The Last Wake coming to the deCoste
Keppoch The Last Wake is coming to the deCoste Centre Sunday afternoon, Sept. 17, after three sold-out summer shows in Antigonish.
Following on the heels of Keppoch Kitchen Party, which was part of the deCoste’s Winter Blast Festival, it is another ceilidh, again set in a farmhouse on Keppoch Mountain. It starts as a 50th anniversary party for Maggie and Joe MacLean but a call on the new party line puts an end to the ceilidh.
Producer Duncan MacDonald is promising lots of laughs along with a little Gaelic story-telling and a whole lot of Celtic music.
“We’ve got a party, a wake, a moonshiner and a police chase, aside from all the wonderful singing and dancing,” he said.
Presented by the Society for the Ships of 1801, the show reflects the early Celtic culture of Pictou, Antigonish and Inverness counties – but MacDonald points out the Keppoch shows are more light-hearted than the society’s first three historical shows.
“Our early shows tapped into some amazing local talent so we decided we would carry on with some lighter entertainment that still reflects our musical and cultural heritage,” he said.
Ann Holton, who sings several songs, plays the role of the MacLean’s daughter – and has her hands full keeping peace between her sharp-tongued mother and an equally outspoken Irish neighbour.
Another popular character is the hapless Michael Lauchie who claims to be worn out by the daily grind of farming the thin soil on the mountain.
“At the end of the last show Michael Lauchie had come up with an idea for an easier way to earn a living and he does quite well until the Mounties come after him.”
When word comes of a death on the mountain, the MacLeans agree to host the old gentleman’s wake, fearing his sister is too miserly to give him a good send-off. It begins as a somber occasion but the neighbours all agree the dead man had nothing against a party.
“Because he was a good neighbour everyone pitches in to give him the send-off he deserves,” MacDonald explained.
He also pointed out the Pictou-Antigonish County line divides the Keppoch with communities such as Black Brook on the Pictou County side.
“A good many of the people who left the mountain came to Pictou County to work in the mines or factories. Often when a family breadwinner died, the wife would have to move the family to a town where she could find work and the biggest town was in Pictou County.”
While the last two shows have been set on Keppoch Mountain, MacDonald hopes they represent any of the early Celtic settlements that once flourished but no longer exist.
“As the young people left to find work in the mines or on the railroads or to go to the Boston States or to Ontario, it got harder for the older folks to stay on the mountain. We’re only left with songs and stories and we hope we’re doing something to carry them on with these shows.”
Tickets for the 2 p.m. show are available through the deCoste Centre.
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