St John’s Landing
Sunday, April 14
7:30 pm - 9:15 pm
St John’s Landing is an event which celebrates the arrival of the Albion at St. John’s (now Saint John). The evening explores through poetry, paintings and song what it would have felt like for the Welsh families after their 90 day journey at sea. The Penfro Poets will perform especially commissioned poems. Local artists Carol and Mike Francis will discuss imagined sketches and paintings of the scene that would have greeted them. And the Blaenporth Male Voice Choir will sing some of the songs and hymns that would have been familiar to the settlers
Janet Thomas of St John’s and a descendant of one of the immigrant families writes……….
The story of the voyage can be read in the Ballad of the Albion, available on-line. Essentially it was more than 60 days of bad weather with a few deaths, so the settlers, I’m sure were thankful to arrive in Saint John. In fact, they were so thankful that the first thing they did was to hold a church service at the local Presbyterian church.
I have a picture in my head of what it must have been like as they disembarked in Saint John. At that time Saint John was one of the two or three busiest ports in the north-east of North America. The city of around 6,000 souls was settled in the mud-1780’s by the Loyalists (refugees from the US as a result of the War of Independence, many were well-educated, wealthy ruling class). The Loyalists were followed by many British emigrants who established a thriving merchant class, many were Scotsmen. In 1819 more than 600 ships would arrive and depart. More than 7,000 emigrants would arrive in Saint John that year as well, more than half were Irish. The timber trade was booming and Saint John was well on its way to being one of the world’s largest shipbuilding ports. So imagine the chaos on the wharves when the Albion arrived!
Add to the chaos of a busy port the arrival of three transport ships carrying the disbanded soldiers of the Royal West India Rangers. Many of these soldiers did not intend to stay in New Brunswick so they had a rip-roaring time spending their final pay packets in the pubs of Saint John.
So I have this picture of my 4Xgreat grandparents stepping off the Albion in the midst of all this chaos, with their odd apparel, Welsh language and few belongings. And with no idea about what was next.
They got lucky as the new Surveyor General of New Brunswick, appointed by the Crown, had just arrived. He was not the choice of the powers-that-be in Fredericton so he must have decided that he would curry favour by championing the cause of the Welsh settlers who seemed to be sober and industrious people. Thus, 150 settlers moved upriver to Fredericton.
I have another vision of my greats arriving in Fredericton. Even today it is known as having a somewhat snobbish population, being the centre of government and university. In 1819 there were less than 2,000 souls in Fredericton, most of whom were Loyalists – well-educated, wealthy, Anglican and English. Imagine how the Welsh families must have felt living in that environment!
The land they were ‘located’ on was 25 km outside the city in the wilderness. The ‘road’ ran up the the first lots in the Cardigan settlement and thereafter was a mere foot track through the forest. The task of clearing their land must have seemed an impossible to the settlers who had lived on land in Wales that had been settled for thousands of years. And by the accounts in the Royal Gazette, the local newspaper, they were totally unprepared for it.