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A fond look back at ‘ The First Lady of Cape Breton’
A fond look back at the ‘ The First Lady’ of Cape Breton.
It was 30 years ago and Holy Angels Convent was celebrating 100 years since its founding as an all-girls school in the heart of Sydney.
When former students and teachers came together for the celebration, missing from that large group was one of Holy Angels' most famous graduates, a woman who had become a star in Cape Breton and was often referred to as ‘ The First Lady of Cape Breton.’ Her name was Theresa MacLellan, but she was better known as Ann Terry.
Unfortunately, Terry had passed away on June 15 of 1985, and her loss was felt not only by fellow Cape Bretoners but by friends and admirers well beyond this island.
Her funeral, an evening liturgy celebrated at her home parish of St. Anthony Daniel, was filled to capacity despite rain that literally poured from the heavens. Weather aside, the evening service, a first for the area, made it possible for those who might have been unable to attend a daytime service, to join hundreds paying their respects to a woman many of them had probably never met but who had been a welcome presence in their lives for 18 years.
A 1941 graduate of Holy Angels, Terry was very involved in drama and pursued her interests in English and speech at St. Francis Xavier University, beginning her broadcasting career at CJFX with a program called ‘Terry Tales.’
Having adopted the name Ann Terry, she returned to Sydney in 1954 where she succeeded Betty Brown as host of CJCB's women's morning program.
Blessed with a remarkable, made-for-media voice and a larger-than-life personality, Terry's was a unique program mainly because she was a unique woman – intelligent, outgoing, personable and with a great sense of humor.
She had the capacity to laugh at herself. One of her stories involved waiting at a traffic light when a truck pulled up beside her and the driver leaned out the window to call “Hey Beans” at her. This, of course, was a reference to a TV commercial for Graves Beans, which sponsored High Society, a local TV program she emceed involving high school students.
Although she appeared regularly on local TV shows, her forte was radio as she regaled loyal listeners with stories and commen- taries on matters of interest to them.
Terry's passion for Cape Breton and her drives around the island provided her with plenty of anecdotes to share with her audiences. Her favourite phrase “Believe you me, homemakers” always preceded an insightful observation on something she had encountered, often during one of her excursions.
Terry became known Canadawide through her appearances on Front Page Challenge, while at home she covered royal visits, interviewed visiting VIPs, and served as master of ceremonies for many community events.
Highlights of her time with CJCB were opening nights of Rotary Shows, a musical mainstay in Sydney for many years, bringing in talent from larger cities who joined with Rotarians and other very talented local performers to bring a taste of Broadway to Sydney. Terry's interviews with performers and descriptions of what the well-turned-out, including herself, were wearing to opening night were always an integral part of the performance.
Terry loved music and her listeners were exposed to everything from Chopin to the Clancy Brothers whose appearance in Sydney obviously captured her heart.
Her support for everything Cape Breton was
heartfelt and obvious, and her encouragement for local talent and for those attempting to sell the island as a tourist attraction made her a natural for the position of Director of Tourism which she assumed with DEVCO, the Cape Breton Development Corporation in 1972.
In 1980, she was named Director of Corporate Affairs, a position she held until her death in 1985.
Terry's resume included being a founding member of the Federation of University Women and the first female member of the St. F.X. board of governors, as well as an honorary member of many Cape Breton organizations.
What endeared her to Cape Bretoners was that she was in person exactly what she was on air, open and friendly and interested in the many people who met her casually or whom she interviewed in her capacity as a radio or TV host.
It was fitting that the Ann Terry Project, established by the Ann Terry Society in 1986 in her memory, provides counselling services to assist women seeking employment, especially “those re-entering the workforce” by assessing their abilities, interests and skills, as well as offering help with resumes and referring clients to job vacancies.
Terry would be more than pleased to know that this organization has made it possible for many women to use their talents to establish careers and gainful employment, all of which efforts are in keeping with Terry's concern for the people of the island she so loved.
Theresa MacLellan, aka Ann Terry, was blessed with a remarkable, made-for-media voice and a larger-than-life personality. Terry became known Canada-wide through her appearances on Front Page Challenge