Arts

Au­thor do­nated man­u­script and book sales to mu­seum

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - CAROLYN BAR­BER

A new book traces the Mac­neils of Bay Saint Lawrence

Bernar­dine Macneil-camp­bell had no in­ten­tion of ever pub­lish­ing a book. With a wee nudge from the North High­lands Com­mu­nity Mu­seum, how­ever, that’s just what she did.

For the past 40 years, Bernar­dine has been re­search­ing an­ces­tors on her fa­ther’s side who em­i­grated from Barra, Scot­land, even­tu­ally set­tling in Bay St. Lawrence. In De­cem­ber 2016, Bernar­dine and her son Scott Camp­bell de­cided to do­nate the man­u­script to the North High­lands Com­mu­nity Mu­seum & Cul­ture Cen­tre to help fu­ture vis­i­tors re­search­ing their fam­ily his­tory in the area. The cen­tre had been one of Bernar­dine’s early “go-to” places for ge­nealog­i­cal re­search.

“All that work and all those records that I have kept. If some­body else could use them, I would hate to see them go in the garbage,” said Bernar­dine in an Oct. 31 tele­phone in­ter­view from her home in Rich­mond Hill, ON.

She mailed it to the mu­seum, no strings at­tached. Months later, she re­ceived a call from the cen­tre’s board di­rec­tor Ken Mur­ray ask­ing per­mis­sion to pub­lish it. On Sept. 16 of this year, the cen­tre launched Bernar­dine’s book, “The Macneil Set­tlers and their Kin at Bay St. Lawrence.” Seventy copies have been sold so far. Bernar­dine do­nates all prof­its to the mu­seum.

Bernar­dine was born in Glace Bay and raised in Do­min­ion be­fore the fam­ily moved to Toronto. Her pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther died be­fore she was born and grow­ing up, she al­ways as­sumed her great grand­fa­ther, Don­ald Macneil, came from nearby Do­min­ion or Glace Bay. It wasn’t un­til the early 1960s, dur­ing an un­ex­pected visit to Cape North that she be­gan to dig deeper. There she met long lost cousins, learned that her an­ces­tors were deep sea fish­er­men from the He­brides and that Don­ald Macneil was, in fact, born in Bay St. Lawrence.

In the fol­low­ing decades, she learned that her an­ces­tors em­i­grated to Cape Bre­ton from the He­brides in 1824, land­ing in Syd­ney and first set­tling in Beaver Cove near Iona. They fished in Aspy Bay, In­go­nish and Bay St. Lawrence and even­tu­ally set­tled down north in the mid-1830s.

Bernar­dine says trac­ing a fam­ily tree takes “cu­rios­ity and stick-to-it-ness” and the process can be “ad­dic­tive.”

“The fam­ily ge­neal­ogy and the his­tory of the 'Bay' and ar­eas you might say be­came an ob­ses­sion of mine and ev­ery time I vis­ited Cape Bre­ton, which was of­ten, I was on the hunt, in mu­se­ums, court houses, churches and ceme­ter­ies and any place that had records I could pe­ruse.”

Scott says he is “ex­tremely proud” of his mom. For most of the 40 years of re­search­ing the book, she cared for her late hus­band suf­fer­ing from chronic, dis­abling dis­ease.

Both Bernar­dine and Scott are grate­ful to the Board of Di­rec­tors of North High­lands Com­mu­nity Mu­seum for host­ing and pub­lish­ing the book and the hos­pi­tal­ity shown to them dur­ing the launch by mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

“Bay St. Lawrence, where my grand­fa­ther was born, is close to my heart. Scott and I would like to re­turn some­day in the fu­ture for an­other visit and hope­fully meet more of our kin.”

To pur­chase a copy, please call the North High­lands Com­mu­nity Mu­seum and Cul­ture Cen­tre at 902-383-2579 or email nhco2579@gmail.com.

Bernar­dine Macneil Camp­bell (sit­ting) signs a copy of her book “The Macneil Set­tlers and their Kin at Bay St. Lawrence.” at the North High­land Com­mu­nity Mu­seum & Cul­ture Cen­tre. Sub­mit­ted photo.

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