Cape Breton gaelic culture – passing it on to me

I'm a Cape Bretoner. My grandfather played fiddle as a hobby. I took step dancing as a kid. Based on that information, it'd be easy to assume that I have always loved and am somewhat knowledgeable about Gaelic culture in Cape Breton. I have certainly always had an appreciation, but other than carting Ashley MacIsaac's Cape Breton Christmas CD with me to Korea 15 years ago and socializing at the annual Broad Cove concert I didn't really take part in the amazing Gaelic culture on Cape Breton Island. Well, not until just over two years ago. 

Everything has changed. I barely know myself anymore. Last summer, while driving Route 19 on the way back to Halifax from Cape Breton, we had Buddy MacMaster cranked on the stereo while eating butterscotch ripple ice cream. It was comforting and kind of dreamy. This may not seem like a strange thing, but you need to know that I've always been a tiger ice-cream and Tom Petty kind of gal. So, you may be wondering, "What changed?"

My three-year-old daughter, Lucinda Belle MacNeil, fell in love with the fiddle. And step dancing. And highland dancing. And Gaelic. YouTube videos of Natalie MacMaster and her crew. Then... we found Gaelic College videos, which were awesome because they were much longer than other videos and featured lots of different children. Also, my dear friend Jocelyn (fellow Cape Bretoner) has two girls who are studying violin, and they play fiddle tunes...so, needless to say, there is usually a ceilidh when we get together with them. These girls are growing up in Halifax but truly have the Gaelic music in them. They love it! So, all of this to say that instead of knowing who the Paw Patrol characters are, I am getting to know the Cape Breton fiddle scene. And I'm loving it. I'm such a late bloomer in so many ways. 

Lucinda was beaming after this wonderful Canada Day show in Charlottetown (photos bottom middle and right), where she had a front row view of Natalie MacMaster and Mac Morin. She really wanted to give Natalie a hug before we left and commented on how good Mac Morin's steps were a number of times. I'm a big fan of his step dancing as well. 

Lucinda remembered Mac Morin from the first West Mabou square dance we attended as a family this past spring. We even learned how to do the square sets before the dance. Square dances are SO much fun! It's truly such a great way to interact with and meet people while having fun. This summer it is my goal to make it to the Inverness County square dances. So, I've designed and screen printed an Inverness County Square Dances t-shirt. I'm really excited about this because I've had this concept designed since last fall. And, this is the FIRST t-shirt that I've screen printed myself (done at Inkstorm in Halifax). It's classic black and white and was inspired by Lucinda – my three-year-old fiddle loving daughter. This design is now part of Lucinda's collection. There'll be lots more to come in this collection.

Available at the Mabou Farmers' Market, Sunday, July 23. Limited edition first run.

UPDATE: This spring/summer I attended square dances in West Mabou, SW Margaree (after the Broad Cove concert) and Brook Village with friends visiting from Hubbards. All incredible but I think that night in Brook Village will go down as one of the best summer nights of 2017. 

See you at the dance(s)!