Seventy years ago in 1951, my grandmother Millicent (1895-1982) Granny-Lin finally got the cottage she had always wanted. My grandfather Sydenham (1887-1975)The Priest had it built for her on the waterfront of Shediac Bay in New Brunswick.
Truly a dream come true, she aptly named it “Iona Cottage” for “I own a cottage”!
The person who designed their simple cottage somehow knew exactly what they wanted. A small eating nook off the kitchen led into the living room with a fireplace and the three small bedrooms branched off from there. A simple door leading to the patio enticed family and guests outside to enjoy the view of the Bay.
Just around the corner from Iona Cottage stands St. Martin’s-in-the-Woods Anglican Church built almost 200 years ago by Millicent’s great grandfather, and the founder of Shediac, William Hanington. There is a huge monument beside the church where he and some of his family are buried. On Sunday mornings during their summers, Millicent and Sydenham would stroll down the lane to church. Sydenham was an Anglican priest and would sometimes hold the summer church services thereby giving the local priest a break.
Millicent grew up in Montreal as the youngest of six girls. Her pharmacist father moved the family from Shediac to Montreal in 1890 to study medicine at McGill…at the age of 45! During the summer breaks, the family returned “home” to Shediac. After completing his degree in 1894, Dr. Hanington Pharmacist then Doctor and family remained in Montreal where he set up a practice… but they always spent their summer holidays in Shediac.
Millicent and Sydenham hosted many summer family gatherings at their Shediac cottage over the years. There are numerous photos taken on the patio in front of the impressive red brick chimney. An endless assortment of Millicent’s sisters (and sometimes their husbands) would line up along the side of the house enjoying the sun and cool breeze off the water. A few photos have captured some of the bravest taking an icy cold dip in the bay.
In July 2015, my sister and I took a “sister pilgrimage” trip to the New Brunswick area, and finding Iona Cottage was the top priority. We recognized it immediately even although the light yellow cottage from our memories had been painted a lovely country blue. The surrounding grounds looked immaculate and a quick peek in the window assured us that it was well loved inside and out. What a terrible disappointment when no one answered our knock at the door. We snapped a few photos of house and garden (and us!) for our travel album and to share with the rest of the family.
Upon my return home, I wrote a short story about our “sister pilgrimage” and published it on the Genealogy Ensemble website Sister Pilgrimage. A year ago, the current owners of Iona Cottage read my story and contacted me by email. They are the fourth owners (since 2018) and are thrilled to share my scanned copies of the old photos of their cottage.
How surprising to learn that they already had a copy of my favourite photo… a gift from their neighbour. It captured four-year old me in front of Iona Cottage during the summer of 1961 when I visited with my mother shortly before she died of cancer that November.
My only other stay at Iona Cottage was some twenty years later when my cousin and I flew into Moncton to spend a long weekend with our grandmother. In an era before highways, two lane roads between Quebec and New Brunswick made the drive impossibly long, which might explain the lack of visits over the years
Recently my cousin unearthed a real treasure in his inherited boxes of memorabilia – an envelope marked: “Blueprints – Iona Cottage”. I took a quick look before sending them off to the current owners and to my utter amazement I saw that MY FATHER had drawn up the plans for his in-law’s cottage! I had no idea. What a joy for me to see his handwritten notes in the lower right-hand corner…and no wonder the cottage was so perfect for Millicent and Sydenham.
Happy 70th Anniversary Iona Cottage!