This spectacular view from the look-off on Beinn Alasdair Bhain (Fair Alistair’s Mountain) never loses its charm for me and is a fitting icon for the Mabou Coal Mines area of Cape Mabou. The panorama stretches all the way to mainland Nova Scotia—Antigonish County is seen running across the far horizon some 55 km (34 mi) away and Cape George on the mainland is at the far right outside the scope of this photo. Finlay Point is the point directly below the look-off; Coal Mine Point is the next point beyond; and Beaton point is the point beyond it (Green Point, at the mouth of the Mabou River, is hidden in this view). The building at the mouth of Mill Brook marks Finlay Point Harbour, the fishing harbour where boats and vehicles can be seen. Coal Mine Beach, a sand beach popular on hot days, runs along the shore to the left of the harbour, mostly hidden from view here. Across the mouth of the Mabou River is the Colindale shore with the MacPhee’s landmark red barn amid beautiful green fields. To the right, one can see a small part of MacQuarries Beach at Sutherlands Cove and then Black Point, the westernmost point on Cape Breton Island. Beyond Black Point, one can easily make out the western end of Port Hood Island. Between Port Hood Island and the mainland is the gorgeous St Georges Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of St Lawrence, which extends to the left of Black Point to the Canso Causeway, far outside the scope of this photo. To the left, again outside this photo’s scope, is a lovely view of the undulating mountains and glens of the Cape Mabou Highlands and, to the right across the Gulf of St Lawrence, it is possible to make out the distant shores of Prince Edward Island on a beautiful sunny, clear day like this one. This is a marvellous vantage point to which no photo can possibly do justice—it must be seen with one’s eyes!
Finlay Point is named for Finlay Beaton, who with his younger brother Alexander, sailed in 1804 from Lochaber to Prince Edward Island (the family was originally from the Isle of Skye, but had moved to Lochaber in the middle of the 18th century). In 1809, the two brothers came to Cape Breton and settled in this area, the first Scotsmen to do so. They were joined in 1819 by John Rankin and his family. The descendents of these two founding families are still very prominent in this area today.¹
This area has visible deposits of both coal and gypsum. The latter can be seen on the face of Coal Mine Point as well as on Finlay Point and lies exposed in the fields of MacDonalds Glen below the look-off; some can be seen there above the gravel beach. Coal seams are also visible at various points along the shore, again including both Coal Mine Point and Finlay Point. Coal was mined from an underwater mine near Coal Mine Point, whence it was taken over a railway to the piers at Mabou Harbour to be loaded onto boats for transport elsewhere; this activity ceased in 1909, when the mine was flooded.
¹ See J. L. MacDougall’s History of Inverness County Nova Scotia, p. 595 and p. 600.↩