"Big Cy" and Other Characters: Pat MacAdam's Cape Breton.


152 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 978-1-897009-12-7
DDC 971.6'90099





Reviewed by Clint MacNeil

Clint MacNeil teaches history, geography, and world religion at St.
Charles College in Sudbury, Ontario.


Sometimes its takes a Cape Bretoner to truly appreciate a Cape Bretoner’s sense of storytelling. Pat MacAdams skilfully writes about unique human interest topics that can appeal to a wider audience that may be less familiar with the East Coast.


“Big Cy” and Other Characters is divided into three parts and consists of 37 short stories that are lucid, entertaining, and above all represent a cross-section of Cape Breton characters who are both popular and obscure.


As a giant of a man immortalized by P.T. Barnum, Angus McAskill stood seven feet nine inches and was renowned for his amazing strength. Father Moses Coady, on the other hand, was a giant in his own right for organizing the Antigonish Movement that fostered “social reform through economic activity.”


It would be difficult to forget the lovable Hector “Big Cy” MacDonald, whose antics and storytelling made him difficult not to like while Lester Gillis, a.k.a. “Baby Face” Nelson, was an unsavory hooligan who was anything but lovable. His murderous exploits with the Dillinger Gang are of the sort people would rather forget.


Both Alex MacLean and Johnny Miles were inspirational men. Novelist Jack London modelled his character in Sea Wolf after the seal-hunting Cape Breton captain, while the latter gentleman captured hearts at the Boston Marathon for setting a world record wearing 98-cent canvas shoes.


Heartwarming reflections of summer camping along the Bras D’Or Lake with Catholic clergy, the origin of Cape Breton nicknames, and the accomplishments the Men of the Deeps will surely leave “lumps in [the] throats” of any Maritime reader.


MacAdams effortlessly enlivens his readers with Cape Breton tales that, if left unpublished, would presumably and most regrettably be forgotten. As a native of Cape Breton, he is more than qualified to write about a time period that will undoubtedly bring back fond memories for some readers while leaving other readers somewhat envious of a time and place that so few are fortunate to have been associated with.


MacAdam, Pat., “"Big Cy" and Other Characters: Pat MacAdam's Cape Breton.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28124.