Highland Village in Iona, Cape Breton Hosts a Milling Frolic

I hail from a Gaelic area (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) but that doesn’tMilling Frolic Celtic Colours exactly make me Gaelic. I’m ignorant when it comes to my heritage and my culture. I wish I could say otherwise, but it would be untrue. This week, I’ve been learning about my roots and my “Celtic Colours”; I’ve become a tourist in my hometown and I’m catching up on a few things that I’d been blind to as a youth. I’ve attended The Cape Breton Fiddlers at the Gaelic College, Our Gaelic Kids in Christmas Island, and a Traditional Ceilidh in Iona (the video is to follow within the next few days). Today, I took one more step into learning about the Gaelic community by attending a Milling Frolic at the Highland Village in Iona.

A milling frolic is the process of taking cloth from the loom and pounding and fulling it on a milling table to felt the wool into a tighter fabric, but explaining a milling frolic in my own words doesn’t do it justice. Listen to Jim Watson, a local member of the Gaelic community and an employee at Highland Village, as he explains a milling frolic.

Athena and I joined in. Luckily, it wasn’t real work today because Athena stole the show and most people were paying so much attention to her, including me, that they lost the beat. No one really seemed to mind and smiles remained all around.

Milling Frolic Celtic Colours - Tourism Nova Scotia Milling Frolic Celtic Colours - Tourism Nova Scotia

Colin, son, and Jim, father, share their Gaelic knowledge and experience with others by working at the Highland VIllage regularly and during the Celtic Colours. They can often be heard speaking Gaelic, sharing stories, and singing Gaelic tunes. Colin’s Gaelic expression extends into music and his knowledge of the fiddle is exceptional. Milling Frolic Celtic Colours - Tourism Nova Scotia

My sister, Gabriella, joined Athena and I and she sang along during several of the songs. I was thoroughly, and pleasantly, surprised by her use of the Gaelic language; it was obvious that the schools must be incorporating a good amount of the language into the curriculum.

Although I don’t know any Gaelic, yet, I listened intently during the first round of singing and participated during the chorus. I may not have been saying the words perfectly, but it’s a start. I was proud to participate in the milling frolic even if it was just during the chorus.

I’m still a tourist in my own home but I’ve come a long way this week alone.

Go raibh maith agat Dathanna Ceilteach; tú a thabhairt níos gaire dom do bhaile!
(Thank you Celtic Colours; you’ve brought me closer to home.)

Check out Tourism Nova Scotia & Celtic Colours for other events and activities in the area. 

20 thoughts on “Highland Village in Iona, Cape Breton Hosts a Milling Frolic

  1. I love the fact that you’re interested in learning about your roots. One of the most exciting, thrilling, educational and fun things I’ve done is dig into my genealogy. My roots go from Iowa to Norway and Ireland. On my bucket list is: go to Norway, go to Ireland & Scotland.


  2. Digging down to, and exploring one’s roots is so important and beautiful. My husband and I come from totally different backgrounds (he is a first-generation immigrant from Laos, coming to the States as a toddler; I come from a Louisiana-French family with a variety of European–and Canadian–roots!). I’d love to incorporate more about these roots in what I write…hard to know where to start!


  3. Very cool. I knew Cape Breton-style fiddling is among the most famous in the world, but I’d never heard of a milling frolic– definitely sounds like they’d go well together, however. Make sure Athena takes some fiddle lessons– maybe she could saw a reel or two while she’s bungee jumping! : )


  4. Learning about your roots, your history, and where you came from is both one of the most important things you can do, and in the world. Because without a past, we can’t live in the present, and can’t plan for the future.


  5. Hi, I never realised that there was another Iona Community. I’m called Iona and visit my namesake on the West Coast of Scotland as often as I can. I’m very proud of my roots and am enjoying passing it onto my children-there’s so much fun seeing things through their eyes.


  6. Very nice work!
    My grandparents spoke Gaelic, probably to complain about the British government. We’re the trouble-making branch of O’Briens (:
    Thanks so much for stopping by my little blog so regularly. I’m following you, so I’ll be back again soon.


  7. This is wonderful. I lived in Scotland for 21 of my 22 years, yet still do not know a single word of Gaelic. Nor did I really think twice about the fact that, while I grew up surrounded by Scottish culture, I actually knew very little about the history of my people. The same could probably be said for the majority of people my age living in the big cities (especially my hometown Edinburgh, which sometimes seems more a city of the world than a city of Scotland), as Gaelic traditions and Scottish heritage weren’t seen something that was worth dedicating time to learning about.

    In the last 5 years, though, the Scottish Government has really started to promote the traditional side of Scottish culture. Gaelic is now taught in many schools (something that I missed out on), and public sector organisations are encouraged to use both English and Gaelic where they can.

    Personally, it was only when I moved abroad that I began to regret knowing so little about the heritage of my country, and I now (especially after reading this) fully intend to return, perhaps in ten or so years when I’ve had my fill of the rest of the world, and be a tourist in my own home as well.


  8. Lesley, you were probably my first “like”, and I’ve read your blog ever since. Though you don’t have time for it now, I am inviting you to be part of a Circle of Appreciation. Not an award, but you can check it out on my blog. http://wp.me/p2jC53-IB Athena is getting so big and beautiful. She just wanted to sing, I think!! My mother used to recite a Gaelic poem that she learned in school, so I have heard the beautiful sound of the language. Have a great time in Nova Scotia.


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