CHEMIN DU ROY
TWO SMALL TOWNS
Next town down the line is the town of Lavaltrie and even though it isn't rated in any guide book or literature that I have ever seen, we will have to stop here for a wander around.
That's because this is the seond stop of the diligences or stage-coaches that plied the Chemin du Roy between Montreal and Québec.
Personally, I think that the view of the town looking back towards Montreal is rather quaint. It certainly has a much-more-rustic appearance than, say, Repentigny and you can tell that we are starting to leave sprawling urbanism behind.
A short way further on down the road there is a handy place to stop and park, and another view from here westwards towards Montreal, the direction from which I have been driving, really is quite picturesque.
So while you are busy digesting that, I'll wander off and see what I can find out about the town.
As I mentioned earlier, by the way, you will have to become accustomed to the sight of overhead power cables and the like interrupting the views and the beautiful scenery. I just don't understand why it is that Québec Hydro, the local electricity company, doesn't go for underground cabling. Even I have installed all my cabling underground, and I'm hardly in the forefront of modern technology.
The view looking eastwards towards Québec is also quite attractive, so while you are busy digesting this view, I'll tell you what I have discovered about the place.
During the parcelling out of the land along the St Lawrence, a strip of land measuring one and a half leagues on the riverfront was ceded to a certain lieutenant in the French army, one Séraphin Margane de Lavaltrie. He was an officer in the famous regiment of Carignan-Salières which following their successes in battle in Europe had been sent to Nouvelle France in 1665 to "wreak havoc amongst the Iroquois villages".
As a reward for their efforts, many members of the regiment remained behind instead of returning to France, and these were settled at strategic points along the St Lawrence to safeguard the approaches to Montreal and to prevent the Iroquois from returning.
Two years later, two and a half leagues of depth back from the riverfront was added to this concession, and three "colonists" settled here.
They were not impressed by the land that they were given here. "It's just a load of old swampland covered in pines and all sorts of other trees" was how one person described it. Nevertheless, by 1681 there were 44 people living here, whether by natural increase (there wasn't much else to do in the winter in the days before television and ice-hockey) or by immigration we are not told, although one family is said to have ended up with 11 children and that is nothing like an extraordinary number of offspring for an early Québecois family. Double figures was in many respects the norm.
Another family here, by the name of Riel, had 14 children and one of his descendants has another claim to fame. We'll discuss this in a minute, as well as making a remark about just how the ordinary run-of-the-mill way of life can throw up some most astonishing coincidences.
While you are admiring the local sports and recreation field I can tell you a little more about the town. In fact, in the beginning there was no town at all. There was what would have been the manor house, of course, and also a chapel that was built in 1715 (replaced by a church in 1772) by the missionaries of the Recollet Order and dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. These were situated a mile or two further west around the mouth of the Riviére St Jean.
There was no village as such, but eventually some kind of settlement was created around the manor house and the chapel.
This is not the church of 1772 by the way, as you can probably tell just by looking at it. We'll be talking, and at great length too ... "groan" - ed ... in due course about the most common form of damage to property in Eastern Canada, but what happened here in 1865 was something else that was a regular occurrence along the banks of the St Lawrence.
In 1865 there was a disastrous flood all around this part of the St Lawrence and the church and village site were in great danger of being swept away, either in the flood or by a huge landslip that was building up. As a result, the village was builf further away from the danger zone and on a terrace higher above the river.
It was also necessary to divert the Chemin du Roy higher up the bank, and this is a problem with which we are going to be faced throughout our journey. Much of the original route has been lost to coastal erosion and so following in the footsteps of the original 18th Century travellers is well-nigh impossible.
We were going to talk about famous people from Lavaltrie and, believe me, there are more than just a few. But in the most extraordinary of extraordinary coincidences, while our hero from up the road a little at St Sulpice, Albert Lacombe, was busy trying to keep the peace during the Métis rebellion, the Métis were being led onto the warpath by a certain Louis Riel, desecendant of the Riel family above.
