THE MABOUS – CAPE BRETON

The Mabous – Last High School Class

 

 

 

The district profile includes the coastal communities of Cape Mabou, MacKinnon’s Brook, MacDonald Glen, Mabou Mines, Mabou Harbour Mouth, Mabou Harbour, West Mabou Harbour. Northeast Mabou is inland around the Mabou Harbour/Mabou River estuary. The areas including Brook Village , Glencoe Mills, and Mull River are usually considered with Mabou. #

 

#(Those responsible for place names certainly lacked a degree of imagination – CAPER)

This large area is characterized by gently rolling land with an elevation of 25100

Mabou Shore Line

Metres to more steeply sloped foothills, backed, north of Mabou, by the Mabou Highlands. The highlands are described as a and highly dissected Arounded knoll@ 15km by 8km with an elevation of 320 metres on the south end to 355 metres on the north end. Although the rock formations (Precambrian sedimentary and volcanic strata set with Devonian Coniferous sandstone) making up the highlands are very resistant to erosion, the sides are deeply eroded; glaciers have left coarse and fine sandy deposits at elevations of 150 metres. While the soil in the highlands is a well drained stony, sandy loam (Thom), the main soils in the foothills and lower rolling coastal lands are well drained dark reddish clay loam till (Falmouth, Woodbourne, Millbrook, Queens) known to be the best agricultural soil types in the province. The native trees in the Mabou district include hardwoods (sugar maple, yellow birch, beech) in the upland plateau and softwoods (fir, spruce and hemlock) in the coastal areas, with more hardwood in the lower slopes. Many streams flow through deep gorges from the highlands into harbour and ocean. There is also ample fresh water found throughout the rolling lands in the southern part of the district. Mabou Harbour, with a narrow mouth and extending inland almost eight kilometres, is the most protected harbour on the western coast of Cape Breton.

 

The Mabou district was settled by Highland Scottish in the early to mid 19th century;  some Loyalist merchant class predated their arrival; the most recent major economic immigrations were influxes of farmers from the Netherlands in the 1950s, and artists and Aback to the landers since the 1970s. The Mi’kmaq, who gave Mabou its name, from AMalabo or AMalabokek used the district as a prime hunting and fishing area in vast time leading up to European settlement. The present day

Mabou district has a population of about 900.

 

Mabou Coal Mines in the Distance

Civic and Social/Cultural Amenities – The Mabou District is located on the west coast of Inverness County, about 70 km from the Canso Causeway on Route 19. Mabou, the central service area, and Mabou Station are on Route 19. Southwest Mabou is south of Mabou on Route 19; secondary roads branch off to Glengarry and Rocky Ridge on the west and Rankinville, Southwest Ridge, and Alpine Ridge on the southeastern side. North of Mabou on Route 19 are Hawleys Hill, Glenora Falls and Riverville. Secondary roads lead to Black River, Black Stone, Mount Young, Smithville, Glendyer, Glendyer Station and Hillsborough. Further still from Mabou are Brook Village, Mirimichi, Centreville, Nevada Valley, Mull River, Glencoe Station and Glencoe Mills. Manyof the secondary roads are unpaved, but are reasonably maintained, sometimes being in better repair than the paved roads.

 

Mabou Village has a central water supply, but the other communities in the district have

wells, some of which have multiple neighbourhood users. Mabou Village has an activated sludge@ sewer treatment system, but the outlying communities have private septic systems. Garbage is collected weekly, and there is recycling pickup

for the depot in Inverness.

The RCMP serves Mabou from the detachment in Inverness. Mabou’s Volunteer Fire Department has over 30 volunteers and four trucks serving a large area. The fire insurance rate varies with the proximity to services.

The municipal area tax rate is $1.09/$100 of assessment for residential and resource (land not used for commercial purposes);  the commercial rate is $1.85/$100. The area pays a flat rate of $67 per residence ($134 for more than one residence) for fire protection. Sewer maintenance rate is $0.30/$100.

Like the rest of the west coast of Inverness County, internet is dialup,and cable television is available only on the coast line. Cell phone service is mostly unavailable. Pressure has been placed on MTT, and probably government, to have a tower for cell phone service in the area.

