This is an aerial view of MacIsaac’s Pond, fishing facilities, and the village of Inverness.

The little plane dropped down over the coastline at Margaree. We leveled off and started along the coast towards Inverness.

A short distance away from the coast, the air became smoother and we dropped down to about 500 feet above the coastline. There is nothing like nice smooth air for shooting photographs. The beaches and the mouth of the Broad Cove River (the “Big River”) came in sight.

Inverness Beach village, the new golf course, the village of Inverness and the long expanse of the beach all became clicks on the camera. At the far southern end of the beach, the land begins to rise in the Broad Cove Banks and the Mabou Highlands. At the foot of the hills and tucked in behind some dunes is MacIsaac’s Pond.

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Jutting out into the pond are the fishing wharves of the Inverness fishermen. Like many fishing communities on western Cape Breton, the fishing facilities at Inverness are situated on the mouth of a small stream outlet of a coastal pond. From its mouth, the pond extends inland towards the “Corner” in Inverness for approximately 1,000 metres and might be half as wide.

You might be asking, what’s so significant about a small coastal pond like this one? With the advent of coal developments in the Inverness area, MacIsaac’s Pond took on a new position of importance. Before the rail line from Point Tupper to Inverness was complete, a channel to the sea was dredged and coal was shipped on scows. Before the dredging, the natural opening to the pond was probably a very small one, subject to silting and at the whim of the crashing breakers and ocean currents. A short spur line was constructed to the pond’s edge where wharves and loading piers handled the coal for shipment. A new era for Inverness and MacIsaac’s Pond had just begun. But the main railway was completed in 1901 and shipping coal through the Pond ceased.

By the mid-1950’s, new dredging of the entrance to the pond created a channel deep enough for the larger fishing boats that could be found anywhere on the west side of Cape Breton. Today the wharves and fishing facilities have been developed inside the pond well protected from the changing moods of the sea. Breakwaters of large armour stone have been put in place protecting the harbour mouth. However, the breakwater stone is sandstone and erodes over time. With Cameron’s Beach on the south side and the long main Inverness Beach on the north side, great quantities of sand are available and silting does take place. Occasional dredging is a necessity.

A few years ago, descendants of the first MacIsaac settlers erected a monument on a small knoll near the entrance to the pond to commemorate the hardiness and spirit of independence of those early highlanders who sought the refuge of an untamed land. The monument also marks the burial place of a least a dozen of the early settlers, as well as several who were drowned at sea.

The early settlers brought with them their culture and passed it on to succeeding generations. Besides their language, music and folklore (including superstitions with their ghosts, witches, and fairies) played an important part in everyday life. A small hill on the shores of MacIsaac’s Pond became known as “tulloch na sithean” (the hill of the fairies) where music was often heard by the fishermen on their way to their boats.

Down through time, MacIsaac’s Pond has seen many changes both natural and man-made. The pond also marks the mouth of an ancient river system that flowed through the Strathlorne Valley and whose course was changed forever by the movement of glaciers some 10,000 years ago.

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Musician and freelance columnist Wally Ellison lives in Inverness County