Susan Flanagan’s June 17 column on the hiking trail named after Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville rankles. Not her description of the picturesque trail itself, but being forced to remember this bloodthirsty visitor to our shores more than 300 years ago.
She mentions that in 1696, in less than four months, he laid waste to 36 English villages, killed 200 men and took 700 prisoners in the dead of winter. In my opinion, to quote an oft heard and succinct pejorative expression, “he was a bad bastard.”
Therefore, in my opinion he should be forgotten and not remembered any longer than it takes to gain the necessary heritage points on a federal trail grant application.
Notwithstanding the territorial clashes between the English and French during this era, I think Flanagan misspoke about the “brave sods who followed his footsteps.”
These were trained soldiers who routed, killed and made prisoners of defenceless men, women and children while destroying their possessions, food and shelter in the dead of winter. I see no bravery there.
Eight years after d’Iberville’s murderous trek, Placentia’s governor Subercase, along with D’Iberville’s officer Montigny ,once again created what must have appeared as déja vu mayhem to local inhabitants.
Along with a force of about 450 combatants that included the Canadian Abenaki Indians, they created ruinous havoc along the near same route from Placentia to the Southern Shore and onward to Conception and Trinity Bay via St. John’s.
According to Patrick O’Flaherty in his excellent book “Old Newfoundland — A history to 1843,” they again burned, murdered and looted, drove inhabitants into the woods in January, confiscated their livestock, burnt their homes (including all but four in
St. Johns), including boats and ships, and forced 150 people into slave labour.
They made one inhabitant go to Fort William, which by then (due to the previous troubles) had a small resisting garrison.
He was forced to carry the body of a child whose throat had been cut in an unsuccessful effort to intimidate the holdouts into surrender.
I suggest we forget d’Iberville in the same way modern media mostly ignores perpetrators of mass killings and concentrates instead on the victims.
So, if the trail is to stand for anything let it be to glorify our ancestors’ tenacity and ability to survive.
Maybe it should be called the Masterless Way (in recognition of the so-called Masterless Men) or considering that Carbonear is the only community that successfully staved off both French attacks, Carbonear Way might be appropriate.
I did not know until Flanagan mentioned it that what’s-his-name is buried in Havana.
An appropriate place of interment for such a cold-blooded creature.