by Bill Doyle
Shortly after retiring, long time CBC radio producer Bill Doyle spent over a year reading everything he could about his island to write Cape Breton Facts and Folklore, a veritable who’s who, where’s where and what’s what about the island and its people.
The book is chock full of small snippets of information on people, places, politics, labour, sports, culture and history. To the native Cape Bretoner, the book is quite engaging because of the breadth and variety of things covered. For instance the first synagogue in Atlantic Canada was built in Glace Bay in 1902, while St Francis Xavier University was originally founded at Arichat and only moved to the mainland, as Cape Bretoners call the rest of Nova Scotia, for want of a building. Who knew eh.
Visitors to Cape Breton will find this book especially useful because it provides them with more than enough background material to make them want to seek out and visit certain places on the island, as well it gives them a fleeting chance of passing for a local. For instance Doyle explains that ‘dear’ is a term of endearment for friends and strangers alike, ‘bish’ is a card game, ‘b’y’ means man, ‘hookers’ make rugs in Cheticamp, ‘toboggan’ comes from the MiKmaq for sled, ‘Rock-a-bye’ was a famous boxer and the ‘Judique Flyer’ was a rather slow moving coal and passenger train trundling between Port Hastings and Inverness.
If you’re coming to Cape Breton to enjoy the outdoors, taking this lightweight book around with you would be an excellent choice for quick reads by the campfire, riding the two and a half minute long Englishtown Ferry, having a beer in Mabou’s Red Shoe Pub, or strolling around the non-retreat areas of the Gampo Abbey in northern Cape Breton. In the immortal words of Mary Morrison the grey haired sage of many the Cape Breton stage this book is ‘good dear, good.’ So if you want to find out who Mary really is you better buy er now b’y.
– review by Paul MacDougall –