Around & About: British Driveways

Around & About: British DrivewaysHave you ever driven up a British Driveway? I have, in fact I did it many times before my first visit to Britain in 1986. You may have too and not even realized it. Perhaps you have never been to Britain, so you might dismiss the question. Well, don’t be too hasty; as if you lived on the West Side of Saint John or visited anyone there in the fifties, you may well have driven on a British driveway.

 I was reminded of my many trips over British driveways a few days ago when I took a cycling trip to lower west where I grew up. I do this from time to time, and it always makes me feel like I am a teenager again, not in my 7th decade. This last time, though, was even more nostalgic, for while biking along a dirt roadway from the Carleton Community Centre to Limey Land, when I came to the edge of the Market Place ball field, there was a pile of flint rock that was used for almost every driveway in Saint John west when I was a boy. I had no idea then where it came from and why there so much of it around, but I have subsequently been told about it origin, and why it was so popular in Saint John west. The story is that British ships came into Saint John Harbour during the war years to take provisions overseas. They didn’t have much to bring back to Canada, so the ships would be loaded with flint rock off the beaches of England. This would weight them down as they passed over the stormy seas of the North Atlantic. When they arrived in Saint John, the rocks had to be removed so cargo could be loaded. Most everyone in Saint John west had someone working on the port, and these surplus rocks were there for the taking, and they were taken, and they lined driveways from one side of Saint John West to the other.

 It was not until my trip to England in 1986 when we were taken to the beach at the Cliffs of Dover that I realized where the stones used in driveways back home had come from. On another trip, when I cycled the south of England, I noted church after church was built with these same stones, which they called flint stones.

 When I was young, we used the smallest of the stones, about pea shaped, for slingshot ammunition. The ¾ inch stones were great for batting with a stick when no one else was around and you wanted to pretend you were a Yankee or Dodger hitter, and you would see how far you could bat the stones. I know a few also ended breaking bottles at the dump on Beatteay’s Beach. We’d put glass bottles in the wharf cribs, pretend they were German battleships, and see would could sink them fastest by pelting the rocks at them. I know some guys also used them for killing rats, but I was not into that. Some other time, I’ll tell my St James Street rat stories, but for this time, I’ll conclude by saying that as far as I know, there is not one flint British Driveway remaining in Saint John West, but they are still a fond memory for this writer.