Indian River Preview


While Father and Bella drove the horse and buggy that summer evening to the lighthouse, “heat” lightning broke through the overcast skies between the house and the shore. The mounting north wind lifted the ears and black mane of the chestnut horse straight in the air, and Bella, grateful for the relief from long days of humidity, sat tall in her seat holding the reins and pushing her face into the stiffening breezes from the sea. Her deep brown eyes glistened with gentle pride because Father put so much trust in her. She took particular pleasure in the green and yellow grain fields and the patches of dairy pasture that seemed to roll to the very edge of the red cliffs, the golden sand dunes, and the shady pine trees along the shores of Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island.

As they trotted along the road to the tiny fishing village, the father and his daughter saw a cloud of dust approaching them.

“Whoa, there, easy,” Jack Thompson roared as he stopped his rig to address John MacLellan. “There’s a problem at the lighthouse, John. One of the goose-hunters must be hurt. He signaled to a passing boat to get the keeper quick.”

“Bit early for huntin’ geese. We’re on our way ofer. Thanks, Jack.”

As they reached the shore, Bella and her father noted how the waters were churned under the stiff breeze, especially in the channel between the shore and the lighthouse. “Now, Bella, there wasss good reason I have ye row me to and fro Fish Island efery day. Yer strong and yer smart. Aye, says I, to handle a boat off of Malpeque, ye haf’ta be strong and ye haf’ta have yer wits about ye. Of the whole bunch, you’ve never let me down. I’ve great confidence in ye, lass, and tonight might be a bad blow. Let’s see what’s goin’ on at the lighthouse.”

Bella took command of the oars to get to the island. They usually took turns, but Father wanted Bella to gain experience in the treacherous waters. From any distance, the lighthouse island did not look much like a fish, but from upstairs in the lighthouse tower, it did. Two places to beach the boat were at the small inlets on either side of the tail of the island. Bella was looking for one of these small bays. She constantly checked over her shoulder for direction as they crossed the channel. Rowing into the wind, her long black hair, braided at the back, started to unravel. Wisps of hair annoyed her at each turn of the head. She was glad she was wearing overalls and had a black sweater over her white blouse. Sensing the channel was rougher than usual, Bella tucked her feet beneath the boards at the sides of the boat and pulled the oars as hard as she could. The rowboat, named Angelina after her mother, twisted and pushed slowly but surely to Fish Island.



John L. MacLELLAN6

His Wife
Angelina Morrison

Their Daughter
1896 -1967

Wife of
John Callaghan

Rest in Peace

Looking at the photograph of our parents’ tombstone, one we often glanced at when we visited the cemetery, it strikes me that despite the accurate information on it, there is a story behind the peculiarities on the gravestone the chisel does not tell. If this tombstone is in a cemetery in Indian River, Prince Edward Island, why was the husband buried in another community in another country? And, since the husband was christened John Albert, why does the gravestone refer to John L? Also, why would the daughter, Marie, who lived most of her life up west in Alberton, and later Summerside, P.E.I., be buried with her mother and not her husband?


There was one burning lamp visible through the frosted glass on the kitchen window. Outside the house at Indian River, a snow-covered paradise stretched in every direction under a canopy of countless stars and constellations. Laughs, coughs, and bells echoed from two wagons of night revelers as they approached John MacLellan’s house.

In a rocker near the last heat of the kitchen stove, Angelina was numb, not from cold, but from the tedium of mending endless socks and torn shirts and of sewing buttons on the dresses in the basket beside her. Charlie, her eldest son, had just fallen asleep on the daybed in the kitchen at the end of their long conversation throughout this winter evening. The rest of the family was nestled in their beds upstairs. Angelina was back from Darnley, feeling better but not completely well. In her solitude, she reviewed past events, difficult exchanges, and various misunderstandings involving her and her husband. John knew it was time for “the talk,” and promised to sit down with Angelina. As soon as he took off with his brothers and friends for the Black Horse Inn, Angelina knew this would not be the night for the talk. She knew just as surely that they really had to have that talk.


