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A Legacy of

STORIES Cyril Aker of Sydney Mines was inspired by a coal miner to get involved in creating a regular forum for the telling of stories. “Jim Guy was a story teller, a coal miner for years in Sydney Mines, a coal hauler, a great community person, a great church person. He would do such a great job of telling a story, and took such enjoyment in it; his expressions were just really something to see. Inspired by him, we came up with the idea, and got a committee together, to form the storytelling committee. Our first session was to be at St. Andrews hall in Sydney Mines, September 18th, 2001. “Jimmy Guy was going to be our guest speaker, but he passed away before that could happen. So I contacted the family, and told them we wanted to do a tribute to him. Doctor Rory MacLellan gave us beautiful memories of Jimmy. We had about a hundred people for our first session and it was just phenomenal. It brought back a lot of memories for people.”

Jim Guy

Before It Was Called Sydney Mines… In the annals of Cape Breton and Canadian history, the significance of coal may have been underestimated, or at least not fully appreciated. This point was explored by Dr. Brian Tennyson during a public talk at the Sydney Mines Storytelling Session of January 12th, 2003. As director of International Studies at Cape Breton University, Tennyson talked about the history of a part of Sydney Mines known as Chapel Point. “I devoted a lot of time and energy, and dare I say public money, to try to develop it as a historic site, an attraction. A group of us, the Chapel Point Historical Society, agreed that if we're going to ask for money, which of course we were, we needed to know a whole lot more. Being an academic, I started digging and what surprised me, and maybe it shouldn't have, was that the history of fortification on the harbour goes back a long, long way. I didn't know that. I was kind of surprised. “The other thing that surprised me was that what everybody has always said about coal’s importance was not quite right. Historians talked about the history of coal mining and its significance, but they really only talked about it from about the middle of the 19th century. Oh, they acknowledge there were mines, but only that there was just a little digging of coal to keep fireplaces going. I discovered that just isn't true.”

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Harbour View Hospital, Sydney Mines

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Coal cutters, Port Hood coalmine

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Ballast Train on Reserve Crossing, July 1902


They Were Fighting Over It “Once you get into the age of steam power, coal is important. But the importance of coal strategically to Britain and France and the various colonies, New England and Quebec, goes way back. You can find evidence of them digging coal in the very early 18th century. I thought that was interesting. They had convoys, the British and French, convoys with armed frigates guarding them, hauling coal. That tells me it was important, not just some little thing, chipping a little bit of coal from the surface and taking it to Louisbourg. They were fighting over it. So we kind of re-thought the history of the period, the military aspect, the military history of Sydney Harbour. “Now we know that in 1711, the British admiral Walker came into the harbour with a big fleet, I think fortytwo ships. Interesting is perhaps the first mention of Sydney Mines, although they didn't call it that of course, but Lloyd’s Cove. Walker also noted that the French, who’d claimed the area, were already mining coal there. That's before they built Louisbourg. “We also know that, by the 1740's, the French were mining coal. The British took Louisbourg from the French and they mined coal. At Point Aconi, for example, the British actually stationed a few troops there to guard the mines. This is all recorded in the documents. In 1766, we know that the new colonial government granted a license to a private company to mine coal at Indian Cove. The British government immediately repudiated that. They didn't want private companies mining coal, and would also have known that even though the government revoked the license, illegal mining was taking place anyway.”

They Turned Out to be Coal Miners “In the 1770's the British actually sent troops here to dig coal. Imagine the guys joining the army thinking they were going to be soldiers. They turned out to be coal miners. I don't imagine they were too happy. We know in 1778 they sent more troops to guard the troops who were digging the coal. That tells you it was important. They were spending money, allocating resources, on mines. “Mines’ is a grandiose word maybe, for what they had were pits supplying coal to Quebec, to Newfoundland and the colonies along the seaboard, until the (American) revolution broke out and they stopped. Historians will tell you, oh no, the coal wasn't important because the British had lots of coal. Well they did have lots of coal, but it was cheaper to get the coal here, for sale in this part of the world. “In 1781, there was a naval battle off (Sydney) harbour on the 21st of July, French ships attacking the British convoy that was hauling coal out. The French chased the British back into the harbour, and they fought a gun battle, which they won. “Then in 1784, as everybody knows, Sydney was founded. The colony of Cape Breton was founded under Halifax jurisdiction. What is interesting about when they founded Cape Breton is why they put the capital in Sydney, which didn't exist, instead of Sydney Mines. The whole point of being here was the coal, so why wouldn't they place the capital where the coal mines were? The explanation, I think, is strategic. They thought Sydney Mines was too close to the mouth of the harbour. They placed the capital where they thought they could defend or attack. “By the 1790's there were approximately a hundred men here mining coal, hauling something like nine thousand tons a year, which doesn't sound like a lot to us I suppose, but I think it's pretty significant. In 1795, the British actually established a fort in the area, Fort Dundas on the north side. There was another fort, Prince Edward, over on South Bar, and another fort at Sydney. Gee, this is pretty impressive.”

