Friday, November 20, 2015

A fun day in the Fundy City; Saint John

The city of Saint John  on the Bay of Funday is not to be confused with St John's Newfoundland.

One of the many, many lighthouses on the way. Saint John was the birthplace of Robert Foulis who invented the world's first automated steam foghorn. Probably because he badly needed to

 It is known as Canada's Irish city.
In  1785 it was the first quarantine station in North America and greeted many sick and dying Irish emigrants arriving to the New World with inhospitable conditions.
The Irish Catholic community constituted Saint John's largest ethnic group by the 1850's. Over 50% of households  registered themselves as Irish natives.  And true to form, there were violent clashes  between the Catholics and the Protestants all the way through the 1840s.

A Celtic Cross over looks the harbour.

It is rumoured that these three lamps are there to commemorate three sisters who all lost their husbands at sea.  And that is what the plaque said. The guide said that the three ladies hung about the harbour waiting for sailors for a more err... commercial reason....

Saint John is the largest city in New Brunswick. It's also known as the Fundy City as it sits on the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River.

Saint John also was home to the first clockwork time bomb  ( 1880 ), the first orchestra to accompany a silent movie  in 1907 and indeed, the first Miss Canada was a Saint John girl.

In 2006 the Saint John population reported ethnic origins of Canadian then English then Irish then  Scottish  then French then  German then Dutch, North American Indian, Welsh  and a few more. This  is a Dutchman looking over the shoulder of a statue in the main square.

Only 5% of the 70,500 population speak French as a first language. Our guide rolled her eyes at the expense of all government documentation being bilingual by law. As we do at the Scottish Government insistence that all place names, train stations etc are in Gaelic as well as English. I just think how much it costs and that the money could be put to better use.

The Seaman's Misson still does very good work - now for refugees.

The city didn't seem to be a bustling, over friendly place. It was full of folk, just going about their business and generally getting on with their day. I think two famous sons of Saint John are Walter Pidgeon and Donald Sutherland. The latter  had the scariest hairdo ever, in the film Don't look now.

Two refurbished properties sandwich one that is waiting its turn. The staining of the porous stone by industrial pollution is obvious.

Many of the  urban residential areas are undergoing gentrification, but are supposed to keep within  the style. Just like this bright white house didn't.
Saint John never freezes in the winter, it barely snows. But in the summer  the confluence of the river and the sea cause severe fogs and strong winds. High summer temp is about 80 degrees.

Saint John had Tartan Street, the Caledonian heights, Rothesay and Loch Lomond!

A salmon weathercock. The globe above is there to make the spire taller than the church of the 'other foot' as we would say.

The economy benefits from a huge growth in tourism - over 1.5 million visitors a year ( 200,000 from cruise ships) and this has created a regrowth/regeneration in the town's historic downtown. there are many small businesses moving in and large waterfront developments are in keeping with the restrained feeling of the city.

The sculpture in the pond in the central park- which used to be the graveyard.

I couldn't work out what this meant....

This is a working clock sculpture right at the harbourside.

 In 1851 Marco Polo ship was  launched from here.

It had Canada's first public museum in 1842, known originally as the Gesner Museum, named after its Nova Scotian founder Abraham Gesner who also invented kerosene. 

The Saint John River flows into the Bay of Fundy through a narrow gorge several hundred feet wide and creates  the Reversing Falls where the tide goes backwards if you see what I mean ie the flow  of the river is reversed. The difference from low to high tide is 28 feet plus, That's a fair height.

The bank, with suitable carvings-  squirrels burying their nuts!

a beautiful and typical front  door in the historic quarter.

 Our guide lamenting the fact they had locked the church doors on us.

This reminds me very much of the church I was Christened in. 

One of the two two tiered bandstands in the world.

The city market is the oldest city market in North America, with an original ship's hull roof design. It was built in 1876 and every year the local kids make decorations and hang them from the roof.

There's a moose loose aboot this hoose!!

Caro Ramsay  20/11/2015


  1. Are you spending the entire year traipsing about the world??? Lovely tour.

    But what I really want to know is how squirrels, as a species, have managed to survive when they keep burying their nuts instead of using them... Though I may be asking the wrong person. Perhaps Jeff has some personal experience being squirrelly that can shed light on the question?

