We were in downtown Charlottetown a week or so back when we were on vacation. The city seems to have some random costumed historical actors walking around the building where the first talks of Confederation occurred. I asked them what year they were from They replied: "The year of our Lord 1860, sir. What year are you from?" The man in the group then began tor grumble about the rumours of talks between the colonies to join up with the wretched united province of Canada and how the Canadians planned to bankrupt the island and kill all its men. The ladies cheered him on with a "Spoken like a true Islander!" We parted with a hearty harrumph.
I was unsatisfied with my part in the conversation. I was rather flatfooted by the unexpected encounter, and, as usual, I didn't think of a good retort until it was too late. If they want to do history, after all, then let's do history. I wish I had thought to say this, low and soft, in my finest Irish accent:
You want to know what year I'm from, do you, boy? I'm from many years, but the only one you need concern yourself with is Anno Domini 1847. That was the year my fine landlord in his fine clothes and tophat much like yours came and took every scrap of food I had grown on my farm, and left me with nothing but an acre of rotten potatoes. That was the year my youngest starved because there was nothing to eat. It was that year that landlord took the farm that had been in my family as long as anyone can count. That was the year we were put on a ship and sent out here, and while we were at sea my wife and another child turned black and died from the typhus and were thrown overboard like so much rubbish, without so much as a benedicitee. That was the year I stepped off that damned coffin boat and was greeted with jeers and signs saying 'No Irish Allowed' and 'no papists or dogs'. You an Orangeman? Don't answer. I can hear it in your voice, see it in your face and your fine, fine clothes, from your shiny buckled shoes to that hat that's as black as your soul. You want to know what's more, Orangeman? I was there when your carts crashed our St Patrick's parade, and when it was all over Paddy O'Connell lay dead in the street like a damned dog. I was there when the police men in their nice, neat uniforms with their polished buttons and their shiny badges swore on your bible that they didn't remember a thing, even though they were all standing right there when it happened. Orangemen, all of them, straight through and through. Well, let me tell you something, Orangeboy. You got a bit of luck that I met you here with these women. But we'll meet another day, when there aren't any women to protect you, you with some of your friends, me with some of mine, and on that day I will be paid for my farm, my children, my wife, and my friend- like for like, and blood for blood. Now you get going, before I forget that there are ladies present and take a down payment on what is owed me. Good day, ladies.