Buddy MacMaster

Hugh Allan (Buddy) MacMaster, OC, ONS, fiddler (born 18 October 1924 in Timmins, ON; died 20 August 2014 in Judique, NS). Known as "King of the Jigs," Buddy MacMaster was considered a major force in the survival of Cape Breton music and dance.

Hugh Allan (Buddy) MacMaster, OC, ONS, fiddler (born 18 October 1924 in Timmins, ON; died 20 August 2014 in Judique, NS). Known as "King of the Jigs," Buddy MacMaster was considered a major force in the survival of Cape Breton music and dance. His citation for the Order of Canada recognized him as an "ambassador of Canadian music and a mentor to many" who led "a Gaelic renaissance in Canada and abroad."

Early Years and Career

Buddy MacMaster was born to amateur musicians from Cape Breton; they moved to Judique, Cape Breton, NS in 1929. He was virtually self-taught. His influences were Little Jack MacDonald, Angus Chisholm, Bill Lamey, Little Mary MacDonald, Dan R. MacDonald and Dan Hugh MacEachern. A renowned dance player from age 14, MacMaster joined the wedding and dance circuit in 1949. He was a guest in the launch of CJCB TV (Sydney, NS) in 1953 and for several years performed on CBC TV's Ceilidh. As a member of the fiddle group Cape Breton Symphony, he toured Scotland and Canada, played as soloist, and performed at Edinburgh Castle's first ceilidh (1975).

Career Highlights

MacMaster appeared through Nova Scotia, Canada, the US and the UK for dances, in concert and in festivals such as the Atlantic Fiddlers' Festival, Cape Breton Fiddlers' Festival, Celtic Colours International Festival, Nova Scotia Highland Village Day, Cape Breton Fiddlers' Festival, the Nova Scotia international tattoo, and the Celtic Sundance Festival, Utah. He also performed with Symphony Nova Scotia.

He was recorded by CJFX (Antigonish, NS), CJCB (Sydney, NS), and the CBC and BBC. He made the first of several solo CDs at the age of 65. In 2007, he performed with his niece Natalie MacMaster on a BBC TV special.

Alongside his music career, MacMaster worked for the Canadian National Railways from 1943 to 1988. He was an Inverness municipal councillor from 1968 and a member of school boards and the board of the Sydney Steel Corporation.


Buddy MacMaster was considered one of the most influential mentors for musicians such as fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and gave workshops in Canada, the US and Britain (e.g., at Harvard University and the Isle of Skye). He taught at the Gaelic school Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye and at the Ceilidh Trail School of Celtic Music in Inverness, NS. In 2006, the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique, NS, established the Buddy MacMaster School of Fiddling.


MacMaster's honours include the Canada Medal (1993), Order of Canada (2000), Order of Nova Scotia (2003), and the East Coast Music Awards' Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award (2006). MacMaster was only the third Canadian to receive the US Folk Alliance International Lifetime Achievement Award (after Stan Rogers and Edith Fowke), and was the first non-Briton inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame (2006). He also received honorary degrees from St. Francis Xavier University (LLD, 1995) and Cape Breton University (D.Litt., 2006).

Composers who wrote music for MacMaster include Dan R. MacDonald, Dan Hugh MacEachern, Donald Angus Beaton, Kinnon Beaton, John Campbell and Jerry Holland.

See also: Fiddling; Folk Music, Anglo-Canadian



Atlantic Fiddling. 1979. CBC LM470

Cape Breton Connection. Stephen MacDonald Productions ASIN: B00000I44T

Heart of Cape Breton. 2002. Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40491

Cape Breton by Request. 2001. Stephen MacDonald Productions ASIN: B00005LPRA

My Roots are Showing. Natalie MacMaster. 1998. Warner Music Canada CD22715


Judique on the Floor. 1989. Sea-Cape ACD 9020

Glencoe Hall. 1991. BM-91

The Judique Flyer. 2000. Stephen MacDonald Productions SMPCD 1012

Buddy MacMaster - Cape Breton tradition. 2003. Rounder Select 82161-7052-2

Natalie and Buddy MacMaster: Traditional Music from Cape Breton Island. 2005. MacMaster 008


Buddy MacMaster: Master of the Cape Breton Fiddle. Video. 1992. SeaBright Murphy Video Productions

Buddy MacMaster: In concert. Video. 2000. SeaBright Productions

The Best of Cape Breton's Master Fiddler Buddy MacMaster. DVD

Music of
Buddy MacMaster

Further Reading

  • Marten, Peter W. "Buddy MacMaster: Cape Breton's Living Legend," Fiddler Magazine, Cape Breton Edition 2000

    MacInnes, Sheldon. Buddy MacMaster: The Judique Fiddler (Lawrencetown Beach, NS 2007)

External Links