MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Inverness: Photo by Stacey MacLean.

Photo courtesy of Stacey MacLean. Inverness.


Inverness lies about halfway up the west coast of Cape Breton. Its first settler was Angus MacIsaac from Scotland. The region, although settled in the early 1800s, grew into a population centre with the discovery of coal in the nearby cliffs. For years, no industry existed and coal was procured by residents for the rest of the community with pick and shovel. The coal was carried to the community in creels. This proved to be back-breaking work.

The Broad Cove Coal Company was established in the 1880s under the direction of a Massachusetts man, William Penn Hussey. A suitable harbour and pier for shipping was built, but Hussey retired with a fortune at the end of the century, leaving the developments in a state of disrepair and neglect. The project was then taken up by the Inverness Railway and Coal Company, owned by Mann and MacKenzie from central Canada. These two men built the Inverness railway, which ran a distance of 100 miles between Point Tupper in the south to Cheticamp in the north. Despite the efforts of several companies, the Inverness coal industry collapsed in the 1950s, sending many residents looking for work in the mines of Sydney/New Waterford and New Glasgow on the mainland. Reminders of the town's industrial past remain today in the brightly coloured houses, built by the coal companies, which line the Main Street.

Inverness in Scotland is known as "the capitol of the Highlands" and, likewise, in Cape Breton, the town of Inverness may be regarded as a centre of culture, business and population in the county which bears its name.