Buddy MacMaster

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Buddy MacMaster
Birth nameHugh Alan MacMaster
Also known asKing of the Jigs [1]
Born(1924-10-18)October 18, 1924
Timmins, Ontario, Canada
DiedAugust 20, 2014(2014-08-20) (aged 89)
Judique, Nova Scotia, Canada
Genres Cape Breton fiddle music
Instruments Fiddle
Associated acts Natalie MacMaster

Hugh Alan "Buddy" MacMaster, CM ONS (October 18, 1924 – August 20, 2014) was a Canadian fiddler. He performed and recorded both locally and internationally, and was regarded as an expert on the tradition and lore of Cape Breton fiddle music. [2]

Order of Canada order

The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order and the second highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada. It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is the personal gift of Canada's monarch.

The Order of Nova Scotia is a civilian honour for merit in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Instituted on 2 August 2001, when Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman granted Royal Assent to the Order of Nova Scotia Act, the order is administered by the Governor-in-Council and is intended to honour current or former Nova Scotia residents for conspicuous achievements in any field, being thus described as the highest honour amongst all others conferred by the Nova Scotia Crown.


Early life

MacMaster was born in 1924 [3] into a Gaelic-speaking home in Timmins, Ontario to John Duncan MacMaster and Sarah Agnes MacDonald MacMaster. [4] The family was originally from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and in 1928 they returned to Cape Breton to settle in the town of Judique. MacMaster's father played the fiddle, but his mother sang to him from birth, lilting with a Gaelic inflection peculiar to the area. [5] At an early age, MacMaster began to play the fiddle. At age 12, he had his first public performance at an amateur hour in Port Hood, Nova Scotia, and at age 14 he played his first professional gig at a square dance in the nearby town of Troy.

Timmins City in Ontario, Canada

Timmins is a city in northeastern Ontario, Canada, on the Mattagami River. The city is the fourth-largest city in the Northeastern Ontario region with a population of 41,788 (2016). The city's economy is based on natural resource extraction and is supported by industries related to lumbering and to the mining of gold, zinc, copper, nickel and silver. Timmins serves as a regional service and distribution centre. The city has a large Francophone community, with more than 50% bilingual in French and English.

Ontario Province of Canada

Ontario is one of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada and is located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province accounting for 38.3 percent of the country's population, and is the second-largest province in total area. Ontario is fourth-largest jurisdiction in total area when the territories of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are included. It is home to the nation's capital city, Ottawa, and the nation's most populous city, Toronto, which is also Ontario's provincial capital.

Cape Breton Island Island in Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island is an island on the Atlantic coast of North America and part of the province of Nova Scotia, Canada.


McMaster continued to play nights at square dances across Nova Scotia, [3] while taking on a career as a station agent and telegrapher for the Canadian National Railway to support himself and his family. [5] In 1943, he made his first radio broadcast from the town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia in 1948. In the 1970s, he played regularly on CBC Television's Ceilidh show. After his retirement from the railroad in 1988, he went on to play full-time as a professional musician, often accompanied by piano. [6] He continued to play music of mainly Scottish origin, supplemented with traditional Cape Breton and Nova Scotia tunes, and gained an international reputation, [7] touring in Europe and the United States. [8] He was one of the first Cape Breton fiddlers to be asked to teach in Scotland.

Square dance dance for four couples (eight dancers) arranged in a square

A square dance is a dance for four couples arranged in a square, with one couple on each side, facing the middle of the square. Square dances were first documented in 16th-century England but were also quite common in France and throughout Europe. They came to North America with the European settlers and have undergone considerable development there. In some countries and regions, through preservation and repetition, square dances have attained the status of a folk dance. The Western American square dance may be the most widely known form worldwide, possibly due to its association in the 20th century with the romanticized image of the American cowboy. Square dancing is, therefore, strongly associated with the United States. Nineteen U.S. states have designated it as their official state dance.

Station master person in charge of a railway station

The station master is the person in charge of a railway station, particularly in the United Kingdom and many other countries outside North America. In the United Kingdom, where the term originated, it is now largely historical or colloquial, with the contemporary term being station manager. However, the term station master remains current on many heritage railways, and also in many countries outside the United Kingdom, notably the extensive Indian Railways network.

Canadian National Railway railway company

Canadian National is a Canadian Class I freight railway headquartered in Montreal, Quebec that serves Canada and the Midwestern and Southern United States.

