Two new books from Cape Breton University Press will see their first light in Scotland in August, part of a festival commemorating the Highland Clearances.
Cape Breton and Nova Scotia have close ties with the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in no small part due to thousands of Gaelic-speaking Scots immigrants displaced by often brutal 19th-century land-use reforms. The blunt result was a culture fundamentally altered, if not destroyed, and it resonates today among millions of descendants of Scots origins.
Bolstering its list of Celtic- and Gaelic-centred titles, CBU Press’s new offerings are directly connected with those Clearances.
Compiled by Scots-born American resident June Skinner Sawyers, Bearing the People Away: The Portable Highland Clearances Companion is part reference guide, part handbook, part travel guide and part resource in an encyclopedia format geared toward the general reader.
Entries vary in length from brief sentences to several pages and include major Clearances sites, major and minor figures associated with the Clearances, Clearances-related sites outside Scotland, places and historical events with Clearances and or Highland connections, books, recordings and relevant museums and organizations.
The second book being launched is even closer to home in Nova Scotia. Fògradh, Fàisneachd, Filidheachd / Parting, Prophecy, Poetry is a transcription and translation of the Gaelic contributions of Rev. Duncan Blair (1815-1893) in the famous Gaelic newspaper Mac-Talla, published in Sydney between 1892 and 1904 by Jonathan MacKinnon.
Translated and edited by John Alick MacPherson and Michael Linkletter, Parting, Prophecy, Poetry includes Blair’s articles on the Clearances, other historical essays, travelogues and a selection of his poetry. Uist-born MacPherson is a well-known Gaelic scholar and translator living in Grand Mira, Cape Breton. Linkletter is Chair of Celtic Studies at St. Francis Xavier University.
A native of Strathchur and Laggan in the Scottish Highlands, Rev. Duncan Blair was a Minister in the Presbytery of Pictou Nova Scotia. The small Presbyterian church in Garden of Eden, Pictou County, bears his name to this day.
Blair was a prolific writer who contributed to Gaelic publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He was mentor to Rev. Alexander Maclean Sinclair, a famed minister, Maritime Gaelic scholar and poet.
CBU Press will launch the books in Helmsdale, Sutherlandshire, where the Timespan Museum is hosting a Translocation Festival August 2-18. This year, 2013, is the bicentenary of the Kildonan (Sutherland) Clearances. Displaced Gaels from this area were resettled in what is now Winnipeg, among other areas in Upper Canada and Nova Scotia.
Following the official launch in Helmsdale August 9, CBU Press editor-in-chief Mike Hunter and authors June Skinner Sawyers and John Alick MacPherson will be making presentations in Ullapool, Thurso, Inverness, Portree, Glasgow and Edinburgh – place names familiar to Nova Scotians.
The launch and tour were in part made possible by a grant from the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
“We are so pleased to have the continuing support of the government of Nova Scotia on this and other of our publishing activities,” says Hunter.
“Nova Scotia books are an important cultural resource worth sharing with the world,” he added.
Fògradh, Fàisneachd, Filidheachd / Parting, Prophecy, Poetry and Bearing the People Away: The Portable Highland Clearances Companion will be available in Canada and the U.S. in September.