Sydney Mines memorial park holds promise
The committee that has taken on the work to establish Atlantic Memorial Park in Sydney Mines has faced indifference and some bad vibes in their efforts.
But they are not put off. The committee is continuing to work on the biggest project in Sydney Mines since Princess Colliery shut down in 1975.
Certainly their efforts will be of great economic benefit to this once-prosperous mining town that has had its financial base eroded in the past few decades because it holds the promise of drawing tourists to an area that has not drawn them previously, except those taking the fossil tours.
But we just can’t put a dollar sign on a plan to bring the past to the present and have actual history re-created and re-invented for tourists, sure, but as well for the young people to have a solid understanding of just what Sydney Mines meant.
I recall as a kid taking the bus from North Sydney to the Princess Colliery stop and walking down the hill to swim at the beautiful little beach at Lloyd’s Cove where the sand was tinted black.
We saw where the Western Union cable came ashore there to feed the messages from Western Europe into the cable office in North Sydney and have those messages transferred to New York by the wonder of the telegraph.
And in the Second World War there was the lookout on top of the cliffs, on guard for enemy subs seeking kills among the convoy ships.
On the other side of the perceived park there was the pilot station at the foot of Cranberry’s cliffs, not far from gun emplacements.
And, of course, there was Princess, “The Big Producer,” that employed so many Sydney Mines men for over 50 years. There is also the location where Cape Breton’s first steel plant was.
To create a park here is a grand plan and deserving for a community so hard hit by the loss of prime industry.
Sydney Mines produced fine citizens, including former mayor Michael Dwyer who became the province’s first labor minister in the government of Angus L. Macdonald and quit that to become president of Nova Scotia Steel and Coal and even then to be elected mayor of Now Glasgow after he moved there.
Then there was Dr. Tom McKeough who was 17 years in the provincial legislature and held the most important posts in government, including finance, and was the man who saved the Sydney steel plant after it was abandoned by its owners.
Then there was Bob Muir who served the community so honorably for 40 years in the Parliament of Canada. We have other outstanding towns-persons, from marathon runner Johnny Miles to musicians Bruce Goutho and the Barra MacNeils, and glorious athletes who played baseball at Brown St. Park, both before and after the Second World War.
But reclaiming and reactivating a new park, which will incorporate the vitality of Sydney Mines, will mean that we remember a town that contributed so much to its people and its province.
The great Joseph Howe said it best: “A wise nation preserves its
records, gathers up its muniments, decorates the tombs of its
illustrious dead, repairs its great public structures, and fosters
national pride and love of country by perpetual references to the sacrifices and glories of the past.” This applies so much to our town within a greater municipality. It can’t afford to forget our past and the creation of a park that en-captures the past while providing a constant reminder with trips down memory lane and even dogs can run off-lease is a real future for our community.
Ron MacDonald Sydney Mines