We should also mention François-Marie Margane de Batilly, son of Séraphin Margane de Lavaltrie. He was an ensign in the army of Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville and was one of only three French soldiers killed in the attack that wiped out the British settlement of Deerfield in Massachusetts on 28th February 1704.
There's also a well-known Québecois fairy tale concerning a flying canoe, and that story is set amongst the lumberjacks of Lavaltrie.
If you were with me in 2012 you will recall the discovery of John Scotti's garage in Repentigny . It was closed when I went past in 2013, and so I was wondering how long it would be before I was able to present to you a photo of an old car. It wasn't long, was it?
Here, somewhere between Lavaltrie and Lanoraie, I stumble across a 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe. It's for sale and the owner is asking $10,500 for it.
As you can see, the interior has been almost completely refurbished and whoever has done that work has done a really nice job, make no mistake.
The car looks really lovely from a distance, but when you are standing right next to it and you take a really close look, you can see that the bodywork has merely had what is called in the trade a "flash-over" job, if you want my opinion.
Looking closely at all of the usual water-traps I can see tiny spots of rust slowly bubbling away underneath the paintwork and I don't think that it will be very long before they break through to the surface.
I think therefore that at $10,500 the owner is being a little over-optimistic, given the state that the car might be in underneath the paintwork. But then again, I've seen these cars on sale for twice this price, so you pay your money and take your choice.
I thought that the little reflector on the end of the rear tail pipe was a neat touch, though.
Next stop along the road is the town of Lanoraie, and this is the sea front or perhaps I ought to say "river front". This is quite pretty, isn't it?
You are probably looking closely at that concrete block just there offshore and wondering what that was all about. I looked at it for ages too before it finally twigged with me. Seeing is it's a square offset to the flow of the river to make a point like an arrowhead, my conclusion is that it's there to break up the flow of ice in the river, even if my opinion will cut no ice with anyone else.
There was an old guy on a pushbike standing here and as he appeared to be a native and was quite friendly, I had quite a little chat with him, even though I could only understand about one word in every ten that he said. I haven't tuned my ears in to pick up Québecois yet. He wasn't just a yokel, and a local yokel to boot, he was a very vocal local yokel.
I was interested to know about the river in winter. He told me that it's usually frozen over until some time round about the end of February. He went on to say that back in the old days when he was younger (probably round about 1820, I should think by looking at him) they could count on it being frozen over until at least the 15th of March.
It had occurred to me that I'd been driving along the St Lawrence for a good few hours and I hadn't seen a single ship so far. Most unlike the St Lawrence, from my experience. I asked him whether that might be because the mouth of the river might still be frozen, just like my tiny hand was at that particular moment. He replied in the negative. Apparently they have decent ice-breakers these days that make pretty short work of whatever there might be further down the river.
He added, on the subject of ships, that I should have been here yesterday. I was tempted to reply as I had once replied when I turned up late for work on one occasion
"You should have been here at 9 o'clock" thundered my boss
"Why? What happened?"
The parish of Lanoraie was founded in 1732 and this is the church. It's in a different style than many other churches in this part of Québec. Mostly they go for twin towers, and there is even a three-towered church somewhere on the Ile d'Orléans out by Québec City, but here they have contented themselves with just the one.
Once again it is not the first church here on this site. That was built in 1862, but as you might have already guessed, that one caught fire and burnt down, on 19th March 1917 if you really want to know.
And neither is it the second church on the site. That caught fire and, just to be different, exploded. That was in October 1932. This is the third church on the site and is built of concrete, "to render it indestructible to fire" so we are told. However the French do have a saying jamais deux sans trois so we should be expecting a tidal wave or an earthquake at some point in the future.
I didn't like the photo that I took in 2012 and so when I passed by here in August 2013 I took another one. There are plenty of leaves on the trees getting themselves in the way of the shot, but I happen to like this photo much better.
While you are examining the photo, and reminding yourselves that this is the third church on this site, I can point out to you that this isn't even the original site of the church. There was a previous site of the church and two churches are known to have been built on that site. So five churches in less than 400 years must surely be some kind of record for the Province of Quebec, even given the Province's notorious history of conflagrations.
