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Retired New Glasgow teacher tells story of Halifax Explosion through historical fiction for youth

Lynn MacLean holds a copy of her book, A Helping Hand, a historical fiction book for youth which tells of the Halifax Explosion and New Glasgow’s response.
Lynn MacLean holds a copy of her book, A Helping Hand, a historical fiction book for youth which tells of the Halifax Explosion and New Glasgow’s response. - Adam MacInnis

NEW GLASGOW, N.S.

After years of teaching in a classroom, Lynn MacLean is pretty familiar with how to impart knowledge to a younger generation.
However, she believes there’s no better way to create interest in the past for youth than through historical fiction.
That’s part of the reason she wrote her book, A Helping Hand. The story is set in New Glasgow and describes the community’s effort to help out after the Halifax Explosion on Dec. 6, 1917.
“The train of doctors and nurses left hear almost immediately after the explosion and went right into the city and spent a few days there and then came back with 73 wounded patients on the train again,” MacLean said.
The patients were set up in the former school that was on Willow Street on the Westside of New Glasgow, MacLean said. Of the wounded, 14 were children.
"They were cared for by the community. It was an amazing story. They all chipped in,” she said. "They provided presents and Christmas trees."
The book tells of the massive scale of the explosion and what first responders would have seen, but also tells of how the province came together to help Halifax heal. The story is primarily told through the eyes of two nurses from Pictou County who are involved shortly after the explosion. It tells of the people they meet, including an injured child, as well as a dog.
“It’s a feel-good kind of story,” MacLean said. “It’s based on true fact. There are real characters from the time in the story. But there are also fictional characters who the stories weave through them.”
MacLean had initially hoped to have her book published in time for the 100th anniversary of the explosion last year but delays in publication made her miss the mark by a few months. That hasn’t diminished interest in the book though, and she’s already had to do a second printing to keep up with demand.
MacLean is thankful for the support she’s already received. Copies of the book will be available at Coles at the Highland Square Mall, the Aberdeen Hospital gift shop, the town hall in New Glasgow and the Willow Apartments, site of the school where the patients had been housed.
“It’s been quite a satisfying process from beginning to end,” she said.
MacLean is now working on a second book with some of the same characters from A Helping Hand. It will tell the story of the Llandovery Castle which was sunk in 1918. She said it will be aimed at a slightly older audience than the Halifax Explosion book is.

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