Born in Scotland in about 1345 A.D. Henry Sinclair became Earl of Rosslyn and the surrounding lands as well as Prince of Orkney, Duke of Oldenburg (Denmark), and Premier Earl of Norway. In 1398 he led an expedition to explore Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. This was 90 years before Columbus ‘discovered America’! Prince Henry Sinclair was the subject of historian Frederick J. Pohl’s Atlantic Crossings Before Columbus, which was published in 1961. Not all historians agreed with Pohl, but he made a highly convincing case that this blond, sea-going Scot, born at Rosslyn Castle near Edinburgh in 1345, not only wandered about mainland Nova Scotia in 1398, but also lived among the Micmacs long enough to be remembered through centuries as the man-god Glooscap. _______________________________________________
Of all the places I had visited in the Maritimes during my sales tenure with Winnipeg Photo, Nova Scotia held the greatest attraction for me. Why? I’m not entirely certain. Sometimes for no discernible, empirical or logical reasons a geographic locale draws you to it, speaks to you and invites you to become part of it. Nova Scotia spoke to me … in particular Halifax, and most spiritually Truro.
I stepped out of Pridham’s Camera Store into a late October, Truro dusk. The street lamps were just coming on and the air was crisp, still and steeped in the aroma of autumn leaves. Even in the dimming light the colors of the leaves were profuse, and despite their plush carpet on the lawns and sidewalks, as many leaves still clung to the branches of trees that seemed as old as Truro itself. I had just completed a full Saturday of seminars teaching invited customers photography techniques and about photofinishing. I recall standing in the quiet day/night transition and never wanting to move … to drink in that moment and make it last forever. I did and it has. I remember feeling so welcome and at home there. Like Henry Sinclair I too was exploring Nova Scotia and would, within days, be in Massachusetts.
My eventual fascination with Celtic, Masonic and Knights Templar lore and their connection to Nova Scotia’s history is ironic. Ignorant of it all at the time it only serves to underscore my attraction to this location on the planet now.
The breeze off the harbour, just behind an historic hotel I was staying in, carried the smell of fish. I love that fragrance. It caused me to look beyond a tall chain-link fence that separated the hotel’s property from the harbour’s warehouses. I could see the upper decks of the seagoing cargo vessels moored there rising just above the rooftops of the long weather-worn buildings. I had no difficulty, and frankly no business, scaling the metal fence and dropping silently into the tall grass on the other side. I hoisted myself up on to the wooden deck that led into the warehouses. Heading left and rounding its corner I stopped dead in my tracks beside the warehouse wall. The awesome sight of the mammoth hulls of the cargo ships rising several stories into the evening sky had me transfixed. Awestruck, my jaw must have dropped at the sheer majesty of these boats lazily floating in their stations against the concrete dock.The flags flying from the uppermost reaches of one ship suggested Russian origin. The men aboard the ship were casually talking and smoking, leaning against the deck’s metal railing high above me. They paid little attention to my trespassing.
The dock was deserted and it was getting dark, but the mercury vapour lights hanging from the tall wooden poles provided all the illumination I needed to explore the length and breadth of the entire area, warehouses to my right and several ships towering over me to my left. I don’t remember eventually making my way back to the hotel that night, but I do remember being told the next day, as I proudly related my adventure to one of my photographer customers, what a fool I was for venturing on to that dock. Apparently it was a pretty dangerous place to be, especially after dark.
Halifax, the restaurants, the shops, the humidity, the storm porches, the sea air and my first taste of scallops are all still vivid images. Coquille Saint-Jacques, my inaugural taste of scallops, was served in a quaint Halifax restaurant that had made its home in a turn-of-the-century house nestled somewhere on a residential avenue adjacent to the city’s downtown … walking distance from the hotel. I can still remember sitting at the small table, a white paneled wall to my right and the intimacy of a Victorian dining room to my left.
The occasional granules of sand embedded in scallop flesh was kind of off-putting, but in the years to come I have always found it part of the charm of scallops.
That gritty distraction, when I indulge my seafood palate, always transports me back to Halifax and my introduction to scallops.