“Paddy’s Island, a mile north of Medford, was part of the farm of Patrick Barnes, who came to Nova Scotia from Ireland at the time of the potato famine,” the late Watson Kirkconnell states in his 1971 book on place names in Kings County.
In a recent column on the Irish element in Kings County, I quoted Kirkconnell, whom as most readers know was a distinguished scholar in various fields and was president of Acadia University. I had no reason to question such an esteemed source as Dr. Kirkconnell; in fact, I had used Kirkconnell as the source before in this column when mentioning the Irish origin of the Paddy’s Island place name.
It appears, however, that Dr. Kirkconnell was astray when it comes to Paddy’s Island, and it was named after Patrick Burns, not Patrick Barnes.
I was talking recently with Helen Burns who told me about her research on the property where Paddy’s Island is located. Ms. Burns great grandfather Patrick purchased the property in 1869 from Judson Strong. Ms. Burns believes that the Strong family received the land as part of an original grant and she said “it doesn’t look like it was owned by anybody in between.” In other words, it appears that there was no Barnes family connected with this land.
Ms. Burns said that her family, including her father, lived on the property and she doesn’t know how Kirkconnell got the Barnes name connected with it. She “isn’t 100 percent sure that Paddy’s Island was named after her great-grandfather,” she said, “but it seems logical.
Ms. Burns also has a copy of a story written about Paddy’s Island by Alice Parker, which she believes was published in The Advertiser. In the article Parker writes that the island was named for Patrick or Paddy Burns.
As mentioned, Dr. Kirkconnell said that Patrick Barnes emigrated to this area during the potato famine. Helen Burns tells me that her great grandfather did leave Ireland during the famine. She attempted to trace her great grandfather’s roots while in Ireland a few years ago, but had no luck.
Helen Burns tells me her great-grandfather came from County Cork, where he was born in 1842. Patrick Burns died in 1882 and is buried in the cemetery of St. Joseph’s Church in Kentville.
As for Dr. Kirkconnell writing that it was a Patrick Barnes who gave Paddy’s Island its name, this may have been a typo. Helen Burns told me that Patrick Burns marriage record incorrectly spelled his name as “Byrnes.” Dr. Kirkconnell may have seen a copy of the marriage document. A slip of the keys later by a typesetter could have changed the “y” in Byrnes to an “a.”