Come in and Relax – The Red Shoe Pub – Mabou

The Mabou Communications Centre the

old Post Office is the location of the CAP Site; fax, photcopying and mail distribution is also available here.

Most health services are available in Inverness, 10 minutes away. The dentist in Port

Hood serves the needs of Mabou. Mabou area residents may go to Inverness or Port Hood tofind a drugstore.

Dalbrae Academy has students in grades 912. Elementary and middle grade students go to Port Hood. There is a preschoolfacility in Mabou. There is no public library in Mabou except what is available at The Bridge/An Drochaid museum (and archives), opened in1980 by the Mabou Gaelic and Historical Society, in a building on the Main Street constructed in 1874.

Strathspey Place at Dalbrae Academy, opened in 2000, is a world class performance

centre in a modern school setting. The Mabou Hall is also used for performances and

community events, along with the West Mabou Hall where popular dances are held. Dances and community events are held at Brook Village and Glencoe Mills. Despite the wider importance of Strathspey Place, the smaller halls continue to play a vital role in maintaining community.

 

Mabou Church

Sport and recreation interest is strong in the Mabou area. Included are at least two ball

fields, a tennis court, hockey at the arena, hiking, skiing, and snowmobiling on the former rail bed, swimming at a number of excellent beaches, recreational fishing in pristine rivers and deep sea, and a provincial park. The board walk along the Mabou River estuary offers walking/running in summer and skiing in winter.

Religious institutions include St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and the Hillsborough

United Church. The Shrine at the edge of Mabou Village is reminiscent of the time of

religious orders and their school in Mabou.

Industries and Commercial Services

Understandably, agriculture has been an important primary industry in the Mabou

district, although the period after WWII saw the peak of the rural outmigration

which started in the early 20th century. Today, farmers of both Scottish and Dutch descent use the most modern methods for dairy, beef and vegetable production. A community pasture at South Cape Mountain has been in place for some time.

Fishing continues to be significant as well. The wharf facilities located by the

Lighthouse Museum (constructed 1884) at Mabou Harbour are operated by the Mabou Harbour Authority. There is a wharf facility at Mabou Coal Mines and another at Finlay Point a few kilometres north of Mabou Harbour.. About 30 boats averaging about 35 feet fish from these ports. The main species being fished are lobster and crab with limited ground fish.

Downtown Mabou has gone through cycles of decline and upsurge, depending on the

overall economy of the area. In 2000, with government assistance, the district undertook

waterfront development which consisted of a docking facility, a parking area, and a waterfront and riverside trail usable year round. A year round

hostel is also available. Along with these developments, several restaurants, with different orientations, are open year round.

Nonsmoking music lovers particularly welcomed the local performance bar=s decision to go smoke free, probably the first bar on Cape Breton Island to make this decision. The changes in Mabou have had an impact on both local residents and visitors.

 

Mabou Harbour

Banking in Mabou is done at the East Coast Amalgamated Credit Union. There is no

bank, although some travel to Inverness to use the Royal Bank.

The major urban areas serving Mabou are Halifax and Port Hawkesbury, with Sydney

having secondary importance. A shuttle service run out of Mabou brings people to Halifax and points in between. The nearest usable airport is in Halifax, although runways exist in at Margaree and at Port Hawkesbury.

Sources: Donnie MacDonald, Carole Chisholm, Nova Scotia Atlas, 5th Edition (2001) NS Dept  of Agriculture and Fisheries and Development:

Nova Scotia Museum Natural History, St.F.X., St. Georges Bay Ecosystem Project (2000); Soil Survey of Cape Breton Nova Scotia (1963); Mabou Gaelic and Historical Society,

(Here is a short story by a couple of sailors enjoying their trip which took them into Mabou Harbour back in 2007. I am sure you will find it interesting. – CAPER)

