Memorial highway signs unveiled

Ashley Thompson
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Province honours 19th-century seaman William Hall

Two new highway signs have been placed in Hantsport to celebrate the heroic actions of 19th-century seaman William Hall.

Hall worked for shipyards in Hantsport as a young man before joining the navy — first the United States Navy in 1847, then, in 1852, the British Royal Navy.

He later became the first person of African descent, the first Nova Scotian, and the third Canadian, to receive a Victoria Cross medal recognizing outstanding bravery in the face of an enemy for prevailing against all odds, amid rapid gunfire, while engaged in battle overseas during the Siege of Lucknow.

Premier Darrell Dexter spoke on behalf of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal at an unveiling ceremony of the signs designed for the William Hall V.C. Memorial Highway, formerly known as the Hantsport Connector, in the Hantsport School, Sept. 15.

Addressing students, faculty and fellow dignitaries, Dexter said the signs are a way to ensure Hall is rightly remembered as a true Canadian icon.

“Last November when we were in the legislature… we declared that the highway connecting Highway 101 to… Hantsport was to be known as the William Hall V.C. Memorial Highway and today we are going to complete the declaration,” Dexter announced.

Dexter asked his audience of primary to Grade 8 students to think of Hall’s extraordinary accomplishments and imagine what the future may hold for their schoolmates.

“Have you ever thought about looking around at the people you’re sitting with and wondering which one of those people, kids your age, you will be studying one day?”

Coldbrook resident Ron Lightburn painted a likeness of Hall for the highway signs.

“It was an honour for me to have contributed to the project,” said Lightburn, after mingling with the premier at the unveiling ceremony.

Lightburn is known locally for illustrating two children’s books, Pumpkin People, which his wife, Sandra, wrote about the array of pumpkin men, women and children that pop up in Kentville every fall, and A Poppy Is to Remember.

According to information released by the Nova Scotia Museum, Hall retired from the navy in 1876 and moved in with his sisters on a farm in Avonport. He died in 1904 at the age of 77, and, after being relocated from an unmarked grave around the mid-1900s, is now buried in the grounds of the Hantsport Baptist Church.

The Hantsport School hosted a plaque unveiling ceremony to recognize Hall as a person of national historic significance in October.

Principal Colin Chase says his students are highly engaged in the commemorative events hosted in Hall’s honour.

“We get to celebrate a local hero winning the Victoria Cross,” said Chase, before Dexter stepped up to a podium set up in the school’s gymnasium.

“That’s pretty special and the children enjoy the history of it.”

 

Organizations: Hantsport School, United States Navy, British Royal Navy Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Pumpkin People Nova Scotia Museum Hantsport Baptist Church

Geographic location: Hantsport, Lucknow, Coldbrook Kentville Avonport

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