The Halifax Literary Walking Tour

Window damaged in Halifax Explosion, St. Paul’s Church
1749 Argyle St.

12. Hugh MacLennan

Imagine, as you walk towards St. Paul’s Anglican Church, that time is spinning backwards. You are now alive in the year 1917, December 6, 9:05am, to be exact. Suddenly, all around you the city begins to shake from an immense explosion. Debris is flying all around you. Hot metal and burnt wood are impaled in the foyer of the Church. A second floor window suddenly shatters into an eerily-shaped profile of a man.

You’ve just experienced the world’s largest man-made explosion prior to World War Two. Halifax author Hugh MacLennan was also captivated by this real life disaster and drawing upon his own personal childhood explosion experiences, created a story about war in a Canadian city called Barometer Rising (1941). The book was an instant success, selling more than 100,000 copies by 1945. MacLennan achieved many literary landmarks, winning a total of five Governor General’s Awards for fiction and collections of essays.

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