Page 48 - The Cape Breton Shelf: A Review of The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions in Newfoundland
ISSUE : Issue 56
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1991/1/1
The Cape Breton Shelf: A Review of The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions in Newfoundland A Book by Margaret Bennett This is a wonderful new book about an in? teresting man and a lovely relationship. Words like "collector" (for Margaret Ben? nett) and "informant" for Allan MacArthur, the Codroy Valley Highlander who is the centre of this book, are cold terms and belie the real relationship that resulted in this book. The Last Stronghold (really Allan MacAr? thur himself) is the product of a Masters Thesis in Folklore at Memorial University, a thesis that has undergone years of re? consideration, leaving a lot of the schol? arly requirements behind. What we are left with is good folklore presented in a rounded setting--and it is first of all good reading. And The Last Stronghold is a Cape Breton book, even though the sub-title reads: "Scottish Gaelic Traditions in Newfound? land ." It is about the last wave of the Highland Scots who emigrated to Cape Breton Island. They stayed several years in Cape Breton but, according to Allan's family tradition, there was little hope of ever owning a portion of land. The period of EXPLORE ISYDNEY'S PAST... at the CAPE BRETON CENTRE operated bythe-s ''' HERITAGE & SCIENCE .Old Sydney Society >) 225 George Street ' ' ~ OPEN YEAR ROUND ~ Winter Hours: 10-4 Tuesday to Friday • 2-5 Sunday For information call (902) 539-1572 land grants was over. The emigrants could rent, work on someone else's farm and only hope to have something of their own. According to Allan, "They started moving from Cape Breton on account of the hard rules and everything else--Cape Breton was a poor country too, but they were under Confederation rules...well in Confedera? tion rules you don't own the land, you don't own the house, you don't own the furniture, you owns nothing if you don't pay the taxes.... And those people, a lot of them left that settled from Scotland out to Cape Breton, and they lived there for a good many years--some of them not too long, probably ten, fifteen years--and they heard of Newfoundland, you see. Well, Newfoundland was a free country for any? body. ... Probably eighty or a hundred years ago you could come to Newfoundland and you could take up two, three, four hundred acres and there was no tax, there was nothing to pay; it was yours...." While scholars have suggested several rea? sons for this migration from Cape Breton to Newfoundland, the chance of actually owning land and the good quality of the soil in the Codroy Valley seem to have been the principal factors. The Last Stronghold is, then, the story of a group of Highland Scots who came via Cape Breton to make their lives in the Codroy Valley of Newfoundland, and in par? ticular it's the story of Allan MacAr? thur' s family as pioneer settlers and keepers of tradition. The first half of the book sets the scene and the second half is chapters about traditional crafts, ritual and lore, stories and songs. Cape Breton readers will often note similari? ties with elements alive or remembered here. And the similarities and differences are a part of the pleasure of this book. The book will undoubtedly be enjoyed in that way even by those with only an Eng? lish knowledge of Gaelic traditions. But first of all The Last Stronghold is Ron May Pontiac 147 Prince Street Sydney 539-6494 Hawkesbury Pontiac GMC TRUCKS 46 Paint Street Port Hawkesbury 625-3280 FRONT END ALIGNMENT ~ AIR CONDITIONING SPECIALISTS NEW & USED - SALES - SERVICE - LEASING - DAILY RENTAL
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