Bella stood in front of the fanciest mirror in the MacLellan homestead at Indian River. This weekend was more special than any since she had moved to Grand River across Malpeque Bay to live with the Morrisons. She turned twice in a slow circle in front of the mirror. It was beginning to dawn on her why the young men at Grand River had taken great interest in her lately. The black dress she put on for the first time showed off her maturing figure. Marguerite and Bea, her two sisters now living in Boston, selected the perfect dress to help her celebrate her birthday last summer and to give her something special to wear on her first trip to Boston on Monday.

As she swept her black hair back from her face and knotted it on top with two combs her mother had brought home from Summerside, she was now ready for the final piece, the drop necklace Papa presented on the occasion of her leaving Prince Edward Island. With one more turn, she loved how the sparkle of morning sunlight on the necklace enhanced the round neck of her dress. How right for her was this dress with its long, pleated skirt—right for her to wear to church today, her last Sunday before sailing to Boston, right for an Island girl arriving in the Boston States, right for looking for work in a big city, and right for turning the eye of some nice young man she would surely meet when she got there.

Becoming Clear: The Scotish IslandsIn a tiny thatch-roofed cottage on the shores of South Uist in the western Scottish Hebrides in spring of 1788, two men doze off in their chairs at the end of a heavy day of labour on the land. Across the room, three women chat quietly as they try to put together a meal for the two MacLellan men, themselves, and four wee ones.

“And why is it so hard for men in this family to make decisions?” wondered Mary MacLellan, the only unmarried woman of the three. “I am thinking I could walk to the top of Beinn Mhor and find the man-on-the-mountain that Ma used to joke about. Wiser than any man along our shore was he and, best of all, smart about making bold decisions.”

Catherine, wife of John MacLellan the rent collector and new patriarch of the family, ceased peeling potatoes, rested her elbows on the rough-wood table, and addressed Mary in an audible whisper. “Whist, Mary, you’re welcome to walk the mountain, but forget about finding any man-on-the-mountain these days. No one lives on Beinn Mhor anymore as far as I can tell. I pray daily, God preserve me, one of the MacLellans will start to see our family situation clearly and some decision about our future make.”

“Catherine’s right, Mary, one man on this shore has to wake up some day surely,” said Effie, the third woman at the table, as she nodded her head toward her snoring Angus across the room. “Angus had a clear mind I used to think. For months now, muddy with anger and confusion it’s been. Restless about everything going on along the shore is he. Once he gets started, no one can calm him down.”

Rising from the table, Mary, faced Effie and Catherine and said, “Looks like I might have to try looking for the man-in-the-mountain, my dears. Come on, wake up your laddies so we can eat.”

Becoming Clear: Canada

The destination is Glengarry, Canada, a Scottish settlement which includes Alexandria and Cornwall and stretches along the Saint Lawrence River to the Quebec border. Other emigrants from South Uist, neighbors and relatives of the MacLellans, are already settled in Glengarry.

The passage to Canada is mercifully free of major sea storms and crippling sickness. The initial sighting of land—the craggy, granite cliffs along the Newfoundland coast—is cause for great joy. The relief of nearing their destination, however, soon turns to consternation. From the bridge of the ship, the captain addresses the crowd of Scottish emigrants: “There is a change of plans. We had planned to have you disembark at the port in Quebec, but we cannot do that. Small pox has struck the ports in Quebec. Instead, you will disembark at Charlotte Town on Prince Edward Island.”

Each of the MacLellans reacts differently to the bad news being announced from the bridge of the British Queen.

John is despondent when the ship’s captain announces that a change of plans is necessary. To John there is nothing to be done. If the ship stops here, we have to get off.

Angus, suspecting that the captain is less than truthful, determines to find out more details. Throughout the days before they dock in Charlotte Town, Angus increases his chats with a Gaelic-speaking deckhand. Angus is soon convinced that his suspicion is well-founded. The captain’s plan from the beginning was to stop at Charlotte Town, not Quebec. The British had granted land to military officers to manage and sell on Prince Edward Island. Glengarry and Cape Breton are not the only alternatives for Scottish emigrants. The sailing vessel, The British Queen, is headed for Charlotte Town.