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Fabe Fraser

John Caldwell

Fabe Fraser

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A Free Trade Agreement “So the mines chug along, supporting the new colony of Cape Breton. Part of the rationale was that coal would generate enough revenue to support a government. It wouldn't be dependent on handouts from Britain. Well that didn't really happen. It did generate some revenue but not enough. They didn't have taxing powers and discovered they weren't allowed to tax the coal. So they thought they'd tax rum and were told they couldn't tax that. “Coal mining was getting pretty serious because, in the 1850's, we signed a free trade agreement with the United States, which meant coal could go there free of duty. Coal mining expanded very rapidly mostly because of American investment. There was a lot of fear about the security (of Sydney Harbour). “In 1860, the Prince of Wales visited. There’s a lot of mythology about it. The only thing he did was inspect the militia, which was made up of coal miners. We know he was accompanied by the coal company secretary and a couple of military officials. They looked at the site, which was really why they came. The Prince was a kind of front for the real purpose. “The British built a significant fortress at Chapel Point, where the ruins are, a pretty serious fortress. As you know, we didn't go to war with the Americans - thank goodness, and again, typically with government, once the war scare passed they just walked away from the fort.”

People in Ottawa Didn’t Listen “And they neglected it through a very peaceful era until the First World War. The interesting thing from Sydney Mines point of view is that, even though the area was incredibly important because of the coal mining and a steel plant, they didn't resurrect Chapel Point. They were really more concerned about protecting North Sydney, where the trans-Atlantic cables came across, you know, the communication system which was the main link with North America. “Even in the Second World War, Sydney was important as a convoy gathering port and naval base, but also because of coal mines and a steel plant that produced one third of Canada's steel. If you sailed into Halifax Harbour and lobbed a few shells into the naval base, that would be very regretful. If you sailed into Sydney Harbour and lobbed a few shells into the steel plant, you would shut down steel production for some period of time. This was a whole lot more serious. People in Ottawa didn't listen to that at the time, which won't surprise many of us. “What you find at the end of the war though, really before the end, is that the importance of Sydney Harbour is declining because they started directing convoys more from New York and Halifax. Chapel Point was stripped, you know, of all its metal and wiring and sits there, a rather sad and forlorn site. I'm still optimistic we'll resurrect it, and have a wonderful tourist attraction and historic site to recall not only the history, but why this history is important to this area.” Brian Tennyson published with Roger Sarty “Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney, Cape Breton, and the Atlantic Wars” in May, 2002.

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A Legacy to a Province Dr. Robert Morgan’s credentials in Cape Breton history are solid and complete. His perspective of the island’s history is covered in a two volume set called “Rise Again: The Story of Cape Breton Island,” which begins with the formation of coal millions of years ago. In 2003 at November’s Sydney Mines Storytelling Session, he described how this resource was both a blessing and a curse, a legacy which determined Cape Breton’s dependence on governments based off the island. “This coal was so awful. It wasn't broken; it was great big chunks, full of rock, you know what I mean? They were restricted; it could only be sent to Halifax or St. John’s to be used by the troops for fuel. They wouldn't let them ship it to the states because they were scared the Americans would use it for industry. “So what were they going to do? The danger was smugglers would steal the coal. They decided to close the whole mine down. Do you understand what I'm saying? The rest of Nova Scotia was getting people to move in. Yet they wouldn't let anybody settle here (in Cape Breton) because they were scared of people getting into the mines. So there's the blessing and the curse. “The curse was, at first the British wouldn't let anybody settle here, and then afterwards, when we become a separate colony in 1785, they said, ‘Okay you can settle there, and you can do limited mining.’ But they didn't pay any money, and sent no engines to pump the mines, and you had a restricted market.”

