Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Highlanders march again

The Cape Breton Highlanders will march through Sydney on Saturday under their beloved and historic name for the first time in 57 years.

The Cape Breton Highlanders will march through Sydney on Saturday under their beloved and historic name for the first time in 57 years.

It's a military tradition woven deep into the culture of Cape Breton Island. In many families, generations have served in the local militia infantry unit.

Since 1871 various forms of the unit have operated under several names, but on the Island most people know them as the Cape Breton Highlanders. Now after a battle that's raged for almost 60 years, the regiment has won the right to go back to its traditional name.

Alec Morrison has written the history of the Highlanders.

"We found people, grandfather in the First [World] War, father in the Second [World] War, and here are the sons and, of course, now the daughters in the current day militia unit," he said.

The Highlanders have a reputation of fighting hard, never turning back, rough and ready, feared and rowdy, both on the battle field and off on leave.

"When the Cape Breton Highlanders weren't fighting the enemy in the Second World War, they were fighting among themselves," Morrison said.

Although the legends live on, he said, times change.

"I think people have become more gentile," Morrison said.

Some proud traditions do live on such as the motto on the Cape Breton Highlanders cap badge: The Breed of Manly Men.

Lt.-Col. John McIntryre, the unit's commanding officer, said the motto is accepted as a proud piece of history, although it no longer accurately describes the unit.

"We are not all men in the Cape Breton Highlanders, however," he said.

Another historic tradition is a live goat as a mascot for the pipes and drums.

"We are not taking the goat back," McIntyre said, with a chuckle.

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