Photo #1 shows St Joseph’s church in Glencoe Mills with its distinctive bell tower and its adjacent cemetery surrounded by a picket fence, all freshly painted white. The parish was first established as a mission of Mabou in 1868 and the church was constructed in 1873.¹
Each parishioner of the church helped in its construction, with every board hand painted and cut with a two man saw. Alexander MacKinnon of Broad Cove was the chief carpenter, while Alex MacDonnell and John Beaton of Judique were responsible for the work of the barrel vaulted ceiling.
The Church’s most interesting feature is the bell tower, tall and narrow with a window at the middle, in which the bell hangs. The generosity of the original builders has continued to the present day with much of the labor required to maintain the church and property, donated by the parishioners.
¹ This information and the following quoted text come from a 2012 cookbook titled Glencoe’s Favorite Recipes prepared by the anonymous “Cookbook Committee”.↩
Photo #2 shows the Glencoe Mills Parish Hall, across the Glencoe Road from the Church. This building was originally built as an all grades school in 1908 and remained in use as a school until 1967. In the early 1970’s, the extension at the left was built and first used for a credit union and then as a canteen for the dances.² Today, it is for those dances, held there Thursday nights in the summer and on Sunday nights on long week-ends, that it is best known. The late renowned fiddler Buddy MacMaster played here regularly from the 1960’s onward, drawing huge crowds that spilled out of the building; I was privileged to hear him there a number of times—indeed, his was the first Cape Breton square dance I ever attended the year I first came to Cape Breton (and, during the time I’ve been in Cape Breton since, I’ve never missed a Glencoe dance). One of his recordings, issued on cassette in 1990, is titled Glencoe Hall honouring a place he made famous. Likewise, Natalie MacMaster released in 1997 two CD’s entitled Live, the second of which is subtitled Glencoe Dance: Recorded at the Glencoe Mills Hall. I’ve been privileged to hear her there more than once over the past years as well.
Photo #3 shows another view of the Glencoe Mills Parish Hall, this time from the middle of the Glencoe Road. The hall got a new wooden dance floor a few years ago and still attracts the finest musicians every week in the summer. As family dances where those under 19 are welcomed, it continues to serve an important rôle in transmitting the culture, music, and dance to young folk. It is a place full of enduring memories and therefore very dear to me.
² I am indebted to Elizabeth Beaton (Mrs. Angus Beaton), who taught there during the 1953/54, 1954/55, and 1956/57 school years, for the information given here on the history of the parish hall (and for so much other helpful assistance over the years).↩
Photo #4 looks north down the Glencoe Road at the valley carved by the Mull River (the bridge over the Mull is down the hill and around the corner to the right) and across the valley to what I call the “Rosedale Ridge”, along which a road runs below the summit with fine views of the area at several points, e.g., as seen here.