Personal Accounts and Memories of St. Francis of Assisi Church
Memories & Stories of St. Francis of Assisi
Traveling to St. Dunstan’s Basilica
In an interview with Island historian Dutch Thompson, the late Louis MacDonald, who was a lifetime resident of Cornwall talks about his experiences as one of the few Catholics in Cornwall. The following excerpts were taken from the interview. In the interview, Louis MacDonald is referred to as LM, and Dutch Thompson as DT. It should be known that Louis mentions that there were never more than a dozen Catholic families in Cornwall until the 1960’s. Louis lived eight miles from St. Dunstan’s Basilica. The ferry that he is referring to was a ferry that ran between York Point and Brighton, and the Butlers were another family who would take the ferry to attend the Anglican Church in Charlottetown.15
LM – “… Well this, the boat left, in the tape I tell all this, in the 20’s and 30’s you’d have farm chores to do you had to go out and bring in the cows, and milk them, separate feed the calves and the pigs and then no later than 9 o’clock take a dip or a grain and go out to the pasture to catch the driving mare, hitch her up the wagon, and come in and get dressed for church. You’d have to put on what I’d referred to as ‘me other suit’ and leave here and drive down to the ferry hoping that you wouldn’t meet a car on the narrow ferry road because even for years and years the horses were scared of cars and the boat left at twenty after ten. There was a shed down there you could tie the horse in and you walked down to the boat, twenty after ten, twenty minutes to cross and then you’d walk up to the Basilica. The last time we was Palley’s wharf, you know where that is”
DT – “No.”
LM – “Well its Palley’s wharf’s down where the navy yard used to be”
DT – “Oh yeah down, down by the Sacred Heart home”
LM – “Yeah well that was, … we used to go to Pownal wharf and Carvel’s wharf and they were closed I guess and ah the last one we went down was at Palley’s wharf. But anyway Carvel’s and ah the Court house was one of the more, Carvel’s were wholesalers and anyway we’d walk up to church well then we were supposed to leave at 12:30 and the Butlers at the Anglican church seem to be always late, it would be perhaps ten to one before we’d leave. Come back, hitch up the horse, drive home put the horse out on the pasture and Sunday was kind of a special meal. We’d come in for dinner, Sunday dinner at 2 o’clock we went out to catch the horse at 9 and we had Sunday dinner at 2. The rest was taken up going to church and gettin’ home”
DT – “My soul, five hours”
LM – “Well (chuckles) now they, some of them complain down here that Mass is too long”
Further along in the interview (tape 4) Louis talks about the bells of St. Dunstan’s.
LM – “Yeah and you know the bells, the chimes at St. Dunstan’s basilica? Well I’d go fishing up here, up Clyde River quite a piece from here, on kinda misty with a little east wind I could hear them”16
Click here to listen to the full interview
Two research team members, Jaemi James-Grant and Hailey Carr were able to speak with Louis’s daughter, Barb MacFarlane, and talk to her about her memories of going to church while growing up in Cornwall.
“We didn’t have a car sometimes. Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn’t. So, sometimes we didn’t go to church, because Dad was in Halifax in the wintertime. Sometimes, my uncle Father George, he was a professor at St. Dunstan’s university, he had a car so he would come out and pick us up but he would be saying Mass himself so sometimes he couldn’t do that. But sometimes he would. And we would go then to the chapel at St. Dunstan’s. I remember doing that. Later, when we had a car more often we used to go to Holy Redeemer a lot even though our parish was the Basilica. Then, and you probably know this story then, Father Simpson started to get going the idea that we needed our own parish out here. There were more and more Catholic families out here after it started building up. They started having Mass at Holiday Haven. I remember going to Mass there.”17
Meadowbank resident Lawson Drake recounts some memories and experiences he had with Catholic families in Cornwall. The interview was conducted by Sara Richard.
“Even as late as 1970, Catholic and Protestants kept pretty much apart, church wise, but in Cornwall and the surrounding areas, there was always cordial relationships between Protestants and Catholics. Louis MacDonald’s family for example was very much loved and respected by every family regardless of religion. Donahues were the same, the Leonards, etc.”
He continues with the following story: “Threshing crews used to, you know, go around. Harold Donahue ran the threshing gear, and in the fall of the year we’d go around thresh the grain, be a big crew came in and you’d have to have to cook a, cook a meal you know, big meal for them. When the threshing crew came to our place of course it was a roasted beef and all the goodness. So we had the crew come to our place one year and mother got the big roast of beef and all the potatoes and turnips and all the stuff, had it ready for the crew and she was just getting it all set for dinner when it suddenly hit her, ‘its Friday! (Sara laughs) And Harold is out there, what am I going to do?!’ (Lawson laughs) And this is this is ah sign of the times or all that you know she said, ‘I’m terribly sorry Harold what am I gonna do?’ ‘Oh’ he said, ‘a couple of fried eggs Carrie will be fine, that’ll do me’ and that’s how it was done you know ah so just a just a sign of the times.”18
Cornwall resident Ann MacKinley recalls attending Mass at various locations around Cornwall. At times she would travel to St. Dunstan’s Basilica in Charlottetown, but later would attend Mass at Eliot River School, the Cornwall United Church and the Cornwall Lions Club. It was at the Cornwall Lions Club that her youngest son Jeff was baptized. It was very soon after that St. Francis of Assisi church would be built.19