By ROSALYN ROY
PORT AUX BASQUES – Mark Lomond has always been fascinated with local history, old pictures, buildings, and antiques. It’s the reason why he started the Facebook page, ‘Historic Port aux Basques’.
“I had a modest collection of old photographs of Port aux Basques that I collected over the years on the internet. I know from experience the power Facebook has to collect, organize, and share information and photos. I thought why not use the photos I have as some content to get a group started – one where old photos, stories and interesting facts about the area could be shared in hopes to give everyone a better look into the town’s fascinating history,” says Lomond.
It wasn’t long before the page started to attract followers, and not just from locals. Lomond says that in addition to the locals who post old photos, the group has seen a number of contributions from former residents around the globe.
“Apparently there’s a lot of people who have a little bit of history to share,” notes Lomond.
The page now has almost 3,000 followers, which represents most of the town’s population. Some share family photos, offering a glimpse into the youth of loved ones now gone, while others seek information to identify faces.
With so many members, Lomond asked one of the more frequent contributors to help moderate the page.
“I noticed an old friend, Krista Savory, was sharing quite a few photos and seemed really engaged in the group,” says Lomond. “Krista has since scoured the internet and found an unbelievable amount of photos, newspaper articles, and stories to share with everyone.”
There doesn’t appear to be a shortage of information to pour through. The page offers plenty from the heartfelt to the humourous to enthrall anyone who enjoys history, whether or not they have ties to the area.
Some of the more fascinating posts are mere snippets of old newspaper articles that pre-date Confederation. A clipping from The London Standard in Great Britain, dated Friday, Aug. 7, 1868 reports that five stowaway boys were cast off the ship, the Arran, on the ice pans near Cape Anguille. The ship had been bound for Québec, and afterwards the Captain and Mate stood trial for mistreating the boys.
“Six biscuits were thrown to the boys on the ice, and I watched them as they went across. We could see land distinctly without a glass. I have been in the Arctic regions before, and as near as I can judge I should say that the land was about 20 miles from the ship,” testified Robert Hunter, a seaman residing in Glasgow.
A more humorous but no less gripping article in the Western Star on March 30, 1906 reveals workers in Cape Ray left some dynamite to thaw near a stove and then promptly forgot about it. The resulting explosion completely destroyed the home of Mrs. Richard Skeard, with whom they had been lodging, but luckily they all made it out the door just in time.
Lomond says that there are plenty more stories like those in the group for history buffs to enjoy. He easily offers up a variety of suggestions.
“With tales of murders, disasters, a movie filming, historical events, old traditions, lost businesses and people, there’s always plenty of interesting content to check out,” says Lomond, before adding, “Can’t forget the monkey stories. There have been at least three or four different monkeys here in the last 80 years.”
Lomond and this unofficial group of local historians primarily turn to the internet to source materials. It can be time consuming to pour through mountains of information and photos on public domain websites or old newspaper archives, but lately that isn’t proving to be a hindrance. People have plenty of time on their hands these days.
Says Lomond, “I got a lot of positive messages and comments about the group. It seems it has helped bring many people closer together, giving them some relief from the feeling of being isolated and alone during the pandemic.”