Revisiting the resettled

Jeff Elliott
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Return to Big Brook on the Northern Peninsula

By Jeff Elliott

Transcontinental Media — St. Anthony

On the northwest tip of the Northern Peninsula, at the very end of a decrepit 16-kilometre gravel road, lie the remnants of a small fishing community.

The houses stand intact, as swaths of bright yellow buttercups cover the ground around them — a profusion of growth in a town littered with shadows.

Overgrown grass grows tall up the lone wooden swing set, and a lopsided splitting table rests wearily atop the government wharf, battered by time and the unrelenting waves of the Atlantic.

Nearly 10 years have passed since the last nine residents of Big Brook resettled in the spring of 2004.

A lot of their belongings still reside there, just a few short steps from the rusted wreckage of the Empire Energy — a 440-foot-long steam-powered cargo ship that ran aground in 1941 after departing from Nova Scotia.

“Going back brings old memories,” said 59-year-old Ford Diamond, who now lives in Cormack, of revisiting the old community.

He fondly reminisces about the games of tiddly played during the summer months as a child, where two sawed-off broom-handles positioned securely into holes in the ground provided him and the other kids hours of entertainment.

He especially misses the smell of salt water.

A one-room school still rests undisturbed in the centre of the community.

Inside, used fishing nets are piled alongside the old grate of the floor furnace, underneath a chalkboard scribbled with names of old residents.

Looking around the ghost town, spotting a weathered pickup truck in the periphery and a collection of grey fishing sheds in the foreground, it’s easy to be overcome by the sense of abandonment.

The electricity has long been turned off, and visitors passing through are infrequent — it’s just a town that’s been left to slowly wilt away.   

While Diamond admitted the move was difficult, he couldn’t argue that it wasn’t for the best.  

“It was a sad feeling to leave, knowing you’d be gone for good … but that was just the ending of one chapter,” he said.

The Northern Pen

Organizations: Empire Energy

Geographic location: Big Brook, Northern Peninsula, Nova Scotia Cormack

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