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Springhill’s Bruce Murray pens story of Acadian accomplishment

Bruce Murray has penned a tale telling the story of his Acadian ancestor in Piau: Journey to the Promised Land.
Bruce Murray has penned a tale telling the story of his Acadian ancestor in Piau: Journey to the Promised Land.

Bruce Murray has been working in the shadow of a legend.

The former Capital Records recording artist and teacher is one of Springhill’s sons, perhaps better known for being the brother of Anne Murray, but the shadow he’s been under is a folk hero who lead his people from the brink during the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755 to safety years later in Memramcook N.B.

The legacy of Murray’s ancestor Pierre Belliveau, or Piau (rhymes with ‘neo’), can be found in the last names of many families up and down the Bay of Fundy shorelines, and yet Piau’s story and that of the Acadian who resisted expulsion is ambiguous.

Research for Bruce Murray’s first book began in earnest in 1989, but the story of folk hero Pierre Belliveau is one Murray has grown up with.

In his first book ever, Piau: Journey to the Promised Land, Murray hopes to bring their story out from the shadows and into the light it deserves.

“Nothing’s really been written about him since the 1890s,” Murray said from his summer cottage in Northport. “The Acadians and the embarrassment of the deportation lasted all the way into the 20th Century, and even the archives in Halifax has very little about the Acadian expulsion… we get a little of the deportation in our history books, but no more than two or three pages. But when 15,000 people are displaced, that’s [significant].”

Instead of capture, Piau and his colleagues would suffer through hard winters, evade armed enemies and travel by any means necessary until settling in Memramcook – the promise land. It was a travel that took years, yet never ventured far from familiar territory on both sides of the Bay of Fundy.  

“I started hearing these tales when I was probably five. I had an uncle, Harry Burke, who lived in Joggins. He was an historian , writer and amateur paleontologist… one of the stories he told me as a kid was about Piau.”
According to Murray, his grandmother inherited Piau’s family bible, but the heirloom was lost in a fire in 1976. The bible , however, plays a role in the telling of Piau’s story, almost like a character unto itself, Murray said.

Told in the first person, Piau’s story comes to life courtesy of Murray’s extensive research and a career honing his craft as a writer; first as a songwriter and then later at the University of Toronto.

“Piau’s story has to be told,” Murray said. “It was in 1989 I started researching seriously and then when I realized I could write I was at it in 2016. It seemed like someone was driving me to do this, and I’ve said it was Piau driving me to do this.”

Published by Dundurn and with a foreword written by his sister, Anne, Piau: Journey to the Promised Land will receive its launch, fittingly, at Monument-Lefebvre in Memramcook on Sat, Aug. 26, and its author has only one goal for the book.

“I would like it to be recognized by the Acadian community,” Murray said. “That’s really important to me.”  

Visit https://www.dundurn.com/books/Piau to learn more about Murray’s work.

 

christopher.gooding@amherstnews.ca

Twitter: ADNchris

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