Gertrude Bulmer Bishop (Elizabeth Bishop's mother) witnessed the Halifax Explosion on 9 December 1917. She was a patient at the Nova Scotia Hospital (Mount Hope) on the Dartmouth side of Halifax Harbour, when just after 9:00 a.m. that morning the munitions ship Mont Blanc and the Belgian relief ship Imo collided, causing the Mont Blanc to explode. Much as been written about the explosion, the damage and the aftermath. Elizabeth Bishop herself was in Worcester, MA, at that time; but Massachusetts (part of the “Boston States”) mounted an immediate relief effort – perhaps Bishop’s paternal grandparents contributed to it, they would certainly have known about it and the explosion.
Anything connected to the explosion has always been of great interest to me. With the centenary of the catastrophe less than two years away, there will be more writing about this event. This past fall, scholar and author Janet Maybee published Aftershock: The Halifax Explosion and the Persecution of Pilot Francis Mackey, which offers fascinating insights into the aftermath of the explosion.
Janet presented “An Afternoon with…” at the Elizabeth Bishop House in April 2013 — where she discussed her work on this book with a rapt audience. Janet is a great supporter of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia, having helped out with festivals, events and projects. So it is a great pleasure to help promote this book and a superb website she has created. Check it out at: http://www.pilotmackey.ca/ This website contains a fascinating series of maps that tell the story of the explosion. And you can listen to a wonderful interview Janet did for CBC Radio’s Atlantic Voice.
Me and Janet at the EB House, 27 April 2013