Pictured (l-r): Dan Curry, Ken Aucoin, Art Baxter

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Little Glace Bay Harbour, 1890

N.S. Steel and Coal Co.’s Piers, North Sydney 1902 These Piers were torn down in 1962

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They Wanted the Coal Mines “Now we all know that, in 1820, we were annexed to Nova Scotia. We had no vote, of course, and we didn't like that. Halifax wanted us back because they wanted the coal mines. They needed the income, and that's what ran the province until the 1930's. But way back in 1820, that wasn't the straw that broke the camel’s back. It had to do with coal, of course, and it's really an interesting story. “In 1816, there was a huge volcanic eruption in the East Indies. Mount Tambora blew its lid. It had a direct impact on the history of Cape Breton because it clouded the sky around the earth. This was much bigger than Mount St. Helen's. The next year was very cold, and as a result, there was famine in a lot of places. It actually snowed here in June of 1816, and as far south as Virginia. The mice came out of the fields and ate all the crops here in Cape Breton. The farmers were in dire straits because of that cold year. “The new colony of Cape Breton needed money in order to buy food from away. There were no income taxes in those days, so how was the colony going to get money to buy food for the people? They put a tax on rum. In those days that was a big deal. The problem was that we, our house of assembly, hadn't been called. Taxes can only be imposed if the house agrees.”

The Annexation Was Illegal “And who are the ones that made the noise? They were the guys who ran the coal mines. They said ‘we're not going to pay that tax on rum,’ because it would come out of their pockets. “So it went to the Supreme Court of the island of Cape Breton. Chief Justice Dodd had to agree that the tax on rum would be illegal because the House of Assembly hadn't passed it. They couldn't raise money. Therefore the colony was bankrupt. We couldn't feed our people and it was an excuse for Nova Scotia to annex us. And it's all because a volcano and the guys that ran the mines over here wouldn't pay that tax on rum. “By that time the fat was in fire. Annexation was decided upon by the British, and we went into a cataclysmic state here in Sydney Mines and Sydney. A lot of protest caused the separatist movement to develop. The people of this area actually hired and sent a lawyer to London to plead our case. He got members of the House of Commons in England making speeches against the illegality of our being annexed without the consent of parliament. See what I'm saying? It never went through parliament, so the annexation was illegal. “Through the 1820's and '30's, there were marches and complaints. Thirty odd petitions were sent to England’s House of Commons asking that we be separated from Nova Scotia. Years passed and the coal mines were becoming more important. “As the General Mining Association begins mining properly, more coal is produced, right? As a result more money goes to the government of Nova Scotia. This becomes their biggest source of income until the 1920's. Okay? So the British government says, ‘look, the colony of Nova Scotia would not be stable if it weren't for the money coming out of the Cape Breton coal mines. Therefore you cannot have your separate colony of Cape Breton again.’ It's illegal, but that's what they did. There's no justice in this world!”

General offices and laboratory of the Dominion Coal Co., Glace Bay, 1897

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Firsts That Were Fired by Coal The 19th century proved to be a turning point for the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. A number of firsts occurred, and as Dr. Robert Morgan indicates, it had little to do with effective public policy. Cape Breton’s pre-eminent historian, in his talk to the Sydney Mines Storytelling Session of November, 2003, pointed out how a much more personal motivation contributed to these firsts. “In 1827, the mines in Cape Breton were owned by the King, like the Crown owns the mines now, the mineral rights. George the Fourth was king. What happened was, his brother, the Duke of York had a great debt to jewelers. So he went to the king and said, ‘how can I pay off my debt to my jewelers?’ “The king said, ‘hey listen, I own the mines in Cape Breton. How about if I give them to you and we can lease them? The money we get from leasing the coal mines will pay off your debts to your jeweler.’ The Duke of York agrees and he makes a deal. “So now it's owned by the same jewelers who make the royal crown jewels. The company was named Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. Bridgeport, in Dominion, is named for Bridge, who was their treasurer. Anyway, these jewelers aren't stupid. They hire a geologist and an engineer, and the guy's name is Richard Brown. “So Richard Brown comes over says ‘Oh my God, it's just fantastic.’ So he sends back his assessment and says, ‘yes take it. Go into the deal with the Duke of York.’ They founded the General Mining Association and they become the first investors really, in heavy money, in Cape Breton. It becomes the first real industry in the Maritimes: the first coal, the first heavy industry in the Maritimes and one of the first in Canada. And they bring in engines to pump the mines, which is the beginning of scientific coal mining in Canada.”

