MORE ON FRISIAN AND WINDSOR HISTORY (February 28/97)

No one told me when I started to write this column nine years ago that through it I’d meet all kinds of interesting people with diverse interests. But as my former colleagues at this newspaper can confirm, that is one of the perks of producing a weekly column.

The kind of people I’m taking about, for example, are like the gentleman I referred to as Yetzee in a column [three] weeks ago. Through Yetzee, I learned about the Frisian language and its amazing similarity to English. I’ve since been told that there is a Frisian dictionary and the language itself is almost identical to English as it was spoken in the 10th century.

Frisian is a major language in Holland and is spoken by well over 300,000 people – there was a “typo” in my earlier column and the figure came out as only 30,000. Frisian is also spoken in parts of Germany and Denmark. One reader who enjoyed the column on Frisian said it is a common error to refer to Frieslanders as “Dutch.” The Dutch and the Frieslanders speak different languages and often can only understand each other with great difficulty.

This column runs in a set space and at times there isn’t enough room to do justice to a topic. The column last week on L.S. Loomer’s history of Windsor and the area around it is an example. I have never read a book with so many tantalising historical asides – which, in my opinion, makes it all the more entertaining and educational – so at the risk of overkill, here is more about it.

Some of the topics Loomer casually mentions in passing are intriguing and they perked my interest – so much so that I wanted to learn more about them.

For example, wouldn’t you like to know more about the accomplishment that Loomer says has been a “secret well kept from the record books.” Loomer was referring to the astonishing Valley couple, Frank and Jennie Dill, who, in 1921, won a cross-Canada walking contest. The Dills left Halifax in February and walked to Vancouver in 134 days!

Glimpses of the early careers of some famous Valley men – W.H. Chase, George Nowlan and R.A: Joudrey, for example – are provided.

Both Aldershot Camp and Fort Edward were vital and busy training areas during the First World War. Loomer writes about the various regiments stationed at these depots, perhaps the most unusual being a unit recruited in the United States – the Jewish Legion. Loomer mentions that this unit had their own “rabbi, slaughterer, butcher, cookhouse and messing arrangements.” One of the soldiers in the unit was David Ben Gurion, later the president of Israel.

The gold rush era in Nova Scotia, most of us think of it as taking place farther afield and certainly not in or near the Annapolis Valley. But we had a gold rush here and Loomer devotes several pages to it.

The tale of the German adventurer, Franz von Ellershausen, who established a miniature German empire in Hants County in 1864 is covered briefly by Loomer. The story is the establishment of Ellershouse, and like most of the pages in Loomer’s book, whets the appetite for more.

To sum up Mr. Loomer’s history- and risking another cliché – it’s a good read, a heck of a good read.

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