RNSHS Annual Dinner and Lecture – Wednesday, 16 April 2014

RNSHS_April Lecture

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NOTE: This event has now sold out and no further tickets will be available.

Thomas Raddall and the ‘Jolly Millionaire’ Leo Koretz: A Young Author, A Fugitive Chicago Swindler and Nova Scotia’s Dazzling Summer of 1924

Dean Jobb, Associate Professor and Associate Director
School of Journalism, University of King’s College, Halifax


Thomas Raddall, the acclaimed author of popular histories and historical novels, was a young bookkeeper in Liverpool, N.S., in the summer of 1924 when he befriended a wealthy American newcomer. Lou Keyte was a mysterious figure who hosted lavish parties at his secluded Queen’s County estate and became a fixture of Halifax’s social scene. Raddall dubbed him the “jolly millionaire” and was as shocked as anyone when Keyte was arrested and exposed as Leo Koretz, a notorious swindler wanted in Chicago for promoting a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme. It’s a saga of Prohibition-era glitz and glamour that Raddall, the master storyteller, kept mostly to himself.

Click here for a bio of Dean Jobb.


6:00 pm Cash Bar (featuring local beers and wines)
6:30 pm Dinner – Annual Nova Scotian History Quiz
7:30 pm Lecture

Tickets for this event must be purchased by Friday, 11 April 2014. Seating for this event is limited. To reserve tickets please print and complete a copy of the reservation form available below, and then mail it along with a cheque (made payable to the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society), to the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, PO Box 2622, Halifax, NS B3J 3P7.  Please be sure to phone or e-mail the Society about your plans to attend the dinner meeting, using the contact information in the reservation form.



Afua Cooper – “The political education and revolutionary consciousness of the Black Loyalists.”

Extracts from the lecture meeting minutes of January 15th, 2014 at which the speaker, Dr Afua Cooper, spoke about the political culture of the Black Loyalists as manifested in the actions of the Sierre Leone colonists.


James Morrision, the Vice President of program, introduced the evening’s speaker Dr Afua Cooper the occupant of the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Studies at Dalhousie University. Dr. Cooper’s book on slave life in Montreal, based on evidence of the trial of Angelique in 1734, attracted a Governor General’s award and her contemporary poetry has received critical acclaim.  Her lecture was titled “The political education and revolutionary consciousness of the Black Loyalists.”

She situated her lecture in a growing body of literature on Black Loyalists who asserted their agency in the determination of their future. In contrast to being passive fellow travelers on much of the same journey as the non-Black refugees from the Revolution this new literature asserts that Black Loyalists were agents of their own change and actively sought their freedom and the changes it would mean to their communities. From her own casual encounter with George Liele’s Baptist Church in Jamaica at a time before realizing his life path to the work of Cassandra Pybus in situating Black Loyalists in uprisings at Botany Bay in Australia there is a pattern of Black Loyalists continuing the radical consciousness that many associate with the American Revolution into their new situations.

This radical consciousness was also cradled in the heightened religious expression of Black churches which bloomed in this period. The Christian message delivered through the growing number of Black preachers became a call for recognition and equality whether delivered through a sermon at church or petitions conveying grievances to colonial governors. Additionally the demographic profile of the Black Loyalists was such that nearly half of those arriving in Nova Scotia had experienced freedom and self-determination in Africa during their life before Nova Scotia.

She then followed the Sierra Leone migration from Nova Scotia to Africa in which the popular historical narrative is that Abolitionist John Clarkson sought to create a free colony of Blacks under the British Flag in the home port of the slave trade. Yet in the colony of Clarkson under the corporate world of the Sierra Leone Company the lives of those who were now free on paper was one in which their freedoms were fleeting. With little land, less political say and a commercial colony the situation didn’t really seem much better.

Dr Cooper went on to argue that the truer keepers of the what we see now as the ideals of the French and American revolutions were not the shopkeepers of Boston who marched against the garrison at Bunker Hill, or the rising middle class of France but the Black Nova Scotians of Sierre Leone, half of whom were born in Africa, who carried the ideals of religious freedom, political self determination and economic equality into their uprising against the Sierre Leone company.

In declaring themselves free men and women and the rightful proprietors of the colony they also declared themselves not subject to the laws of Britain and were labelled as Jacobites by noted abolitionist William Wilberforce. Although ultimately not successful in their revolution Dr Cooper rooted the evolution of their ideals in their values of pre-slave Africa and the effect of the Christian gospel as voiced by African native preachers.

Following a period of discussion the speaker was thanked by the president and the meeting adjourned to refreshments.

Full minutes: Lecture Meeting – January 15, 2014

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 19 March 2014


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Highland Shepherd: Rev. James MacGregor, 1759-1831

Dr. Alan Wilson, Professor Emeritus, Trent University

7:30 pm, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue


A review of MacGregor as missionary, ecclesiastical statesman, Gaelic authority and poet, agent of the Enlightenment  in the  Scottish  diaspora, and influential Improver in science, technology, industry, agriculture and education in the Maritime Provinces.

