MacDonald Family Picnic at Ben Eoin by Joseph Sweeney.

The 24th of July was the occasion of the fourth biennial MacDonald Family Picnic held at the residence of Malcolm S. MacDonald at Ben Eoin in Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia. This is a short account of what went on as viewed by an “outsider.”

It was a dull overcast day as we set off on our one hundred mile journey to Ben Eoin, not certain of what we would find there. After a pleasant drive along the south-eastern shore of the Bras d’Or Lake and up along East Bay, we arrived at the camp-site, owned by the host, Malcolm S. MacDonald. From there, we were led to the location of the picnic on the other shore of the bay, by his gracious wife.

We sat by the shore of a very choppy East Bay and watched an almost constant stream of cars arriving; their registration plates bore the names of US States as far distant as California, not to mention the many Canadian Provinces that were represented.

An object of immediate attraction to new arrivals at the very attractive residence was a comprehensive family tree, which is the result of much research and hard work by Kenneth MacDonald of Boston. The younger ones especially were keen on locating their position, and recent additions to the family were duly added on. The children played happily on the paddle boats; among the adults, old friendships were renewed and new ones formed.

When everyone had arrived, the speechmaking commenced. Veterans of four, three and two picnics respectively were identified, those attending their first picnic were welcomed. Kenneth MacDonald, the man who is largely responsible for co-ordinating family activities told of his recent visit to Scotland, and in particular to Armadale Castle on Skye, seat of Lord Macdonald of Macdonald, Chief of the name and arms of the Clan. All present showed great interest in his souvenir stone that had once been a part of the castle walls. Many novelty prizes were awarded, including to the youngest and oldest members of the family present.

Just as someone announced with assurance over the microphone that it would never rain on a MacDonald Picnic the skies opened, as they had been threatening to do throughout the whole day. Everyone rushed to the shelter of the house. Captain Mungo Sweeney of the Clan Donald Association of Nova Scotia expressed his admiration at the way in which this family had kept together, and wished them every success. He went on to explain how the activities of both groups could complement each other in the future.

Though invited to stay for the meal, we left then so as not to disturb the private ritual of a family that has stayed together for four generations, for this was their day. It is certainly refreshing in this day and age to find that in some places, still, the values of family-life are held sacred above all other.

Farewell to the Highlands, Farewell to the North
The birthplace of valour, the country of worth;
Wherever I wander, whenever I rove,
The hills of the highlands forever I love.