    1. I don't really tour the world, I go everywhere at once then revisit it through a gap in the space time continuum. Or I go through my photo collection in a desperate attempt to avoid another blog on Scottish independence...zzzzzzzz

  2. I've added it to my TBV list!

    1. My friend Gavin, the travel writer that you are aware of (he was the SA correspondent of The Times), says that it is much better to drive up and go right up to the tip of Nova Scotia and that the scenery there was spectacular.

  3. Caro, It's my son-in-law's native town. Thanks for showing more about what it looks like.

    1. Natives of Saint John aren't used to seeing our city displayed very often! Here are a few additions.

      The fog is something you just get used to; it's quite profound actually. You can see the sky less than half of the time in August. The fog used to make it difficult for ships to enter the harbor, so the three lamps are placed at a point near the harbor. In the old days, the captions used to position their ships so that they could clearly see all three lamps. If the couldn't make them our distinctly, then their ships weren't lined up properly and were at risk of hitting ground on their way into the harbor.

      The bilingual thing is complicated. Although Canada is officially bilingual, each province chooses its own language laws. Believe it or not, New Brunswick is the only province that is officially bilingual, but that's really because people in the north speak French (and some English) and people in the south speak English (but very little French). Acadian is a cool mix of both.

      The 12th photo down is the high school I attended.

      Indeed, the city is not bustling and hasn't been for a century. It was affluent in the days of shipping, but has never adapted.

      Don't tell the locals it doesn't freeze and snow! Winters are long and cold and the snow regularly completely buries cars in driveways.

      (Call before you dig isn't a local thing--it's just being cautious about underground wires.)

      The Marco Polo didn't actually launch from the harbor. It launched about a mile away from what looks like a dirty marsh. After it launched, it promptly go stuck in the far side of the marsh for a while. It's rumored that that damaged the hull in a way that actually made it faster in the water. The harbor in the photo is where the Loyalists landed during the American Revolution.

      The Reversing Falls have been the bane of the locals because thousand of tourists were always bitterly disappointed. They have been renamed the Reversing Rapids, because that's what they really are. Still pretty cool to see.

      My grandfather used to play in the bandstand. There's a discreet door and steps in the back. What always mystified me was how to get to the top. I think you needed a ladder. I never saw anyone play from up there.

      The city market is very pretty. My father's architect firm fixed it up a while back when the infrastructure was shaky.

      And yes, there are moose, but they are shy and rarely seen. It is awe inspiring to see one in the wild, which I have, just once.

      Thanks for the post!

  4. Annamaria, get yourself an invite! Lovely, homely place.

    1. Caro, the addendum above is from my wonderful son-in-law, Ted, father of four of the most splendid children I have ever known. I will wangle myself an invitation from his parents to visit. Next September, I hope, when the weather is still fine and the August fogs have passed. My grandchildren identify as Canadian American, and a whole bunch of other things that are in their rich heritage. Thank you, Ted,. for dropping by and adding to our appreciation of your native city.

  5. I don't see an entry to the bandstand. How does one get one's band up there?

  6. Among the little-known facts about Saint John is that Benedict Arnold and his wife went there after he did the bad thing in the United States. His dining room table wound up in the possession of one of my Canadian relatives, I think, though I can't quite remember the story.

  7. No idea Jono, but they are fiendishly clever - maybe if the band are bad and the music awful, they stick them up there and just leave them. Is Justin Bieber Canadian?? Just a thought...

  8. Now Kate, you should tell the tourist board that story!

  9. I was all prepared for a trip to the Virgin Islands, but somehow ended up with a non-Virgin St. John. That little non sequitur should make EvKa feel right at home, though I must say your photos do a pretty good job of making me feel that way. From the weather it seems like San Francisco..

  10. Hi Ted, Thanks so much for your comment. I was speaking to a merchant seamen yesterday who had read to the blog and called the bay 'A devil of a tide.'
    I am always very wary of walking round somewhere for five or six hours then making grand pronouncements about it when all I have seen is a snapshot.
    But I did like Saint John, I don't think it has any intention of becoming a tourist trap. The folk are too sensible.
    The guide did say it didn't freeze, but it was a multilingual conversation so maybe she meant the harbour itself doesn't.
    The walking tour was constantly interrupted by twenty or so young things (16-17 yoa) running around in shorts, doing some treasure trove. One had to sing in the bandstand, one had to climb on the moose, make a human ladder to touch the top of the clock and it ended with two of them being thrown in the fountain. There are
    some Chinese tourists who think Canadian kids have really weird schooling.