JUDIQUE — It was a road Buddy MacMaster would have traveled often as a busy musician and, in a fitting tribute, a section of Route 19 in his hometown of Judique came to a standstill as the fiddling legend was laid to rest Monday.
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Following the funeral for Buddy MacMaster pallbearers Gerald Beaton, Gerald Brennan, Kevin MacMaster, Wade MacNeil, Mark MacDonnell, and Trevor MacInnis carry his casket to the waiting hearse outside St. Andrews Church in Judique, Monday.
Following the funeral for Hugh Allan (Buddy) MacMaster, who died last week at the age of 89, traffic stopped for several minutes as a procession of family, friends and fellow musicians walked the short distance from St. Andrews Roman Catholic Church to the cemetery. They were led by several island bagpipers and members of both the Judique Volunteer Fire Department and Knights of Columbus, who also formed an honour guard outside the church prior to and following the funeral.
A man of great faith and a musician of great talent, MacMaster was remembered in prayer and in song and tunes, Monday. The church was filled to capacity for the funeral with approximately 350 people filling the pews and also standing at the back of the church. Some also gathered at the community centre across the street where a live feed of the funeral could be heard.
Father Allan MacMillan described MacMaster as an extraordinarily kind man.
"Happy are the gentle and when we think of Buddy we certainly think of gentleness," he said.
Shy and "unwilling to take the spotlight," MacMaster worked quietly to lighten the burden of others, often reaching out to anyone in the community who was suffering or in need of a friend, according to MacMillan.
"He would go off on his own and visit them and bring them comfort," he said.
MacMillan said all those who knew MacMaster were the better for it.
"Today we rejoice in the fact that we had Buddy with us for almost 90 years," he said. "He taught us all by his actions. We would do well to imitate him."
A family man, it was no surprise that MacMaster's family played a prominent role at the funeral, with five of his nephews and his son-in-law serving as pallbearers, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins doing readings, and playing hymns. His four granddaughters, Sarah, Elizabeth, Annie and Mary Catherine, carried the offertory to the front of the church.
As the mass came to an end and the casket was carried out, his nieces Natalie MacMaster and Andrea Beaton, and her parents, Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton, a sister of MacMaster's, played a selection of fiddle tunes.
Following the funeral, Andrea said it was an emotional day.
"When Natalie and Dad and I were playing fiddle, and mom on piano and we were playing Buddy tunes, there were a few moments where I had goosebumps, and Natalie and I were tearing up," she said.
A powerful influence in her life and her music, Andrea said she appreciates her uncle more and more each time she picks up the fiddle.
"Now when I play sometimes and when I'm teaching at camps and I'll teach a grace note of sorts, I'll say 'that's a "Buddy'ism'," she said. "You don't really realize until they stop playing or until they're gone how much they really had an affect on you, and he did."
Andrea said her uncle was loved by many.
"We all loved Buddy. Everybody loved Buddy. I feel like he was everybody's friend or uncle, not just mine," he said.
At a reception following the funeral, MacMaster's friends and the island musical community continued to reflect on the man and his music.
Frank MacInnis, a founding member of the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association, has known MacMaster for more than 50 years and described him as a true gentlemen.
"I was fortunate over the years to travel with Buddy to house parties, to dances, to concerts or festivals around the Maritimes and I always enjoyed that," he said, recalling one trip in particular several years ago to a fiddle festival in P.E.I. "There were fiddlers there from Nova Scotia, from P.E.I., from New Brunswick, from Quebec, from the (United) States, and of all the fiddlers that were there, Buddy was a hero. He was the only one, of all the fiddlers there, that every time he made a move he got a standing ovation."
Stan Chapman, a renowned fiddler, teacher and a former music director of the Cape Breton Fiddler's Association, described MacMaster as an icon.
"I consider Buddy, in the context of Cape Breton fiddlers and Cape Breton musicians, it's like losing Elvis Presley or John Lennon, or somebody like that, to us," he said.
Wendy MacIsaac, a well-known fiddler from Creignish who grew up listening to MacMaster play at countless concerts and dances, said MacMaster was a quiet man who had a great sense of humour.
"He was comical and he always liked to have a laugh, that's for sure, and he's just such a generous person," she said. "He was so generous with his music and so generous in helping out in any way he could."
John Pellerin, a fiddler and stepdancer from Antigonish, has known MacMaster for many years.
"He was caring and honest and just a wonderful individual," he said. "I'll hold a piece of Buddy close to my heart."
MacMaster is survived by his wife, Marie, children Allan and Mary Elizabeth, and four grandchildren.