Of the two earliest churches, the first one, along with a sawmill and a flour mill, was said to have been erected in the 17th Century much closer to the river. The subsequent church was constructed in 1774 but was inundated by the floods of 1865. The constant threat of flooding and erosion was the cause of the good burghers of the parish seeking an alternative site on a terrace higher up from the river one, just as in Lavaltrie.
I don't know to whom the church is dedicated, but seeing as the parish is actually called St Joseph de Lanoraie, I'm pepared to have a wild guess.
My attention was drawn to the church, and in particular, a notice that I saw affixed to one of its walls.
No roller skates
It's these kinds of notices that, as I have said on many previous occasions, bring the Church into disrepute. Whatever happened to
"forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us"?
Or "turn the other cheek"?
Or "suffer little children to come unto me"?
If kids want to come to church on roller skates or on a skateboard, where's the harm in that? And if they want to hang around in the immediate vicinity to soak up some of the religious atmosphere or to dictate into dictaphones all kinds of unwelcome and unpalatable comments about the Church's lack of tolerance, or simply to meet their friends, what's wrong with that too?
It's often been said that groups of youngsters equal trouble, but even if that is true (and I've seen much more trouble caused by groups of adults) there's a reason for that. Youngsters are continually being kicked from pillar to post by all different kinds of authority (even the church as we can see) and made unwelcome almost everywhere, so it's no surprise that they grow up to be sullen and rebellious, with a very jaundiced view of authority.
Maybe if people in authority started reaching out to the youths and adolescents of today, making them welcome and engaging with them in a positive fashion, the kids would be much more responsive. Kids need heroes and role models to look up to and to emulate, and they aren't getting that from the church at Lanoraie - quite the reverse in fact.
It's the same kind of things as the Ten Commandments saying
"Thou Shalt Not Kill"
but the Church nevertheless giving blessings to soldiers and other items of military equipment.
Nothing but the rankest hypocrisy. As long as the church continues to bless trained killers and weapons of mass destruction, then the Muslims will continue to believe that what is being fought at the moment is nothing but a Religious War, and they will have good reason to think so too.
This kind of thing has a parallel with a phenomenon that existed in the Working-Class areas of the North of England in the 1960s and 70s, and anyone of my era will recall it.
We had the Working Men's Clubs back then - dozens in every working-class town, one for each Trade Union or Organisation or area. Each club had its committee, and on the committee sat these self-perpetuating oligarchies of arrogant "working men". They were downtrodden by their foremen at work and downtrodden by their wives at home, and so here on the committees of the Working Men's Clubs they could vent their frustration and exert to the most ludicrous degree the tiny bit of power that they had managed to wrest - power over the members, power over the entertainers, power over the employees.
Of course, these Working Men's Clubs were like enormous dinosaurs - "what was good enough for my Dad in 1920 is good enough for me and it will be good enough for you too" - and they were totally unprepared for the huge social upheaval that occurred in the UK in the 1980s.
Nowadays, driving through Crewe, as I do very very occasionally when I'm in the UK, I see new housing estates and flats and sometimes, just derelict land and buildings where many of these Working Men's Clubs used to be.
This is exactly how I see the Church. Totally unprepared for change, totally incapable of adapting to the changing trends in society, and totally unwilling to engage with the youth if today.
Another 50 years of this and we'll see the end of the Church as we know it.
Having said that, we've seen something of the history of the churches at Lanoraie and so I reckon that it will be extremely unlikely that this particular church will still be here in 50 years time, no matter what happens.
So moving on from yet another really good rant, I wander over to the Post Office to see another good example of a dinosaur - a Grumman LLV.
The initials LLV stand for "Long Life Vehicles" because when these vehicles were introduced in 1987 they were expected to have a life of 30 years. However, the early ones are already being phased out at replaced by the little Ford Transit Cube, built in Turkey.
These Transits won't be popular with the delivery men because if they are like the one that we saw in Montreal a couple of days ago, they are left-hand drive. That means that the Postie will have to leave his vehicle to deliver the mail. If you look closely at the Grumman, you'll see that it's right-hand drive, so the Postie can simply coast up to a mail box, lean out of the window and deliver the mail without even leaving his seat.