On his return from his chat with the deckhand, Angus finds himself staring out to sea at the invisible shores of Scotland he has left behind and the equally invisible shores of Prince Edward Island. The familiar banter of his wife and sisters is beginning to break through his reverie.

“Where in God’s name did we get the strength to dance the fling at the first sight o’ Newf’nlan, I’m after wondrin’? I’m so sick of the sea, sure, I dragged myself to me feet for to celebrate getting off this ship!” says Angus’ sister Mary.

“Aye, ye did fling yourself almost overboard, ” offers Effie, Angus’ wife. “And, Mary, you almost jumped in the waters when ye heard we were goin’ to Quebec, indeed, and not Glengarry!”

John’s wife, Catherine, “Whist now. Don’t ye be steering up about the change in plans. There’s nothing we can be doing about it. It is not given to us to be complaining now, is it? We’re the ones who prayed to get us away from Uist. So now surely it’s God’s will that’s taking us to a new place.”

Angus, hearing enough, swings with a grunt from shipside to the stairway leading to the steerage hold.

Three Sisters

Half way across John’s Bridge looking left from St Canice’s Church in Kilkenny City, a lamp post rises out of the five-foot high cement railing. The lamplight has not been lit yet, but the overcast day is fast turning to dusk. Leaning over the railing, Thomas Dunphy rests his chin on his folded arms staring at the mirror-calm Nore River, one of the county’s Three Sisters. For comfort, he wraps his arm around the lamp post as if he were a drunk. But Thomas more accurately holds the stance of what disapproving adults refer to as a corner-boy.* John Dunphy, Thomas’ father, stops his walk across the bridge on his way to Select Bar in the middle of the Catholic Irishtown neighborhood in order to chat with his fourteen-year-old son. John knows Thomas, with his already-weathered face and twinkling eyes, is anything but wicked.

“Shure, you’re not in yer usual good humour, Thomas. A lot on yer mind?” asks the father kindly.

“I’m just muddlin’,” Thomas confirms. “Lookin’ south down the Nore gives me hope, you know.”

“About what?”

“ Somethin’s gotta change in our house, Da, and I thinks it’ll be me. The flat’s overcrowded, for one thing. Was fine when we was kids, but we’re growin’ up, and no one’s movin’ out.”

“Are ya sayin’ you’re leavin’, me son?”

“Shure, I dunno. I knows I can’t stand livin’ in this town.”

“Ha hmm. Neither me,” John echoes his son’s sentiment, and then goes on to confide in Thomas how much he misses the farmlands of his childhood at Owning, southwest of Kilkenny City. “I belong in fields, not cramped here in Irishtown where everything ya do or not do is everyone’s business. I need my space, and the cycle of life I respect, Thomas, is the one on the land, the cycle of the sun and the moon. You’re not alone in your feelings about town.”

Fathers's Goose

My father was proud enough of his wife and the kids, but be damned if he would ever say so within earshot of the family. Father was a police constable in the seaport city of Saint John, New Brunswick. When he was on his twelve-hour beat, he was heard to brag about us when he would step in to join morning or afternoon conversations in the local grocery stores. Men used to sit around in those days on covered barrels of sugar, flour, or molasses or boxes of canned goods, passing the time of day, smoking pipes and cigarettes while the proprietors kept a wary eye on the sawdust floors for fear of fire.

Life was not easy, but it was also not a pressure cooker in the 1950s. Keeping aware of local news was valued, and so the local policeman was a welcome guest at any establishment be it the grocery, the barbershop, the dry cleaner’s, the diner, the department store, or the funeral parlour. Who better than a friendly cop to have the inside slant about goings-on around the city? Danny Dunphy was an obliging gossip with a gentle sense of humour and almost no sense of his own importance. Dan’s best buddy on the police force was “Babe” Durning. They played cards a lot and they played tricks on people at home and on the beat. They were practical jokers all right, but because of their unassuming manner, they were seldom caught or even suspected.

