HARP The People’s Press presented photos with a Cape Breton story line from its first publication, The People’s Photo Album, at Parkland Cape Breton on April 4. John Gillis, reporter for The Inverness Oran witnessed how the room came alive, as residents in Parkland’s retirement and assisted living facility and people from the community called up stories about unsung heroes of the Antigonish Movement and the Extension Department at St. Francis Xavier University from its early days. Sister Margaret MacDonell, long time chair of Celtic Studies at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) told of her wonderful teacher Alex Laidlaw, who before he became Assistant Director of Extension (1944-1956) taught at Port Hood Academy. Sr. Margaret, her brother Fr. Malcolm MacDonell (President of StFX 1970-1978) and his wife-to-be Ella MacMillan were all Alex Laidlaw’s students.
John Gillis sought out publisher and writer Dorothy Lander for an interview that expanded on the theme of unsung heroes throughout the generations of the Antigonish Movement. The resulting two-page spread in the April 10 issue of the Oran celebrates the earlier heroes of Fr. Jimmy Tompkins, Fr. Moses Coady, Alex Laidlaw, A. B. MacDonald, Fr. John Angus Rankin and the clergy managers of Mount Cameron Farm in the 1950s, Ida Delaney, Tompkinsville’s first occupants Joe and Mary Laben, the Congregation of Notre Dame, Sr. Irene Doyle (CSM) and Fr. John Capstick while tying them to the living legacy of the movement in the work today of Dr. Teresa MacNeil, Denise Davies, Mary Beth Carty, Lindsay Kyte, Joanne Tompkins, Lisa Lunney-Borden.
Like any social movement, the Antigonish Movement has not been contained in its institutional borders. It is a movement that has spread into communities across Canada and in every corner of the world through the graduates of the Coady International Institute. It is a movement marked by a steady march to social inclusion, as it supports social leadership programs and People’s Schools for Indigenous People, youth, disabled, immigrant newcomers, and seniors. It takes on a broad range of social issues, including poverty, adult literacy, affordable housing, climate change, truth and reconciliation, and much, much more.
The Oran was the first to announce that the celebration moves to Ottawa and Parliament Hill on May 8. The photo catalyst for stories will recognize the preponderance of Xaverians that have chosen careers in public service over the several generations of the Antigonish Movement, including seven current MPs. We hope to fill the room with X-rings and stories of “making a difference in the world.”
Oran is Gaelic for “song” and HARP The People’s Press took that as a good omen for their publishing house that is focused on the healing arts and arts for health equity.
Filmmaker and writer Denise Davies is the lead videographer in HARP’s production of a video/DVD, The Unsung Heroes of the Antigonish Movement, which will include footage from these celebrations of the Antigonish Movement as well as individual and focus group interviews with unsung heroes.