Peter Waite: An Appreciation

By Andrew Nurse and Ed Stoddard

Peter Waite died on August 24th.  For three and a half decades he taught history at Dalhousie University. Waite is well and fondly remembered and should be. Christopher Moore, in his brief note on Waite’s passing called him a “historian, professor, war veteran, and bon vivant.” Allison Lawlor, in her obituary referred to him as “a compelling storyteller and writer.” A former colleague remembered him like this: Waite “was a joyful presence, quick to laugh, a spectacular raconteur addicted to punning and bon mots, especially in French or Latin […].” Peter Waite left his mark, both on Canadian historical scholarship and the students who moved through his classroom. We encountered him in the mid 1980s as undergraduate students at Dalhousie and, like others, we have fond memories.

Peter Waite. Image Credit: Rino Gropuzzo

Waite was born in Toronto in 1922, served in the Canadian Navy during World War II, and completed an undergraduate and MA at UBC before finishing a Ph. D. at the University of Toronto. He began teaching at Dalhousie in 1951 and became an enthusiastic and determined proponent of Nova Scotia wilderness and heritage conservation. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and a “Dalhousie Original” for her service to historical scholarship and the University community. Waite also served on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board and, in the course of his life, was the author of a number of “big books” that addressed new subjects or re-interpreted already studied subjects. Moore has called him a “master historian.” Waite would be both honoured and amused by that characterization.

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Chemists, Canoes, and New Brunswick’s History of Science

By Richard Yeomans

Science and innovation have a long history in New Brunswick, and in many ways this history has profoundly impacted the province as we know it today. The scuba tank (1839), the steam-powered foghorn (1854), the snow blower (1870), and many other novel inventions of their age are just some of the innovative firsts developed in this province that have had considerable effect on the lives of people here and across the globe. Science and innovation in this province were most often the result of environmental necessity, and motivators were easily found in the extraordinary tides of the Bay of Fundy, the thick fog that covers Saint John, and the sheer amounts of snow to which we have grown accustomed, albeit reluctantly.

Schell and Hogan, Poling and paddling in New Brunswick River [Engraver: W. Miller], Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P50 Picturesque Canada Series Illustrations, MC80-1063, no. 7.

Other times, science played a critically important role in New Brunswick politics, especially before Canadian Confederation. The province’s western border with the state of Maine was one of the most contested terrains in North America until the line was finally agreed upon in 1842. Issues still arose of course, and jurisdiction was challenged well into the 1850s until the first astronomical observatory in Canada was built on Fredericton’s college hill and could scientifically locate the boundary line.[1] Though this province is not often considered to be among Canada’s historic centres of scientific research, New Brunswick was unmistakably shaped, and reshaped, by a constant atmosphere of science and a spirit of innovation.

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« Pierre Maisonnat Baptiste, un corsaire français à la rivière Saint-Jean durant la Guerre de la Ligue d’Augsbourg, 1688-1697 »

Nicolas Landry

Introduction [1].

Pour faire suite à notre blog précédent, rappelons qu’en vertu de la rationnelle commerciale de la course / privateering, les corsaires visent avant tout la capture plutôt que la destruction, contrairement à l’activité guerrière de l’État[2]. Précisons qu’en novembre 1669, le roi Louis XIV rétablit la charge d’Amiral de France, responsable d’administrer et d’appliquer les règles gérant la guerre de course. Ce dernier délègue ces responsabilités dans les sièges d’amirauté le long des côtes françaises et aux colonies[3]. D’ailleurs, en 1697, un jugement de l’Amiral de France décrète que la procédure entourant les activités corsaires dans la métropole et dans les colonies doit se faire dès l’arrivée d’une prise dans un port. Le procès-verbal de chaque jugement doit ensuite être envoyé au secrétaire général de la Marine, par les officiers des amirautés[4].

Il y a ici lieu de préciser que le rôle des corsaires français opérant en Acadie ne se limite pas à s’emparer de navires anglais en pleine mer, mais aussi à servir de patrouilleurs, de transport de troupes, de marchandises, pour des échanges de prisonniers et d’appui à des sièges de forts anglais[5]. L’on pense ici aux expéditions menées par Pierre Lemoyne d’Iberville et le baron Jean Vincent D’Abbadie de Saint-Castin. Il apparaît donc essentiel de ne pas dissocier les attaques terrestres des opérations corsaires, puisqu’elles sont souvent conjointes, sans oublier les alliés amérindiens[6].

