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A man’s quest to finish a touching journey about a bond between a solider and a goat will continue in the spring.
Ken Hynes, chief curator of the Army Museum Halifax Citadel, was back in Baddeck a few weeks ago to continue following the trail to locate the final resting place of Robert the Bruce, the battalion mascot of the 25th Battalion, Nova Scotia Rifles.
The goat was acquired by the 25th's pipe band in Belgium in 1915, served with the unit throughout the First World War, and returned home with the battalion on May 16, 1919, aboard RMS Olympic.
Robert the Bruce was given to Maj. Guy MacLean Matheson and he returned to his family farm in Baddeck, where the mascot lived with the family for a number of years before dying as the result of eating vegetables from the garden sprayed with insecticide.
Hynes is searching for the final resting place of Robert the Bruce, which he believes is on the family farm.
"This journey has turned out to be more convoluted than I had anticipated,” he said.“ “Regardless of how lengthy it may be, I'll follow the trail until the end. Finding the bones of Robert the Bruce would be amazing but it's the quest itself and the links to a great chapter of Cape Breton history, that are the most rewarding elements of the story."
The journey began in the summer when Hynes traveled to Cape Breton suspecting due to the respect and love the family had for the goat, that the mascot was buried on the family farm.
However, after a story was in the Cape Breton Post, Hynes received information that Guy MacLean Matheson’s niece, Shirley Hart of West Middle River, thought she overheard her uncle talking to a friend about the goat being on the grounds of the Inverary Resort.
Speaking to Hart, Hynes discovered she wasn’t sure what the conversation was actually about back in 1961 but knew they were talking about when Guy MacLean Matheson was with the Cape Breton Highlanders in 1920 during their training on what is now the grounds of the Inverary Resort.
Hynes met with Duncan Gillis, now owner of the old Matheson farm property, and Mr. Scott MacAulay, owner of the Inverary Resort.
MacAulay provided history of the property and was aware the army had used the area for training in the early 1920s.
The grounds of the restore are only eight kilometres from the Matheson farm.
“I’m not sure there’s any real evidence that points to the goat being at the resort.”
Hynes learned Robert the Bruce was well loved by the family, apparently live in/near the house and not in the barn so now feels it’s unlikely he would have been buried anywhere other than the farm.
However, Hynes said he was able to confirm with Hart that her uncle gave her the steel collar worn by Robert the Bruce during the war. In the summer of 1961, Hart donated it to the army as according to her uncle’s wishes.
The information was very valuable to the museum, he said.
“It nails down the exact provenance of the collar that we have had on permanent display in the museum for many years.”
Shirley Hart remembers her uncle giving her the collar to take to the army museum. Hart said her uncle was living in the United States at the time, was on vacation and visiting family in Cape Breton. Hart lived in Halifax so she said it made sense for her to take it to the museum for him.
Hart said she is grateful for what Hynes is doing and feels it’s amazing that he’s bringing these stories out, commemorating the service of Matheson and Robert the Bruce.
“I hope and pray he has success in what he’s looking for.”
Hynes plans to travel back to the farm again in the spring to continue this journey and perhaps start another.
“Once we get to the end of the research trail, I would very much like to work with Duncan, Shirley, Scott and others in Baddeck to see if there may be a suitable way to commemorate Robert the Bruce and Guy MacLean Matheson, somewhere in or near Baddeck,” he said. “For now, we'll leave that to another day in the near future."
In an earlier story in the Cape Breton Post, Army Museum officials said the Cape Breton Highlanders and Robert the Bruce display at the museum are popular.