Weaving Conche into history

Emma Graney
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French Shore tapestry officially unveiled

It stretches for 222 feet, wrapping around corners and zigzagging through a dedicated room in the French Shore Interpretation Centre in Conche, the embroidered historic scenes a rainbow of colours against starched linen.

It is the French Shore tapestry, an embroidered artwork depicting the history of the Northern Peninsula’s French Shore. Although it has been in the room for a few months now, last Tuesday it was officially unveiled by a host of dignitaries — and with a cracking party.

With more than 200 people at the celebration the population of Conche pretty well doubled for the day with local residents rubbing shoulders with visitors from all over the province.

“It was a wonderful day,” said French Shore Historical Society program manager Joan Simmonds, the relief anyone would feel at the completion of a six-year project etched on her face.

Relief was one feeling but there was also pride.

“It just goes to show that the smaller communities in rural Newfoundland are worth their weight in gold,” she said.

That sentiment was echoed at the official opening by Newfoundland and Labrador Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie.

“This is one of the most skilled and artistic pieces of work anywhere in Newfoundland and this will go down in history,” he said to the crowd.

“Who would have thought that from such a small population could come such fine artists? It’s put Conche in the category of Battle Harbour of places that no Newfoundlander should miss visiting. We don’t have anything in St. John’s like you have on the Northern Peninsula.”

At those words the crowd cheered. After all, it’s not every day that a lieutenant governor writes off his own city and says your town is better. >

“It was a wonderful day,” said French Shore Historical Society program manager Joan Simmonds

The artists he was referring to were the 13 Conche women who spent more than 20,000 hours painstakingly using the Bayeux stitch to complete the richly detailed work of art.

“We had our ups and our downs, but it was mostly ups,” said Simmonds.

“I think it bonded us together. We got to know one another personally and hopefully that will keep us together.”

The women wove the stitches but it was artist Jean Claude Roy who drew the scenes of Maritime Archaic Indians, Inuit, Vikings, French and English settlers, as well as portraits of the current community. His wife, Christina Roy, would colour each scene, take a photo, and e-mail it to the women in Conche who would then project the picture onto linen, trace the scene and get down to stitching it.

The tapestry is modelled after the Bayeux Tapestry in France, which depicts the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Started in 2006 and completed last November, the Franch Shore tapestry was funded by a range of groups including provincial and federal governments and private donations.

In November it will travel to St. John’s to hang in the Geo Centre before returning to its Northern Peninsula home but for now, said Simmonds, the tapestry will be a major tourism draw card for the small community of Conche.

What’s next in the cards — another tapestry?

“I’m taking a vacation,” laughed Simmonds.

The Northern Pen

Organizations: French Shore Historical Society, Geo Centre

Geographic location: Conche, Northern Peninsula, Newfoundland Battle Harbour France England

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Recent comments

  • Heather
    August 03, 2010 - 21:49

    Look! Something for you to take part in when you move to Conche ;) hee hee.. Nice seeing you while I was home! Can't wait to get back in October!!! Heather :)