Donkin, Nova Scotia
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Donkin is a Canadian rural village with a population of 573 people. It is located on the picturesque coastline of Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island. The smaller communities of Port Caledonia and Schooner Pond are directly adjacent to the village proper, connected by a single strip of road called the Donkin Highway.
Its coastline offers scenery and several sandy beaches as well as vantage points for bird watching. It's not uncommon to spot whales, seals and other marine life from the shore as well as passing cargo ships and fishing boats.
The community of Donkin was once known only as Dominion No. 6, after the Dominion Coal Company colliery that operated from 1904-1934. In an effort to correct errors in postal delivery, the community was given its own name. In 1940, at a community meeting, the village was named "Donkin", in honour of Hiram Donkin, who was the second General Manager of the Dominion Coal Company and later became the Deputy Minister of Mines for Nova Scotia.
At the turn of the twentieth century, most families were settled in Schooner Pond. When the Dominion No. 6 colliery opened in 1904, people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds came from all over the globe in search of work.
The area saw active development with the construction of numerous mining buildings, homes and businesses. Businesses included a barbershop, post office, shoemaker, blacksmith, dry goods store, hardware store, a credit union, and a farming goods store. Later, there was also a pool hall, taxi and movie theatre. The S&L Railway provided daily transportation through 5 miles of the community.
Historically a coal mining area, Donkin is home to a colliery developed by the Cape Breton Development Corporation (DEVCO). One of the first mining operations in the area was in Schooner Pond in 1863, when the Acadia Mines opened and began production from the Emery coal seam. The coal was exported by ship until trains began to take coal to the docks at Sydney in 1874. In 1863, the Clyde Mine opened in the area now known as Port Caledonia. All mining operations in the area ceased after the miners' strike of 1925.
After the mines closed, workers traveled to the Phalen and Lingan mines to continue working.
During the early 1980s, there was a push to develop the coal deposits extending out under the Atlantic ocean from large audits initiated on the coast. Large scale tunnel burrowing machines were used to provide access to these high quality coal fields. Numerous consultants worked on this job, including Golder Associates, which provided geotechnical consulting services regarding support and stability of the sub-oceanic mine from its offices in Mississauga, Ontario. The Devco mine operated for a few years before closing in mid-1990s. Donkin miners continued to do this work into the 1990s, until all DEVCO mines ceased operations in 2001.
In 2006, the Swiss mining consortium Xstrata, the primary partner in the Donkin Coal Development Alliance, won the rights to develop the abandoned mine site. In December 2010, Stephen Harper announced that dredging of Sydney harbour would help allow Panamax sized vessels enter the new deepwater port. Nothing came of this development, however, and the mine was sold to the Cline Group in 2014.
The village's only school is the Donkin Elementary Junior High School. There is also a Canada Post Office, a branch of the Cape Breton Regional Library, and the #5 Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion with its active Ladies' Auxiliary.
The community is served by a volunteer fire department with a ladies' auxiliary as well as three churches - St. Gregory's Roman Catholic Church, St. Luke's Anglican Church and St. Luke's United Church. There is no police station but the area is patrolled by the Cape Breton Regional Police.
While there is one gas station/convenience store in Port Caledonia located next to the public beach, residents travel to Glace Bay for most of their shopping and recreation.
When the mines closed in Cape Breton, many moved away to find employment, while others re-trained and found work locally in construction, the lobster fishery and the call centre industry. This means that the majority of residents commute to work in the nearby towns and city. Currently, the community is experiencing significant out-migration of young families, with lack of jobs being a major contributing factor.
In June 2015, the Cline Group, an American company that acquired the mine in 2014, began hiring workers as part of their efforts to reopen the mine. It is rumored that production will begin in Fall 2015 with a workforce of 90 to 120 individuals.
In recognition of its heritage and culture, the people of Donkin honour their past in a week-long celebration each July called the Coastal Days Heritage Festival. Approximately 1600 participants enjoy events like baseball, horseshoe and dart tournaments, the William Hunter Sr. Road Race, variety and band concerts, sales, meals, dances, antique car shows, a parade, and other activities.
Donkin is a Block Parent Community. Its clubs include the Donkin Police Boys and Girls Club, Scouts Canada and Girl Guides of Canada, the Donkin Port Caledonia Rural Development Association, and the Queen Victoria Rebekah Lodge. It's longest serving group is the Donkin Citizen's Brass Band, which was formed in 1919.
Donkin residents have a strong history of involvement in sports. People can be seen playing sports on outdoor rinks, fields, the school's gymnasium, and at our playground. Each year, the Labatt Vince Ryan Hockey Tournament draws a huge number of players and fans alike to raise funds for our youth.
- Dave Amadio, NHL hockey player
- Leo Amadio, retired hockey player and coach, member of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame
- Neil Amadio, retired hockey player and coach, member of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame and the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame
- Steve Arbuckle, actor
- Jamey Jewells, athlete, member of Canada's women's wheelchair basketball team
- Steven MacDougall, lead singer of indie rock band Slowcoaster
- Don MacVicar, Canadian champion powerlifter, member of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame
- John Curtis Sampson, award-winning country music artist
- Shirley Sampson, winner of Canada's Worst Driver
- Schooner Pond was chosen for its scenery to film the Hollywood film Margaret's Museum, with St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Port Caledonia also being used for a scene in the same film.
- "Population, Age characteristics, Dwellings, Houses, Language, Education, Work, Industry, Earnings, Income, Immigration, Citizenship, Labor". www.city-data.com. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
- "Glencore's massive Canadian Donkin coal mine sold to U.S. firm | MINING.com". Retrieved 2015-07-24.
- "Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton begins hiring". Retrieved 2015-07-24.
- Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame inductee details: Leo Amadio. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
- Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame inductee details: Neil Amadio. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
- Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame inductee: Neil Amadio. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
- Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame profile: Don MacVicar. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
- Music Nova Scotia: John Curtis Sampson entry. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
- "Beep, beep! Shirley Sampson is the worst of the worst behind the wheel - Living - Cape Breton Post". www.capebretonpost.com. Retrieved 2015-07-24.