MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Catherine Patterson (seated) with her daughters Lucy Byrne (left) and Bessie MacKenzie.

Catherine Patterson (seated) with her daughters Lucy Byrne (left) and Bessie MacKenzie.
Photograph coutesy of D. A. MacKenzie, the son of Bessie MacKenzie and Mrs. Patterson's grandson.

Catherine Patterson and Lucy Byrne of Benacadie Glen

Catherine Patterson

Catherine or "Katie" Patterson was born November 2, 1872 in Benacadie Glen, Cape Breton, the daughter of Allan MacNeil and Mary MacInnis. Her father's grandparents emigrated from the Isle of Barra in 1802 and eventually settled in Piper's Cove three years later. The progenitor of these MacNeils in Cape Breton was Ruaraidh MacNeil, whose grandfather had been a piper to MacNeil of Barra. Catherine's mother's family also came from Barra. It seems as if her paternal grandparents were involved in an elopement that occasioned much gossip and scandal in the community. Her paternal grandfather, Malcolm MacNeil, fell in love with the wealthy Catherine MacDonald, daughter of the head of the garrison at Chatham, while working in the lumber camps of the Miramichi. Both ran away to Cape Breton and Catherine quickly grew accustomed to farm life in Benacadie.

Like many other young Cape Breton women, Catherine Patterson worked in Boston as a domestic servant. Much of her earnings was sent back to Cape Breton to support her family in Benacadie. While in Boston, Catherine met David Patterson who had emigrated from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. The couple married in 1901 and would later move back to Benacadie Glen.

Scottish folklorist John Lorne Campbell recorded Catherine Patterson in 1937 and regarded her as one of the island's finest singers. Helen Creighton also features a number of her songs in her book Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia.

Catherine Patterson died in 1964.

Lucy Byrne

Lucy Byrne was born in Boston on Christmas Day, 1920. She was the daughter of David and Catherine MacNeil Paterson of Benacadie Glen and Boston respectively. Lucy moved with her family to Benacadie Glen while a young child and remained there most of her life. She died in 1990.