed in a fire in 1860 and was rebuilt.  A much larger cathedral (the fourth) was later built in 1906, but in 1968, it too, was destroyed in a devastating fire. Below is what is left. A much smaller and more modern (and, dare I say, less interesting) fifth church was built behind the ruins in 1972.

This convent, which housed the first group of Grey Nuns to come to the West, was constructed in the mid 1800s of white oak logs and over the years repaired and enlarged to meet changing needs. It is the oldest building still standing intact in Winnipeg and is also the largest oak log building in North America.  As a mission house, it provided facilities for the Nuns’ various works of health care, education and charity, which included caring for the aged and for orphans, treating the sick, and instructing children. It was the first institution of this kind in the west. The Grey Nuns would also travel to the Indian and Métis settlements to teach and provide medical care.  (Métis are children of First Nation mothers and Voyageur fathers. Voyageurs were French Canadians who transported furs by canoe during the fur trade.) 
The dwindling number of nuns moved out in the 1950s and, mostly in an effort to avoid demolition, was given a National Historic Site status. It has now been rehabilitated for use as a museum.
In 1844, a request was asked of the Sisters of Charity in Montreal for help with education and medical services in the Red River Settlements. Four were chosen and they undertook an arduous trip in canoes paddled by the voyageurs, lasting 58 days, travelling 1800 miles and doing 150 portages in the cold and rain, living in wet clothes, eating bad food, harassed day and night by mosquitoes, encountering snakes, and sleeping outdoors for most of the time. These were tough women!

They were Sister Marie Marguerite Eulalie Lagrave (age 38) a trained nurse and a musician; Sister Gertrude Coutlée (age 24), a teacher for the children; Sister Marie Hedwidge Lafrance (age 29), very energetic and always ready to lend a hand with any kind of work; and Sister Marie Louise Valade (age 35), a teacher and the leader of the group.
Inside, you can see some of the rooms as they would have been in the 19th century. The size of the logs is impressive.

and the interior walls, some of which are left still standing, were made of  poplar poles
There are still a few Grey Nuns living in St Boniface. They wear street clothes now, but continue to meet the needs of the community with a variety of services from hospitals, long term care and community based health care.  They created a lay organization, the Despins Charities, to help engage the community in continuing their services.  Recently  a nearby Mother House was transformed into a retirement home for some of the aging sisters (of several orders) and for the community at large.

I didn't count all the names on the markers and gravestones in the cathedral's cemetery, but there were many, including this long row of gravestones dating from 1950.

sharing with Our World Tuesday

Friday, October 14, 2016


The first Winnie-the-Pooh book was published 90 years ago today.
Although the book Winnie is 90 years old the real Winnie, an orphaned American black bear, would be 102.  A Canadian soldier and veterinarian adopted the orphaned cub when he found her while at a stopover at White River. He paid $20 to a hunter who had shot her mother for her and named her Winnie after his hometown, Winnipeg.
Winnie and Lt Harry Colebourn continued their travel overseas with Winnie becoming a mascot for the 2nd Canadian Infantry in WWI.  When Lt Colebourne was deployed to France, Winnie went to stay at the London Zoo.  It would end up being a permanent new home for Winnie as when the war ended and Harry Colebourne came back for her, he decided to let her stay where she seemed to be happy.  Winnie would live to the ripe old age of 20 - 2 years longer than the average American black bear.

At the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg is a stature of Lt Colbourne and Winnie. 

Harry Colebourne and Winnie during the war.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

St Boniface and Gabrielle Roy

a mural that shows early settlers, the cathedral, the school, bishops Provencher and Taché and Louis Riel.
a map on the side of the pedestrian bridge from Winnipeg to St Boniface shows the two cities separated by the Red River.
a view over the city and the fabulous Esplanade Riel.

Down Provencher Blvd, in front of the old city hall is a brief history lesson, a plaque that tells of the arrival in 1806 of the first white family to settle in the area who would become the grandparents of Louis Riel. Also of Father Provencher and Dumoulin who would start the first school and mission in the beginnings of St Boniface which would become the centre of French Canadian life in Western Canada.

There are walking tours that include the 'old town' and 'Gabrielle Roy' who was a prolific French Canadian author (1909-83). The only book I remember reading was The Tin Flute, but there was also an autobiography titled in English as Enchantment and Sorrow. Both of these won the Governor General's Award. The home she grew up in is now a museum.

The sign above that is a bit unreadable tells that she was "one of Canada's most prominent authors" and that she was a teacher and active in amateur theatre.  Her "first novel was published in 1945 and her writing, much of which were written in Manitoba, was deeply influenced by the prairie landscape and the genteel poverty of her early years.  Her simple style, combined with masterful descriptions of every day life developed a devoted international readership." On the left is a more readable sign on her front lawn.

scattered around are these plaques with excerpts from her writings, this one found outside École Provencher and the one below at the cemetery

Exploring the 'old town' on the main street was a little disappointing as there was very little old left.

but we did find an excellent chocolate shop
with tiny cups of spicy chili hot chocolate - and for me, a treat of pumpkin truffle.
as well as a side order of a surprise chance encounter with an old friend from the days when we all lived in Toronto!

part one of a new series of my recent trip to Winnipeg 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

wooden churches

Here is a joint issue Ukraine and Poland featuring Wooden Churches (Tserkvas) of the Carpathian Region. There are sixteen of these churches, with eight on each side of the border. In 2013 these were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
These Tserkvas  are Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic and were built of horizontal logs with octagonal domes between the 16th and 19th centuries. The two depicted on this stamp are 
the Greek Catholic Parish Church of St. Paraskevi in ​​Kwiatoń Poland built around 1700 with the tower added around 1743 (left)
St George's Church of Drohobych, Ukraine (right). It is the oldest and best preserved church of the region, built around 1500. It was last renovated between 1678 and 1711.

