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.