In honor of Canada’s birthday today I thought I would feature Rita’s Tea Room in the eastern province of Nova Scotia. If you are not familiar with Rita MacNeil, here’s a bit of back-story…
If you’ve ever heard the song Flying on Your Own, you have heard the work of Rita MacNeil.
Her gift is her ability to capture the emotionality of the working class woman’s struggle for dignity. As a Canadian child of the 1980’s when Rita hit her stride on the Canadian music scene, I was touched by her gentle, quiet demeanor and powerful singing voice, not to mention her heart-felt lyrics.
Rita didn’t have the easiest life, growing up poor on the coal mining island of Cape Breton off Nova Scotia’s northeastern shores. She was a divorced single mother of two struggling to make a living in the music industry when she returned to her hometown of Big Pond on Cape Breton Island in 1982 and purchased the one-room school house she attended as a child. She lived in the 1939 building with her children for a couple of years until she gradually made it big on the Canadian music scene.
During her many performances across Canada and around the world, she invited people to her hometown for “a cuppa tea” – an old east-coast Canadian tradition. The idea of opening up a public tea room took shape and the obvious choice for a location was Rita’s beloved old one-room school house.
Officially opened in June of 1986, a large new addition was added to the small schoolhouse in order to accommodate a kitchen and the throngs of tourists from around the world.
Rita’s Tea Room & Gift Shop is open seasonally, and Rita will often drop by to spend time with guests as her schedule permits.
If you would like more information about Rita’s Tea Room, see here.
Several years ago I wrote a letter of appreciation to Rita MacNeil to thank her for all the good karma she put out there into the world and for inspiring me personally…… imagine my delight when she sent me back a hand-written note on her stationary:
Them’s good people there!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Sydney, NS (April 17, 2013) It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Cape Breton’s first lady of song, Rita MacNeil. Rita died last evening (April 16th) from complications following surgery, at the age of 68.