As a young boy, I had no appreciation of my father’s twelve-hour shift whether he endured summer heat or winter cold. But I did recognize that the shiney uniform black shoes sounded very heavy coming up the front stairs and the sound took on greater amplitude when he sat on a chair in my parents’ bedroom and dropped the shoes to the floor one at a time before any other part of the uniform came off.

About two weeks before Christmas, father started dreaming of what he wanted a little louder than was usual for him. He had stopped for a rest and a warm-up at the butcher shop on Prince Edward Street. “Dates” Elliott, the butcher, had become an instant friend when Dan Dunphy joined the police force in the early 1920s, and his wife Charlotte became a friend for life to my mother. Dan was pretty proud that he hailed from Prince Edward Island and he often recalled how he was used to having goose for Christmas dinner on the Island until he ended up in Saint John where you had to be satisfied with turkey.

Brooding Instinct

[Certain members of my family felt strongly that I should write a book about the people who lived in our family home. I was never inclined to write that book. As I started reflecting on the kind of family I grew up in, however, my interest turned instead to my mother, Bella MacLellan Dunphy, and her siblings rather than on the people she welcomed into our home. I narrate this reflection with her as one of a cast of characters, rather than as my mother for whom I held great affection, respect, and admiration. This reflection is not a work of imagination and not biography. It is close to a memoir, but it is most intended to be a personal essay—an attempt to recount remembered experience with enough detachment to explore the humour, pathos, and insight that might arise in an examination of one aspect of my family life.]

The first photographs I saw of me as a baby were a bit unsettling. Photos show me as a toddler with a cranky scowl. Could have been sun on sensitive eyes, but there is also a recent photo of me in my early 60s with a similar cranky face. I keep that picture on my desk to remind me that I do not always smile readily with everyone. The second baby photo features me as toddler (with that cranky face again) in front of a collection of friendly faces I have never seen since. This group photo in a strange way represents an aspect of my family life growing up in Saint John, New Brunswick in the 40s and 50s.

My mother and father were originally from Prince Edward Island, but had met, married, and settled in Saint John. They had relatives in the USA as well as relatives and neighbours in P.E.I. Our home in Saint John was the last stop for Islanders before crossing the border into the USA or was the first stop for relatives crossing the border into Canada. The American consulate was in Saint John; so people who had been neighbours when my parents lived on the Island often stopped at our house to stay the duration it took to get a visa to work in the States. Many people, who did NOT know my parents but knew someone who did, rang our doorbell and stayed.

We always had visitors. Most observed the three-day “fish rule” my mother swore by. They left after a few days. Others stayed for years.


It is sundown at Indian River, Prince Edward Island, when my wife and I arrive for our first jazz concert at St. Mary’s Church. We park beneath an ancient birch tree next to the cemetery where relatives from both sides of my family are at rest. At the close of the car doors, a trio of blackbirds takes one last sweep for the day across a summer sky of red, orange, and gold. Inside the glorious white wooden church trimmed in black, the concert is well attended and well worth coming to. Measha does not disappoint. Drifting away on the notes of Measha Brueggergosman’s operatic, yet jazzy, rendition of “Summertime,” I sit up a little straighter as the wooden church bench becomes uncomfortable. Memories are intruding on the magic of the music.


I am the altar boy for the country wedding of my cousin Lorena in the summer of 1948. People might not think so, but participating in formal church ceremonies is both exciting and nerve-wracking for altar boys. To compensate for the stress of being in the public eye, we amuse ourselves by betting one another about who the groom is or who the best-man is. To my mind, grooms have a lot to be nervous about, so I usually choose the wrong person. It turns out, best men are always more nervous. We also bet on who will faint during the ceremony. Well-behaved Catholics of the day earnestly fast from midnight to the end of mass. Fasting for Holy Communion and fasting to fit into a wedding dress put heavy odds on the bride to faint. Altar boys, however, are ready for any surprise—clumsy searches for wedding rings, dropping floral bouquets, tripping over the bridal train, and, most dramatic of all, is someone fainting.

This Saturday morning, the groom and best man are standing outside the Communion rail waiting for the bride. In the sanctuary at the front of the church, I wait ceremoniously, a small water bucket in hand to bless or, what usually is the case, “to shower” the wedding couple. I stand beside the three priests officiating over the wedding ceremony facing the congregation which is still seated. It doesn’t really take three priests to get the job done, but all three must have wanted to get in on the celebration of this marriage. One is a cousin of the bride; another, a family friend; the third, the new parish priest. No one’s nose is out of joint, I guess. I have a great view of the final guests coming down the aisle.

The Homestead

[This reflection on the power of place and its changing significance serves
as one more example of how the pen is mightier than the bulldozer.]

In the summer of 2006, we had just finished our early morning drive from Stanhope to Kensington and were heading to Indian River, PEI. Paul and Janise, my son and daughter-in-law from Calgary, were agreeable to exploring and photographing scenes pertinent to my recent stories about the area.

As it was in the nineteenth century, Kensington still is a significant crossroad on the Island. Armed with our Tim Horton’s coffee, we drove down the Margate Road for my first time since the mid-70’s. I tried to point out my uncle Jim Dunphy’s home on the right, but lost confidence about which house it was. We took photos of three houses which might have been the place.

I was certain I would recognize the Dunphy homestead nearby. I saw the lane entrance. When I looked up the lane, I was shocked. The homestead was gone. A mobile home adorned the crest of the tiny slope where the century plus farmhouse used to be. My mind flipped back for a moment to the 1980’s when Bob and Myrtle Dunphy, who had lived in the house for over forty years, decided to move to Clermont for winter apartments and eventually into senior housing. When they considered selling the property, they got word out to Dunphys on and off the Island to consider buying the homestead. My brother in Saint John and I in Ottawa chatted about purchasing the house for sentimental reasons; practically, we could not seriously consider buying it. Except in my imagination, I had not thought about the place since. Still it is shocking to see a heritage site vanish.

My first memory of visiting Myrtle and Bob Dunphy at the homestead was a visit in the early 50’s with my brother Mike and his wife Rita when I was about ten years old. We drove up the lane, hearing a voice yelling “Bob, we got company!” We stopped the Chevy beside the house. The farmhouse had been built over a century before by pioneer Thomas Dunphy, my great-grandfather, who had come from Ireland in 1824, cleared the land, and built this house at Lot 19. Myrtle stepped out to meet us wiping her hands on her apron. Shade trees blocked the summer afternoon sun as we got ready to get out of the car. I could see this huge smile and hear a booming voice shouting forth to welcome us. “Harold, is that you? And your lovely wife, look at you, aren’t you a pretty one now. And who is this little fella?.”


I wish that Donnie and I had talked about fathers before he died.

Donnie Lenihan beat the drum in front of my window at 93 Stanley Street. I had the mumps and, as if needing to prove it, I had a folded bandage circling my whole face and tied at the top of my head. I was supposed to be the drummer in the rhythm band which was on its way to the Music Festival in the auditorium of Saint John High School. I could not believe I would miss the big event, but I could accept things better if Donnie were the one to replace me. It was the spring of Grade I in 1948. After the dress rehearsal with black-painted coffee tins for hats tied under our chins with red ribbons, navy felt capes over our shoulders, white shirts, and my home-made black pants (Honest, my mother used my father’s old police uniforms to make my pants.), I was really getting into the spirit of the festival. Then I got sick the day before our presentation.

It was only years later when I saw a photograph of our class at the music festival, that I really was sorry not to have my picture taken with my classmates. The pride of success shone through the missing teeth. Smiles of innocence and huge eyes make this photo precious. Some kids carried their looks into adulthood. Donnie was one of them.

We were altar boys later, learning Latin responses for religious ceremonies, carrying black soutanes and ironed white surplices from home to church on a hanger, and taking them home from church in a huge ball inside our jackets. Donnie was taller than the rest of the altar boys and always got to carry the long staff with the crucifix on top. He had a natural sense of dignity. He didn’t get into fits of giggles as I did half the time in the sanctuary. Like the time Timmy Guy was changing the mass book from one side of the altar to the other. That meant carrying the book down three steps, genuflecting, and going up three steps and placing the book on the other side of the altar. (Seems like a lot of unnecessary work for an altar-boy, doesn’t it?) Timmy somehow miscalculated and fell down the steps and the sacred book went flying outside the sanctuary into the congregation. Donnie thought it was stupidly tragic; I was thoroughly amused.


[This story is written from an outsider’s perspective as she is getting to know the Dunphy and MacLellan families before marrying into the families.]

It was the summer of ’64 when Andrew Greeley’s bestselling novel The Cardinal was released as a blockbuster movie. I remember because my fiancé and I went to the drive-in for a double feature on the first day of my only visit to Boston.

My boyfriend’s mother suggested we might all enjoy a visit to Boston for a few days. There had been a number of changes in the family over the previous year. It was time to visit her brother Ronald in Boston who was recently remarried. I was excited at the prospect of the trip, but a bit shy and uncomfortable about meeting and staying with “the relatives.”

Twenty minutes into our drive from Saint John, New Brunswick, Bella started regaling us with stories about Shadow Lake, a beautiful natural retreat for the McAvity family, the owners and manufacturers of those red or yellow fire hydrants all over North America. She knew the caretakers at the lake. They would annually come in to Saint John to visit Bella and Dan with the proviso that they would come to the lake in the fall after the McAvity family had left the compound. John added that there were a number of buildings besides the main hunting lodge and the caretakers’ house and that a boat ride on Shadow Lake was sure to include an encounter with loons and beavers.

My prospective mother-in-law was a wonderfully strong woman who had had many ups and downs in her life, but was undaunted by her many experiences. Her sense of humour and compassion made her a delightful travel companion. It soon became apparent to me that she would be my door to understanding more about John and the family I would be marrying into.

Knowing You

[This memoir of a travelling experience in Japan serves to highlight the connection between past, present, and future. This reflection attempts to project the concerns for family, hospitality, and island culture (raised in the opening stories in this collection) to a remote setting in the global village to illustrate how going away from a familiar place changes one’s perspective.]

We had not seen the female students since our arrival in Japan five days earlier. They had gone to a private girls’ school in Amagasaki City in western Japan for their exchange visit. The high-school boys, also from Ottawa, exchanged with a private boys’ school in Nishinomya. The Canadian students, having spent their time in the Japanese classrooms and with their homestay families for their first few days, were ready to do some sightseeing in and around Hiroshima before moving on to Tokyo. Standing, waiting in the Osaka train station, we observed hundreds of Japanese rushing to meet trains or pushing their way out of the station to buses or waiting cars or major intersections on sidewalks leading to schools or businesses. The train from Amagasaki was due. Our thoughts shifted from what we were seeing around the station, to reuniting with the girls, and to travelling on the fast train (a.k.a. The Bullet) to Hiroshima.

“There they are!” one of the boys yelled a little too loud. The twelve Canadian boys flocked to embrace the girls as if they had been friends for life. As the male teacher advisor for the Japanese trip, I surprised myself and especially my Japanese counterpart, when I reacted to our reunion with the same enthusiasm. Shimizu-sensei seemed taken aback by the impropriety of my embracing all of the girls as well as their female teacher advisor. Having been immersed in a sea of Japanese females for five days at school, at our homestays, along the streets, around the malls, and in the train stations, we appreciated the familiar, happy faces of the Canadian girls. We really missed one another and had so many things to share about our initial days with our Japanese hosts. This was also our first time together without our hosts since arriving in Japan.


