Bookmark #14 Port Hastings, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

No Great Mischief, by Alistair MacLeod


Ferry the dead. Fois do t’anam. Peace to his soul.
‘All of us are better when we’re loved.’
– from No Great Mischief, by Alistair MacLeod, published by McClelland & Stewart.
Bookmarked at Port Hastings, October 1, 2015.

The MacLeod family celebrates the unveiling of the NO GREAT MISCHIEF Bookmark. Photo Credit: Weldon Bona.

The MacLeod family celebrates the unveiling of the NO GREAT MISCHIEF Bookmark. Photo Credit: Weldon Bona.

Project Bookmark Canada Founder Miranda Hill shelters Anita MacLeod at the unveiling. Photo Credit: Weldon Bona.

Project Bookmark Canada Founder Miranda Hill shelters Anita MacLeod at the unveiling. Photo Credit: Weldon Bona.

 

On October 1, 2015, we unveiled Bookmark 14, for No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod, at the Nova Scotia Visitor Centre in Port Hastings on Cape Breton Island. The Bookmark was made possible through a collaborative and joyful effort by a number of organizations and individuals (listed here) and with the enthusiastic participation of the MacLeod family. The Bookmark is the first in the Maritime provinces. Visitors to Cape Breton will now be greeted by the final passage from the novel, and the words of the author who introduced Cape Breton and its stories to so many readers around the country and the world.


About Alistair MacLeod and No Great Mischief

Alistair MacLeod (1935–2014) was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan to a Cape Breton family. They returned home to the MacLeod farm in Dunvegan, Inverness County, when he was 10.

In his early adulthood, MacLeod worked as a miner and a logger to finance his education. He studied at St. Francis Xavier University, the University of New Brunswick and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, where he received his PhD. He settled in Windsor, Ontario, where he raised six children with his wife Anita and taught English and Creative Writing for more than three decades at the University of Windsor. Each summer, MacLeod returned to his home in Cape Breton where he wrote much of his fiction in a small cabin overlooking the sea.

MacLeod’s books include The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories (1986), which were reissued in 2001 by McClelland & Stewart as the single volume, Island. The novel No Great Mischief was published by McClelland & Stewart in 1999 and won numerous awards including the Trillium Book Award and the omas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.

In 2001, MacLeod received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, which introduced his fiction and the island of Cape Breton to readers around the world. 

No Great Mischief is published by McClelland & Stewart. This excerpt is used with the kind permission of the MacLeod family.

Banner photo credit: Weldon Bonas.


The Passage

Tomorrow when the day breaks we will see what is now invisible around us. It will not all be pretty. Near the open water the bald eagles will pounce with mighty talons upon the white-coated baby seals. They will scream in different voices as they rise above the blood-stained ice. “You’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet,” Grandma used to say. “No one said life was going to be a bed of roses.”

I recognize all the familiar landmarks, although it is dark and there are mountains of snow. Here is the place where Grandpa threw the top of his whisky bottle out the window the day we were returning from my graduation. The day the red-haired Alexander MacDonald was killed, although we did not know it then. The day his mother bought him the shirt.

I turn to Calum and he is still, though his eyes are wide open, looking at the road ahead. Once we sang to the pilot whales on a summer’s day. Perhaps we lured the huge whale in beyond his safe depth. And he died, disemboweled by the sharp rocks he could not see. Later his body moved inland, but his great heart remained behind.

By the glow of the dashboard lights I can see the thin scar on Calum’s lower lip beginning to whiten. This is the man whose tooth was pulled by a horse. This is the man who, in his youthful despair, went looking for a rainbow, while others thought he was just wasting gas.

The car crests a high hill and in the distance, across the white expanse of the ice, I can see the regulated blinking of the now-automated light. It is still miles away. Yet it sends forth its message from the island’s highest point. A light of warning or, perhaps, encouragement.

I turn to Calum once again. I reach for his cooling hand which lies on the seat beside him. I touch the Celtic ring. This is the man who carried me on his shoulders when I was three. Carried me across the ice from the island, but could never carry me back again.

Out on the island the neglected fresh-water well pours forth its gift of sweetness into the whitened darkness of the night.

Ferry the dead. Fois do t’anam. Peace to his soul.
‘All of us are better when we’re loved.’


Donors for No Great Mischief

Good Foundation Inc.
Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia
Destination Cape Breton Association
Cabot Trail Writers' Festival
Sarah Emsley
Hughena Matheson
Caroline Matheson
Anne Emery
Don Oravec and Jim Harper
F. Peter and D. Bernadette Kahnert
Susan Lightstone
John Godfrey
Anita Lahey
Donna Stackhouse
 

Faris Shammas
Monique Nemni

Larry Murray
Paul Coghill
George Goodwin
Brett Murray
Stephanie Morley
David Wilson
Georgina Fitzgerald
Julia Thomson
Harvey Swedlove
Richard Sobkiewicz
Elizabeth Muggah
Alphonsus Walsh