WEEKLY UPDATE DECEMBER 04, 2005
- ------------ STONEHAVEN GENEALOGY ------------
----- WEEKLY UPDATE DECEMBER 04, 2005 ------
NE SCOTLAND GENEALOGY ADDITIONS
Here are this month's additions to Colin Milne's
Web Site, NE SCOTLAND GENEALOGY as written on
his Home Page.
***** LATEST ADDITIONS - December 2005 *****
Season's greetings to you all! - I hope you have
a lovely break over the holiday season!!
Another extract from the Mariners Almanack of 1898.
This time it's the turn of Newburgh, some 12 miles
north of Aberdeen. A short but interesting addition.
Check it out now in my Lists10 page!
Another two photos for you. This time we feature two views of
Aberdeen, the Berryden area in the 1950's and the historic Green -
location of a market since medieval times. See them now in my Photos
Well we had our first sprinkling of snow in Aberdeen in November and
out Met office says we will definitely have more this winter. Let's
hope they've got that wrong! Well Ok, perhaps just Christmas day!
See you all again in the New Year. Meantime remember there are
updates every month - so don't be a stranger!
Link to NE SCOTLAND GENEALOGY:
With the Christmas & New Year Holidays fast approaching, I am
sure that as in years gone by, there will be a large amount of
members who would like to pass on their Greetings and Good
Wishes to their fellow Members of the Group. For this reason,
I will once again be doing what I did last year at this time.
Instead of posting each Greeting as they come in, I will save
the Greetings from each week, and then post all of them in one
email on the Friday of each week leading up to Christmas & New
Years. This way, you can read that weeks Greetings all at once
and at the same time not have your Inbox overrun with dozens of
As this is a very special time of the year and a lot of us do go
away for the Holidays in order to spend time with our loved ones,
I thought I would remind you also, that if you wish to send in
your Greetings before you go away, now would be a good time to
do so. Simply post a message as you would do normally and I will
then copy and paste them on to the Weekly Posting that I talked
OUR LIVING CELTIC CULTURE
By Hector MacNeil (Gaelic College - St. Ann's, Cape Breton, Canada)
Gaelic Cape Breton has been described as "the most recent and far-
flung outpost" of Gaelic Scotland. It is the only area in the world -
outside of Scotland itself - where Gaelic continues as a living
language and culture. Here the language, culture and traditions have
been transmitted through five, six and even seven generations of
separation from the Homeland. As such, Cape Breton holds a unique
position within the larger Gaelic world.
During the period 1775 - 1850, some twenty-five thousand Gaelic-
speaking Scots from every region of the Highlands and Islands
established thriving pioneer communities throughout Cape Breton and
Eastern Nova Scotia.
The pattern of emigration followed by the initial settlers was an
important factor in the successful transfer of the language and
culture. This pattern has been called "chain migration" which in its
simplest terms, means that emigrants tended to follow in the path of
their neighbors who had gone to the New World before them.
Thus, the Barra people coming to Cape Breton settled mainly in the
Christmas Island - Iona area; Lewis and Harris people in that area
that we call the North Shore; Lochaber people in Mabou, and so on.
This grouping of people according to their place of origin in
Scotland allowed for the transfer, whole and intact, of localized
dialects, of music, song and dance traditions, and of patterns of
Gaelic culture thrived in Cape Breton. From the arrival of the first
settlers through to the present, Cape Breton Gaels, like their
counterparts in Scotland, have continued the development of their
linguistic and cultural heritage.
By the late 1800's Gaelic communities were firmly established
throughout rural Cape Breton. The immigration to Cape Breton from
Scotland had all but ended by 1860. The Clearances were finished and
the Famine was past. The vast bulk of those who wished to leave
Scotland had left, and those who remained in Scotland were fighting
to win justice in their own country.
In Cape Breton, Gaelic was alive and thriving. By 1880 the Gaelic
speaking population of Cape Breton had swollen to 85,000. This
population was comprised largely of first, second and third
generation descendants of the original settlers and for the vast
majority of these descendants, Gaelic was their first and only
The opening years of the twentieth century saw many changes coming
into life in the rural and urban communities of Cape Breton. Some of
these changes were subtle; some were more obvious.
For Cape Breton, the era of pioneer settlement was past. With the
growing number of sawmills in the country, and the increased
availability of iron and steel, timber-framed construction had all
but replaced log construction as the main form of housing. Similarly,
the brush-fence and the stake-fence were giving way to pole and even
wire fencing. The single-lane tracks through the forest were
developing into roads. And the closing years of the nineteenth
century saw the opening of the railway as Cape Breton was connected
to the rest of North America by an rathad iarainn "the iron road".
Also, by 1900, the number of Gaelic speakers had dropped form eighty-
five thousand to around seventy-five thousand people.