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“You old buggar, I’ll pump you full of lead.” The Great War in Canada and Policing the City of Saint John, NB, 1910-1920

By Ben Griffin

In his 1920 “Valedictory,” the outgoing Mayor of Saint John, New Brunswick, R.T. Hayes reflected that “The four years have been full of incidents of outstanding importance, none more so perhaps in the history of the City and of the world.”[1] Indeed, Hayes’ observations are supported by historical scholarship on the Great War; Brian Douglas Tennyson called it a clear demarcation between the “before” and “after” of our historical evolution.[2] Notwithstanding the dominant trends of the literature, the historiography is enhanced when we explore stories of how New Brunswickers navigated this era. This is especially important in contexts that lack significant attention, such as policing. As a logistical hub and ice-free port of acute military importance, Saint John should be a nexus for exploring Canadian experiences of the war. This snapshot of its police force, itself in crisis during the 1910s, highlights how street-level tensions in a Maritime city were complicated by global events.

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Odds and Addenda: Some Connections and One Mystery

By David Frank

Every writer of history has had the same experience. You write and revise and rewrite and revise again. You consult friends and colleagues, go through peer review, follow up, do more revision. Then you publish what you believe to be the last word on a subject. And then you discover it is not.

You might even find technical misteaks that escaped your attention and eluded copyeditors and proofreaders. Oops, that should be mistakes.

But this is not the place to revisit avoidable errors. We are talking about addenda here, not corrigenda.

People are reading your work! They make comments, and sometimes additional evidence comes to light as a result. That’s what led to my last contribution to this blog, a supplementary note about William Ambrose John based on information from a reader who knew things I could not have known some twenty years earlier.

C.B. Wade, research director for District 26, United Mine Workers of America (centre), with union officers and visiting artist Avrom Yanovsky (fourth from left), 1947.

In the current round-up, my first exhibit is the group photograph in my article on C.B. Wade, the pioneering union researcher and labour historian of District 26, United Mine Workers of America, which appeared in Labour/Le Travail in 2017. The caption did not give names, except to identify Mr. Wade at the centre. I described the others as union officers. One of them looks very much like his grandson Robert, whom I knew when he was director of the Miners’ Museum in Glace Bay. And one of the men on the right is almost certainly the union president Freeman Jenkins, though I’m not sure which one.

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He had “insanity in his veins”: The Execution of George Gee in New Brunswick

By Michael Boudreau

On 22 July 1904 George Gee was executed in Woodstock, New Brunswick for the murder of his cousin Millie Gee.  The question of Gee’s guilt was not necessarily in question since he confessed to the crime. During Gee’s trial and the automatic review that was conducted by the federal Department of Justice to decide if his death sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment, the question of Gee’s sanity was raised.  In particular, Gee had apparently been driven to insanity by jealousy, after Millie Gee, whom George Gee had hoped to marry, had spurned him.  Moreover, it was alleged that the social, economic, and familial milieu in which Gee had lived – notably generational insanity, incest, and a generally “primitive” lifestyle – were contributing factors to his insanity at the time of the murder.

George Gee Sentenced to Death

Nineteen-year-old George Gee and eighteen-year-old Millie Gee had been “keeping company” and George had become “much attached” to Millie, so much so that he believed that they were husband and wife.  But when Millie left George to live with her brother-in-law, Benny Gee, George Gee was “much aggrieved” by her desertion. Gee obtained a rifle and two bottles of rum and paid a visit to Benny Gee’s home.  Over the course of the evening, they drank and played cards.  In the early hours of 13 March 1904, in Homesville, Carleton County, shots were heard echoing throughout the Gee residence.  It was soon discovered that Millie Gee had been shot in the stomach and she later died after doctors had operated on her in a desperate attempt to save her life. When George Gee was taken into custody by Deputy-Sheriff Albion Foster, he expressed little remorse for his actions and announced that the only thing he regretted was not shooting Millie Gee through the heart.[1] 

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In Search of ‘Maritime Music’

