In studying the history of a village, town or county, it is those individuals who had an impact on the life of their time who receive the recognition – and rightfully so.
Successful entrepreneurs like the Jeans, LeVescontes, Janvrins, and Robins; prominent politicians like Senator Miller, Laurence Kavanagh, and Edmund Power Flynn; persons outstanding in medicine, law, the arts, sports; the early ship builders and sailors – these made our history and deserve their place in it.
But what of the “little people” and the little things that provided a context for the “big” things and people to make their mark. There are innumerable colourful individuals and events; here are a few of them.
Noble Rollins came to Petit de Grat in 1938 in a cabin cruiser from Northumberland, England. Ostensibly he had come to Canada to observe the migration of land and sea birds, study weather patterns, and search for treasure. Since he possessed the only camera in the area, there were those who speculated he was a German spy; perhaps their instincts were correct for when he left with a man called Cyprien Belfontaine, they were arrested at the border.
The Hermit, John Bew, lived just before the intersection from Arichat to Petit de Grat. His house was no more than a one-room cottage, but he was considered to be very wealthy and kept gold coins in a cow horn. He was a religious man, a Baptist and well educated. He was buried at St. John’s Anglican Church in Arichat. His property, though thought to be haunted, was purchased by Father Gallant and later by Alexander Theriault.
Perhaps the most famous resident of Pondville was Thomas Bourge. After escaping from a ship in Arichat, he obtained a land grant in 1906. He is reported to have lived to 111 years, 26 days old, and allegedly walked to Arichat to vote at the age of 108.
In the early 1800s, there were only two polls in Cape Breton, Sydney and Arichat. The election of 1830 was eventful to say the least. A large crowd of Irish Newfoundland fishermen, wanting to support an Irish candidate, demanded the right to vote although they were not entitled. An equally large group of Highland Scots, who had traveled perhaps days to exercise their franchise, challenged the Newfoundlanders. A brawl ensued in which 50 men were wounded and three were killed.
Perhaps the most notorious event in the history of the dispensation of justice in Arichat was a murder case in which a Mr. MacRae of St. George’s Channel allegedly shot Mr. Pringle. Although the circumstances of the trial are sketchy, MacRae was acquitted of the charge of first-degree murder.
In 1905 a 27-year-old native of Arichat who worked in a brickyard in Newton, Massachusetts decided to run the Boston Marathon. The Thursday, April 20, 1905 edition of the Boston Daily Gazette refers to J. Martell as, “a Newton lad” who was encouraged not to attempt the race since he had never run such a distance before.
However, Joe Martell, father of Leo and Francis Martell of Arichat, not only attempted the distance but completed it, coming in 32nd, no mean feat considering the caliber of that competition and the fact that Joe’s shoes gave out on him and he ran the last five miles bare foot. Mr. Martell’s family received a medal recognizing their father’s achievement.