Cape Breton Village exudes retro charm

Nova Scotia – By Kenneth Bagnell, Special to QMI Agency. 

This article appeared in 15 newspapers across Canada. 



First posted:

Morien dock in Nova Scotia
Peace and tranqulilty seem to hover in the air and seas around Morien dock in Nova Scotia.  BARBARA BAGNELL PHOTO

One soft morning not long ago–when the sea off Nova Scotia seemed even bluer than it was when I lived there as a boy–I sat by a cliff in the village of Port Morien with a boyhood friend I hadn’t seen for more than 50 years.

Leroy Peach graduated from Dalhousie University in 1959, became a teacher and spent over a quarter of a century in Ontario classrooms, mostly in or near Toronto. Now he was telling me why, after his retirement in 1989, he returned to Port Morien, the village where he was born, population is 549.

Peach says he intends to stay there the rest of his life.

“I never leave Morien,” he said, “maybe just a few days in Halifax. To me life in Morien is life as it’s meant to be.”

Port Morien — or Morien as most people call it–is on Cape Breton’s eastern shore, a half-hour drive from Sydney airport. It welcomed Peach after, he admits, that bit of time village people require before accepting someone who had “gone away.”

It did well by embracing him. For everyone in Morien will tell you, Peach has been a leader in changing the village dramatically for the better. Before Peach came home, its main street was a bit drab, its harbour soiled by flotsam. But in 2000, Peach founded an association that has raised a million dollars, rejuvenating the village so it now sparkles. Houses are immaculate, bright with fresh colours and flower gardens, and the community hall hums with events, from fairs to entertainments.

The main street has two B&Bs, The Rectory and Dock Y’ur Dory, where we stayed. Our room had a small balcony with a sweeping view of –in my opinion–the most beautiful seascape on Canada’s Atlantic coast.

As a result of its renewal, in 2008 Morien received Nova Scotia’s first Lieutenant-Governors Award for achievement.

Morien has a deep, distinct past. A settlement was noted on a map of 1580; coal was detected in the 1670s; the first coal mine in North America opened there in 1720. A monument at the village entrance attests to that. Close by, another records a special bit of Morien history: The formation of the first Boy Scout Troop in North America. It happened in 1908, the scoutmaster an official of Morien’s coal mining company.

Most Morien men worked for decades as either miners or fishermen. Today, the mines are long closed, most residents are retired and those who aren’t often live from the sea. There are, Peach told me, 47 lobster boats. Neatly arranged lobster pots in many backyards attest to this.

As for the coal mines, their closure was for the best since the work back then was dirty and dangerous, and the air fouled by coal dust. That’s gone.

But, no matter, Cape Bretoners are almost reverential in respecting their past, especially the coal mining years. Those experiences echo in the voices of a revered choral group Men of the Deep, who often perform far from Cape Breton but also at the Miners Museum in nearby Glace Bay.

The former mine site–and an underground tour conducted by retired miners — echos the past hardships. (In the late 1800s, miners were often paid 80¢ a day.) No visit to Cape Breton is complete without a visit to these history- haunted buildings.

In many ways, a stay in Morien is a visit to a distinct, maybe declining , social culture defined by the poverbial acts of kindness. It seems to be natural. The people truly care you’ve come and let you know.


For information on Dock Y’ur Dory, see For Port Morien Rectory, information on travels in Cape Breton,,where you can also request a copy of The Doers and Dreamers Guide.


  1. Debbie Teakles
    Aug 11, 2013

    Beautiful Article on our fine village of Port Morien. There is no place like it! Ken, you did a wonderful write-up describing this fantastic seaside village. Thanks so much.

  2. Karen Rae Short
    Aug 12, 2013

    Great article and I have been there to visit my friend Debbie, owner of Dock Yur Dory. The food at the Tea Room is excellent, beautiful rooms and the view is awesome. Check it out at

      Aug 12, 2013

      Beautiful little village! We stayed with my friend Debbie Teackles at Dock Yur Dorey. Beautiful view, great food & company! Highly Recommend staying here..thanks again Deb.