By Greg Marquis

Bass player Bruce Palmer (1946-2004) was a Nova Scotian who like many ambitious young musicians ended up in 1960s Toronto where he performed with Robbie Lane & the Disciples, Jack London & the Sparrows and the Mynah Birds. In the latter group he met guitarist Neil Young. After the Mynah Birds disbanded Palmer travelled with Young to Los Angeles where they met up with Stephen Stills and formed, with two other musicians, the folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield.  The group released three albums and scored a hit in 1967 with “What It’s Worth,” inspired by the 1966 Sunset Strip riots. Palmer ran afoul of the law because of drugs and was kicked out of Buffalo Springfield before it broke up in 1968.[1] The Liverpool-born musician grew up in the early years of rock n’ roll, the same music that inspired local favourites such as The Lincolns of Truro, who played at countless dances in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.[2]    

Another restless young Maritime musician who ended up in 1960s Toronto (and later performed in the United States) was Norma Gallant (1945-2016) from New Brunswick, another bass player who performed under the name Norma Gale. Raised in the village of Pinsec, the young Acadian was playing guitar and singing country and rock n’ roll music at an early age. She appeared on The Bunkhouse Boys show on Moncton’s CKCW television station and performed with the country group Val Surette and the Nitehawks and Roger Cormier’s Brunswick Playboys, a rock group. Despite a folk tradition among older Acadians and the appeal of fiddle music, young Acadians in 1950s and 1960s New Brunswick, like their anglophone counterparts, were drawn to pop, country and rock n’ roll. And Acadian musicians like Gallant found themselves performing in English at jamborees, dances and on local radio and television. After a stint playing nightclubs in Montreal, Gallant moved to Toronto where she joined the house band at the iconic Horseshoe Tavern, which was not only a refuge for transplanted Maritimers and Newfoundlanders, but also Canada’s premiere county and western performance space. She was probably the only full-time female bass player in 1960s Toronto.  At the Horseshoe she played for, and socialized with, up and coming Canadian artists but also well-known Nashville singers such as Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson and Dottie West. Contacts in the music business eventually drew Gallant to the United States where she performed at many venues. In 1967 and 1968 she sang twice at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Gallant also took part in a three-month tour of American military bases in the United States, the Philippines, South Vietnam, Greenland and Labrador and recorded two albums. Like fellow bassist Bruce Palmer, she later returned to Ontario and then, because of health reasons, retired to Moncton.  There was nothing ‘traditional’ about Palmer and Gallant; each were fixated on popular (and related) music genres invented and centred in the United States: rock n’ roll and country.[3]

Academic historians of the Maritime region have been slow to tackle the topic of popular music, largely leaving the field to folklorists and ethnomusicologists.[4] This is unfortunate because music, rightly or wrongfully (mostly wrongly) has been regarded as both a marker of regional culture or identity and a way for people in other parts of Canada to frame a ‘traditional’ region. Even a superficial examination of the sources reveals that ‘Maritime music’ has been more of an illusion than an actual genre, the occasional assertions of songwriters, singers, promoters, record companies, broadcasters and critics notwithstanding. Two of the earliest commercial successes from the region, Wilf Carter and Hank Snow, became North American county and western stars not because of regional or provincial culture, but by contributing to a quintessential American genre based on touring jamboree shows, recordings, barn dance radio programs and Hollywood-produced singing cowboy movies. Snow eventually became an American citizen and later defended ‘traditional’ country music against a more pop-oriented sound. There is no doubt that country music developed a large following in the Maritimes, but this owed as much to radio, recordings, touring acts from the United States, movies and later television than any innate regional attributes.      

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Photo Search: We Want You

At Acadiensis we are marking our 50th birthday this autumn and are asking for your help to celebrate.  As you move into the tenth month of the pandemic and for those teaching, start the third term, you may have found yourself reduced to “sorting through” your own personal archives.  Did you find any photos or programs of past Atlantic Canada Studies Conferences or Atlantic Canada Workshops?  We’d love copies to put together a visual record of this community.


Bill Parenteau and Danny Samson (with Herb Wyile in the background) at the Atlantic Canada Studies Conference – St. Thomas University 2014  

Please send photos to Suzanne Morton (suzanne.morton@mcgill.ca) with as many labels as possible. It would be also appreciated if you could spread the word to those who may not be connected through social media. Fifty years is something to celebrate.