Monday, June 25, 2007 – Each time I cast off and we start a day’s voyage, there is a little chill of anticipation that runs through me, an inarticulate sense that the unexpected is lurking nearby and will visit us before the day is done.  In reality, there are many days when nothing much happens, but it turns out that “something happening” is often little more than a state of mind.  Today as we set off across the broad opening of St. Peter’s Bay, the southwest wind is sweeping up an entourage of little lumpy waves that keep us rocking and rolling.  The excitement is not so much the nature of the conditions for we have handled this sort of sea state many times before; the excitement is the not knowing whether the winds will  keep coming from the south and keep from getting strong.  We will have about a hundred miles of wild and scenic coastline to run along with little but rock walls between the sheltering harbors.  It will be a piece of cake if the weather holds, but of course it never does.  Wherever there are shallows throughout this region there are buoys marking lobster lines and fishing boats shuttling between them.  They leave harbor early in the morning, often before the sun has begun to streak the east, and return to port by mid-afternoon.  St. Peter’s Bay is relatively deep, however, and so there is not a boat to be seen during the entire crossing.  Once we close with the island off Fort Hood, however, the usual fishing scene reasserts itself with myriad buoys to avoid and jaunty fishing boats scattered here and there. This is the coast of Cape Breton and only a few miles on is the first harbor, a narrow inlet with a fishing fleet in the lagoon just inside the breakwater and the town farther upstream.  Almost as soon as Kobuk has closed with land it is possible using the binoculars to see the harbor entrance in the distance.  Being here with the shore close, the harbor in sight, and the fishermen working away in the open aft areas of their boats–well, it leaves you feeling that the voyage is all but over.  An uneventful passage this time, it seems, but then as I am working my way through a minefield of lobster buoys with boats around me on all sides, the enormous back of a whale slides up out of the water about fifty yards off the port bow, close enough to stir questions in my mind about whether there is any chance of contact.  Does the whale know Kobuk is here?  If not, then is there a chance of collision?  If so, then why has he shown himself so close and does he have intent?  I cannot identify the many different types of whales, but this one is the mottled gray that you sometimes see on horses  It also has a dorsal fin that shades into black, just as gray horses sometimes have a black mane.  The whale is large and where his glistening back breaks the water I can watch a single part of it slide up into view and move in a slow and stately arc until disappearing below the surface.  I have seen many whales before, but this one so close leaves me in an elevated state.

If all of Cape Breton looks like the little vale of Mabou then we are going to get along just fine.  The emerald haystack hills with their fir forests and open meadows peel away from the estuary, touched here and there by whitewashed farmstead homes and rambling country roads.  The town itself is a winding road with a few homes and shops on either side, staggering down a gentle hill before crossing the bridge over the river.  A white clapboard church with a spire half way to heaven sits off to one side, surrounded by forest but projecting higher, much higher, than all the trees.  It is as if the pointed firs are the congregation and the church the minister: all are supplicating with the multitude of little green spires emulating the slender white church one.  In the middle of the streetside village there is a pub known as The Red Shoe.  It is owned by the Rankin Sisters, famous for the Cape Breton songs that they sing.  A number of years ago I was given a CD of theirs and it still so much appeals to me that I listen to it regularly on Kobuk.  The Red Shoe has live entertainment as a regular thing, and on this evening I eat my dinner listening to the bagpipe music of a lanky young man whose name is as Scottish as the music.  The establishment is nearly full; I think half the adults in town must be here.
Mabou Bridge:          46* 04.215′ N  /  61* 23.730′ W
Distance:                   32 miles
Total Distance:         5,008 miles
 

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 – On rivers it never mattered much what time I set off each day, but here on the ocean early morning is almost always the right time to start.  The wind is gentler then and the seas calmer.  Once the day warms sun gets up in the sky a breeze will spring up and the surface of the sea will come to life.  Of course there are plenty of exceptions, but more often than not the early hours are the quietest time.Kobuk and I prepare to depart Mabou before the sun has come above the eastern hills, but when I cast off and try to motor away from the dock there is no thrust from the jet drive and its sound has a hollowness to it that signals a clogged intake grating.  There is no choice but to take a morning swim and clear the intake.  The water is cold, but not as bad as I was anticipating and with screwdriver in hand I dive below the stern to gouge clotted gobs of grass out of the seven slots that make up the grating.  This extracurricular activity delays us a bit but we still manage to push off before six.  

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