First Geologist At the same gathering in Sydney Mines, it was Dr. Morgan who remembered one of the first working scientists in the history of Cape Breton. “James Miller was among the first geologists. He did work for the General Mining Association when it was first formed. Now geology in 1790 was pretty primitive. They didn't realize what most of us know now: that coal is compressed vegetation. Fossils gave him the clue. He was one of the first to realize it. “By the way, his sister ran the coal mines here for a few years, the first woman to run a business in Cape Breton after 17 hundred. Only a few people that were women ran businesses before that. His sister's name was Jane Miller. She ran the mines over here for a couple of years when James died of pneumonia. “He never did get to Windsor, Nova Scotia. He was on his way there to teach geology at Kings College, the oldest university in Canada. It had been founded in 1785 and he was going over there to teach. He came here on the way, fell in love with the place and stayed here. He died twelve or thirteen years later, and that’s when his sister ran the mines for a few years.”

North Abutment Dominion #1, September 1902

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Grampy Allen Claire Andrea is known to people in Sydney Mines as one of the organizers of the storytelling sessions. Her grandfather’s unique hobby contributed to the health and safety of coal miners. “My grandfather, Bill Allen, was one of those men who came across the ocean, from the midlands of England, to find a better life. I see heads nodding, so they remember him. He worked in the pit briefly when he first came over and ended up being the caretaker for Harbourview Hospital. “But while he was working at the pit, he raised their canaries. He was a bird breeder in England, as a hobby. My mother always told me that Grampy Allen was the one who raised the canaries for the pit. We still have stationery that says ‘Bill Allen, Canary Breeder.’ “A few years ago we did some electrical work in the attic, and had to tear up the floor. It was lined with newspapers from England about an association of bird breeders. The other evidence we found were jars of what I thought were marbles, made of wood, not playing marbles. During the canary-raising process, when they would lay an egg or two, they were taken from the nest and replaced with marble-sized balls. Grampy had to watch the eggs and maintain everything properly for their growth and hatching. “Apparently you couldn't use real marbles, glass marbles, because they would be too warm beneath the bird’s body. That’s why he used wooden ones. So we still have them, a lot of them. I found a manual on canary breeding, and apparently, these eggs were supposed to be taken from the nest until the female canary laid three to five of them. When she finished, you put all the eggs back, over a series of days. You were supposed to replace the eggs with these small wooden balls. There was the answer. “They needed the canaries for the safety of the miners. That's what they used. If the methane level was too high, the canary died and you got the heck out of there. I’ve had conversations with some of the older ladies in town about the canaries being delivered to the general office. When they were running out, they would call Bill and say, ‘send down another half a dozen,’ and they were kept in cages in the general office. So it was important. It doesn't sound like much, but you know, a little canary maybe saved some lives.”

The Poorest of the Poor In a presentation to the Sydney Mines Storytelling Session of November, 2003, Loretta MacKinnon remembered a legacy of poverty endured by miners who worked in bootleg mines, crop pits and mines run by private operators during the Great Depression. “I first became acquainted with this close-knit family in the early 1930’s, and I've never known anyone to be in such dire straits since. They lived in a weather-beaten house that had never seen paint, all the wooden shingles curling up on the bottom. They had no ‘house neighbour,’ you know, a next door neighbour. The family consisted of two girls, eighteen to twenty years old, and three young men in their early twenties to early thirties. I wouldn't want to pinpoint this family, so I'll just refer to the men as Tom, Dick and Harry. Tom would be the youngest, Harry the oldest. “Harry loved to sing, just for his own pleasure, but I think he only knew one song because that's all we ever heard him sing. I don't know the name of the song, but I do remember a couple of lines, ‘No, no, a thousand times no. I'd rather die than say yes.’ “Now there's no father in this house. The mother was a short, tiny woman with long gray hair almost to her waist, when she wore it down. Usually she wore it pulled up into a bun at the top or back of her head. She wore a dress to the floor and a pair of woolen work socks; we called them pit socks, on her feet, summer and winter, no shoes. “The only income was a few dollars that Harry earned by working in the pit, a privately owned pit where there was no wash house, no battery operated lights, just carbide lamps on their pit caps. This was in the thirties when men were crying for work.”