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Andrew Nurse reviews You Are Here

By Andrew Nurse

You Are Here: Seeing Sackville through the Owens Art Gallery Collection explores the landscape in and around Sackville, NB through images in (or, connected to) Mount Allison University’s Owens Arts Gallery. It is an online multimedia exhibition created by Emily Falvey, Lucy MacDonald, Rachel Thornton, and Jane Tisdale, all of whom are members of the Owens curatorial staff. You Are Here describes itself as “an alternative guide to Sackville, New Brunswick” and was created in response to Covid-19. It highlights the way in which virtual and physical space can interact, complement each other, and stimulate consideration of the history and meanings of place.  While focused on Sackville and its immediate vicinity, the exhibition draws in the broader Tantramar Marshes that stretch beyond the town. You can access the exhibition via this URL: https://www.youareheresackvillenb.ca/. It illustrates the kind of work that can be done when a gallery’s normal operations are disrupted.

To be clear: You Are Here is impressive. The PDF guide that accompanies the exhibition highlights twenty-two artists who work in a range of different media. It also includes reproductions of archival photographs, details, and reproductions of preliminary studies through which different artists worked out their own representational ideas. The physical exhibition that accompanies on the online virtual exhibition can be viewed only by appointment and, currently, only by the Mount Allison community. It includes both the works reproduced in the guide and online and a second gallery that connects You Are Here to other vistas and conceptions of landscape. The online exhibition invites “community views;” that is: community members can submit their own contributions that are added to the virtual exhibition. Because of this, You Are Here is an unstable exhibition that changes with additions from the public.

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New Brunswick’s Militia and Home Defence During the Great War

By Brent Wilson

The post is published in partnership with our friends at Borealia.

[This essay is part of a series of contributions to be published over the coming years by members of the research group “Military Service, Citizenship, and Political Culture: Studies of Militias in Atlantic Canada.” Any questions about the project can be sent to Gregory Kennedy, Research Director of the Acadian Studies Institute at the Université de Moncton at gregory.kennedy@umoncton.ca. / Nous vous présentons une texte d’une série de contributions qui seront publiées au cours des prochaines années par des membres du groupe de recherche « Service militaire, citoyenneté et culture politique : études des milices au Canada atlantique ». N’hésitez pas à joindre Gregory Kennedy, directeur scientifique de l’Institut d’études acadiennes de l’Université de Moncton, pour toute question concernant le projet à gregory.kennedy@umoncton.ca.]


For most Canadians, military participation during the Great War meant overseas service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.), initially in Britain and then on the Western Front in Belgium and France.  It is also generally understood that some of these Canadian volunteers had served with the militia, both before the war and during its early phases.[1] What we often lose sight of is that many militiamen also served at home, fulfilling a range of more traditional roles.  This trend underlines the wider story of how during the First World War the role of the Canadian militia shifted from its original home defence duties to service overseas and, with it, popular conceptions of what constituted legitimate military service, especially in wartime.[2]

In the days leading up to the outbreak of war on August 4, 1914, many officers commanding New Brunswick’s various militia units received orders from Ottawa to place their troops on a war footing and prepare to send troops overseas.[3] Several units contributed troops to the First Contingent of the C.E.F., including the 67th, 71st, and 74th Regiments, 3rd (New Brunswick) Regiment, Canadian Garrison Artillery (C.G.A.), 10th, 12th, and 19th Field Batteries, 1st (Brighton) Field Company, Canadian Engineers, and No. 7 Army Service Corps Company,

First Contingent Draft from the 71st York Regiment.  PANB- P5-884.

A few months, later some militia units provided troops for the Second Contingent, particularly the 62nd Regiment, which saw many of its troops join the 26th New Brunswick Battalion, while the 3rd C.G.A. contributed to the Headquarters and No. 1 Section of the 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column.[4]  Thereafter, militiamen enlisted in large numbers in the numerous C.E.F. units raised within the province over the next three years.  By the end of the war, some 27,000 soldiers had been raised in New Brunswick, 17,000 of whom fought overseas. 

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