 Click here for a bio of Dr. Alan Wilson.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 19 February 2014


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The Loyalist Plantation: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Informing Early African-Nova Scotian Settlement

Dr. Catherine Cottreau-Robbins, Nova Scotia Museum

7:30 pm, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue


At the close of the American Revolution thousands of American Loyalists were forced into exile and made their way to British colonies beyond the United States. Most of the Loyalists landed in British North America, particularly the Maritimes. The research presented is a study of the Loyalists. Specifically, it explores a Loyalist and his journey from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia along with his family and servants, including enslaved Black Loyalists. A central objective of the research is to illuminate the story of the enslaved and magnify their place in Nova Scotia’s colonial history narrative. The objective is addressed by adapting a holistic perspective that considers a single geography – the plantation. The holistic perspective, developed through an interdisciplinary methodology, explores the people, places and culture that formed the Loyalist plantation and were informed by it. The picture that emerges is one that puts into place the structure and organization of a Loyalist plantation in the late eighteenth century Atlantic northeast. When mapped, the historical data compiled provides clues to a wider and deeper landscape of slavery in Nova Scotia’s Loyalist era.

Click here for a bio of Catherine Cottreau-Robbins.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Click to download Lecture Poster

The Political Education and Revolutionary Consciousness of the Black Loyalists

Dr. Afua Cooper, Dalhousie University

7:30 pm, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue


In 1800, the Black Loyalist Nova Scotians who had been living in Freetown, Sierra Leone for eight years, rose up in rebellion against the Sierra Leone Company, rulers of the nascent colony. These settlers had fled Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone in search of full freedom and independence. Eventually, the frustrations, disappointments, and bitterness experienced by the Black Loyalists reached the boiling point, and they moved to overthrow the colonial government and white rule as represented by the Company.

What would impel the settler to engage in such a radical action as rebellion? Why did they feel so empowered to launch their protests? And why, from the moment of their arrival in Sierra Leone, they behaved as if it was their colony and they had every right to determine how it should run? What were the forces that shaped the consciousness of those settlers that made them take up arms against the Company, and were willing to die for their freedom?

The Black Loyalists are important because they embodied perhaps, one of the earliest collective examples of a transnational and Pan African consciousness and subjectivity. They were instrumental in originating and creating a Black Atlantic revolutionary tradition. However, this aspect of their history, i.e. the creation of a revolutionary consciousness and identity, has been overlooked by historians who have delved into the Black Loyalists experience.

Click here for a bio of Dr. Afua Cooper.


RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Click to download Lecture Poster

Acadian Cemeteries in Nova Scotia:

Changing Cultural Landscapes

Dr. Sally Ross, Independent Scholar


Cemeteries are sacred places of remembrance and commemoration, but they also bear witness to changing values and beliefs. As cultural landscapes shaped by people, they reflect many aspects of their communities, ranging from social stratification to linguistic assimilation. Based on her 2003 field research in 60 post-Deportation Acadian cemeteries in the eight different Acadian regions of Nova Scotia, Sally Ross will illustrate the regional specificities and the shifting iconography that characterize these landscapes.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. Sally Ross.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 20 November 2013


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“No paleolithic is he, but braw Canadian Scotch”: Cape Breton’s Giant MacAskill

Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, St. Francis Xavier University


The 150th anniversary of the Giant MacAskill’s death invites a reassessment of his career and the elaborate mythology which his physical prowess and size have generated. In the heyday of the freak show, the celebrated Cape Bretoner, attired in Highland costume, joined the exhibition circuit, entertaining audiences from Halifax to Havana in a combined performance of ethnicity and physical anomaly. Even in death, the Giant did not leave the world of the sideshow behind. In his transformation from monster to marvel to marketing device, he has proved a versatile muse for writers, cartoonists, entrepreneurs, politicians, and tourist policy makers who have exploited his potential as an heroic spectacle of superior size and brawn, and as an icon of Scottish physical strength.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 16 October 2013

October 16

“Nova Scotia soldier pensioners in their British Imperial context, 1812-1827″

Dr. William R. Miles, Memorial University & Dr. Michael E. Vance, Saint Mary’s University.


The Napoleonic Wars produced a mass mobilization that touched every community in the British Isles. Indeed, the scale of the mobilization was not surpassed until WWI and, as with the later twentieth-century conflict, the settlement of veteran soldiers in the Empire was viewed by many as a means to forestall potential unrest following demobilization at the end of hostilities (Cookson:1997; Fedorowich: 1995). Our paper is based on the examination of the War Office Registers that identified British Soldiers receiving their pensions in the colonies in the post-Napoleonic period. These records provide details of military service, occupation prior to recruitment, and the community of origin as well as the colony of settlement – including Nova Scotia. In the 1930s J.S. Martell made use of Colonial Office and newspaper records to itemize the various soldier settlements founded in Nova Scotia after 1812. Using the War Office records, our paper will build on this earlier work by providing particular histories of a few individual soldiers who were located in the Nova Scotia settlements. British soldier pensioners were found in the West Indies, the Cape Colony, and New South Wales as well as British North America and, as a consequence, our paper will also examine the Nova Scotia settlements within this larger imperial context.

