Remembering CBU Honorary Degree recipients, Mary Catherine “Kay” MacDonald, Buddy MacMaster

It is with great sadness that Cape Breton University heard of the passing of two Honorary Degree recipients, Mary Catherine “Kay” MacDonald and Buddy MacMaster.

Born and raised in Upper Margaree, Kay was a Gaelic community icon, a Cape Breton ambassador, a teacher and a preserver of the Gaelic language.

For more than 35 years, Kay worked tirelessly to preserve, teach and promote the Gaelic language.  As a fluent Gaelic speaker, she was employed for over a decade with the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University.  During that time, she completed an English Index of MacTalla, the longest-running Gaelic newspaper ever, published in Sydney 1892-1904.  She also recorded hundreds of cassette tapes and reel-to-reel tapes of native Gaelic speakers and singers from Cape Breton, mainland Nova Scotia, other parts of Canada, the United States and Scotland. 

Kay was also a well-loved host of the local CBC program, Island Echoes; an active member of St. Leonard’s Parish, including the Catholic Women’s League and Senior Choir; a valued singer and Gaelic coach with the Cape Breton Gaelic Choir; and a past Chief of the Cape Breton Gaelic Society.

Kay MacDonald was awarded an Honorary Degree from Cape Breton University in May of 2009. The Gaelic Society of Cape Breton sponsors a CBU scholarship in her name, to benefit a Gaelic language student who is actively involved in the Gaelic community.

Buddy received his honorary doctorate of letters at a special convocation in Judique in the fall of 2006, to recognize him as an outstanding musician and Cape Bretoner who made a real and lasting contribution to the culture of this great island.

The man widely known as the Master Cape Breton fiddler, he had a lifelong dedication to sharing Cape Breton’s cultural traditions. Buddy is one of the most celebrated Cape Breton fiddlers of all time. He has been a mentor to many young musicians at home and around the world. He was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2000, was awarded the Order of Nova Scotia in 2003 and received the East Coast Music Association’s Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kay and Buddy will be greatly missed by the Cape Breton University community and all who knew them.  Our thoughts are with their loved ones at this sad time.