The View From The Veranda

Posted on June 17, 2015 under Storytelling with 9 comments


Sally “Central”



Where the Mabou River trundles towards Mabou Harbour and eventually out into the Northumberland Strait, there is a house perched atop a hill.  Over 70 years ago, it was inhabited by Dr. Alexander E. Kennedy.  When he died, leaving no heirs, Angus D. Beaton bid on the property and won.  Eventually he brought his new bride there.

And Sally “Central” has lived there ever since, enriching the lives of her family and community …. for 99 years and counting.

I took scenic drive to Mabou with Sally’s daughter, Miriam, on a sun dappled spring day.  Route 19 had never looked better.  It is small wonder that people travel from the four corners of the earth to spend time in Cape Breton.  The scenery is stunning, especially at this time of the year, and the people are grounded; knowing who they are and so proud of their heritage.

We entered Mabou and drove down a secluded lane.  I soon discovered that this may, indeed, be paradise.

Within minutes, I was engaged in a spirited conversation with Sally and three of her adult children.  We were in the kitchen (of course!) and Sally was comfortable in the seat of honor … the rocking chair.  After some casual banter about the weather and the like, we dove into a discussion about her life.

Sally was brought up on a farm in Glencoe Station, one of the “Dancer MacMillans”.  All of the families at that time were large; and hard work was a given.  She had a special passion for horses and was often charged with the responsibility of hooking them up to the sleigh or wagon to do chores or carry a crowd to the dances.   When her brothers had to travel afar for work, she had three horses and a colt under her care.

When Angus D. Beaton’s father died, he left the family to the wit and resources of his wife and Angus’s mother, one Mary Ann Beaton (nee MacDonell).  Mary Ann needed to provide for her family so she took a job as the local telephone operator.  It is not surprising that her home, being the hub of all conversations, became known as “Central” and forever after, she was simply referred to as “Mary Ann Central”.  It only stands to reason that her offspring would always carry this easily identifiable handle.  To this very day, it is not uncommon to hear the following: “Which one of the Centrals are you?”

So, Angus (Central) married Sally (the Dancer MacMillans) and they took up residence in Dr. Kennedy’s house.  One of her most prized (and useful) wedding gifts was the cow she received from her father … a modern day “food processor”!  They raised other animals on their six acres of land and had an enormous garden.  While we were talking, one of her sons was out tilling the soil for this year’s crop.  In other words, the family has always been self-sufficient.  Back then it wasn’t a luxury or a fad.

Like most women of her generation she managed the home front and worked unbelievably hard.  But as she was quick to point out, so did everybody else.  That was the norm.  Angus’ and Sally’s home was always filled with people and laughter and music.

Once her children were launched, she decided to take her talents and energy to Mary’s Hill, a residential facility for the mentally challenged.  She took a course in New Glasgow to get her credentials and worked as a nurse’s aide at the home for 10 years.

At the age of 68 she decided that it was high time to get her driver’s license.  While she wasn’t expecting Angus’s untimely demise any time soon, she was simply being prudent and suspected that there might come a day when she would need it.  She kept her license for many years and decided of her own volition to pass it in when she was 95.

Of course, no discussion in Cape Breton would be complete without the topic of sports.  I couldn’t get much out of her other than to say that she likes Sidney Crosby.  I teased her and wondered if it was because of his skill or his good looks!

We were well into our discussion when it was decided to pause for lunch.  I looked at Sally and suggested that she would need a full stomach to talk about the last remaining topics: religion and politics.

Long before the “Decree on Ecumenism” in 1964, the Beaton house was a living, breathing example of this concept.  Several of their closest neighbors belonged to other religions but that didn’t stop them from getting together on a regular basis.  One of the people from another denomination insisted that one of their prayers be uttered when entering a home.  That wasn’t a big deal for Sally and Angus.

And when it came to politics, Sally noted that many a seasoned politician made a point to stop in their kitchen on the way through Mabou.  Probably to get some good, practical advice.

As we were winding up, I asked her if she had any regrets in life.  “None” was the succinct reply.  She would have like to have studied to become a nurse but life got in the way.

And finally, the question that most almost centenarians are asked: “What is the secret to your longevity?”  She paused thoughtfully.  Besides having never smoked and enjoying the odd dram of single malt Scotch, she said that she always had a lot of friends.  Visits from people passing through or stopping for tea or story-telling and music has sustained her.  Friends, new and old, keep her on top of her game.

Sally loves her front veranda, where she can survey her garden and the large pond, and see who’s coming down the lane.

And ponder an amazing, full and happy life.

Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
Highland Hearing Clinic

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


9 Responses to The View From The Veranda

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.