October 2010 - Our committee received funding for a work project through Skills PEI and the Island Community Fund earlier this year - which was approved. The project concept is to hire a foreman, and four unskilled workers who could learn a trade, i.e. carpentry, etc. and develop their skills, while at the same time, helping to restore the cemetery.
The project commenced on October 18, and it is a 15-week project which will restore the stone wall around the cemetery; building two gates; a tool storage shed; and at the cemetery, as well as a garage at St. Margarets Hall. The project foreman, Lennie Rose, started Oct 18 organizing and planning the project work for the team which started on October 25.
After the first week of work, tremendous progress on excavating the stone wall was achieved, and we are very pleased with these efforts. A rented Bobcat earth mover helped the team clear both sides of the wall. The team is busy clearing roots and debris and organizing the stones. Local Island sandstone from nearby shores will be used to complete missing sections of stone wall, in the tradition of our ancestors. The team is enjoying what they are doing and they all work so well together. This is a unique experience for all of us - and they are happy to be a part of it!
November 25, 2010 - An article from PEI's Newspaper, The Guardian
A rock wall of ages ago has now been fully uncovered at St. Margaret of Scotland Pioneer Cemetery.
The sandstone structure strings like a chain of rock pearls around the perimeter of this historic site in St. Margarets, which officially dates back to 1803 but goes even further back to the 1700s when the first Scottish settlers arrived.
A crew of four and a foreman has been working diligently for the past few weeks to uncover each of these sandstone nuggets, sometimes using tools as small as a trowel to excavate the stone wall details.
“I kind of felt like an archeologist,” says Margaret MacDonald of Souris, who is one of the workers on this 15-week project, which was funded by Skills P.E.I., the Island Community Fund and the St. Margaret’s Pioneer Cemetery Management Committee.
“It was really exciting when we started uncovering (each wall). Then we’d see the wall when it was all done it was, ‘Oh my god I love that one.’ And then we’d do another one and we’d love that one. Now I love that one the best,” she adds enthusiastically, pointing to the eastern wall with an old apple tree growing at its centre point.”
This project is part of an overall effort by the St. Margaret’s Pioneer Cemetery Management Committee’s to restore what is one of the oldest Catholic cemeteries on P.E.I.
The discovery of the wall happened by chance when committee members and sisters Anne Kells, Helen MacDonald and the late Pat Malone were poking about exploring the site three years ago.
“Pat found the wall,” says her husband Ray Malone.
“She opened it up and we started to pull the stuff away and then we realized there was a wall all around.’
With a tiny trowel in hand Margaret MacDonald of Souris, along with a small work crew, carefully excavated the extensive rock wall that surrounds the St. Margaret of Scotland Pioneer Cemetery.
It was so overgrown that we didn’t know there was anything there. It was totally camouflaged. You couldn’t see anything but a mound of vegetation,” Kells adds.
“And we think it’s unique to P.E.I. This sort of system of stone surrounding cemeteries is traditional in Scotland. And of course these were early Scottish settlers so they would have used the same model.”
It was no easy task for the work crew to uncover this forgotten structural treasure.
They had to push through nearly two centuries of accumulated brush, grass and sediment build-up to find out where the dirt ended and the rock wall began.
“There were places where there were two or three feet of earth against it and brush and trees. There was a lot of debris.
“You couldn’t even see any of this (rock wall) at all,” says Lennie Rose, who is project foreman for this unique dig.
The workers did uncover bits of broken tombstones, which were collected and placed back in the cemetery itself.
“We found pieces of headstones right in along the wall as we were digging,” Rose says.
In his many years as a stone mason, Rose has had plenty of experience building things from the ground up, but never exposing things from the ground down to its basic rock core.
“I can’t say I’ve ever done anything like this before. I’d like to have it in my own backyard,” he says.
Now that excavation work is done, the wall, which is about a metre (three feet) high in some spots, measures 60 by 120 metes (200 by 400 feet).
In all but a few sections sod has been placed on top of the rock wall to form a solid cap to prevent erosion that would undermine the structure.
The work crew is now landscaping the area, which includes a recently expanded driveway that replaces the tiny little roadway that was difficult to drive on by vehicle.
Gates will be installed at the wall openings at the front and the back of the cemetery.
Benches are also going to be placed in strategic relaxing spots and a storage shed will be built.
This latest effort is just part of the ongoing work that the committee has spearheaded over the last number of years.
Some work had been done by others in the early 1970s, but starting in 2008 the then newly formed cemetery committee pushed forth with a vast array of projects that included professionally cleaning, repairing and raising downed headstones.
“Many of the stones were lying on the ground. They were overgrown with brush and vegetation,” Kells says.
“That all had to be removed and we had a professional stonemason from New Brunswick who came in and did a wonderful job of putting the stones upright — those that could be.”
Headstones that could not be propped up were pieced together and laid on concrete slabs.
A huge wooden Celtic cross, designed and built by Mike McIntosh and donated by the Babineau family, now graces the centre of the cemetery.
Solar lighting has been also added to the site, which has been designated as a provincial heritage site. A path called The Ancestor’s Walk has been cleared from the cemetery down to the gulf.
The cemetery received an award from the P.E.I. Rural Beautification Society this year.
“One of our concerns is ongoing maintenance,” Kells says. “And now that we’ve put all this work and effort (in) with the support of many people we have to come up with a plan to keep this place looked after.
“We’re very aware of the need for ongoing maintenance to protect and preserve this holy place.