Friday, December 12, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: The Order of Good Cheer

This Friday my father’s Lansdowne Letters
have me thinking of a time centuries ago
when the first Europeans ventured into the New World.

I'm talking post Vinland Vikings here ~
At the time my father began writing his letters,
Newfie George Decker had just led two Norwegians, 
explorer Helge Ingstad and 
archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad,
to the Old Indian Camp mounds
at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland.

L'Anse aux Meadows
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Once excavated, the mounds
became the most famous Viking settlement 
in North America outside of Greenland.

But these are not 
the Europeans settlers on my mind.

A "Viking" Walks to the Settlement
at L'Anse aux Meadows

I’m talking November 14, 1606,
when the Order of Good Cheer had its first meeting 
in Port Royal, Nova Scotia.

Replica of Champlain's Habitation 
at the Port-Royal National Historic Site of Canada, Nova-Scotia

Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain 
organized the order 
as a premptive strike 
against land sickness or scurvy
which was thought 
to be caused by idleness.

Champlain’s weapons?  
Food and entertainment. 

As someone whose ancestors
have lived near Port Royal for some three centuries,
it is only natural that Dad’s letters reminded me
of Champlain’s Order of Good Cheer,
then and now.

Champlain and the Order of Good Cheer

To hold back the blackness of nights in the wilderness,
people have always turned to making their own fun.
The fourteen white people in Lansdowne House
were really not that different
from the fifteen Frenchmen of birth
(sufficient social standing) 
who founded the order in the wilds of Nova Scotia 
on the shore of the Annapolis Basin.

On Friday, September 30, 1960
my father wrote about
the social scene in Lansdowne:

Hello There!
How’s everyone tonight?  
Another nice long week has just ended, 
and I am looking forward to 
some peace and quiet on the weekend.  
I love children, but sometimes 
one would rather love them at a distance.

I received nice letters from Sara, ‘Mac,’ and Mother, 
and I will be expecting Aunt Maude to write me 
as soon as she is better and feels like writing.  
The rest of you, however, keep up the good work, 
for mail from home is awfully important up here.

Lansdowne House (Mainland), 1960

Uno and I are going over to the MacRaes'
for bridge this evening, 
and I am going over to Mitchells' with the Brother 
for bridge tomorrow evening.  

One of you, I forget who, 
told me to try to make a couple of Baptists 
out of the Father and the Brother.  
I’m afraid this wouldn’t be possible, 
but I keep them aware of the fact 
that I am Baptist every chance I get 
without being too difficult.  

For instance when I came up here first, 
I was invited over to Mitchell’s for bridge on Sunday night.  
The first time I went because I didn’t want to refuse 
the first invitation I received at Lansdowne, 
but the next time I was invited on a Sunday, 
I asked in a diplomatic manner to be excused, 
because Baptists don’t enjoy playing cards on Sunday.  

Actually, I enjoy a good game of bridge any time, 
but I just thought I would let them know 
what Baptists think about the matter.  

As you can see, I shifted the bridge night 
from Sunday to Saturday by my mild protest.  
Bill Mitchell was telling me 
that it was the Father’s suggestion 
that the bridge night be changed to accommodate me.

 Map of Lansdowne House
Fall 1960
2 ~ Dad's and Uno's Shack
12 ~ Hudson Bay Store
14 ~ Mitchells' House
18 ~ MacRaes' House
29 ~ Usual Path of My Canoe

I also bow my head and say grace 
when everyone else is crossing himself.  
Actually, it is a good experience for me living with a priest.  
I find myself paying more attention to my own religion 
than I would normally.
Today was mail day, 
but other than that, it was uneventful.  
There was considerable suspense at first, 
because the sky was heavily overcast, 
and there was a chance that the plane wouldn’t get in. 

But thank goodness the sky cleared 
and the plane arrived three hours late; 
but better late than never, I always say.

There have been no more misadventures 
with the canoe to relate.  
I have been getting along quite well in it lately.  
I can actually get where I want to go now 
and not end up half a mile from my destination.

That’s all for today.
Bye now,
Love, Don

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue.


  1. Because of your post, I've made a note to myself that the next time I'm in Nova Scotia, I must go to the Port-Royal National Historical Site. I hope to holiday in the maritimes next summer.

    1. Hey Debra! I think Martha is planning to be there too. And of course, Ron and Jim live there. I'll be there next summer at some time too. Maybe we'll overlap, and can get together with the guys, and Sophie Doodle, if you're interested!? There is so much to see in and around Port Royal and Annapolis Royal etc. You will love the Maritimes.

