Early Days of the International Gathering of the Fiddles: Glendale

December 30, 2009

The tiny Cape Breton community of Glendale, snuggled in the rolling hills between Port Hawkesbury and Baddeck, was the site in early July (1979) of the International Gathering of the Fiddles.

Fiddlers from across Canada, the United States and Scotland tapped their toes and strung their bows together in the semi-annual Festival of Scottish Fiddling. The event was even more significant this year as a major highlight of the International Gathering of the Clans. It was only natural that Cape Breton fiddlers dominated the scene.

Hugh Angus Jobes of Boularderie loves to play his fiddle. And play the fiddle he did in a solo performance, as part of a mass fiddle finale, and in the practice shed, where spontaneous concerts simpy happened for hours on end. Hugh Angus, 72, has been a fiddler since the age of 13. He remembers the days of the depression in the 1930’s, when the passing of the hat at parties and concerts for his fiddling kept his family fed. The Boularderie fiddler picked up his music-making by ear. He has even written a tune entitled “Flora’s Favourites” for his wife

Ed Kaizer of Sydney, took part in the fiddling festival playing a fiddle he made by hand. At age 81, he was problbly one of the oldest fiddlers in the Glendale concert. The son of a boat builder, and a man who loves to work with wood, Mr. Kaizer combined his carpentry talents and his love of fiddle music to fashion animpressive musical instrument. The fiddle played by Jim Anderson of Nobelton, Ontario, was more than 100 years old, and has been recently brought to Canada from his native Scotland. The instrument, in fact, had been the centre of a heartbreaking romantic tragedy. The fiddle had been given to Mr. Anderson’s grand-aunt by a boyfriend who promised to return one day to take both fiddle and the aunt away to a new life. Unfortunately, the boy left unexpectedly for Australia, without his girlfriend or his fiddle.

The story of Mr. Anderson’s fiddle illustrates the relationship that the instrument has come to have with Scottish families both in Scotland and in the new world. Father John Angus Rankin, parish priest at Glendale, feels very strongly that fiddle music is an expression of the Gaelic language. Father Rankin has been one of the driving forces behind the Cape Breton Fiddler’s Association and the staging of the fiddling festival. In addition to keeping the Scottish culture alive in Cape Breton, Father Rankin believes the festival provides fiddlers with the opportunity to show their world their fiddling skills. The Association and festival were started in the early 1970’s to “bring fiddlers out of the woods”, to join the ranks a few better-known fiddlers on the island.Father Rankin sees a definate revival of fiddling occuring. More and more young people are joining their elders to make beautiful fiddle music.

Twelve-year-old Katherine MacKinnon of Port Hawkesbury showed her talents on the fiddle at the Glendale Festival to the joy of the audience and the senior fiddlers alike. And she joined in the grand finale that saw close to 100 fiddlers stamp out the old favorites. Fiddling music reflects the life of the fiddler and the society in which he lives. The names of the people who play them. On the Glendale stage, the old time favourites included “King George the Fourth”, “Mary MacDougall’s March”, “Devi In The Kitchen”, old-time wedding marches and “Sandy MacIntyre’s Trip to Boston”. The history of the fiddle is the Scottish culture was made real at the Glendale festival by the performance of three fiddlers from Inverness, Scotland.

Donald Riddell had been to Cape Breton two years ago to play his fiddle, and this year he brought two younger players with him. Clad in traditional Scottish kilts, the three visiting fiddlers stood out in the crowds from the Cape Breton fiddlers, who as a rule, don’t wear the kilts when they play. The Glendale fiddling festival has come and gone, and the tiny communtiy is slowly returning to its’ quiet rural life. But the sound of fiddling will continue this summer in Cape Breton, and beyond, in many ceilidhs and concerts to be held as part of the International Gathering of the Clans.

Home-Made Fiddle – Eighty-one year old Ed Kaizer of Sydney, took part in the Festival of Scottish Fiddling in Glendale and played on a fiddle he made by himself. Mr. Kaizer, who likes to work with wood, has made two violins, and plans to make a third this winter. Bothered with arathritis, Mr. Kaizer has fashioned a special arm rest to pillow him to play his fiddle for hours on end. The fiddle is bridging the generation gap, as fiddling makes a major comeback throughout Nova Scotia and other parts of the world, as an expression of the rich Scottish culture. Hugh Angus Jobes, aged 72, of Boularderie, gives 12 year-old Katherine MacKinnon of Port Hawkesbury, a few tips during the Festival of Scottish Fiddling at Glendale.

From The Glace Bay Coastal Courier, August 1, 1979


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