Across the pond with Rex Wailes: Halifax

October 08th 2019 by Nathanael Hodge

Part 4 of a weekly series of blogs about Rex Wailes' 1929 trip to the USA and Canada.
Poster Image

Georges Island, Halifax Harbour

Monday 6.5.29. In Boston Harbour.

On Thursday and Friday we entered and passed through the Grand Bank of Newfoundland fishing ground. Unfortunately, there was a thick fog and we saw but one fishing vessel. Still more unfortunately, our speed was very much reduced and we crawled along with 30 sec. interval blasts on the "ships whistle" as they call the syren. It was very cold and damp, and I believe that water temperature was 33° F.

Two icebergs were seen at 5.45 & 6.15 on Thursday - I was asleep. On the night of Thursday - Friday the fog was so bad that the boat hove to for some hours.

On Friday we had another Whist Drive, not so well supported, but shorter and much dancing afterwards. We danced to the electric reproducer.

Saturday was clear but cold and we made better time. They had more games in the evening, which I escaped, but was hauled down later to dance.

I talked a great deal to Spaull and his friend Wall, who owns a fruit farm. It is about 70 miles inland from Halifax, and the country resembles Devon. We got into Halifax harbour at 6.40 on Sunday morning - corrected time - I should mention here that our clocks are at present 6 hours slow on G.M.T.

Georges Island. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Thparkth [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Nova Scotia is well named. The harbour is very reminiscent of Scotland the country being bleak and with conifers only shewing. It has a narrow entrance and then widens out with one or two inlets at each side. It then narrows down to where the docks are situated and there is an island looking for all the world like a toy one - round, steep, flat-topped, terraced and green brown in colour, with one or two little box like houses and a very dumpy lighthouse. I was told that it is a munitions store.

Dartmouth Sugar Refinery

Across the harbour is Dartmouth. This seemed to consist of a large brewery (although N. S. is dry) and an oil refinery together with a number of scattered shacks, all of wood, bungalow type, with low pitched roofs, some of which had pink asbestos tiles - not beautiful.

At the quays there is first of all a large coaling station and then a grain quay with two elevators for grain, one incomplete. We tied up here. The whole thing was empty. I was told by Wall that it was largely a political enterprise, and that Halifax peoples one idea was to make Halifax a grain port. 

We had to unship (among other things) 250 tons of onions so I went to the Purser's office and got a shore pass, after being cautioned to "keep it dark" (as a third Tourist) although about one third of the other 3rd tourists had already got them. I was told that the ship sailed at 3 p.m. so was only out for an hour, and she didn't sail until 6.15. Why, I couldn't say, as all the cargo was unloaded.

The "Samson", now preserved at the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry

I had to walk through the tranship sheds and the Canadian National Railways Depot. Here, under cover were two old Lows - one "Samson" by Timothy Hackworth, 1838, front fired, 0.6.0 with two vertical cylinders driving the rear pair of coupled wheels. The other "Albion" no makers plate 5.6.0. rear fixed, with two cylinders inclined at about 60o at the forward end, driving the middle pair of coupled wheels. I should say that it dates from the 40s not later and probably not earlier, unless it has been much altered. I could get no particulars so tried to take two time exposures, and shall write to the Canadian National Railways if Mr. Dickinson can't tell me anything. I've sent him the above particulars.

Halifax, 1931

Halifax struck me as a very dirty town; roads are bad, cobbled in the centre for teams, and very cut-up, probably by frost. The trams are 4-wheel single decker affairs with a front entrance and the driver is paid as you go out. They have Westinghouse brakes. Telephone and electric light cables are run all over the streets and the fronts of the houses. There is very little pleasing architecture. I saw two nice banks, a large government building in stone with the Royal Arms over the pediment, date about 1760, and a nice private house in its own grounds of similar date - thats all. Bicyles in the streets seemed to be weird and wonderful. One had a chop frame like a motor cycle, and another had the handle bar grips sticking up vertically at right angles to the bars.

Two tugs nosed us into harbour and nearly got left behind when we started backing out under our own power. They came racing up emitting volumes of black smoke as though terrified of losing the job. We had fog in the night, but a fine day to-day. However, the fog delayed and we didn't reach the harbour until 10.30 p.m. and here we are anchored, with the lights of Boston winking at us over the water.

First entry Previous entry Next entry