Proud com­mu­nity

Washabuck be­ing awarded Lieu­tenant Gover­nor’s Com­mu­nity Spirit Award.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - watch it Check out our video at: www.cb­ Click on videos link BY JULIE COLLIN jcollins@cb­

Carmie Ma­cLean is un­abashedly proud of her home com­mu­nity of Washabuck.

Carmie and her hus­band Ben, who grew up down the road, had to move away to make a liv­ing but ev­ery sum­mer came back home with their chil­dren.

Like many Cape Bre­ton­ers, when they re­tired, there was no ques­tion that they would move back to their beloved Washabuck over­look­ing the Bras d'Or Lake.

Washabuck is one of four com­mu­ni­ties be­ing rec­og­nized for their civic and com­mu­nity spirit and will be awarded this year's Lieu­tenant Gover­nor's Com­mu­nity Spirit Award.

The other win­ning com­mu­ni­ties are Mabou, In­ver­ness County; River John, Pic­tou County; and Spry­field.

Washabuck will of­fi­cially re­ceive its award from Nova Sco­tia's Lieu­tenant Gover­nor, John James Grant, dur­ing a spe­cial cer­e­mony Aug. 5 at the Washabuck Com­mu­nity Cen­tre.

Ben's hope is that work done this year to im­prove the road on the Iona side lead­ing to Washabuck will con­tinue and even­tu­ally in­clude work on the in­fa­mous Gil­lis Point Road.

"De­spite win­ning the com­mu­nity spirit award, to many, we are known as the com­mu­nity with the worst road in At­lantic Canada and we'd like that to change."

Even though the pop­u­la­tion of Washabuck hovers around 50 per­ma­nent res­i­dents, it oozes com­mu­nity spirit.

"There is a con­ti­nu­ity of spirit, the ty­ing to­gether of old and young. Keep­ing peo­ple en­gaged so that the spirit re­mains, that's what we do," said Carmie. "The kids, both those who live here year round and vis­it­ing chil­dren help out with events. When we have the road­side cleanup each year, the kids do their part to help. For the peo­ple who live in Washabuck, the ma­jor­ity get in­volved in all our com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties."

She is quick to stress that with­out a church, schools or a fire depart­ment, the Washabuck Com­mu­nity Cen­tre is the heart of the com­mu­nity.

The cen­tre, which has had ad­di­tions, is the orig­i­nal one-room school­house which opened in 1949 and was closed in 1972.

Through the ef­forts of com­mu­nity mem­bers, the cen­tre has evolved into a mod­ern, wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble build­ing with a fully equipped kitchen. Its uses in­clude, but aren't lim­ited to, wed­dings, an­niver­saries, card games, square dances, fundrais- ing din­ners, darts and ex­er­cise pro­grams. It has been used as a fu­neral par­lor, for spe­cial hol­i­day events and is the head­quar­ters of the com­mu­nity's an­nual ALS Walk and the ex­tremely pop­u­lar "Along the shores of Washabuck Sum­mer Fes­ti­val."

In­tro­duced in 2009, the fes­ti­val won the WestJet Pro­vin­cial Fes­ti­val Award in 2012. Many for­mer res­i­dents and ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers co-or­di­nate their va­ca­tions to come home and en­joy the fes­ti­val.

Many tal­ented per­form­ers have roots in the com­mu­nity in­clud­ing the Barra MacNeils, and fid­dler Carl MacKen­zie.

Even through their num­bers are few, the res­i­dents of Washabuck are an ac­tive bunch.

"We are so blessed be­cause for most of the peo­ple who live in this com­mu­nity, there is a real sense of place," Carmie said. "You want to give that to your chil­dren, which is why, if you have events, it is so im­por­tant to in­clude the kids and nur­ture that sense of com­mu­nity."

Look­ing out the front win­dow of their home, Ben adds that what they have com­pares to any­where else in the world.

"Look­ing out there, you can see the lake and if you want to swim or go boating, it's there. Sure, we have to travel to get gro­ceries and for things like doc­tors ap­point­ments, but it's a trade­off be­cause we live in a par­adise."

De­spite hav­ing to travel to work, Vince Ma­cLean and his wife Char­lotte, who were born and raised in Washabuck, moved back home in 1975.

On a clear day from the Ma­cLean's liv­ing room win­dow, you can see across the Bras d'Or Lake to Beinn Bhreagh, the home of world fa­mous in­ven­tor Alexan­der Graham Bell.

Ma­cLean, who penned the book, These Were My Peo­ple Washabuck: An Ance­do­tal History, said Cape Bre­ton­ers come back be­cause they love the is­land.

"It's the com­mu­nity, the tal­ent, the mu­sic - what's not to love. Specif­i­cally, it's the Bras d'Or Lake and Celtic mu­sic, in ad­di­tion to the peo­ple and the way of life."

Look­ing back, he said peo­ple raised large fam­i­lies and no one went hun­gry.

"There wasn't any money, but peo­ple got by through hard work. Com­mu­ni­ties like Washabuck are try­ing to main­tain that sense of fam­ily, and even though the num­bers are low, peo­ple pull to­gether and it shows."

JULIE COLLINS/CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTOS Ben and Carmie Ma­cLean, who were born and raised in Washabuck, re­turned home to live af­ter they re­tired and are ac­tive mem­bers of their com­mu­nity.

Sum­mer stu­dent Jamie Ann MacNeil is busy mak­ing plans for the 2015 “Along the Shores of Washabuck Sum­mer Fes­ti­val," be­ing held July 31 to Au­gust 9.

Holy Rosary Church, which no longer has reg­u­lar ser­vices, is open for spe­cial oc­ca­sions and main­tained by the res­i­dents of Washabuck.

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