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  3. Good that he could get where he needed to go with the canoe easier haha I don't think I've ever been to port royal, been to Annapolis valley a time or two. I don't get out much lol

  4. You're too busy writing, Pat ~ LOL! I stayed up late last night finishing Max Blizzard. What a wild ride ~ I really enjoyed it. I'm going back to read it again, because I want to get a better sense of your style, structure, and plot line. My brain is swirling, because reading it was like being immersed in a 60s psychedelic phantasmagoria. Highly appropriate experience for a book staring the imagination, by the way. I just had to let go of any predictions, lock my inner "grammar cop" up securely, cut loose with my vivid imagination, and hold on for the ride! Eventually a review will pop out of it all! After Christmas!!!!! Have a good one!

  5. Happy Friday Fundy! Loved chatting with you last weekend. Great post - I remember "no cards on Sunday" which went by the wayside long ago. If you meet up with your blog friends in Annapolis might I suggest a roll at Fort Ann! LOL - hugs Barb

  6. Again more news from Lansdowne. Dad had to find his fun wherever he could but stuck up for his beliefs. Good for him. Your family was very supportive writing so often to him. It must have meant the world to him to get those letters. And to you to receive them. Maybe that's why you are a writer today?

    1. I was already trying to write a novel at the time I was getting these very letters ~ It was some wretched thing about a skin diver looking for a fossil treasure at the bottom of a lake. That's all I can remember. My teacher didn't get me, but she got me later in another way ~ as will come out down the line! Letters were everything to my dad! Have a happy weekend, and watch out for falling window treatments!

  7. "I love children, but sometimes one would rather love them at a distance." OHMYGOSH...that made me laugh! That is hilarious. Your dad certainly had a great sense of humour. And he's a terrific storyteller. His letters are so entertaining.

  8. Oh thank you, Martha! It's hard to be objective, so I really appreciate the feedback! Dad did have humor in spades. Have a happy weekend, my friend!

  9. These are so full of heart and gentle humour! Ha, yes, I get that aboutchildren!x

    1. Tee Hee! We teachers all get that! TGIF! Happy weekend, Kezzie!

  10. I love the fact that your father had such a great sense of humour! Another great post.

    1. Thank you, Linda! Have a happy weekend, my friend!

  11. Replies
    1. Thanks, Rick! Coming from a writer that makes me feel super! Have a good one!

  12. A very good comparison, Louise, between Port-Royal and Lansdowne.....pioneers for sure. And who doesn't remember learning about the 'Order of Good Cheer' back in grade 6, I believe!?
    I am a bit surprised that your father was hired in the first place considering his religion and how strict the RC church was back then. I guess they were the leaders of the ecumenical movement back then!

    1. Hey Jim! I hope you had a great Christmas, and Happy New Year to you and Ron! Actually Dad was hired to teach in the Anglican school, but had to board at Father Ouimet's because the teacherage for the Anglican school had burned down. I have recently learned that there was a lot of religious-based conflict in Landsdowne in the years after we left.

  13. You have the most interesting posts.

  14. I read this last week. Just returning now with a couple of miscellaneous responses. Lanse aux Meadows has long been fascinating to me. Hope to see it one day. Champlain was on to something :) I remember that joy when I first went to college of letters (and care packages!) arriving from home. Our international students often remarked that they became more aware (and often more appreciative) of their own countries after going abroad. A little bit like the comment on Baptist vs. Catholicism. Love the hand-drawn map and the photograph of Landsdowne House. As always, many thanks for this series. It's such a delight!

    1. Hi Carol! Thanks again for your thoughtful comment! It means a great deal to me to hear that you and others are enjoying the posts!

      I'm sorry that I'm just responding now, but I was seriously down with a bad cold ~ or quite probably flu. Drat! And I got the flu shot too! We have an epidemic right now, and the shot didn't protect from this strain.

      Lanse aux Meadows was wonderful. We were there in mid-July, and it was a foggy, raw, cold day. I'm glad that I got to see it under those conditions because it gave me a sense of the harsh conditions the Vikings endured. And I do want to go back!

      I gained my love of maps from Dad! Even as a kid I was drawing them. I remember sitting in a one-room classroom in third grade in Margaretsville, Nova Scotia. I raced through my work, so I could draw a map of our village that the 6th graders were drawing! I still remember the thrill of that moment! When I worked as a geologist drawing field maps or mapping geological formations underground were my favorite thing to do ~ aside from being in the field or on the rigs!

      I hope that you had a great Christmas, and Happy New Year to you, Bill, and BJ!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.