Cape Breton's Magazine

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Page 33 - With Billy MacGillivray in Boston

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1990/1/1 (744 reads)
 

en't going to stand for a herring-choker leading the parade, the Irish parade. "St. Patrick would turn over in his grave if he saw that." So what did they do? They took Charlie MacGillivary out, and put somebody else in. That'll give you an idea of what I'm talking about. When I worked in Reedville with the rail? road, there were a lot of Irish working there. They were very bitter, the ones that had been in the trouble in the South of Ire? land . (The Irish Free State was established in the South of Ireland in 1921. five vear.q after the attempted revolution against British rule in Ireland of Easter. 1916-- G.B.) They were probably ten years older than me. A Canadian was just another Brit? ish subject to them. I found them that way. But then again, the ones that came here after the War--a different class altogeth? er. Broad-minded people, and regular fel? lows. I worked with them as carpenters. -Good mechanics, damn good mechanics. There was no fooling around. They'd go to work and do a day's work and work hard. But you take, now, the Irish foremen--I'm only talking about one here and there--he would take an Irish fellow ahead of some? body else, if he was qualified or not. He would probably come right out: "I want an Irish fellow." He'd probably say that to you, half in fun and full in earnest. You'd brush it off. But on the other hand, if you got one as a committee man, a union delegate--this was in the railroad, the Railroad Brotherhood --if you had a grievance, and you went up before management with it, they would fight their heart out for you. They would never, take no for an answer. They would stay right with it till they would win your case and prove that the company was wrong, no matter who it was. They were great for that. They'd never let you down there. Even if the company caught a fellow drunk on the job, asleep, they always had a way out for him. He'd get three days off and a warning--but if there was no union there, that fellow would be flying right out the window. When I got through on the railroad, I got a job on maintenance work over at Tufts Col? lege. It's a big college over here in Med- ford. Anyways, this one day I was sent up to this particular place to work. It was for the head chef of the college--in other words, he did the cooking for the well-to- do people, outside of the students, you know. He was telling me what he wanted done and one thing and another and he says, "By the way, are you a Canadian?" And I said, "Yes, I am." He says, "What part of Cana? da?" And I said, "Nova Scotia." So he backs up to me and says, "When did you leave there?" "Oh," I said, "I left when I was quite young, 18 or 19 years old." "Well," he said, "I'm from Kansas City and I've got a trailer, and the two mo.nths we're closed here, I spend all my time up there. I travel all over the province." And then he said, "I can't understand for people to leave that beautiful country." And then he went on to say about the wild- flowers and the courteous people, and you'd camp out somewhere on the roadside, and people that didn't even know you, they'd come down and give you strawberries and cream. And talking like that, he says, "Why did you leave there?" I said, "Did you ever spend a winter up there?" You can't live on beauty alone. If people could make a decent living there, I don't think you'd see so many people leaving. Photographs of Billy MacGillivray by Dave Palmater In letters, Gary Burrill wrote of "the sense of how very different what I am doing in this project is from most oral history and in? terviewing • that is, that my accounts are not 'interviews' at all, but taped 'days together.' The result...is a demolished narrative line, and that's why it's essential that so much total reconstruc? tion go into the editing, as well as consultation with the person I've talked to, in order to make a final readable product...." Gary referred to his editing method as "a way of trying to remain true as possible to the integrity of a conversation while trying to point to broader themes and contradictions of our people's col? lective life from the point of view of individual experiences. I do fully expect...that this will be criticized, but I feel that what is needed is not a scholastic/folkloristically foolproof methodolo? gy, but an honest attempt to raise up from the particular without being exploiting. I don't put this method of mine forward as the greatest in the world, but I do feel solidly about it as far as my own conscience i&concerned." Billy MacGillivray lives in the suburban, southern part of Bos? ton, in Weymouth. He is from St. Andrews, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia. Margaret was from Lake Ainslie, Cape Breton Is? land. He speaks some Gaelic. She was in and out of the room during the visit. They were in their late 70s in 1981.
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