Post office renamed Black Beard Building

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Nice to see readers are on the ball. It’s good to celebrate our history, and good to know about our colourful characters from centuries past. But it didn’t take long for readers to ferret out the silly details of the federal government’s new Enos Collins building: http://www.cumberlandnewsnow.com/News/Local/2013-02-23/article-3183064/Local-government-building-named-after-War-of-1812-hero/1#Comments

I don’t know Mr. Collins – because he died centuries ago. He clearly was driven, likely smart, probably possessed of considerable courage. And his capture of 50 ships is impressive. But a “hero” that should be honoured by the federal government?

He was a privateer. That means one nation gave him a license to practice piracy against another nation. Worth knowing about, absolutely, but perhaps a little unsavoury for national recognition.

He was from Liverpool. Not sure why a privateer from Liverpool gets a plaque and building in Amherst.

He was opposed to Confederation. This isn’t as strange a choice by the Conservatives as one might think. Harper is not a strong federalist (neither am I), so Collins ‘Nova Scotia first’ values, while not a selling point for the feds, might not have done much to dissuade them.

I’m not saying Collins isn’t of historical interest. On the contrary, he flies in the face of the student’s wrong perception Canadian history is just a tale of fishing and farming, politicking and labour movements. High adventure and daring exploits are also part of this nation. Collins would be a good character to inspire some kind of fun festival – in Liverpool!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this, either. I could be mistaken – really, I could – but I’m not sure how our MP, Scott Armstrong, can legitimately lay claim to being a historian. Is there some published historical research he’s completed I'm unaware of? I think we can all agree being a historian is a fairly specific thing: a person with at least a Masters degree in History, or a long career teaching history or being a curator of a historical collection. Real sticklers wouldn’t even give the nod to those three qualifications, instead limiting the title to academics or people who are actively engaged in historical research.

I read books about spaceflight and the cosmos, but I’m not an astronaut or an astrophysicist.

I would absolutely welcome a comment on this post giving me further details of Armstrong’s qualifications as a historian, or even reasons he might consider himself an “amateur historian.” Until then, I’m just confused.

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