Our research has lead us to two broad conclusions. First, that military service records are an under used source for both the social history of the army and the history of migration from the British Isles. We would argue that this is in part a reflection of the historiography of the military which has tended to focus on battles and campaigns rather than on the army as a social institution and migration studies which have too often artificially separated soldiers from emigrants. Second, that colonial settlements within the British Empire, such as those in Nova Scotia, were often inter-connected in surprising ways. Soldiers who were recruited in the same regions of the British Isles ended up settling in widely dispersed areas of the Empire and we would argue that this fact greatly contributed to the flow of information on the range of potential emigrant destinations back to the homeland and, indeed, between colonies.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. William R. Miles & Dr. Michael E. Vance.

Public Lecture – Wednesday, 18 September 2013

RNSHS_Lecture_18Sept2013“In the Balance: Atlantic Canada and the Legacy of the Peace of Utrecht”

Dr. Elizabeth Mancke, Canada Research Chair, University of New Brunswick

With panel responses by Dr. Kenneth Donovan, Dr. James Hiller and Anne Marie Lane Jonah


An Open Academy presentation sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada, in partnership with the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and the Gorsebrook Research Institute of Saint Mary’s University.


The 1713 treaties of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), embedded the idea in European international relations that peace and stability could be attained through the “balance of power” among the various antagonists.  Concessions were exacted, territories exchanged, promises made.  The scholarly literature emphasizes balancing within Europe, but many of the territories exchanged were in the extra-European world, including Acadia/Nova Scotia and the French concession that Britain held sovereignty over Newfoundland, albeit with important fishing privileges extended to France and Spain.  This talk will analyze how overseas territory became important to the European balance of power, with particular attention to the Atlantic region of Canada.

The 27th Annual Phyllis R. Blakeley Memorial Lecture is a joint lecture with the Royal Society of Canada, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and the Gorsebrook Research Institute of Saint Mary’s University. The Phyllis R. Blakeley lecture is named in memory of the late Provincial Archivist of Nova Scotia who was remembered for her contributions to local history, as a writer in her own right, and also as an archivist, a facilitator of research and a mentor, reader and advisor to many historians.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. Elizabeth Mancke.

The Life and Career of M. Lillian Burke, 1880-1852

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

“The Life and Career of M. Lillian Burke, 1880-1852”.

E. M. Langille, St. Francis Xavier University

Dr. Edward Langille, originally from Truro, teaches in the literature and philosophy of France area of the Modern Languages Department at St. Francis Xavier University and has been recognized as  a Chevalier in the L’Order des Palmes Academiques and also in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France.

A few years ago in a New Glasgow antique store Langille came across drawings which interested him, and upon research he discovered that they were from a museum in the Margaree Valley that had closed and whose collection had been dispersed.  The clue “return to Madame Winnie Aucoin” scrawled on the back of most of the drawings started Dr Langille on the hunt and his subsequent discovery that these were the drawings that acted as templates for hooked rugs produced in Cheticamp.

The original owner of the drawings was Lillian Burke.  Born in Washington in 1880, Burke attended Normal School in Washington.  Her connection with the Bell family began as a tutor to some of the grand-children of Alexander Graham Bell  and continued for many years.  Eventually she was included amongst those who worked for the family and who also made the trip to Baddeck.  She also had some training as an artist and in 1917 was employed in Europe as a reconstruction aide teaching handcrafts to injured soldiers as part of their rehabilitation.  Despite employment elsewhere her connection with the Bell family endured and indeed her studio was situated within their Washington home.

Mabel Hubbard Bell had attempted to enrich the economy of the women of rural Cape Breton through the organized manufacture and sale of hand crafted goods. In 1927, Lillian Burke was encouraged by Mabel’s daughter, Marian Fairchild, to continue this work with a focus on rug making.   Lillian Burke made patterns and found agents and rug makers to make them in Cheticamp.  She then marketed the products in New York and did so successfully for a number of years until 1940.  The demise of her connection to the industry may have been related both to the shortage of burlap which was a fundamental input to the rugs as well as to competition in the Cheticamp area as others attempted to duplicate her business model.

Langille then traced her to working in activities at a mental hospital in New York where she continued to be until her death in 1952.  That she was working so late into her life was suggestive that although she profited from the industry the profits were not that great.  In all Langille was able to construct a remarkable biographical narrative for a person who appears to have left few if any records and whose activities were unknown to her still living nephews.