The Story of The Acadian Bells:
In Pubnico

Article No: 65

The Story of The Acadian Bells:
In Pubnico

With regard to the monastary [sic] that I told you about in sketch No. 60, built alongside of Fort Saint Louis, in Villagedale, Shelburne County, we do not have any information as to a bell that might have been here, not more than what we have regarding the one which could have been at Fort Sainte Marie, at the mouth of the St. John River, N.B. that I mentioned in sketch No. 63.

As to the five churches or chapels erected before the Expulsion in what was known then as Cape Sable (now Shelbrune and Yarmouth Counties), there are no records of any bells here neither. Nevertheless, for a long time after the Expulsion, it was said that the church in East Pubnico located on that beautiful knoll north of Hipson's or Larkin's Brook, with the cemetery and the d'Entremont Manor House at its feet, had its bell, which would have been hidden at the time of the Expulsion in an island nearby. This island has been known ever since as "L'Ile-a-Hucher", the word "hucher" being an old Acadian word meaning "to shout"; one could shout from the shore to the island, a distance of a little over 75 yards, and make himself understood. There has been a lot of digging on that island along the years, but to no avail.

I profit of the occasion to give you herewith what I have in my notes with regard to the bells of the Acadian churches of Pubnico, even though they are much more recent.

The parish of the Immaculate Conception in East Pubnico was founded in 1879, as a mission of St. Peter's parish in West Pubnico. It was then that the church was built; it will be enlarged in 1918 by Father Bourneuf (later on Monsignor). It became a parish in 1910, when it received its first pastor. Up to then, it was under the care of the pastor of West Pubnico.

There used to be in the sacristy of the church a missal dated in 1886, in which was hand-written, on its first page, the following: Presented to the church of the Immaculate Conception, East Pubnico, by the young men, April 10, 1887. The bell was blessed this day." Follow these names "W.B. Hamilton, asst. Priest - William McLeod, P.P. - C.O'Brien." This last one was Archbishop Cornelius O'Brien[*], of Halifax, who was at the time in southwestern Nova Scotia administering the Sacrament of Confirmation. It goes without saying that he is the one who blessed the bell. Father William B. Hamilton was Assistant priest in Yarmouth. William McLeod, P.P., stands for Parish Priest, whose last entry in the church registers is dated just a couple of months later, viz., June 19.

That is all that we know about the story of this bell, which is still in the belfry of the Immaculate Conception church in East Pubnico.

With regard to St. Peter's parish in West Pubnico, we know of two bells. In the church registers, Archbishop William Walsh of Halifax wrote on Monday, June 13, 1853: "I, the undersigned, arrived at St. Pierre to hold my Visitation. Was received processionally by the Clergy and the People. Gave them my Benediction in Church and made a short address in French. Same evening blessed the New Bell, under the name of St. Paul, assisted by Rev. ... (are given here the name of six priests) ... according to the rite of the Roman Pontifical", which is the book of prayers and blessing reserved for the Bishop. This was rather a small bell, with a base of 20 inches in diameter and a height of 16 inches. Its tone was that of a "B" in the scale of C major.

This was at the time when the second church in West Pubnico was in use, built in 1840. It was located in Lower West Pubnico, in the "Old Cemetery". The bell was placed in the belfry, where it was to stay till 1892, when it was taken to the new church, the one now in use.

Eyewitnesses have left us an account of how it was taken down from the belfry and carried to the new church. Using an "old rope", it was lowered in the interior of the church first down to the gallery where was the harmonium and then to the floor in the middle of the center aisle. It seems that on account of the "old rope" which was being used, everybody was afraid that it would break, except, maybe, Father Sullivan, the pastor, who kept on crying: "Laissez-la venir! Laissez-la venir!" (Let it come! Let it come!)

Two men took it to the new church by oxen. All the way, between the old church and the new church, they kept on ringing the bell.

In 1923, the parish of West Pubnico acquired a new bell. This was at the time that Father Daly Comeau (later Monsignor) was pastor. It came from the Paccard Brothers of Montreal. It is called a "Pacard Retro Lancee"; by this expression is meant that the hammer of the bell acts like a lever, having a heavy weight at the end opposite of the striking head, each side of what is called in Physics, the "fulcrum," that is the support about which the hammer swings; thus, when the bell is put into action, the hammer, instead of striking the bottom of the bell, strikes the top. It has the advantage of prolonging the sound, the bell itself acting as a megaphone.

It weighs between 900 and 1000 lbs. It bears the following latin words: Santa Maria Ora Pro Nobis (Holy Mary pray for us)--Nativitas Tua Gaudium Annuntiavit Universo Mundo (your birth has announced joy to the entire world--Me Fecerunt Fratres Paccard Ad Annectum (The Brothers Paccard made me for the purpose of convocating).

It was blessed on a Sunday in August, 1923, by Monsignor Cote, pastor of Meteghan. It had been placed in the sancturay (not in the entrance of the church, as it has been written) between the open gates of the Communion rail. The godfather and godmother were Mr. and Mrs. Raymond d'Entremont, better known as "P'tit Willie", son of Vincent, who was the only casualty of the West Pubnico soldiers during the First World War.

After Mass, everybody came along and pulled on the rope, which was tied to the hammer, to ting the bell, and then deposited an offering in a collection box. Mr. E.K. Spinney, merchant, of Yarmouth, put a five dollar bill in the box, which was at the time such a large amount of money that it became "the talk of the town."

There is no account of the way that this heavy bell was hoisted to the belfry. It could be heard from one end of the parish to the other which was again, "the talk of the town."

With regard to the small bell which had served in the new church for some 30 years, it was taken to St. Alphonse, Digby County, then known as Cheticamp, where Msgr. Cote [sic] was just in the process of building the church for this section of his parish, where it has been ever since.

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