In the fall of 1779, the ill-fated crew of the British sloop of war, HMS Malignant, set sail for Prince Edward Island—then a British colony, now Canada’s smallest province. As the Malignant neared its destination a nor’easter descended. Savage winds, treacherous seas, endless blinding snow. Through the storm the ship’s pilot spotted a small, wooded cove along the coast of Nova Scotia. He steered the ship into the inlet, intentionally running aground, and saved the crew from disaster. Or did he?
The bedraggled sailors made it to shore with a few valuables and camped for the night. The next day they set out for the nearest settlement—a day’s walk, perhaps two away. In 1779 Nova Scotia was a wild land of forested mountains and tumbling rivers. Though the distance they planned to cover was small the obstacles were not. One by one the members of the crew stumbled and fell. Lost, weary, injured, frozen, less than a handful reached safety.
That is a true story.
But, what if….
Isn’t that what all writers ask? What if?
When I first heard the story of the HMS Malignant I wondered, what if the ship hadn’t sailed across the Atlantic alone? What if, by chance or design, it accompanied a shipload of Scottish refugees bound for the new world? What if the two ships were separated by the storm and the other ship ran aground in a different harbour, one far enough from civilization that those survivors didn’t try to hike though Nova Scotia’s snow-packed forests for help?
What if they instead settled in that little cove, built homes, established a community, and lived generation on generation? What if they called their new home Hum Harbour, in honour of the HMS Humphrey that carried them across the sea? What would that town and the people be like some 200-plus years later?
Well, it so happens I can tell you.
Tucked away on the east-facing coast of Cape George, Hum Harbour became a thriving little fishing village where everyone is related to each other and secrets are never far away. The people have quaint customs and silly superstitions. They love and marry. They move away and inevitably come back. They’re tight-knit, quirky, caring, change-resistant and—on occasion—given to murder.
What more could you ask for?
You can visit Hum Harbour through Jayne Self 's two award winning mysteries, Murder in Hum Harbour and Death of a Highland Heavyweight. Both are available at Pelican Book Group.