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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grand Bruit

Entering Grand Bruit

Ralph, Stan and I undertook a sea kayak trip from Harbour le Cou to Burgeo. It was part kayak trip and part living history.

I've been in a number of resettled communities but always many years after when the building had already crumbled and all that was left were foundations. Grand Bruit (pronounced "Brit") is the latest Newfoundland community to be resettled and this time I was on hand for the funeral.

While the residents voted to resettle, it did feel like a funeral to me and I felt in a way that I was intruding.

Landmarks

Grand Bruit has two landmarks: the church which overlooks everything in the community and the falls. If a third had to be picked, it would be how the houses are all crammed together around the harbour, so typical of Newfoundland outports.

In those houses people raised families, had dreams and shared sorrows. In those houses lived people who knew each other more than as friends but as extended family. People who worked and pulled together to make a living in an isolated setting.

End of town

Looking east from the top of the falls the houses peter out. Near the center the closest green building is the oldest house at about 150 years old.

A working community

Lobster pots on this slipway attest to the fact that Grand Bruit was a working fishing community right up to resettlement. Some fishermen intend to carry on fishing out of other ports. Some will return here every summer during the lucrative lobster season because, while the residents have left, the lobster have not been resettled.

Quaint

Grand Bruit has been in the news recently over its resettlement but before that it was just another isolated community along the Newfoundland coast. It was just another name on the map and most, I suspect, never gave it a second thought.

Now that the community is dying, the province mourns the loss of yet another piece of its heritage. It was inevitable. The last students graduated from the elementary school in 2007 after which it was closed for good. The lifeblood of the community, its youth, began to drain away and its fate was sealed.

Connections

The community was connected by a concrete walkway that was wide enough for all terrain vehicles (ATV). While we were there the ATVs were busy carting household belongings from the homes to a storage building at the dock. There they waited to be shipped out on the local ferry service, bound for points west to Port aux Basques or east to Burgeo.

Along these walkways residents stopped to talk to each other. In the big city people look at the sidewalk rather than risk making eye contact with the oncoming. Here, doors did not have to be locked at night. People were connected not just by walkways, they shared a deeper connection.

Sentinels

The community is gone and all that's left are the buildings, the memories and the dead.

In maybe 50 years some other kayaker may happen upon this resettled community when all that's left are the concrete walkways and foundations and this cemetery. They may wonder about the people who lived here and what it was like to leave. I won't have to as I was here when the lights went out.

It unfortunately won't be the last time the lights get turned off. We should all share a sense of loss each time it happens.

3 comments:

  1. 唯有用熱情、用智慧去觀察事物,這事物才會把他的秘密,洩漏給我們............................................................

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  2. Sorry for not commenting earlier but I have to admit that I am obscenely jealous of your trip. Some day, some day!!

    Looks like you guys had quite the adventure and I've lived vicariously through your blog, albeit quietly.

    Cheers,
    Sean

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  3. The community of Grand Bruit may be relocated, but the spirit of Grand Bruit left in the hearts of each and every resident that left their home behind over the years. Many of us are Billards, while most of the rest were related to Billards. We could trace our heritage back nearly 200 years of life in that tiny outport of Grand Bruit. It was more than a community, it was home to thousands over the last 200 years.

    Thanks for a great post and some recent photos. My house is in a few of your photos. Big grey bungalow with red trim and a big overgrown yard.

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