SHELBURNE COUNTY, N.S. – It’s pretty safe to say the late Gerald Melvin “Manny” Herbert was well known throughout Shelburne County and beyond.
If you didn’t know him for his fiddle playing, perhaps you met him through his craftsmanship for creating oxen wear. Or perhaps he gifted you with one of his miniature carvings.
When out shopping with his wife June, he would be the guy in the parking lot surrounded by people talking and laughing.
It’s been two years since Manny passed away at the age of 82.
“He was jolly and happy 24 hours a day,” says June. “He never said a cross word. Everybody knew him. Even when I go shopping now people still say they miss him.”
Born in 1933, Manny taught himself to play fiddle when he was a child.
“He made a fiddle out of a cigar box,” June says. “He’d put a string on now and again – I don’t know what the string was made of – until he got to four strings. He used to drive his mother crazy and she would tell him to stop, but he never did.”
During his lifetime Manny played at numerous venues from local dances and family get togethers, to performances at the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre for the Lieutenant Governor and Governor General.
“He was very proud of that organization and what they have done and what they are doing,” says his niece Louise Delisle. “So when they asked him to play he played no matter what.”
Oftentimes Manny and Kirk Mahaney would play together.
“He was a very quiet person and a good fiddle player,” says Mahaney. “We used to have a lot of fun together. I used to go along with him and play guitar or banjo. He was just an all-around good person. He was just a good friend. We had a lot of fun playing music.”
Manny was also a carver and “the last of the family that were yoke makers,” says Delisle.
“He also made the pads for cattle and decorated them with the studs and he made the straps for the bells that cattle wear and decorated them as well,” she says. “This in itself is a dying art. He not only was the last of that generation of Herberts who are Black Loyalists, but along with him we lose the teacher of those skills, as well as many other important facts about the family line.”
Manny had 18 fiddles in his collection including a very old fiddle that was passed onto him from generations before. Inside is a note that says repaired by Nicholas Haley in 1944.
The fiddle is going to be donated to the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre during a celebration of Manny’s life at the Birchtown centre on Sept. 1 starting at 2 p.m.
The event is open to all and is a potluck. Speakers, music, a special display of Manny’s carvings of miniature oxen wear and a video presentation will be part of the event.