There were other changes taking place as well. Beginning in the
1880's, a new pattern of out-migration began to appear - this time
from areas such as rural Cape Breton. The coal mines of Cape Breton
had been in operation before the Gaels arrived and it was usual for
some people to go to work in the mines from time to time. Because of
its rich deposits of coal and iron, Sydney and the surrounding
townships were emerging as a major industrial region within North
America. The opening of the Sydney Steel Plant in 1901 created a
demand for industrial workers never before seen in Cape Breton and
Sydney was dubbed, "the New York of the North".
Large numbers of people started leaving the small rural communities
of Cape Breton to seek work in the industrial area - the Gaels among
Throughout North America, there were other cities and newly opened
territories to draw rural inhabitants away from their homes.
California was one such area. New England was another. Often referred
to as "the Boston States", it was a magnet that attracted many young
Cape Breton Gaels looking for a new life away from the farm. This out-
migration coupled with improvements in transportation and a growing
identification with English as the language of success surely
contributed to the decline in the number of Gaelic speakers. It was a
pattern that was to continue throughout this century.
In addition, the First World War, the Great Depression, and the
Second World War would carry thousands of young men and women off the
battlefields of Europe and to the cities and harvest fields of North
America. Some would return to Cape Breton; many would not.
By 1921, the number of Gaelic speakers had further dropped to around
sixty-thousand and it is generally agreed that that number has
declined by 50% every ten years since. Today there are as many as
eight hundred Gaelic speakers in Cape Breton.
As daunting as these figures appear, Gaelic continued as an active
language within the rural communities of Cape Breton throughout this
period. And although the language has suffered such a steady erosion,
there remains in most communities today, a significant number of
speakers - enough to continued the language, the stories, and the
songs that act as a touchstone for the culture as a whole.
And what of that culture? How does it express itself, and what are
the social institutions that allow for its continuance in the face of
the dominance of English North America?
Conservatism in the retention of older cultural and social
institutions is a well documented feature of communities like Gaelic
Cape Breton that lie far from the physical center of that culture.
This fact, coupled with Cape Breton's geographical isolation, allowed
for the retention of a prodigious store of Gaelic oral and musical
tradition within the Cape Breton Gaidhealtachd (Gaelic speaking area
The "Ceilidh" was the main social institution that provided a venue
for the transmission of tradition. In Gaelic - and with it the
ceilidh-house - was a highly evolved institution throughout the
A Ceilidh-house was a favored gathering place in a community and each
ceilidh-house would be known locally for its particular form of
entertainment. This would most often be determined by the talents of
the occupants of the house. A man or woman known for their singing
abilities would attract other singers and those who enjoyed songs to
that particular house. Hence, singing would be the main entertainment
with story-telling, music and dance mixed in. Another house might be
known primarily for story-telling, and yet another for music and
Whatever the favored entertainment, visitors would start arriving
after the evening chores were finished. Each new arrival would be
greeted in turn and invited to tell their news. The early hours were
thus spent mainly in the discussion of the small and large events of
the day. As the evening settled, the music, song and story-telling
would commence and would continue through the evening and into the
Often performance was followed by discussion. The history behind a
story or a song, the meaning and nuances of a particular word or
line, bowing styles, fingering techniques - these and other topics
might be discussed and even debated. In this way, people shared their
collective knowledge, for a Gaelic audience at its best is an
informed audience capable of truly appreciating the individual style
and talents of the performer within the parameters of the wider
tradition. Even the person who might never "perform" participates in
a valuable and valued way through his or her knowledge of the
In this way, localized styles and repertoires of music, song, and
story along with knowledge of tradition, history and genealogy were -
and still are - maintained and developed within the "house ceilidh".
The Clearances that precipitated the mass emigration from the
highlands occurred at a time when the fiddle had reached its peak in
popularity in Scotland. The bagpipes had replaced the harp as the
instrument of preference during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. Now the fiddle in turn was rivaling the pipes. The torrent
of change that washed away the old order carried with it many of the
masters of both those instruments along with poets, story-tellers,
tradition bearers. Inevitably, some of those artists landed on the
shores of Nova Scotia. They brought with them their instruments,
their talents and their status as highly valued members of their
A visitor to a ceilidh in rural Cape Breton of the 1800's would have
heard a faithful rendering of the stories, songs and music brought
over from the Old Country. As years went by, however, they would be
interspersed with new additions of the Gaelic repertoire: additions
that reflected the experience of this new land of extreme heat and
bitter cold, this land of "the forest primeval", of lakes, rivers and
an ocean teeming with fish. This land of freedom from the tyranny of
They would also have recognized in the speech of the descendants of
the first settlers, the distinct dialects of the language that would
identify their place of origin in Scotland. In all, there were well
in excess of twenty dialects of Scottish Gaelic brought over to Cape
Breton. These dialects are clearly identifiable today in the speech
of Cape Breton Gaels.
