MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

The North Shore

This stretch of land along the eastern side of Cape Breton’s northern peninsula, referred to by islanders as “The North Shore,” extends from the communities of Englishtown in the south to Ingonish in the north. The area's cultural, historical and religious heritage is regarded as being distinct and relatively homogenous.

Milling Frolic on the North Shore. Pictured from left to right on the far end of the table are: John Alex John X. MacDonald, ?, Gwennie Pottie, Jessie Mary MacLeod and Alexander Kerr. Photo by Ronald Caplan. Most settlers on the North Shore arrived, between 1800 and 1840, from the islands of Berneray, Harris, and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The residents have preserved the Gaelic dialect and speech inflections peculiar to these islands, and this dialect has become another distinguishing feature of the North Shore community.

Most of the communities have remained Presbyterian although, more recently, some individuals have become United Church members. Psalm precenting has always been strong on the North Shore, but due to the decline of the Gaelic language and the increased membership of the United Church, this style of worship is rarely used today. Unlike in many other regions of Cape Breton, instrumental performance is not strong here, but singers of this area are regarded as being some of the finest in Cape Breton.

The North Shore has always been a farming and fishing community, although it can be said that the fishery, however limited it is today, provides a living for most residents of the area.

photo: Milling Frolic on the North Shore. Pictured from left to right on the far end of the table are: John Alex John X. MacDonald, Neil R. MacDonald, Gwennie Pottie, Jessie Mary MacLeod and Alexander Kerr. Photo by Ronald Caplan.