The Hallowed Halls of Holy Angels by Kelley Edwards

Posted: October 25, 2011

Author and columnist Jan Mydral once wrote...

“Traveling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return.  But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes.”

That quote seems perfectly suited as the introduction to this story written by Kelley Edwards.  This Kelley took a tour of her old high school in Sydney, Cape Breton, NS – moved to do so by the news of its closing and moved to write about it following her visit.


The Hallowed Halls of Holy Angels

by Kelley Edwards

This September when school hallways sounded with the noises of returning students, slamming lockers and friends reuniting from summer vacation, one school stood silent.

From the time Holy Angels was founded in 1885, until it closed in June of 2011 it was dedicated to a high quality of education.

I know this because after nearly 100 years after its opening - I was the recipient of such an education. The course load was well rounded, but art, music, theatre and English literature were my main interests. Those courses were the foundation of what was to become my life-long career.

I will always be thankful to the teachers who instilled such a love of the English language and literary works, especially Margaret Young and Gary Walsh.

ns-holy-angels-convent photo courtesy of CBCThe school was founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame Congregation, and was primarily run by the Nuns. This summer I returned to visit the convent and Sister Agnes Cordeau.

Sister Agnes was the Principal of Holy Angels when I was there, and she very kindly took me back through the school so I could take some pictures and have one last look - I am grateful to her for it.

Although the classrooms had already been dismantled, the essence and spirit of the school lingered still. The smell was the same, and it felt like I had only just been a student there (which, believe me, is not the case!)

My time at Holy Angels was both valuable and memorable, and I am sad and sorry to see it close.

In the ped-way that joins the convent to the school, Sister Agnes Cordeau looks at the empty shelves. I remember always looking at these books as I went to the Reference Room every day.

Holy Angels  - Kelley Edwards

I should have been studying, but they had a wonderful collection of old Life Magazines and I would read about old movie stars and the glamorous Kennedy's, astronauts and cold war politics. I will always fondly recall sweet Sister Theresa, in charge of the Reference Room, who was always smiling, and Sister Hazel Power, the head of the Library, who pretended to be stern, but possessed an incredibly funny and dry wit.

The bathrooms had these sinks that were more like fountains; you stepped on a bar at the bottom, and water shot up so you could wash your hands.

Holy Angels - Kelley Edwards

Several times a day school announcements were read and piped over loud speakers in each classroom. They were like little newscasts about various school activities and business. It could be anything from the results of the Holy Angels- Sydney Academy basketball game, or a reminder that smoking on school property would not be tolerated.

The school motto is Angelis Suis Mandavit De Te, which means "He has entrusted you to the care of the angels".  Depicted on the crest is the Lamp of Learning.

Holy Angels  - Kelley Edwards

Sister Agnes opened up room 308 for me- Ms. Young's English class. It was sad to see everything gone. There were no more posters of Margaret Atwood, Shakespeare, Shaw... no inspiring quotes by famous women.

Only bits and pieces are left behind...

Holy Angels - Kelley Edwards

I found my old locker. It's hard to believe the amount of things I could stuff into such a small space. 

Holy Angels - Kelley Edwards

I always seemed to be rushing up these stairs to get to class.

Holy Angels High School was important to the heritage and history of Cape Breton and although the loss will be felt within the community, the legacy has been carried throughout the world. KE


Who are you Kelley Edwards?

Kelley EdwardsI like to consider myself a Renaissance Girl.

My work is Arts based, and what I do encompasses many aspects, from on-stage to backstage, writing to wrangling. Or basically, whatever creative endeavour will feed  the cats.

Cooking and photography are two of my favorite hobbies and I have a great love of beaches, books and bumble bees.


SABS ps...

We're grateful that one of Kelley's 'creative endeavours' is shooting for SABS here in Nova Scotia, along with being a great contributor to our "Sea and be SCENE of the Day" features. While you're here see her post "A Fabulous Fall"



  1. I also have fond memories of HA and had wonderful teachers. I can't believe they had to close, and the Sisters have to leave their home in the Convent. It is a great loss for future generations. Thank you for this story

    Comment by syl — November 14, 2011 @ 10:52 am

  2. I was immediately transported back to high school reading this and looking at the pictures. i could smell the hallways and I was flooded with happy memories of my time at HAH. It is so sad to know that future girls will not have the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a Holy Angels Girl. Going to this school helped shaped the very person that I am and I am so very proud of that fact. 🙂

    Comment by Chelle — November 18, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

  3. Kelley thanks so much for sharing made me cry.
    Margaret Young, I sometimes felt, was the one person who supported our desire to write, to read to put our feelings and our feelings to poetry...she was a Goddess.
    That school was a place where we learned that being a girl and valuing our friendships and respecting other women was ok...we were so Blessed to have been enfolded in the embrace of Angels there.
    And, from those years, I take many gifts...from that school I walked away with a friend for life...she is still my very best friend today...and so many girlfriends who share my life And I'll never forget the story told to me by a very cool girl of taking a rose to a boy at a gas still makes me smile and admire her bravery!! hahaha....what a backbone!!!!
    Thanks for the memories Kel!

    Comment by Patty Musgrave — December 10, 2011 @ 10:52 am

  4. Kel, this is a great trip down memory lane...I love the pics and the reference to my personal favorite teacher, Margaret was a goddess...encouraging our writing and our love of literature and books. I too remember those magazines and the books across the pedway...fabulous memory!
    I left that school with the girl who remains my best friend today...we have shared tears and laughter and friendship for many years and its been a blessing.
    I remember the coolest story of a girl with total brass ovaries, taking a rose to a guy who worked at a gas station....the coolest story EVER!!!!!
    Hope to see you soon in one province or another!

    Comment by Patty MUSGRAVE — December 10, 2011 @ 11:07 am

  5. Thank you for sharing this, i was one of the girls in grade ten last year when the Holy Angels closed. It's really surprising how so much can happen in a few months. With only being in grade ten at the time you might not expect that i was as emotional about the closing as i was. It really was an amazing school and if it reopened tomorrow i would jump at the opportunity to go back.

    Comment by Natalie — January 8, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

  6. i forgot to include this.. sadly those fountains did not work while i was there at the school. My mother graduated from H.A.H. as well. If it weren't for her i probably would not have done my grade ten year at Holy Angels. Thanks again!

    Comment by Natalie — January 8, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  7. 1970 to 1973 Sister Rita Clare, Music teacher. I remember being asked to close our eyes and listen for the different instruments playing in the music. I think I still do that today. What a wonderful gift she gave.

    Comment by Elizabeth Ann (MacDonald) MacEachern — February 17, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

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