Of course the Postie could always drive up the wrong side of the street against the flow of traffic to deliver the mail. Anything is possible with Canada Post.
It is rather a mystery why Canada Post has specified left-hand-drive for the vehicles. A RHD version of the little Transit Cube is certainly available, because the model is sold by the tens of thousands in the UK and all the vehicles over there are right-hand drive.
Any Canada or US Posties reading this? What do you think? E-.
There's a sign just here in the middle of Lanoraie that tells us that within the period between the voyages of Cartier (the 1530s) and those of Champlain some 70 years later, the Iroquois who inhabited the banks of the St Lawrence "disappeared".
The Quebec Government informs us, by the medium of this notice board, that this was "without doubt" - and I stress their comments - "Inter-tribal Warfare".
I have my own little theory about the disappearance of the Iroquois, and it's the same theory that applies to hundreds of other tribes of Native inhabitants on the American continent after they first came into contact with the white man, and that is "smallpox and other assorted European diseases".
It was by no means a rare occurrence for the Conquistadores of South America to arrive at certain evidently-prosperous Native settlements and find them totally deserted and and overgrown. Their astonishment is well-recorded. However, smallpox and other diseases travel far more quickly than a European can walk in that kind of country, and if anyone doubts the speed at which nature can overwhelm a deserted human habitation, they should have been with me when I returned to my own house in June 2013 after an absence of just 4 months.
This is an exciting bit of the old route of the Chemin du Roy before they deviated the route, apparently. Unfortunately I've arrived on dustbin day, so it seems, and while I have no objection to moving a two or three dustbins out of the field of view, I draw the line long before two or three hundred.
You'll notice that the houses are made of wood. And rightly so. Wood is in plentiful supply around here and even if you can't find any trees of your own you just nip down the road in the direction of Berthierville to where the Province's tree nursery, all ... gulp ... 184 hectares of it, grows millions (and I DO mean millions) of conifers for transplanting all over Québec and enter into negotiations with the management.
But there are a couple of houses around here that are quite famous mainly because they are built of fieldstone. That's quite rare in this part of Québec, hence their renown, but that means very little to me because fieldstone is the most common building material where I live and in fact my own house is built of fieldstone.
Another claim to fame of Lanoriae is that it is the centre of one of the most important tobacco-growing regions in Canada. When the French arrived here in the 16th Century they found that the First-Nation inhabitants were busily growing it and the French settlers quickly took up the practice (and the habit). Although the church, supported by the administration, was violently opposed to the practice, the habit had taken such a hold in France and with this being practically the only tobacco-growing area under French control, in 1735 the French authorities overruled local objections.
Yet another claim to fame is that Lanoraie was sacked by the Iroquois in 1689 and all of the inhabitants were slaughtered. The Iroquois had evidently not disappeared, despite what the authorities tell us.
Most famous citizen of Lanoraie? I would say that that honour belongs to Honoré Beaugrand. "Who he?" I hear you say. Well, do you remember me telling you about this Québecois fairy tale about the flying canoe at Lavaltrie? Honoré Beaugrand was in fact the author.
When you consider the issues between Louis Riel of a Lavaltrie family and Albert Lacombe of St Sulpice, then Honoré Beaugrand of Lanoraie taking the mickey out of the inhabitants of Lavaltrie, this must have been a really exciting area in which to live back in those days. This inter-village rivalry beats anything that Jeux Sans Frontières could conjure up.
Someone else who should be mentioned in passing is the Jesuit missionary Isaac Jogues. Although with no connection to Lanoraie, it was close by here that he was captured by the Mohawks in 1642. Despite being tortured and disfigured in the most gruesome fashion, he managed to escape. However, when peace was made with the Mohawks, he went back to them as a missionary despite his sufferings at their hands, and at their first opportunity, the Mohawks tomahawked him to death - tom-mohawked, you might say.
For his evident religious zeal and his subsequent sufferings, he was canonised on 29th June 1930.