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Digital Subscriptions > Cottage Life > Spring 2017 > Seann Taigh Mo Shìnnsir

Seann Taigh Mo Shìnnsir

On the harsh edge of Cape Breton, the “old home of my ancestors” has survived for more than two centuries. Now this stone cottage has returned to the family
The stone cottage owned by Lorrie MacKinnon has changed over its long history since her ancestor Iain Ruadh MacMaster built it. The dormers were added about 100 years ago. The porch (seen on pages 50 and 57) dates from the 1950s and was covered with aluminum siding when Lorrie bought the property.

Across more than 200 years,

You can see what might have drawn Iain Ruadh MacMaster to this spot on the slope in Creignish, on Cape Breton Island. A few hundred feet below, the whitecaps paint the waves in St. Georges Bay; the forested hills on the mainland side of the bay stretch out of view across the restless water. In fact, the bay fills your view in three directions: to the north, west, and south. Turn to the east, and you’re looking up Creignish Mountain, its face steep and woods-covered.

Iain arrived here from Moidart, Scotland, in 1801, a pre–Highland Clearances economic immigrant. That year, at least five ships—the Sarah, the Pigeon, the Aurora, the Dove, and the Golden Text—carried people from his home country across the North Atlantic to new homes in Nova Scotia. Compare this spot to photos of Moidart, and you can understand why Iain might have felt at home here: the landscape tumbling down towards the sea, the salt water dancing along the coast. Iain climbed the slope of his land grant—approximately 200 acres from the shoreline up and over the rise—and built his house on the hillside. The winds of Creignish must have laughed: legend has it that a driving rainstorm washed that first house down the hill. Legend also has it that Iain vowed that his next home would outlast the winds. And so he set to building a small stone house, with walls two feet thick, a kitchen and a parlour below, and lofts for sleeping above. Dropped on a hillside in Scotland, among the crofters’ cottages, it wouldn’t have looked out of place. Iain named it Moidart, for the place he’d left behind. Here, in this new country, above the waves of St. Georges Bay, he and his wife raised 12 children within the walls that now held the wind at bay.

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About Cottage Life

Cottage Life kicks off the season with a Get-Ready Guide! 138 pages of inspiration and advice including our 2017 real estate trend report, timeless advice from seasoned cottager Roy MacGregor, 10 easy DIY jobs anyone can do, a primer on generators, easy tinnie hacks, a hard-working ATV trailer, tips for setting up the kitchen and simple opening up meals, plans for building a deer-proof planter box, and ideas for converting a trailer into a guest bunkie. Plus, the restoration of a 200-year old Cape Breton cottage, and how a couple scored a $59,000 dream cottage.