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Pictured (l-r): John Odo, Wayne Mauger

Underground Garden of F.B., 1929

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The Old Stove Had a Shelf “On opening their door, you were overwhelmed with the powerful smell of creosote, and I hope I'm pronouncing that right. The floor was made of wide planks with spaces between them, about a half inch wide. In summer, these spaces were left open, but in winter they were stuffed with old cardboard boxes, newspapers, old socks, or anything that would keep out the draft. “The only source of heat was an old stove in the kitchen. The stove pipe went up through the kitchen ceiling, through the bedroom and out to the roof. There was no chimney to be seen on the outside, just an old rusty stovepipe. The old stove had a shelf and always a MacDonald's Twist chewing tobacco can on top. In this can there was always a cake of Royal yeast setting out. It came in a hard block, maybe a third the size of a Coffee Crisp bar, and it had to be set in water for quite a while to activate it. Now I do recall the mother, often, cutting out a big chunk of raised dough. She'd stretch it out, put it in the frying pan, and she'd fry that up, break it off and dip it in molasses. My sister Marg used to go there with me all the time and we loved to eat it. “The kitchen table was an old door supported on one end with two birch logs, the other end with a sawhorse. Only the mother’s chair had a back on it. Another seat was an apple barrel. They had no electricity, just kerosene lamps, no water other than a well outside, and no toilet inside or out. The back of the house bordered on woods so you can guess the rest. “Every Saturday Harry would give one of the girls twenty five cents to take the kerosene can and get it filled up at the store. The kerosene cost only twenty cents and he always allowed her to keep the nickel. A lot of times she would get bubble gum. That was a big treat.”

A Mattress Made from Potato Bags “At any given time, there were at least four cats in this house. One of the girls would take a can of milk and pour some of the floor, and the cats would try to drink it at once. Some wouldn't get at it, and when the mother wasn't looking, one of the girls would take the can of milk, pour some on this door that served as a table, and the cats would jump up there and drink it. “Oh, by the way, the kitchen was papered with newspapers, colour comics and pictures from Eaton's catalogues. Marg and I would read these comics over and over again, and admire the clothing from the catalogue pages. “In the living room was an old iron cot with a mattress made from potato bags, sewn together and stuffed with grass. How we loved to flop on that mattress, and I even asked Mother if she would get such a mattress for our old kitchen cot. All we ever got from her was ‘you two stay from there.’ All the boys slept upstairs. When they got up there, the hay or grass would start to come down through the kitchen ceiling. “Harry worked whenever he could, but since there was no wash house on the site, he always arrived home covered in coal dust. He would wash his hands in the basin which sat on top of an orange crate. Two orange crates stood on end together held a bucket of water, and a basin for washing your hands. A bar of soap rested in a sardine can.”

Waiting for the Bladder “A lot of people kept pigs, my father included, fattened them up and butchered them usually just before Christmas. The men who owned pigs would all get together to help one another on butchering day. The kids in the neighbourhood would gather around to wait for the bladder of the pig, which they would rinse out and dry, and then blow it up, usually with a stick of macaroni. The boys would use it for monkey ball, so if you ever hear someone saying ‘what are you waiting for, the bladder?’ That's where it came from. “All the pork fat, mother used for baking beans, which was often. She also made ‘scrunchin’s’ when we had salt cod. We always gave this family a lot of pork fat as well as some meat. The mother would take from the stove some potatoes and pork fat, which she had boiled together, and slice that up just like we slice roast beef now, and they'd eat it just like that with the potatoes. “Another staple in their diet was salt herring. In the summer my grandfather would buy a lot of fresh herring from local fishermen and then salt it in the pork barrel. Sometimes Nanna would give me some salt herring to take to this poor family, and she used to say, ‘Loretta, they're just keeping body and soul together.’ “One day, Nanna informed me that Granddad was going to throw out a whole barrel of fish because a rat had gotten into the barrel and drowned in the pickle. The mother of that poor family told me, ‘run and tell your grandfather not to throw out that herring,’ that she would take every one of them. ‘Just throw the rat away.”

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A Big Lump of Coal “Sometimes the mother would ask Marg and I if we could bring her back a bucket of coal. So we would ask Ma. When she was in a bad mood we wouldn't even ask her; we'd just sneak in the coal barn and each of us take a big lump of coal. “The most shocking thing we ever saw was the time we went to the house and the mother pulled out a cardboard box, with Morgan Milk wrote on it, from behind the stove. Inside the box was a tiny baby. She told us one of one the boys was building a coffin because the baby was dead. We were too young to know where babies came from. We figured the doctor brought them in that little black satchel. So we asked her, ‘why did the doctor give you a dead baby?’ “I can't remember her answer, but if that baby was alive today, it would be sixty-five to seventy years old. Of course, not knowing that some mother had given birth, we didn't question who owned the baby. “We were never forbidden to go there, you know, directly told ‘you're not allowed to go anymore.’ That wasn't quite the same as, you know, just saying ‘you stay away from there!” My sister and I continued to go there a lot until we got a bit older and other things took our interest. People always said they were the poorest of the poor.”

