The ceilidh house is the beating heart of Scottish culture in the hills and harbours of northern and eastern Nova Scotia. Bagpipes, kilts, oatmeal porridge and whisky, or the water of life as some believed it, are all captivating glimpses of the pioneering Scots’ story but it is the often humble ceilidh houses that fostered the oral tradition, allowing a vibrant culture to endure in story and song for almost 250 years. This year’s Ships of 1801 production, Keppoch the Last Wake, focuses on one such ceilidh house.
High on the mountain, neighbours are gathered for the 50th anniversary of the MacLeans – Joe, who clings stubbornly to the Gaelic, and his razor-tongued wife, Maggie. The burdens of hard toil and family struggles slip away as three generations come together for an evening, trading stories, songs, wit, humour and the occasional burst of sarcasm.
The party is in full swing when a call comes in on the new party line, announcing a death on the mountain. Both Scottish and Irish neighbours agree on the importance of a good send-off and take their lead from the deceased, ensuring the wake is as lively as the anniversary party.
Many of the Ships of 1801’s original performers are returning to the stage and we also welcome a few new additions for this two- hour show, to be presented at the Schwartz auditorium on STFX campus, July 6th, 8th, and 9th. Doors open at 7 pm with show time at 7:30 pm. Admission is $25 adults and $10 youths under 10. Parking is available on campus and in St. Ninian’s parking lot.