When I played the bagpipes at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for Hall’s Harbour’s new wharf, Kings County councilor Madonna Spinazola said in her opening address that I had, in effect, become the area’s official piper.
I appreciated this remark and at the risk of appearing immodest, I have to say that I’m delighted to be associated with Hall’s Harbour as a piper, official or otherwise. I’ve been piping for events at Hall’s Harbour for several years and always look forward to the annual celebration and barbecue in July.
When Ms. Spinazola mentioned my Hall’s Harbour connection, she didn’t realize there’s an association that goes farther back than the time I’ve piped there. Hall’s Harbour has been one of my favorite haunts for over 50 years. Exploring the ancient shoreline, swimming in the bone-chilling Harbour waters, picnics, boating, fishing, rock hunting and courting…. I’ve done all these things and more at the Harbour. My great-grandfather is said to have landed there when he came from Ireland. Two years ago I piped when one of my daughters was married on the old wharf.
As you can see, there are many reasons why Hall’s Harbour has a special attraction for me. For others, the attraction may be its picturesque setting in a rugged Fundy coastline and the relief it offers when the Valley is sweltering in the heat. Its heyday as a fishing village may be long gone and little of real historical significance can be found in its rocks and pilings, but Hall’s Harbour retains enough folksy atmosphere and charm to appeal to tourists and residents alike.
Except for brief mentions in history books, tourist literature, and the occasional newspaper article, relatively little has been recorded about Hall’s Harbour. The paucity of written references can’t be rectified in this column but there are places to look if you’d like to know more about the old harbour.
The Old Kings Courthouse Museum in Kentville has an excellent file on the Harbour which, as well as a series of newspaper stories, has some historical references and a partly fictional article about pirate treasure. The adventures of Hall’s Harbour’s most famous son, Ransford Buchnam, are chronicled in the file in an article by The Advertiser‘s Brent Fox. For anyone interested in tracing ancestors who once lived in or around Hall’s Harbour and may rest in nearby graveyards, there is a cemetery file at the Museum.
Ever wonder how Hall’s Harbour got its name? Eaton’s History of Kings County devotes a page to the adventures of Samuel Hall, a Kings County native who guided a band of New England privateers in raids on the Valley; the privateers used the Harbour as a base. Eaton mentions a mill, the first store (opened “about 1830”) and some shipbuilding in an all-too-brief paragraph, but most of his account is devoted to the battle between the privateers and the local militia. Through his account, we learn that Hall’s Harbour is named after a scoundrel!
One of Nova Scotia’s most famous photographers, A. L. Hardy, recorded Hall’s Harbour as it appeared near the turn of the century. Hardy’s Harbour shots have been used on various post cards and are cherished by collectors. In recent times, photographer Dick Killam has taken some spectacular pictures of Hall’s Harbour and these are on display at his studio. As well as capturing the beauty of Hall’s Harbour on film, Killam has recorded the last days of its old wharf as it was eroded by high winds and high tides.
Last but not least are the craggy, rugged cliffs at Hall’s Harbour, cliffs that someone likened to primeval sentinels. Well, ancient they are. Geologists tell us the cliffs are at least 190 million years old.