About this collection
The names Nova Scotia and Cape Breton usually conjure up impressions of lobster traps, sailboats, spinning wheels, quaint farmhouses, pipers in kilts, Gaelic singing fishermen and the rest of the images that complete the picture postcard of anti modern cultural design. Throughout the last century the extensive efforts of tourism policies, the naive meanderings of folklorists and travel writers, and the more calculated manipulations of cultural entrepreneurs succeeded in the creation of these notions. Academic reaction to this propaganda has often amounted to replacing one stereotype with another resulting in a conflicting array of perceptions. The reality is that there were extensive and complex industrial aspirations and development in this region, dating back to colonial times.
The lives of Gaels were deeply affected by this industrial development weather they lived in the so-called 'the industrial district' or not. There can be no line drawn between the rural and urban Gaels. The effects of progress led to repeated migrations, and the abandonment of rear communities. Rural Gaelic communities lost entire families, other families were broken up, property deeds went astray, the earth and forest consumed original homesteads, and surviving communities were left drained of young people. The urban Gael found himself living alongside a multitude of nationalities and eventually in the throws of labor protests and coal riots. In some way or another industry touched every life, Gaelic or not, and the story of progress in eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton is as diverse as it's people.
Paul MacDonald, March 2006
The Industry / Gnìomhachas icon contains a photo of Hugh MacLellan's steam mill, Big Pond Centre, Cape Breton, circa 1900 (photo from collection of Paul MacLellan).