Time to properly recognize historic sites

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Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit Cape Cod and, while there, reckoned that I might as well visit Plymouth, the site of the pilgrims’ landing in the Mayflower about 120 years after the European discovery of Newfoundland. I expected to see a point of land or a cove where it was likely a ship might have landed. Instead, what we saw was a monstrous great architectural concrete structure with openings through which one could look down 50 feet or so at this piddly little rock at the bottom.

While I realize that symbolism is worth more than realism when it comes to cash and tourism, it was a letdown. Nor was the disappointment allayed by the fact that one of the many restaurants surrounding the site was the Road Kill Café. Nevertheless, the number of visitors to that site annually is over a million, so it works.

I was reminded of this by a Telegram report by Josh Pennell on Jan. 4 of Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie’s address to Rotary.  

In the speech, he decried the lack of recognition for significant events in Newfoundland history and, in particular, the Atlantic Charter signing near Ship Harbour in Placentia Bay during the Second World War.  

There should be no doubt that this site should be of world-class stature, well advertised and have decent highway access. Churchill’s visit in 1941 should serve to remind us that without his bull-dog tenacity and inspiring leadership against the German onslaught, we, being a British colony at the time, might not be as fortunate as we are today.

And it’s not only Ship Harbour. There are likely more historic sites, both famous and infamous, in Newfoundland and Labrador than in any other province in Canada. Our location out here in the Atlantic assures us of many firsts in ocean travel, air travel and even events going back to our earlier discovery by Vikings 1,000 years ago.

Maybe now, with a prod from arguably the province’s most passionate and credible advocate, the powers that be will take up the challenge.

Derm Browne

St. John’s

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Cape Cod, Plymouth Placentia Bay Canada

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Recent comments

  • RJ
    January 17, 2013 - 00:58

    We really need toll booths to gain access to Signal Hill & Cape Spear.A loonie per car.The funds collected should be divided up & given to Allan Doyle & Rick Mercer...for they are Nfld's true Historical cornerstones ! ;)

  • Don II
    January 16, 2013 - 12:38

    To David: Thanks for the advice. I will follow up on this story. I am still researching it and waiting to obtain more information and details. It appears that the media were used by the Government to promote the propaganda about Cupids. It seems that nobody in the media thought to ask any hard questions about why the Government was spending millions of tax payer dollars to promote Cupids without asking to see documented historical proof instead of folklore that the Cupers Cove Plantation actually ever existed in Cupids! A real story was happening right under their noses and none of the media ever asked the Government why it was expropriating somebody's house and land to create a fictional Provincial Historic Site to commemorate the Cupids Cove Plantation, a place that never existed in the historical record of Newfoundland and Labrador! It seems the media could not get past the Government propaganda, the Royal visit, the visit of Prime Minister Harper and all the hyperbole (BS) about the Cupids 400 Celebrations!

  • Don II
    January 16, 2013 - 08:17

    To David: It appears that for some unexplained ulterior motives, the Government of Newfoundland expropriated somebody's house and land in Cupids to create a fictional historic site to commemorate the Cupids Cove Plantation, a place that never existed and is never mentioned in the historical record of Newfoundland and Labrador! Brief enough?

    • david
      January 16, 2013 - 11:06

      Better. But IMO, off on a tangent from the topic --- too specific an issue to coattail on a broad article. Write a letter to the editor, or ask the Tely to do an article on the case...Peter Jackson seems to be running out of original ideas for articles.

  • Don II
    January 15, 2013 - 09:28

    Derm Browne is correct when he states that: "..... I realize that symbolism is worth more than realism when it comes to cash and tourism." That appears to be the attitude of the Government of Newfoundland and the Department of Tourism. A real historic site must be authentic not fictional. Tourists who spend substantial amounts of money and who travel long distances want to visit historic sites which are proven to be authentic. From 1910 to 1998 the Government of Newfoundland claimed that a parcel of privately owned land in the town of Cupids was the site of the Sea Forest Plantation established by John Guy in 1610. In 1998 historical documents were revealed that proved that the Sea Forest Plantation was never located in the town of Cupids. Once that fictional version of the history of Cupids was exposed, the Government of Newfoundland began to claim that the privately owned parcel of land was the site of the Cupers Cove Plantation established by John Guy in 1610. In 2008, the Government of Newfoundland expropriated the privately owned parcel of land in Cupids which it was claiming to be the site of the Cupers Cove Plantation despite the fact that historical documents, letters, land grants and maps exist which show that the Cupers Cove Plantation was actually located near Avondale. The Government of Newfoundland expropriated the parcel of privately owned land in Cupids and dispossessed the owners from their property. The Government of Newfoundland, instead of designating the land as the site of the Cupers Cove Plantation as it had claimed in the Notice of Expropriation, inexplicably designated the land as the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site. The Government of Newfoundland knew or ought to have known that historical documents exist which show that the Sea Forest Plantation and the Cupers Cove Plantation were never located in Cupids. The expropriated parcel of land was designated as the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site despite the fact that no place called the Cupids Cove Plantation is ever mentioned in the entire historical record of Newfoundland and Labrador. It appears that the Government of Newfoundland is not concerned about authenticity and historical fact in the case of the fictional Cupids Cove Plantation. How does the Government justify to tourists that the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site commemorates a place that never existed? Is the Government of Newfoundland telling the tourists a fictionalized version of the history of Cupids to justify expropriating privately owned land to create a fictional historic site? It appears that it was necessary for the Government of Newfoundland to claim that the land in Cupids was the site of the Cupers Cove Plantation in order to justify the expropriation of the land. It appears that after the expropriation was completed the Government realized that it had no proof that the Cupers Cove Plantation was ever located on the expropriated land so it chose to designate the site as the fictional Cupids Cove Plantation! Later in 2008, the Government of Newfoundland expropriated the environmentally polluted Abitibi pulp mill by mistake!

    • david
      January 15, 2013 - 14:44

      Brevity, man. Try it, or else publish your own leaflet..

  • david
    January 15, 2013 - 08:55

    Formally remembering the past is a luxury of societiers that have a strong and promising future...which beyond this ephemeral boom of oil, Newfoundland does not. The Romans built an awful lot of monuments and statues when they obviously should put more thought and effort into their present. The best way to honour Newfoundland's past is for us to ensure that we are still here, doing something productive, in fifty years.