The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum

Play Synopsis

Margaret MacNeil is a headstrong young girl with deep roots in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.

She lives with her mother Catherine, her brother Ian and her grandfather. Margaret has recently lost her father and her other brother Charlie to a mining accident leaving the family with only Ian’s income. When Margaret meets the curious Neil Currie she is at first taken aback by his confidence but slowly comes to love and appreciate his individualism, principles and ability to bring joy back into the MacNeil household.

Margaret and Neil marry but with his fierce refusal to work in the mine, they suffer from a lack of income and find it difficult to make their own home. Neil and Ian have many discussions about whether a miners’ union can be successful in bringing about change to the mine and the community, and whether a union is capable of improving working conditions. Ian believes wholeheartedly in the need for a union, while Neil continues to believe that the workers will only continue to be exploited and that nothing will change. When it becomes clear that Margaret and Neil won’t be able to make a life together on their own land, Neil reluctantly decides to take a job in the mine and support the work of the union. He and Ian participate in a strike that is ultimately unsuccessful.

Neil and Ian die shortly after in a mining accident.

When Margaret hears the whistle signalling an accident, she leaves her grandfather alone, whereupon he dies from black lung as a result of his years as a miner. Now only Catherine and Margaret remain. The men’s bodies are turned over to Margaret and she finds a unique way of memorializing them by harvesting and preserving their body parts as a means of preserving their memory. When the police arrive she surrenders herself and asks to be taken to Sydney River, a psychiatric hospital.

Upon her discharge from the hospital two years later, Margaret opens her museum, which exhibits the men’s body parts in an attempt to tell the story of the miners from her perspective.

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