The Wild Geese. The parade of Mount St. Bernard Academy women, c1912

The Wild Geese. The parade of Mount St. Bernard Academy women. Only on Sundays and holidays were they allowed to walk into town, two by two, under close watch of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame (CND), c 1912. Courtesy of Bart Sears, C. J. MacGillivray album & Antigonish Heritage Museum. Restoration: Anne Louise MacDonald

B5 - The  Wild Geese. The parade of Mount St. Bernard Academy women, 1912

For purposes of dating this photo, The Canadian Bank of Commerce opened in Antigonish after the Bank of Nova Scotia (1904) and the Royal Bank of Canada (1907). Is this the corner of Sydney Street and Main, across from the Kirk Building?

In 1883, Mount St. Bernard at StFX was the first Catholic women’s college in North America to provide courses leading to a bachelor’s degree, under the direction of the Religious Order of the Congregation of Notre Dame (CND). The first women graduated in 1897.

In their annual calendars, the CND “advertised the college’s many advantages, including its ‘healthful surroundings,’ croquet lawns and the ‘many beautiful walks’ throughout the town. General regulations stipulated that boarders should come equipped with a ‘plain black costume’ for Sunday outings, as well as a blue flannel blouse waist for calisthenics and a good jacket; they were to be outfitted as well with a sewing kit, complete toilet set, a table set, replete with cutlery, table napkins, and table ring” (Stanley-Blackwell & MacLean, 2004, p. 160).

H. M. MacDonald (1972) devotes a whole section in Down Memory Lane to “Wild Geese on Parade” (pp. 60-62). Sundays and holidays marked the sole occasions in which the Mother Superior relaxed the guiding principle that “the Mount girls in residence divorce affairs of the heart from the goal of intellectual attainments. … [T]he Mistress of Discipline conducted the 50-odd ‘Boarders’ on routine walks along the gravel sidewalks of Antigonish … to allow the girls an opportunity for a wink if not a word, at loitering male students at vantage points. So first along Main Street for a block, then College Street to St. Mary’s, to Court, Church and St. Ninian’s Streets back to the Mount, proceeded the girls with black-robed sisters with white coronets as rear-guards, all chattering with sonorous rhythm, like a flight of water-fowl by night. … [T]he Townspeople paused to say, ‘Hark, the wild geese come!”

The inspiration for this comparison was “the loud clamor of migrating flocks … wending their way towards the fresh water inlets of ‘The Harbour’ and St. George’s Bay. … Long before the white man came to Acadia, this great bird provided the Micmac with his choice diet and when the first settlers made their home along our shores, the nocturnal passage of this waterfowl’s measured ‘honking’ was so disturbing to human slumber that pioneers kindled a hundred fires to ward off the transient birds.”

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