find your way to other worshipful places at Sunday Stamps II
sharing with InSPIREd Sunday

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

watch out for pedestrians

here are a few road signs I found on my recent drive through Quebec 

the stop signs all give you precise diagrams of where to stop, and who else at the intersection is expected to stop
the area I was in was mostly rural and I saw no buses - but there seems to be some sort of car-pooling
these ones in the middle of the road always took me by surprise!
not entirely sure why they are in that location instead of at the side of the road 
(chausée partagée means shared road 
underneath, it says to watch out for pedestrians)
and this one on the left I found quite endearing - watch for our children, 
drive with love
but the one on the right was rather off-putting - watch for our children, 
it could be yours

something to ponder for signs, signs

Monday, September 5, 2016


If you are a carnivore, 
then my city was the place to be this weekend.

For Burlington is home to 
Canada's Largest Ribfest
held at Spencer Smith Park for over 20 years on the Labour Day Weekend. Consider it our way to tastily mark the unofficial end of summer on this holiday weekend.

It can get pretty hot working over the grill
    and smoky
Past trophies are on display and there were 19 ribbers this year. Prizes go out for best ribs, best sauce and best "pig rig".There are long lines for the hungry - I don't particularly like ribs, but I was happy to sample the sauces. My vote for favourite would be the one with apple butter and a taste of Jack Daniels.
and there are other foods, like funnel cakes, beaver tails, and poutine
 a short walk on the pier and you can get an overall view, but you can't really escape the smoky smell coming off the bbqs. I live five blocks from the park and some years when the wind is blowing in the right direction I am almost tempted to join the queues...

but for this year, it was just a walk around to share the fun with Jo's Monday Walks

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Star Trek

This month, Star Trek will be officially 50 years old. Earlier this year Canada Post put out a special commemorative set of stamps featuring five of the stars of the original series: Captain Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Klingon Commander Kor. Three of these men are Canadian born - William Shatner (Kirk), James Doohan (Scotty), and John Colicos (Kor). The other two are Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and DeForest Kelley (McCoy). Why there are only five stamps and not, say, seven to include Sulu and Uhura is a mystery.  And a huge oversight, in my (and many others) opinion.

Scotty, "Bones" McCoy and Spock are shown in their respective positions: in the engine room, in sickbay, and on the bridge while 
Kirk and Kor are shown with their respective spacecraft, The USS Enterprise and the Klingon battle cruiser

each of which also got their own stamp in this domestic coil (though I used mine all up, so am showing the souvenir sheet here)
At the very least, every morning, afternoon, evening or late night, you should be able to find an episode of one of the Star Trek shows.
Which does not disappoint this trekkie.
And, in case you are not a trekkie and are wondering, William Shatner (age 85) is the only one of these five still alive. Although, the unrepresented Starfleet Command officers Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura and George Takei, who was Sulu, are both also still very much alive.

boldly go to Sunday Stamps to find more commemorative stamps 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

grave post - Dionne and Fraser

On the south shore of the St Lawrence River, about 400 km northeast of Montreal is the small town of Kamouraska where you can find this small memorial park. 
Since 1994,  300 years after the first settlers arrived, it has been recognized as a heritage site.
Berceau translates as cradle in English and there is a rest area, a cemetery, and a memorial chapel

I was pleasantly surprised to find this slightly askew explanatory plaque in English
There is a monument dedicated to the early settlers with the names of 220 families. This seems extraordinary as there are less than 600 people living there now. I don't quite know how this works, but from the individual family gravestones many seem to have a 'family association' who have researched their genealogy and erected markers in homage to their ancestors.
Canada is a very young country and it almost felt like an honour to see a marker erected for a family who arrived here in 1698

My family is quite small. I never knew my grandparents and the rest of my mother's family (which consisted of one sister and three cousins) are scattered around Scotland and England. The Dionnes of Kamouraska had numerous descendants of the first three generations who lived here. I cannot imagine what that must be like. 
Grand-père Antoine and Grand-mère Catherine were married at ages 19 and 16, likely in France in 1660. They would have 12 children of which Jean would be their third born. Jean and his wife Marie-Charlotte would have eight children, with Jean-Baptiste being the second born. Jean-Baptiste and his wife, Marie-Madeleine would have nine children. Of all those 29 children, seven would die in infancy. There were too many cousins to continue counting.
It seems to have been a common part of life at the time to have a series of haphazardly spelled names, (as I discovered when researching another grave post from this cemetery for Kerouac) and here, John Fraser, born in Inverness, Scotland, also went by the names Jean Le Gros and Jean-Baptiste Grosjean and even Jean Phraser and Jean Fraiser. However he or his descendants (or the clerks who wrote it down) chose to spell it, John arrived here as a member of the 78th Fraser Highlanders during the Seven Years War. When they were disbanded in 1763 many of the soldiers chose to stay in Quebec. Jean/John would marry Marie-Josephe – aka Marie-Josette – Dumont on February 10th, 1777 when he was 47 years of age and Josette was 24 years of age. Things are a little murky on the genealogy site, but it seems there were two children born in 1777 – an Anastasie and a Jean-Baptiste (twins?). But, there's also listed a Pierre Fraser born 1772 (when Josette would have been 16) and a Jean-Michel Dumont whose father may or may not have been our John/Jean Fraser born 1771. Another daughter, Marie-Theotiste would be born in October of 1780, a mere two months before John/Jean died.