Betsey Days will be celebrated again

Published on May 28, 2014
Lisa Bungay, far left, and Tori Kennedy, right, used Betsey Days, organized by Brenda Vohs, left, as a chance to teach their Grade 3 students more about local history. They drew depictions of the ship and wrote a journal entry from the viewpoint of a passenger.

Before the Hector, there was Betsey, sailing into Lyons Brook from Philadelphia, containing the first English-speaking settlers in Pictou County in 1767.

The history of the area, beginning from those 35 passengers, is coming alive again with a celebration June 7 and 8.

Betsey Days was last held close to two decades ago, Brenda Vohs said, a historical and spirited event she’d like to see revitalized.

“It just went to sleep,” the Lyons Brook organizer said, adding that it was a lively event complete with era clothing.

 Now that time has passed and new generations have been introduced to the community, she wants to make sure they know the history of their home.

“To me, I think it’s important kids know the history of where they live,” she said.

She approached West Pictou Consolidated School for their involvement.

They were asked to draw depictions of Betsey from a poster, and contributed journal entries as though they were passengers on the brig, a suggestion from a few of the students.

Grade 3 teacher Tori Kennedy said it helped to teach them empathy.

“It helped us make that link to our curriculum.”

Kennedy and Lisa Bungay, another Grade 3 teacher, said they’ve been reading all genres of text, and this helped them to experiment.

Their students were fascinated by the boat, they said, asking questions about its size, and how it made it into the harbor.

They often study the history of Nova Scotia, but this allows a closer look at the Northumberland region.

“That was important to them,” Kennedy said.

For inspiration, they listened to a Dave Gunning song about the Betsey, “The Family Name,” containing lines from a journal entry of the passengers.

A 48-page handbook called “The History of Lyons Brook: Then and Now” from 1992 chronicles the arrival and settlement.

It left Philadelphia at the end of May, stopping in Halifax on June 3, before reaching the Pictou Harbour on June 10.

Vohs believes the younger generation may not know the story of the community, prompting her to re-start the event.

It’s in honour of her late friend, Ester Beck.

“It was my time to give back to the community,” she said, adding that although it may be corny, it’s the truth.

She’s also trying to gather stories, pictures and other memorabilia relating to the Betsey as well as volunteers, and invites people to contact her at Pipers Landing Restaurant.

She notes that the Women’s Institute has tried to keep the history alive with a small monument of the ship, one that is in the process of relocating.

The weekend-long celebration includes a scavenger hunt, demonstrations and information sessions, a display from West Pictou students, music, food and more – taking place at Pipers Landing Restaurant from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on June 7, and 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on June 8.

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda