National Geographic : 1920 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE children will be distinguished as Donald Angus and Sandy Angus, etc. The grandchildren become Angus Donald Sandy or Sandy Donald-Sandy, and so on, to unbelievable lengths. If, as often happens, there are more persons of one name than can be so dis tinguished, one family may be known as Sandy Ruadh (Red), or Sandy Ban (White), or Big Angus, or Little Angus, or Angus the Cobbler, and the adjective may persist to the third or fourth gen eration. A generation ago these by-names fol lowing the surnames could be found on the electoral voting lists in Cape Breton and country merchants frequently re sorted to them to identify the Duncans and Donalds, Normans and Neils on their ledgers. Even today the bracketed "John's son" or "Rory's widow," which avoids the confusing of the persons with others of the same name, are very common. In the same way Angus Matheson, carpenter, is distinguished from another Angus Matheson, mason, or from a third who is a wheelwright; and occasionally a genuine family by-name appears like Ranald Macdonald (Bain) or Ranald Macdonald (King), the respective Ran alds being better known as Ranald Bain or Ranald King than by their mutual surname. In the Cape Breton "nickname," pure and simple, there is the same personal touch that goes with a nickname any where-not often complimentary, but very much to the point. Besides "Johnny the Widow" or "Mary-Ann Captain Dan Sandy," which are strictly patronymics. there may be "Duncan the Bear," origi nating with some personal exploit of Duncan's, or "Willie Holy," whose father was Holy Willie, his piety leaving as much to be desired as the sobriety of Sober Neil, who took his whisky neat and often, like a good Cape Bretoner. J. A. H. Cameron, in his "Colonel from Wyoming," illustrates this typically Cape Breton form of nickname with the story of Angus the Ox. The hero of the tale was Axe-handle Angus, "who used to do some coopering in the shape of making axe-handles for some of the Syd ney merchants. He stole an ox once, long, long ago, and sold it to Archie the Brewer for ten gallons of home-made whisky; and when he came home, after spending three months in jail, instead of calling him Axe-handle Angus, they called him Angus the Ox; they called his brother Donald the Ox and his sister Nancy the Ox." The family was ever after known as "The Oxen," and the poor people were so sensitive about it that they gave up raising oxen, even for their own farm work. CHANGING TIIE ISLAND'S CLIMATE A REMOTE PROSPECT The summer weather has no extreme heat, while the island's insular position and proximity to the Gulf Stream give it a winter climate less severe than many more southerly parts of the mainland. The island is in the latitude of south ern France, and if the blocking of the Straits of Belle Isle is accomplished, di verting the cold Labrador currents that now retard the spring, Cape Breton may share with the New England coast in orange and olive growing, and perhaps sunny vineyards will replace the storm tossed forests on Smoky's rugged face. The prospect is sufficiently remote, however, to leave undisturbed for the present those of us who prefer Smoky as it is, and the autumn tints of maple and beech and birch, which give gorgeousness to Cape Breton Octobers, to the sunniest vineyards. Whether it is due entirely to the rugged stock from which they come or (in part) to some virtue of the climate, these Cape Breton descendants of the Scots are re markably long-lived. Indeed, it would seem that Ponce de Leon missed his ob jective only by taking too southerly a course, and that in this bracing island air, rather than in softer climes, is the magic elixir of eternal youth. As "Sam Slick" has summarized it: "I don't know what more you'd ask. In dented everywhere with harbors, sur rounded with fisheries, the key of the St. Lawrence, the Bay of Fundy, and the West Indies; prime land above, one vast mineral bed beneath, and a climate over all temperate, pleasant, and healthy; if that ain't enough for one place, it's a pity; that's all !"