In 2005 he recorded an album with his niece, fiddler Natalie McMaster. [9]


MacMaster was awarded an honorary doctorate from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish in 1995, [1] and in 2000 he was awarded the Order of Canada for his contributions to Canadian culture. The Canadian Encyclopedia states that the citation for the Order of Canada read "as ambassador of Canadian music and a mentor to many, he is leading a Gaelic renaissance in Canada and abroad." He has appeared through Nova Scotia, Canada, the US and the UK for dances, in concert and in festivals such as the Atlantic Fiddlers' Festival, Cape Breton Fiddlers' Festival, Celtic Colours International Festival, Nova Scotia Highland Village Day, Cape Breton Fiddlers' Festival, the Nova Scotia International Tattoo, and the Celtic Sundance Festival, Utah. He also received the Order of Nova Scotia in 2003 for outstanding achievement benefiting the province and its residents. In October 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University in a special ceremony held in Judique. [1]

St. Francis Xavier University University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

St. Francis Xavier University is a primarily undergraduate university located in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. It is a member of the Maple League, a group of primarily undergraduate universities in Eastern Canada.

Antigonish, Nova Scotia Town in Nova Scotia, Canada

Antigonish is a town in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia, Canada. The town is home to St. Francis Xavier University and the oldest continuous Highland games outside Scotland. It is approximately 160 kilometres northeast of Halifax, the provincial capital.

<i>The Canadian Encyclopedia</i> Encyclopedia on Canada

The Canadian Encyclopedia is a source of information on Canada published by Historica Canada of Toronto. Articles appear in English and French. It is available online, at no cost. The Canadian Encyclopedia includes 14,000 articles in each language on numerous subjects including history, popular culture, events, people, places, politics, arts, First Nations, sports and science.

Personal life

MacMaster married Marie Beaton in 1968. They have two children, Mary Elizabeth MacMaster MacInnis (also a musician) and Allan Gerard MacMaster. MacMaster's youngest sister, Betty Lou Beaton, is one of Cape Breton's finest pianists and is married to well-known fiddler and composer Kinnon Beaton. He is also the uncle of Natalie MacMaster, another Cape Breton fiddler who has toured extensively and gained an international following. [10] His son, Allan, was elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in October 2009, representing the electoral district of Inverness as a Progressive Conservative.

Allan MacMaster Canadian politician

Allan Gerard MacMaster is a Canadian politician. He represents the electoral district of Inverness in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Kinnon Beaton is a Canadian musician from Mabou, Nova Scotia. He is the son of Donald Angus Beaton and Elizabeth MacEachen.

Natalie MacMaster Canadian musician

Natalie MacMaster is a Canadian fiddler from the rural community of Troy in Inverness County, Nova Scotia, who plays Cape Breton fiddle music.


MacMaster died at his home in Judique, Nova Scotia on August 20, 2014. [11] He was 89.


He has also released a video, Buddy MacMaster, Master of the Cape Breton Fiddle.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Judique, Nova Scotia Community in Nova Scotia, Canada

Judique is a small community located in Inverness County on the Ceilidh Trail on the western side of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Gaelic College, is a non-profit educational institution located in the community of St. Ann's, on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, along the Cabot Trail. Founded in 1938, its focus has been on the perpetuation of Highland Scottish Gaelic culture.

Music is a part of the warp and weft of the fabric of Nova Scotia's cultural life. This deep and lasting love of music is expressed through the performance and enjoyment of all types and genres of music. While popular music from many genres has experienced almost two decades of explosive growth and success in Nova Scotia, the province remains best known for its folk and traditional based music.

Jerry Holland was a musician and fiddler who lived on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Mary Jane Lamond Canadian singer

Mary Jane Lamond is a Canadian Celtic folk musician who performs traditional Canadian Gaelic folk songs from Cape Breton Island. Her music combines traditional and contemporary material. Lamond is known as the vocalist on Ashley MacIsaac's 1995 hit single "Sleepy Maggie", and for her solo Top 40 hit "Horo Ghoid thu Nighean", the first single from her 1997 album Suas e!. Her 2012 collaboration with fiddler Wendy MacIsaac, Seinn, was named one of the top 10 folk and americana albums of 2012 by National Public Radio in the United States.

Cape Breton fiddling

Cape Breton fiddling is a regional violin style which falls within the Celtic music idiom. Cape Breton Island's fiddle music was brought to North America by Scottish immigrants during the Highland Clearances. These Scottish immigrants were primarily from Gaelic-speaking regions in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides. Although fiddling has changed considerably since this time in Scotland, it is widely held that the tradition of Scottish fiddle music has been better preserved in Cape Breton.

