poetry and prose about place

Briar Island Rock #3

with 6 comments

In my garden there is a black pentagonal rock set into the ground.  The rock is black basalt, and future people may wonder how such a rock ended up in a setting of glacial moraines, far from other volcanic surface formations. 

The rock comes from the rocky shore of Briar Island in Nova Scotia.  On this shore, in July, 1817, my great-great grandfather came to Canada by way of the wreck of the ship Trafalgar.

In August 1993, my Dad led our family on a pilgrimage to Briar Island, to see Gull Rock where the ship went aground.  Our troupe included my Mom and Dad, my two brothers, my sister and me, with our respective families.  There we could see the rugged rocks where William first set foot in Canada.  Among those on the shore were four Williams of other generations, my Dad, my older brother, my younger brother (whose name, my Dad pointed out is the French version of William) and my nephew.

The pilgrimage had an amusing side.  We all gazed out to sea and retold the story of the shipwreck.  We all turned and had our photograph taken in the dazzling sun.  And when we later talked about our trip, no one could agree on what we had seen.  Some saw a black rock in the distance.  Some saw a small island.  Some saw a low rocky shoal of rocks extending into the sea.  In any case, I know we saw more than seven year old William did in 1817 as he stumbled onto the shore in thick fog and in the small hours of the morning.

The shore there is a pavement of columnar basaltic rock, emerging from the earth in slim five-sided columns.  This pattern develops when thick lava cools, resulting in a fracture network and the creation of perpendicular columns. 

example of columnar basalt (from Wikipedia)

One of those rocks I pried loose and it now sits, embedded in my garden, a memorial to young William.

My next post will be a poem and drawing about the shipwreck.

this rock has endured the decades since the shipwreck of the Trafalgar... it was there when the ship was stranded on the rocks...there when William and his brother came ashore... a witness to my family history

©  Jane Tims 2011


Written by jane tims

December 4, 2011 at 6:12 am

6 Responses

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  1. Wonderful that your family made the pilgrimage together. It’s always interesting how differently people remember events and things they’ve seen, we all have our lenses through which we see the world and each other! How fitting to bring the memorial rock home, finding a place in the continuing history of a family.


    Barbara Rodgers

    December 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    • Hi Barbara. It was a great trip. To make it more interesting, my two brothers have now told me they were not there!!! I like my version better. Jane


      jane tims

      December 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm

  2. Was I there? I seem to remember vaguely…. but not sure if it’s a real memory or just from family stories! Either way, very interesting – I only knew the bare bones of the history before 🙂



    December 4, 2011 at 10:48 am

    • Hi Erin. You were there! I’m glad you can remember a little. It was a beautiful day and Nanny saw a whale from the shore! Aunt Jane


      jane tims

      December 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm

  3. Following your story, Jane.

    Interesting what you said: “no one could agree on what we had seen.” Your blog has brought back long-ago memories of my 20 year career in education. I had research courses in direct observation methods, etc. When I was in my doctoral program at Northern Illinois University, in Special Education, ecological research was taught, among other approaches. The goal was to understand human behavior in a broader context, leading to better interventions. We spoke of helping a child with special needs find his or her “Niche” and the best educational methods and settings at a given time.

    The direct observation skills sure help with poetry, don’t they?

    All the best, Ellen


    Ellen Grace Olinger

    December 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

    • Hi Ellen. Observation gets keener when you write poetry or any aspect of a Blog. I think I am subconciously watching for themes all the time. Makes me feel ‘present’. Jane


      jane tims

      December 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm

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