I was recently in Prince Edward County, wine-tasting and relaxing. It was lovely, but I was most intrigued by the many, weathered graveyards that I passed on the side roads. Who were these people and where did they and their culture go?
Prince Edward County is a vibrant hub of agriculture, overflowing with produce and home to acclaimed vineyards and cheesemakers. But there’s little evidence of the Scottish or Irish communities that must once have thrived there. Carleys, Bairds, Simmonds and Farrells once lived here, and likely still do, but I didn’t see any listings for Irish or Scottish ceilidhs or dances. Prince Edward County’s culture seems to have moved on, to emphasize different things. Perhaps its proximity to Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal, or its location along the St Lawrence Seaway and the CN train lines, contributed to its cultural assimilation.
Clearly, I need to do more research to reach any conclusion. But it does remind me that fostering Gaelic language and musical culture in cape Breton is as much about fostering community as it is about workshops and books. This is something that, Taing do Dhìa, promoters of Gaelic in Cape Breton already know, and it’s something that other minority cultural groups in Ontario must recognize.