top of page


Eòs Nìll Bhig (Joe Neil MacNeil) was a Gaelic storyteller from Middle Cape, Cape Breton. A classic collection of his stories and folklore, edited by John Shaw and published by McGill-Queen's University Press, brought international attention to Cape Breton's Gaelic storytelling tradition. From Eòs Nìll Bhig, here is a story on Gaelic Hospitality.

The Traveler and the Bannock


In the old days, the grain they raised was ground with a hand quern; most folks didn’t take it to the mill. Over in Big Pond, on the other side of the lake near to where I presently live (Middle Cape), there was a fellow who was, as we would say, taking to the roads. He was traveling about the countryside, whether he was a peddler or taking orders. Or perhaps he was a clergyman, a wayfarer in any event. So he came to this certain house in Big Pond and asked the housewife if he could get something to eat. He was hungry. Oh, she said that he could, but he would have to wait for a little while. “But I’m sure,” she said, “that you’re tired and it would be just as well for you to stretch out for a while on the bench there until I get the food to prepare for you.” She took the sickle and went outside and cut a swatch of grain there, whether it was barley or wheat, and brought it in the house.


The grain was ripe at the time and she winnowed the kernels from it. The woman sieved that or blew the chaff from it in some manner and placed it in the oven. She heated it and hardened the grain. Then she put the grain through the quern and ground it. When she lifted the flour – I’m sure she sieved it to remove the rough matter – she made a breacag or a wee bannock, if we wish to call it that. Whatever, she cooked it and you may be certain that it was served while warm with plenty of butter and a bowl of milk. She gave this food to the traveler, and I suppose he was so pleased that he said it was the best meal he’d eaten for a long while. Everywhere he went for a while afterward, he told the story of how he’d come to a house where food was growing outside in the field and that he himself had eaten this food when rested. That’s the way the situation was. They made a lot of things at home that are gotten today, perhaps, from the other end of the country or maybe foreign countries. That’s my story.

bottom of page