By Bruce Holland, Publisher
It was a late spring day when Bert Reyner, Willy Jollimore, Jim Little, and Rev. Glen Eason walked into my office to tell me there were bones coming out of the bank at the mass burial site in the old St. Paul’s Anglican Cemetery along the shore in Sandy Cove in Terence Bay. It had been a brutal winter and spring for storms and the ocean had washed away the shore to such a degree that some of the bones of those buried there were showing through the embankment.
Something had to be done to remedy the situation and these four fine gentlemen, stalwarts of the community, were asking for my help as MLA for the area. The four of us went to work to find a way to make sure this sacred burial ground was protected.
Now some of you may not be familiar with this ship and were it not for Bert, Willy, Jim, Rev. Eason, and the committee they formed, and a prior local committee, which erected a monument to memorialize those lost to this tragedy, it would be largely an unknown story today. The SS Atlantic was a transatlantic ocean liner of the White Star Line that operated between Liverpool, United Kingdom, and New York City, United States. During the ship’s 19th voyage, on April 1st, 1873, she struck rocks and sank in Lower Prospect, killing at least 535 people. It remained the deadliest civilian maritime disaster in the North Atlantic Ocean until the sinking of SS La Bourgogne on July 2nd, 1898 and the greatest disaster for the White Star Line prior to the loss of Titanic in April 1912.
After forming a local committee, which became formally known as the S.S. Atlantic Heritage Park Society, the group went to work and contacted various government departments and agencies to see what could be done. The Nova Scotia Department of the Environment agreed to remediate the wash out of the mass burial site, but it was suggested that the group should look at the cemetery and the old burial ground to see if improvements could be done there at the same time. This discussion led to development of a comprehensive plan which included building an Museum/Interpretation Centre to remember the communities history and heritage, the creation of a board walk used by both the local people, those of surrounding communities and tourists in the summer, along with the remediation of the old burial ground and some upgrades to the Catholic burial grounds as well. Local trades and craft people completed the entire project.
I was pleased to receive an invitation to attend the upcoming Gala event to mark the 150th anniversary which will take place on May 12 at Pier 21 which read, “You were instrumental in the development of the Park and Centre during the earlier years of the Society, and we wish to recognize your role through this invitation.”
This is a fundraiser for the Society and will begin with a small exhibit on the story at Pier 21 with Dan Conlin. A reception begins at 7:00 p.m., passed hors d’oeuvres, silent auction, and merchandise will be on sale. At 7:45 the doors to the adjacent Kenneth Rowe Hall will open for the formal part of the evening with music, history, and a ceremony to remember those who died and to honour the courage, compassion, and collaboration of the residents of Lower Prospect, Prospect, and Terence Bay. Music will follow the formal part of the evening. Steve Murphy is the MC. The Lt. Governor, the Irish Ambassador, and other government officials will be present. Tickets are available to the event. It would be lovely to see you there!
If you have never been to the S.S. Atlantic Heritage Park in Terence Bay, be sure to visit this year. You will not be disappointed! It is a lovely walk beside the sea and a wonderful place to learn some local history