Bridgewater student’s video highlights harrowing heritage times

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CANADA&#8217;S HISTORY, SCREENSHOT</p><p>A re-enactment scene from Thatcher Hirtle&#8217;s video about the 1756 Payzant Island turmoil.</p>
  • <p>CANADA&#8217;S HISTORY, SCREENSHOT</p><p>Thatcher Hirtle delivers the narrative to the video he produced for the Young Citizens program.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Thatcher Hirtle&#8217;s video is one of two from Nova Scotia entered in the national competition.</p>

Bridgewater Grade 6 student Thatcher Hirtle may have some anxious moments as he awaits the outcome of the online, nation-wide Heritage Fair competition hosted by Canada's Natural History Society's Young Citizens program.

Thatcher has a four-minute-video that grew out of his school Heritage Fair project entered in the competition. Completed during the school year, when he was in Grade 5, it's one of two Nova Scotia entrants for 2020, the other being from a student in Halifax.

At the same time, Thatcher also may find it easy to keep things in perspective, considering the harrowing topic of his video - the 1756 murder and kidnapping of the Payzant family of Payzant Island, now known as Covey Island. The raid took place during the French and Indigenous war, when an attack was launched against the British settlement at Lunenburg.

"The tale was a tragic and dramatic one with settlers killed, and a pregnant and now widowed Marie Anne Payzant being taken captive with her four remaining children," Nora Livesey, an assistant for Nova Scotia Heritage Fairs, reported to LighthouseNOW.

The hostages were held for four years and Marie Anne was forced to deliver her baby in captivity. After a ransom was paid, she and her children were eventually released and they returned to settle in another part of Nova Scotia ending a difficult chapter for the Payzant family. The settlement's tragedy resulted in new protections to the area where blockhouses were established at the LaHave River, present day Blockhouse, and Northwest.

Livesey, who interviewed Thatcher, said that while he had known the basics of the historical event from his father's stories, his research revealed more details for him.

"Through encouragement from his teacher, Thatcher, a keen math student, was able to weave a story about a forgotten time in local history and share it with his classmates, teachers, and community," Livesey explained.

Using his Heritage Fair presentation as a basis, Thatcher wrote the video's script and employed the help of a friend, his teacher, and his family to film and edit the video, which presents information, pictures, and reenactment scenes.

"Even though the costumes were hot and there were many takes of scenes, Thatcher ended up with a polished video and an exciting experience to remember. His favorite part of the process was 'covering my hand in red paint and smearing it on a rock,' as local legend says there is a landmark out there that resembles a bloody hand print from one of the victims," Livesey reported.

Visitors can view Thatcher's and other entries at CanadasHistory.ca/YoungCitizens.

An online vote that closed earlier will make up part of a student's final score. Judges will review the videos and select four recipients, who will travel to Ottawa for the Canada's History Forum. Winners of the competition will be announced in the fall.

Canada's National History Society is a national charitable organization devoted to popularizing Canadian history. Young Citizens showcases the work of students from Heritage Fairs all over the country who have been given the opportunity to expand their projects by telling their stories on video. The students must be in Grade 4 through Grade 11 and participate in a local or regional Heritage Fair.

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