Whenever local photographer Owen Fitzgerald had the opportunity to go underground to capture photos of Cape Breton coal miners, he jumped at it. When author Ian McNeil asked him to use those photos in his book, Pit Talk: A Legacy of Cape Breton’s Coal Miners, Fitzgerald saw another opportunity – to give the gift of education to those with limited financial means, as a way to honour those coal miners.
“Some of my fondest memories were the times I got to spend in the pit with coal miners and getting a glimpse into the hard work and the camaraderie they shared,” said Fitzgerald, who operated a local photography shop for 20 years. “The miners treated me like one of their own and I’m pleased to be able to make this donation in their name.”
The photos taken by Owen Fitzgerald can be found throughout Pit Talk: A Legacy of Cape Breton’s Coal Miners, including on its cover. They were taken over the course of a quarter century in various collieries around Cape Breton including Princess, Prince, #26, Lingan, Phalen, and Donkin.
“Pit Talk: A Legacy of Cape Breton’s Coal Miners simply would not have been possible without Owen’s photographs,” stated Ian McNeil, author of the book. “He was able to capture the true essence of Cape Breton coal miners; their grit, their strong bond with one another, and even a bit of their devilment.”
A donation of $1500 was made from the Pit Talk project to the Hope Bursary at Cape Breton University on behalf of Owen Fitzgerald and the coal miners who were photographed.
Alexis Manley, Vice-President Student Services & Registrar at Cape Breton University explains, “The Hope Bursary was established to help students of limited means attend university. Some of the recipients will come from communities with a history of coal mining, so this donation is not only a fitting tribute, it’s a way to give back to those communities.”