Signal Hill alive with the sounds of musket fire

Colin MacLean
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Re-enactors take on the War of 1812

Re-enactors from Fortress Louisbourg in Nova Scotia fire muskets during a demonstration marking the War of 1812 on Signal Hill Saturday. — Photo by Colin MacLean/The Telegram

The War of 1812 came to Signal Hill in St. John’s during the weekend.

The venerable hillside is no stranger to the sound of muskets and cannons — there were just a few more than usual over the weekend.

Re-enactors playing both French and English soldiers were in the capital city, visiting from Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton, N.S., and the Halifax Citadel. They joined the Signal Hill Tattoo to replay the Battle of Signal Hill amongst a host of other events.

There were pipe and drum performances, fast-paced firing competitions, weapons demonstrations, fireworks, a War of 1812 Encampment and more.

This weekend’s events were something of a cornerstone in the summer programing at Signal Hill. The whole season has been dubbed “The Newfoundland Soldier, Then and Now” by Parks Canada.

Glenn Keough, manager of national historic sites and visitor experience at the hill, told The Telegram Saturday the crowds of people taking in the drama on the hill seemed to be enjoying themselves.

“It’s nice to see a bit of life here,” Keough said.

“There’s always a lot of things going on here, but right now, where you’re bringing different groups in and doing different types of things for people, it’s neat,” Keough said.

Hopefully, it’s something Signal Hill can continue to do, he added.

“It’s all about the new focus that we have here. Trying to bring the hill to life, trying to bring people in to do different things and enjoy it different ways and to be able to experience the hill the way they’d like to be able to do it,” he said.

Calvin Gregory, 17, from St. John’s, said he was enjoying the performance. His family had just watched a weapons demonstration by the Louisbourg contingent.

“I’m enjoying it,” he said, “I’d say I’m a history enthusiast.

“I think it’s great. It’s really presenting it to the public. I think it’s something that I think everybody should know, it’s part of our Canadian history and it’s part of what made us a nation, in my opinion,” he said.

As Gregory was speaking, the contingent of re-enacting French troops that had been firing their muskets walked by.

Leading the groups was Troy Allen,

historic weapons supervisor at Fortress Louisbourg.

Allen has been working at the fortress since he was a kid, he said. His dad worked there and he started out as a volunteer.

He mostly works in an office now, but still dons a uniform for re-enactments and demonstrations.

“There’s not one day you can ever complain about going to work,” he laughed.

While his troops were carrying muskets for Saturday’s event he was carrying an early version of the shotgun.

It looked like a miniature cannon. Allen explained such a weapon would have been mounted on a ship, but he uses it in demonstrations because it packs a wallop and is always a crowd pleaser.

And the crowds had been amazing up until that point, he said.

This is the first time in recent memory that re-enactors from Louisbourg have come to Signal Hill, he added, and they’ve certainly been made to feel welcome — more so probably then the last time French troops were on Signal Hill.

“Just the views here from the top of Signal Hill and the great facility and the great historic site up here is just absolutely amazing,” said Allen.

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean


Organizations: Signal Hill Tattoo

Geographic location: Signal Hill, Louisbourg, Cape Breton

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