Celtic music is primarily associated with the folk traditions of Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and Wales, as well as the popular styles derived from folk culture. In addition, a number of other areas of the world are known for the use of Celtic musical styles and techniques, including Newfoundland, and much of the folk music of Canada's Maritimes, especially on Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island.

Dan Rory MacDonald was a Canadian fiddler who lived in Cape Breton. He is notable for his composition of many fiddle tunes.

Rodney MacDonald Canadian politician

Rodney Joseph MacDonald is a Canadian politician, educator and musician who served as the 26th Premier of Nova Scotia from 2006 to 2009 and as MLA for the riding of Inverness in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly from 1999 to 2009.

Scottish fiddling may be distinguished from other folk fiddling styles by its particular precision of execution and energy in the delivery, for example, the rendering of the dotted-quaver/semi-quaver rhythmic patterns, commonly used in the Strathspey. Christine Martin, in her Traditional Scottish Fiddling players guide, discusses the techniques of "hack bowing", "the Scottish Snap", and "snap bowing". These techniques contrast quite sharply with the most common bowing patterns of Irish fiddling. The style has a very large repertoire consisting of a great variation of rhythms and key signatures. There is also a strong link to the playing of traditional Scottish bagpipes which is better known throughout the world.

Celtic Colours International Festival is a Celtic music festival held annually in October in communities all over Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. First held in 1997, the festival has featured hundreds of musicians from all over the Celtic world and attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Cape Breton Island. For nine days in October, Cape Breton Island is home to a unique celebration of music and culture as the Celtic Colours International Festival presents dozens of concerts all over the island, an extensive line-up of workshops, a visual art series of exhibitions, and a nightly Festival Club. Over the years, artists have traveled from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Brittany, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Cuba and Sweden as well as from across the United States and Canada.

Glenn Graham is a Canadian musician from Judique, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

Donald Angus Beaton (1912–1981) was a Canadian blacksmith and a Cape Breton-style fiddler.

Hugh Alexander “Sandy” MacIntyre is one of the most respected artists in the tradition of Cape Breton fiddle music.

William Hugh "Bill" Lamey (1914–1991) was a renowned and influential Cape Breton fiddler. He was a pioneer in recorded performances of the music. As an avid collector of rare tunes, he amassed one of the most comprehensive and valuable collections of written Scottish violin music.


  1. 1 2 3 "The Canadian Encyclopedia (including the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada)". Biography: MacMaster, Hugh Allan (Buddy). The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  2. Matthew D. McGuire; Nova Scotia Museum. Museum Services Division; Nova Scotia Museum (1998). Music in Nova Scotia: The Oral Tradition. Museum Services Division, Nova Scotia Museum. p. 60.
  3. 1 2 David Dicaire (10 March 2010). The Early Years of Folk Music: Fifty Founders of the Tradition. McFarland. p. 171. ISBN   978-0-7864-5737-3.
  4. Virginia Hope Garrison (1985). Traditional and non-traditional teaching and learning practices in folk music: an ethnographic field study of Cape Breton fiddling. University of Wisconsin--Madison. pp. 145, 158.
  5. 1 2 MacDonald, Paul (Spring 2000). "Buddy MacMaster Biography". Atlantic artists.com. Atlantic Records, Canada. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  6. Ian Russell; Mary Anne Alburger (2008). Driving the Bow: Fiddle and Dance Studies from Around the North Atlantic 2. Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen. pp. 150–151, 162. ISBN   978-0-9545682-5-2.
  7. Terry E. Miller; Andrew Shahriari (19 December 2016). World Music: A Global Journey - EBook & Mp3 Value Pack. Taylor & Francis. p. 418. ISBN   978-1-317-43437-5.
  8. Neal Walters; Brian Mansfield (1998). MusicHound Folk: The Essential Album Guide. Visible Ink. ISBN   978-1-57859-037-7.
  9. Colin Larkin (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music: Kollington - Morphine. MUZE. p. 417. ISBN   978-0-19-531373-4.
  10. John Shepherd (2005). Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world. 3–7. Continuum. p. 20. ISBN   978-0-8264-7436-0.
  11. "Buddy MacMaster, renowned Cape Breton fiddler, dead at 89". CBC News. August 21, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.