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Local writer’s book depicts New Glasgow’s help after Halifax Explosion

Lynn MacLean looks over a manuscript of her book, A Helping Hand, which is based on the historical events of New Glasgow’s aid to Halifax after the Halifax Explosion on Dec. 6, 1917.
Lynn MacLean looks over a manuscript of her book, A Helping Hand, which is based on the historical events of New Glasgow’s aid to Halifax after the Halifax Explosion on Dec. 6, 1917.

A former New Glasgow educator hopes a book she’ll be publishing in the new year will provide a fresh look at the Halifax Explosion for Pictou County youth.

Lynn MacLean has finished a draft of her book, A Helping Hand. Initially she had hoped to have it published in time for the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion this week, but some delays have held it up. She hopes she’ll be able to publish it in early 2018 however.

The story she tells is historical fiction and is aimed for youth between the ages of 9 and 12. The story will be based on the aid provided by New Glasgow in the aftermath of the explosion.

“I took the story with the facts and then added to that some fictional characters and created a story around it about two nurses who travelled to Halifax with this group and came back with patients,” MacLean said. “Of course relationships were formed with patients and there’s a little story line that weaves through about finding a missing relative and meeting a family where a little boy was blinded by glass in the explosion. It’s a fictional story but based on the facts.”

The final product will be about 40 pages.

“It’s perfect for kids who don’t want to read a gigantic book,” she said.

Some historical items she’ll include are bits about the Aberdeen school of nursing which was started in the late 1800s.

The book also includes information about the efforts to organize aid in New Glasgow and to transport the nurses and doctors by train.

Some of the story will have the former Willow Street School as a setting.

The school was built around 1914, so was just a few years old when the explosion happened. The 12 classrooms were quickly converted to a hospital.

“Within a couple days they had taken desks out. Everybody in the community chipped in,” MacLean said. “They set up wards with cots. People donated bedding and clothing and they set up a kitchen in the basement of the school so they could provide meals.”

MacLean said she’ll probably donate a few books to each of the elementary schools in hopes of making the history come alive for students.

“I hope that they will realize there’s some very interesting local history,” she said. “I think it’s nice to have female characters portrayed too playing an important part.”

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