It all began in November of 1961. Itinerant Artist Gilles Gaudry was living in the school house in Lincolnville through an arrangement he had made with Father Anthony who was with the Third Order of St. Augustine at the Monastery and who had been working in the communities since 1954. At the time many families in Lincolnville were living on only $364.00 per year and Gilles wanted to help the community that had so graciously welcomed him. He would often hitchhike to Port Hawkesbury and New Glasgow to put on art classes and bring back money to the communities to help the people. One day Gilles arrived at the pottery school in Antigonish run by Mother St. Phillip, CND. He took a week long pottery course and at the end of the week Mother St. Phillip gave Gilles a pottery wheel, some clay and a small kiln. He took these items back to Lincolnville and began teaching community members how to do pottery. His plan was to get the community members to make pottery and sell it; unfortunately his dream was cut short. On November 11, 1961 Gilles was riding in the back of a fish truck while hitchhiking and the truck was struck by a train and Gilles was killed.
Following Gilles’ tragic death, Margie (Milner) Boyle, Kay (Wilmot) Cameron, and Joan Dillon who were all students of Mother St. Phillip at the pottery school offered to take his place in teaching the pottery, strongly supported by Mother St. Phillip herself. They approached Father Anthony who was reluctant at first because other groups had volunteered to work in the community but had not kept their commitments. The women convinced him that they would stay and he agreed to let them come. With the help of men from the Third Order of St. Augustine’s who loaned their cars for transportation, the three women began travelling to Lincolnville three nights a week to teach pottery classes.
When they arrived in the community they were invited to do their pottery in a center that Father Anthony had built. They worked with him to start cubs, scouts, and Father Anthony’s ABC Band in addition to the pottery. They eventually needed to recruit more volunteers and soon a group of about 30 people were coming down, along with members of the Sisters of St. Martha. They travelled each week in cars also donated by the Third Order of St. Augustine. At the time there were approximately 98 children and about 30 families in Lincolnville.
In 1965, Joe Webb, a recent St. F.X. graduate was given the position of teaching principal in the Lincolnville school. He felt that many students in the school were having difficulty in getting their homework done, and wanted to find some way to help them. He thought of his friends who were still in university and thought maybe they would like to come down and help some of the students. He made a call to his friend Rollie Chiasson and proposed this idea. They decided to post a sign in the dining hall asking for volunteers who might want to take a drive down to Lincolnville and work with some students hoping at least a couple people would show up at the designated date and time. Much to their surprise 13 people volunteered.
They borrowed cars and began travelling to the community as well. Initially they wanted to stay separate from the pottery group, but eventually the two groups decided to merge so that they could share transportation. Joan Dillon negotiated a bus deal with Dr. Remi Chiasson, Superintendent of schools who granted them the weekly use of a very large bus at a reasonable price and soon the whole group began traveling together. In March of 1966, the group sat down and wrote a constitution that formed the society now known as X-Project. The goals of this group were quite simple; they would only go to the community as long as they were invited and welcomed by the community, they would respect the wishes of the community and responds to the community’s requests, and they hoped that some day they would no longer be needed.
Over the years X-Project quickly grew to include more communities and more members. The group began to organize many community building events including the 1968 Indian Teach-In which was organized by Father Bill Burke. All the Atlantic Canada First Nation Chiefs and even the Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs attended. It was a weekend event with about 200 people in attendance. Following the success of this event in 1969 a Black Teach-In was held which was equally well attended. X-Project has held numerous Saturday programs, bowling days, swimming days, skating parties, youth leadership weekends, and literally thousands of nights in communities. Thousands of St.F.X. students have volunteered over the past 50 years and many community members have been consistently involved since the beginning.