CBU Mourns the loss of James St. Clair

To the University community,

It is with sadness I share with you news of the recent passing of teacher and historian, James ‘Jim’ St. Clair. Jim was born in Massachusetts in 1930 and his mother Louise was a MacFarlane of Mull River.  After completing studies at Harvard University, his family connection brought Jim to Cape Breton where one of his earliest positions was working as an assistant for A.W.R. MacKenzie at Colaisde na Gàidhlig/The Gaelic College.

Jim taught in the Community Studies and Museum Studies program, influencing students to begin researching the history, genealogy and storytelling of their communities, and to find ways to stay in Cape Breton to make their living.  Jim was an early champion of CBU as the Island’s university and acted upon this as an active contributor with columns on history and genealogy in local community papers such as Inverness County’s Partici-paper, The Inverness Oran and Baddeck’s Victoria Standard.  Jim authored several books including: Mabou Pioneer II, Histories of 50 Families of the Mabou Area, Nancy’s Wedding Feast and Other Tasty Tales, Following the Path, Pride of Place: The Life and Times of Cape Breton Heritage Homes, No Place Like Home: The Life and Times of Cape Breton Heritage Homes.

Jim worked his entire life as a champion for the heritage and culture sector on the Island, and was instrumental in establishing important infrastructure such as the Federation of Nova Scotian Heritage (now the Association of Nova Scotia Museums) and Heritage Cape Breton Connection (formerly the Iona Connection).  His research and genealogical publications and presentations have helped thousands discover their roots.  Jim sat on numerous boards and participated in many valuable projects.  However, he might be most fondly remembered for his storytelling skills and famous “Then and Now” column on CBC Cape Breton’s Information Morning.

Jim was a mentor and teacher to many in the heritage field.  His knowledge and wisdom were freely given to anyone who asked.  His work to encourage and support new heritage professionals may be less well-known, but just as significant as his many other achievements.  A valued member of the Inverness Guysborough Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, Jim had served the church in many capacities.

In 2000, Jim was awarded an Honorary Degree of Letters by Cape Breton University, recognizing his contributions to the Island.

We extend our deepest condolences to Jim’s family, friends, and community. He will be greatly missed but fondly remembered for all he has taught us.


Yours very truly,

David C. Dingwall

President & Vice-Chancellor