Cape Breton University and the Old Sydney Society to Host 24th Annual J.B. McLachlan Memorial Lecture

On Thursday, June 22, 2023, Cape Breton University and the Old Sydney Society will host the 24th Annual J.B. McLachlan Memorial Lecture titled “Cape Breton Bolshevism: The Workers’ Movement from J.B. McLachlan to the 1981 Strike in Coal” with Dr. Lachlan MacKinnon. This event will take place at the Old Sydney Society, 173 Charlotte Street, Sydney, Nova Scotia, at 7:00pm.

In this lecture, Dr. MacKinnon will trace the history of the Cape Breton coal miners through a variety of strikes and conflicts, from the labour wars of the 1910s and 1920s to the postwar era. With special attention to the working-class cultures of resistance that took root within collective identity, Dr. MacKinnon will examine the lasting power of J.B. McLachlan, working-class solidarity and collective action. This lecture will also include reflection on the challenges facing the workers movement in the context of deindustrialization, with special attention to the events of the 1981 DEVCO coal strike.

“We are thrilled to have Lachlan provide this year’s lecture,” says Andrew Parnaby, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at CBU. “A gifted scholar, Dr. MacKinnon is also a compelling speaker. His research into Cape Breton’s industrial and working-class past is especially relevant today as our communities continue to address the legacies of the 20th century.”

A graduate of Sydney Academy and Cape Breton University, Dr. Lachlan MacKinnon is an Associate Professor of History and Canada Research Chair in Post-Industrial Communities. His research focuses on working-class resistance to deindustrialization, labour history, industrial cultures and regional economic development in Atlantic Canada. His book “Closing Sysco,” explores the history of nationalization and deindustrialization at the Sydney steel plant. Currently, he is working on a project examining the transnational dimensions of industrial planning in Canada and around the world.

The annual J.B. McLachlan Memorial Lecture honours the life and legacy of one of Cape Breton’s and Canada’s finest labour leaders. J.B. McLachlan was a Scottish immigrant and coal miner who arrived in Cape Breton in 1902 and helped lead District 26 of the United Mine Workers of America until he died in 1937.

The event is sponsored by the J.B. McLachlan Commemorative Society, Cape Breton University, the School of Arts and Social Sciences and the Old Sydney Society. To learn more, please visit