Sunset over the Mabou River
from the Mabou River Bridge

Sunset over the Mabou River from the Mabou River Bridge
Photo 17 of 25: Sunset over the Mabou River from the Mabou River Bridge
Taken 2006 June 16 in Mabou from the Cèilidh Trail (Highway 19) at the bridge over the Mabou River
GPS 46°04.173'N 61°23.719'W

This is essentially the same view as the previous one, but was taken from the Mabou River Bridge on the Cèilidh Trail, rather than from beside the wharf. I snapped this photo at 20h51, just as the sun had passed below the Cape Mabou Highlands; light lingers in Cape Breton evenings at the end of spring when the days are longest—I have often easily read in the car at this time of year as late as 21h30 while waiting for a square dance (which usually starts at 22h).

Speaking of music, Mabou is home to some of the finest traditional Scottish musicians on Cape Breton Island. I mentioned the world-renowned Rankin family in this essay’s introduction, but this is also home to the celebrated Beaton family (though some of its members now live outside the village), including Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton; their daughter Andrea Beaton; Joey and Karen Beaton; Glenn Graham and his mother, Mary Graham; and the current premier of Nova Scotia, Rodney MacDonald, great musicians all. Willie Kennedy (originally from Kenloch) lives in Mabou as do Mairi Rankin and Bonnie Jean MacDonald; Dawn and Margie Beaton grew up there, but now live away, though they often play there still; Melody and Derrick Cameron are in West Mabou; and Calum and Kenneth MacKenzie are from Mabou Coal Mines; and Father Angus Morris, a respected fiddler who has composed several tunes, is the parish priest. And there are a number of very talented younger musicians in the village now coming up. That makes Mabou a centre for top-notch music: if you haven’t attended a parish concert in Mabou, you owe it to yourself to do so to see and hear all of the amazing talent in this town.

The Red Shoe Pub, open from June through October, has music going most evenings and their Sunday afternoon cèilidhs are fantastic; see the web site for the schedule of musicians from all over the Island who play there. As well, the aforementioned Strathspey Place offers great concerts and other entertainment throughout the year from its John Morris Rankin Stage. The Saturday night dances in West Mabou go the year round and attract the finest players from all over the Island; the summer adult dances in Brook Village, a short drive from Mabou southeast on Highway 252, usually feature one or more members of the Beaton family and are among the most popular on Cape Breton Island. The parish hall across from the Red Shoe Pub offers Tuesday cèilidhs in the summer, hosted by Karen and Joey Beaton, that attract the finest traditional Scottish musicians but also feature upcoming talents; it is also the site of dances, weddings, parish concerts, and other community events. An Drochaid (The Bridge Museum) also offers cèilidhs on Wednesdays. I know of no other place on Cape Breton Island where the traditional musical scene is as vibrant as it is in Mabou.

[2012] Rodney MacDonald is no longer active in government, but still calls Mabou his home. Mairi Rankin, who is a member of the band The Outside Track, now lives in Vancouver.