A working class hero is something to be

Scott Milsom, reporter, editor, communist, chain smoker, Red Sox fanatic, wordsmith, author, and one of the nicest guys I ever knew, died this morning from cancer of the lungs.

From 1988 to 1996, Scott edited New Maritimes, an ambitious quarterly journal about the struggles and triumphs of working people in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI. When a policy change at the Canada Council killed the magazine, Scott went on to publish and edit the Coastal Community News, which featured beautifully written profiles of the villages and hamlets that dot our coastline.

Scott was a dedicated leftist. Although he decamped from the Communist Party of Canada 30 years ago, he retained a profoundly radical view of our world. His publications rarely felt radical, however. Instead, they felt authentic. He had a knack for seeking out, finding, and telling stories about real people’s lives. He treated story subjects with respect, and people from all walks of life instinctively trusted him. Their trust was never misplaced.

Here is Scott, describing his visit to a village I’ve never seen, Harbourville, NS, on the Fundy shore of King’s County:

There are few more stirring views in all of Nova Scotia than those offered after coming up from the Annapolis Valley over the North Mountain and down toward the Fundy shore on a sunny day. As you descend, the blue of sky meeting the deeper blue of sea delights the eyes.

There are a number of roads in Kings County alone that climb out of the Valley and then fall seaward to small communities along the Bay of Fundy, places such as Scot’s Bay, Hall’s Harbour, Baxter’s Harbour, Canada Creek, and Morden. But none offer a more stunning panorama than the road leading north from Berwick to Harbourville.

As I coast down the north slope of the mountain on a crystal-clear Friday morning in late November, I see the familiar sky-meets-sea vista, punctuated only by the high brown cliffs of Ile Haute at the mouth of Minas Channel and the far shore of Cumberland County and Cape d’Or.

I’ve come to try to get a sense of what moves this little community of 250 to 300 people, and to that end I’ve agreed to meet local resident Holly MacDonald in the Harbourville Community Hall.

As Costas Halavrezos tweeted this evening, “Scott’s work always reminded us how much better the well-resourced news media should be.” You can read the rest of Scott’s piece about Harbourville here.

Scott was a frequent user of Contrarian’s comment link, sometimes entreating me to more robust pursuit of moneyed malfeasors, other times bemoaning my infidelity to Canadian spelling. His prodding was always gentle, affectionate, and as welcome as an August breeze off the bay.

“He is an absolutely authentically warm person,” said Rev. Gary Burrill, his longtime friend and predecessor as editor of New Maritimes, when we talked about Scott a few weeks ago. “The warm tap is always on.”

Burrill now sits in the Nova Scotia legislature as MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Scott served as his constituency assistant until illness sidelined him a year after Burrill’s surprise victory.

Scott never made a lot of money, and never achieved widespread fame, but he made a lot of friends, and when historians pore over the journalistic record of late 20th Century Nova Scotia, they’ll count themselves lucky to stumble upon the rich vein of true stories, carefully wrought, by Scott Milsom.

A service to celebrate Scott’s life will take place at 2 p.m., Tuesday, June 19 Wednesday, June 20 at the Atlantica Hotel, 1980 Robie Street, Halifax.


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