Item T-466 - Conversation with Jim Charlie MacNeil

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Conversation with Jim Charlie MacNeil

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  • Sound recording

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CA BI T-466

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  • 1968 (Creation)
    Beaton, Sister Margaret
    Sydney (NS)

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1 audio reel

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(October 7, 1893 - June 12, 1975)

Biographical history

Sister Margaret Isabella Beaton (Sister St. Margaret of Scotland) was born on October 7, 1893 to Eoin Beaton and Annie MacDonald in Broad Cove, Inverness County, Cape Breton. She was baptized two days later, on October 9, at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church in Broad Cove. She spent her early years at the local school before spending her teen years enrolled with the Sisters of the Congregation at the Inverness Convent and at the Mabou Convent boarding school. After finishing high school, she taught school in Inverness County for two years and spent a year in Sydney, Nova Scotia at the Holy Angels Convent, where she obtained her Grade B teaching license.

At this time, she decided to enter the Congrégation de Notre-Dame (C.N.D.) in Montreal, Quebec. Postulants were sent into communities to teach, and Sister was sent to the Diocese of Joliette and then to the École Jeanne-Le Ber in Quebec. She entered the profession on December 16, 1915 and her first assignment as a C.N.D. was as a teacher at the high school in Pictou, Nova Scotia. Throughout her time teaching, she never stopped her own studies and she obtained her Bachelor of Arts from Boston College in 1935, her Master of Arts from the University of Montreal in 1937, her Master of Library Sciences from the Catholic University in 1949, and finally her doctorate in English from the University of Montreal in 1958. She also took courses in Archival studies in Ottawa and from the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 1955, Sister returned to Cape Breton and the Holy Angels Convent. She joined the staff of Xavier Junior College in Sydney as a librarian. Through this role, she realized that many documents of historical and literary significance to Cape Breton Island were being lost due to neglect and the lack of an appropriate repository. In a pro-active response to this challenge Sr. Beaton began collecting Cape Breton related documents and artifacts with the objective of preserving materials of historic significance for future scholars.

In 1957 the first manuscript – The Minutes of the First Agricultural Meeting in Cape Breton – was aquired. Collecting, in the beginning, was sporadic and unplanned – more serendipitous in nature, but fruitful all the same. By 1966, Sister Margaret turned her attention to building Cape Bretoniana and the College of Cape Breton Archives on a full-time basis. Cape Bretoniana grew substantially during these years with several appeals to the local community for donations of archival material. As a result, there was the on-going need for additional space for the archives, first housed within the library then in the MacDonald Arts Building on George Street in Sydney, followed by a move to the MacLeod Building on Nepean Street in 1967 and then to the Logue Building at George and Pitt Streets in 1970.

In 1975, Cape Bretoniana was expanded to include two main divisions: the Archives and Institute Library, and the division of Ethnic Studies, Folklore and the Social and Cultural History of Cape Breton Island. In the same year the Archives was struck a blow with the sudden death of Sr. Margaret as a result of a car accident on June 12. After a funeral mass held at Sacred Heart Church in Sydney she was laid to rest on June 15, 1975.

Cape Bretoniana was renamed the Beaton Institute in honour of its foundress and as a pledge that the work of this outstanding woman would continue.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Formation of the National Council of Scottish Cath. Soc in Sydney (N.S.)
Accomplishments of the Society
A Gaelic school in the old Lyceum
A chapel donated in memory of Rev. D.M. MacAdam
Scholarships for Scottish boys to enter priesthood
The society published Mosgladh
Officers of the Scottish Cath. Society
Records of the society
Preservation of the Gaelic language
Reasons for the decline of the society
School teachers in the early days forbade parents to speak Gaelic to children
Cape Breton bards
Scottish Cath. Soc. Had annual competitions - dance, music, song
A story about Archbishop MacDonald
Father D.M. MacAdam's funeral
Tells story of and sings Vincent MacLellan's lament for Fr. MacAdam
He saw his wifes ghost
The result of controversy in a parish
Fr. Duncan - first resident priest of Big Pond
Fr Martin MacPherson...what happened when he found the church locked at Frenchvale...
Peter Smyth - the story of an eviction
Story about a widow...and a pie social

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