[This reflection on a tradition once important to early Canadian lifestyle is a tribute as well to an extraordinary woman who was once important to her family and community]

The family was summoned to a celebration of Bella’s 75th birthday at Anne of Green Gables cottages in Cavendish in 1976. Bella had invited friends and family from parts of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to join her, and most had made their way to the “gathering” cottage for the evening celebration. It was a low-key affair, but so appropriate to the guest of honour. After family dinner, the little ones got ready for bed and the older grandchildren, the pre-teens and teens, begged their way out of the gathering to another cottage to play cards and watch TV. After a round of drinks, the adults started to celebrate with stories and reminiscences without much coaxing and songs without music accompaniment. That is to say, Bella’s generation was comfortable in front of audiences of family and friends and knew the art of entertaining themselves better than the generations that followed.

Bella’s children, then adults, were invited to entertain somehow before Bella did her thing. Inattentive to what his sister Anne and brother Mike were doing to entertain, John was desperately scrambling to come up with something to say or do for the audience. Now crimson from ear to ear with embarrassment, John said he could not sing or recite anything well, but it might be worth focusing on Bella’s unusual name. Her sister, Marguerite, had only one given name; the six others had two names; Bella alone in the family had three—Flora Penelope Isabella.

John, the youngest in Bella’s family and the one who did the banking uptown to and from high school, pointed out that his mother sent cheques for all her banking and mortgage business with the signature “Flora.” Flora was the name of her grandmother Morrison from Darnley, PEI. “Penelope” was the name of her grandmother MacLellan from Indian River. Aside from that fact, he pointed out that Penelope was a most melodic name which he loved to say over and over as a child. “Isabella” was her distinguished and distinguishing name, an original name not named after a relative that anyone knew of. But “Bella” was the name she was known, loved, and called by. Bella means beautiful, and so that was appropriate. MacLellan is her family name, a family for which she held considerable pride. She was clannish. She admits MacLellan is Scottish, but she believed the MacLellans might have lived in Ireland for a while, thus making her an Irish Scot. Then there is “Dunphy,” her married name from her marriage to Daniel O’Connell Dunphy from Black Horse Corner on the Irishtown Road between Kensington and Indian River. So, in conclusion, the guest of honour had a name to remember.

island1[This reflection explores some universal dimensions of island culture.]It amazes me how much “going to” an island or “leaving” an island weaves through the narrative of my family. “Going to” the Island (in my family’s case, Prince Edward Island) has been a multifaceted pleasure every year of my life. For my pioneering ancesters who left the shores of Ireland and the Scottish Hebrides to settle in Prince Edward Island, however, a maelstrom of emotions must have swirled around the whole emigration experience. The emotional turmoil of emigration is universal, but perhaps there is an even more intense experience involved in arriving at or leaving an island.

An island is a geographical place; more importantly, an island is a culture. It is a way of living on a daily basis marked by the familiarity of people, places, and events. It is a habit of speaking, playing, thinking, expecting, and judging out of the comfort of known limits. One is familiar with the expression the “Royal we,” but there is, it seems to me, an “island we” which is found in the sentiment that goes something like this: We are all on this island with its positives and negatives, and we are all living together seeking our personal, family, and community happiness in ways we all understand. They operate differently “away.” This sentiment does not necessarily show logic, but it does smack of attitude. We know what we are and how we are, and we do not much care what others might think about us. In some ways, there is an attitude of inclusiveness (islanders get it) and exclusiveness (mainlanders do not get it). I cannot say I have ever heard an islander express such a sentiment in words, but actions and reactions of islanders often support the sentiment.

If one were to have a choice, it is probably better to have been born on an island. You will always belong, even if you leave, and especially if you return, you belong to the island whether you are welcomed or not. If you are born away from an island, you may be welcomed, but you will never belong. You will always be from “away.” Professor and entertainer David Weale of Prince Edward Island nailed this whole business long ago in his writing, audio tapes, and stage productions on the quirky and endearing aspects of Prince Edward Island life. Being from “away” is not the end of the world, but it can be downright annoying at worst and amusing at best if you fall in love with an island and want to live there or spend much time there.