Cape Breton Post

Boularderie native's book deals with Island's Celtic heritage

By Julie Collins

Cape Breton Post

September 27, 2007

(Reprinted with kind permission)

BOULARDERIE -  Kevin MacLeod, who grew up on a farm on Boularderie Island, can vividly recall listening to his grandparents  peak Gaelic as their mother tongue. 

“Growing up in the late 50s and early 60s, I realized that theirs was a passing generation.  It was only after they were gone that I really wanted to go to them and ask questions about that period of time and get to know them better.”

MacLeod felt compelled to write his first novel, A Stone on Their Cairn, a story of his ancestors, the Highland Scots who lived in Cape Breton during a pivotal time when their daily lives reflected the richness of their heritage and attachment to each other.

The book focuses on the people of Loch Dubh, a fictitious highland settlement on the North Shore of Cape Breton.  The story runs from spring 1896 to summer 1914, with each chapter a calendar year and containing four or five vignettes that weave the larger story as the reader progresses through pages and time.

“During that period, husbands went off to work in the woods during the winter.  Women ran the entire farm, raised their children and very often buried their children.”

MacLeod said that when people look in on Cape Breton and its Celtic culture, they look at the music and language.

“In this book, I wanted to focus on the people, the tribulations, tragedies and joy  and give a deeper appreciation of their lives.  Using stories from my youth blended with historical fact, I have attempted to relay a larger story of a specific people in a specific time and a specific place, a realistic view of a society with its many strengths and weaknesses.”

MacLeod, who lives in Ottawa, serves as chief of protocol with the Department of Canadian Heritage.  He holds the highest rank available to Canadians of the Royal Victorian Order.  He is the only Canadian to have been promoted through all three ranks of the order.

 “I’ve written numerous articles for the Government of Canada, but this book was something that I had thought about for 15 or 20 years,” he said.  “Years ago, when I worked in the House of Commons listening to people like John Diefenbaker, I developed a strong live of language and the power of words.”  

MacLeod describes A Stone on Their Cairn as much a sociological / psychological study as a story about the lives of his characters, both individually and collectively.

He put pen to paper on August 31, 1997.  It took nine months to write the book, two years to polish and edit and seven years to find a publisher. 

“The book is a celebration of our past, our Celtic roots and heritage and an affirmation of our present, of our Celtic identity and pride.  It’s fitting that it is being released to coincide with the Celtic Colours International Festival.”

MacLeod will be holding book signings Sunday, October 7 from 12:30 to 2:30  p.m. at the Gaelic College Gift Shop, St. Anns;  Tuesday, October 9 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Highland Gift Shop, Iona;  Friday, October 12 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Blue Heron Gift Shop, Baddeck;  Saturday, October 12 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at the Millville Community Centre, Millville and from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Coles Book Store, Mayflower Mall, Sydney.

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