If you mention the last name Maxwell to a native Gaelic speaker, more often then not they are reminded of the Maxwell twins from Malagawatch.
Twin boys, George and John were born in Marble Mountain to George and Mary Jane Maxwell where they grew up in a Gaelic speaking household. Their father, it is believed was born in Halifax and as a young boy brought to Cape Breton by an O’Handley family in Judique during the early 1800s. It was here where George senior would learn the Gaelic language he would pass on to his children.
As the only family of African decent in the area the twins were very much part of the Gaelic community. George and John were well known singers and composers of Gaelic songs, which they often shared, while attended milling frolics. As well, John was a fiddler player, playing many of the old scotch tunes. Both were also dedicated members of the Presbyterian Church.
Both men spent their lives working in the Marble Mountain quarry and some time working on fishing boats off the coasts of Nova Scotia.
George and John married, had small farms and raised families in Marble Mountain. Some of the Maxwell’s descendants still live here in Cape Breton today.
Watch here as Jim St Clair remembers the Maxwell Twins during an afternoon lecture held at the Highland Village in May 1997.
For more information and stories on the Maxwell’s you can also visit Cape Breton’s Magazine for a story by Ron Caplan. http://capebretonsmagazine.com/modules/publisher/item.php?itemid=1172