Shaded by the Sound of the Siren M. Charlyne Chiasson grew up in Reserve Mines, Cape Breton. “My earliest memories were shaded by the sound of the siren. It could mean that a father, brother, uncle or neighbor may not come home tonight. My Dad did not work the mines, but uncles and cousins did, as well as my playmates and cousins’ Dads. We dreaded that sound if it wasn’t the noon whistle. “Reserve was named for the 'reserved' underground supply of coal that was ‘mined out’ before I was born in 1956. What remained was a huge coal bank which defined the village and many underground seams that were mined, probably illegally, by men who would build their homes near them and dig down to get what they needed for heat. “My home was one such structure and there was a depression in the ground that begged annual fill by my Dad as it sunk inches a year. That hole was right by my bedroom window, on a side of the house where we seldom played, and were warned to stay away. I never gave it much thought.”

This Story Is Very Personal “My story starts many years later on Kootenay Lake, British Columbia. After my first child was born, I was dealing with anger issues sparked by motherhood, I am guessing. I had also had issues with claustrophobia which I managed by staying out of tight confined spaces. I had not lived in Cape Breton for many years. “This story is very personal, borders on being a ghost story, but also ties directly to the work I do today. I clear energy from spaces and am a dowser of water, among other things that relate directly to the design field. When this happened I had not yet discovered this work. “I met a group of great women who did retreats at a pristine place called 'Tipi Camp' on Kootenay Lake. A woman introduced us to the ways of the medicine wheel, and other first nations practices. I have since found out that I have some Mi’kmaq heritage. This was my introduction to a form of healing the body, mind and spirit. I went on to study with her every summer for several years. The practice of going into sweat lodges really tested me. I hated confined spaces and would go berserk. I had to pray really hard to endure the sweat lodge.”

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I Was Very Freaked Out “One year, a group of us gathered at Tipi Camp for our first 'vision quest' with a man from the B.C. coast, a sun-dancer who led many powerful healing sweats and vision quests. Going on the mountain meant going without food or water for days at a time. You must first be purified by doing a sweat lodge ceremony with the group at dusk. One evening something happened that changed my perceptions of where I come from and what I am here to do with my life. “I was very freaked out about the sweat. Roy, the leader, was like a big bear. With my husband along, I felt stronger than usual. Sweat lodges represent the womb of the mother from which we call come, a magical place where prayers are said aloud and many things are confessed, a healing place. The first round of grandfather stones came in and Roy did the first round of blessing prayers. By the third round I was really starting to get hot and claustrophobic, so I prayed like I never prayed before. “Suddenly I was transported into another time and space. I was raging mad and screaming, stuck underground and I could not get out. I was dying slowly of asphyxiation; yet I was not hurt or disabled. I was a miner after a mine collapse, trapped and desperate and really pissed off. I tried everything to free myself and my fellow miners but could do nothing but slowly die from lack of air. “I sensed the roof of the lodge suddenly open. I could see the stars and felt a huge sense of relief. I was back in the lodge, sweating and praying out loud. I have no idea how long I was in that trance but all my discomfort and claustrophobia was forgotten as I witnessed something very strange and unusual.”

My Life Changed “It took a while to understand exactly what happened that night. I realized that the hole by my childhood bedroom window was a small tunnel that energetically connected me to those miners. It felt like a collective group moved through me that night, men who died a slow death in the mines. In my empathetic way, I had a closer connection to these men than I had thought. “It went beyond the miners’ holiday in the summer, when as kids we would go see the pit ponies, or the coal bank we used as a killer toboggan run in the icy winters. For the first time in my life I could relate to why I was so darn claustrophobic! “After that fateful night, many things slowly came into place for me. I worked harder to resolve my anger by becoming an observer, thinking of those miners who had reason to be angry. My life changed and I went on to meet teachers who helped me to develop my gift of clearing energy. I became a channel through which energy clears. I don’t actually do anything. I have since studied techniques and have released many trapped souls in North and Central America. I feel I was predestined to do this work, although I don’t tell many people about it. Those who need me find me. The miners of Cape Breton, my birthplace, allowed this to come to light. “I have a special place in my heart for the men I felt that night, and will always be grateful for their release and their lives. It keeps be connected to my past, grateful for their gift, humbled by their sacrifices.”

From the collection of the Inverness Miners Museum 33

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