The land area of Cape Breton is much smaller than that of Scotland,
however, and its topography does not offer the impediments to travel
encountered in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. This fact,
combined with the sheer number of dialects represented here has
allowed for an overlapping of dialect features not found in Scotland.
So it is that the dialect of the Gaels of Christmas Island - Iona is
immediately recognizable as "Barra Gaelic", but at the same time
there are some obvious borrowings from the Gaelic of the Lochaber
people of Mabou and area. This combination makes it distinctly Cape
This combination of conservatism and innovation is perhaps the over-
riding feature of Cape Breton Gaelic culture in general.
The Gaelic music and dance that was brought over by the original
settlers (what we call today, "Cape Breton fiddle" and "step-dance")
were allowed to develop in the rural communities, largely untouched
by European models that so altered music and dance in Scotland. There
have been two important innovations, however.
In the early 1900's, a new musical instrument, the organ, and soon
after it, the piano could be heard providing accompaniment to the
music of the fiddle. Within the kitchens and parlors of rural Cape
Breton, there were developed distinctive fingering techniques and
chord progressions never imagined by the maestros of European
It was at about this time too that the square-dance began to develop
as a Gaelic dance - incorporating step dancing into a four-couple
set. Some say that it developed from older Gaelic dances such as the
scotch four and the eight-hand reel. Others say that the form of the
set was borrowed from the Acadians or introduced by French dance
masters. Whatever its origins, the square dance has today all but
replaced those older set-dances and is recognized as the distinctive
dance of Cape Breton.
The song tradition in Cape Breton is in many ways a conservative one.
Today, one can hear the songs of eighteenth and nineteenth century
Scotland together with songs composed in that tradition on this side
of the Atlantic being sung by young and old alike. The "Milling
Frolic" is a favorite venue for singers and those who enjoy the
songs. Originally, milling frolics were held in order to shrink and
soften new-woven cloth by pounding it on a table in time to the
singing. The innovation here comes in the continuation of that
tradition in a new form. Today, there is no need for that work
process, but the milling frolic continues in Cape Breton as a popular
Recent years have seen people from many parts of the world come to
Cape Breton in order to learn about and to learn from this unique
community of people. Cape Breton is also recognized as a vital
reference point for full understanding of Gaelic Scotland and as a
vital and vibrant member of the Celtic communities of the world.
There are many, many aspects of Gaelic Cape Breton that are not
recovered in this short sketch. To resort to an old adage, one could
say that in order to truly experience the language, the culture, and
the people who continue that tradition, "You have to be here".
NOVEMBER POLL RESULTS
Here are the final results from the November POLL which ended on
November 31st. There were only two age groups that no one chose ..19
& under and 90 & over. Almost 1/3 of those who took part are between
the age of 50 & 59. I would like to "THANK" all 141 members who took
the time to take part in the November POLL and I encourage everyone
to take part in future POLLS.
QUESTION: Which Age Group Do You Belong To?
Vote Age Group
00: 19 & under
01: 20 - 29
09: 30 - 39
27: 40 - 49
44: 50 - 59
33: 60 - 69
23: 70 - 79
04: 80 - 89
00: 90 & over
REMEMBER: If you have a good idea for a future POLL, please be sure to
contact Diana Mackie at her email address listed below and let her
know about it. With your help, we can hopefully have a POLL every
month of the year.
SCOTTISH TRIVIA DID YOU KNOW?
Neeps' 'n' Tatties are the classic accompaniment to haggis, and are
remarkably simple to make. Just peel, chop and boil roughly equal
quantities of potato and turnip or swede, and then drain and mash
them together with a little butter and seasoning. Make sure you don't
forget the haggis.
CHEERS from your Stonehaven Genealogy Committee
Head Moderator - Jim Allan thistleinn@...
Assistant Editor - Gord Haddow gordhaddow@...
Reporter Darrell Herd darrell_herd@...
Reporter - Susanne Paradis svparadis@...
Reporter Kris Haynes meggsie_aus@...
Membership Moderator - David Stephen davidlyn@...
Message Moderator Jim Allan thistleinn@...
Database Moderator - George Morgan georgemorgan@...
Links Moderator - Susanne Paradis svparadis@...
Poll Moderator - Diana Mackie dianajmackie@...
- Neeps and Tatties mixed together is known as
SCOTTISH TRIVIA DID YOU KNOW?
Neeps' 'n' Tatties are the classic accompaniment
to haggis, and are remarkably simple to make.
Just peel, chop and boil roughly equal quantities
of potato and turnip or swede, and then drain and
mash them together with a little butter and
seasoning. Make sure you don't forget the haggis.