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Fraser's Scottish Annual
The Oldest Colony


By John A. Ewan, Toronto

NEWFOUNDLAND has not been, in the past at least, the scene of much Scottish colonization. There are settlements of west country Englishmen, of all round Irishmen, of Frenchmen; but the traveller will fail to come across a settlement of Scotchmen. On the island there is no difficulty in deciding where the forebears of any of its citizens hailed from, for their descendants take care to proclaim their origin by their speech. In one community you will find all the inhabitants, with the broad Devonshire accent, in the next one would fancy himself in some village in Ireland, but never for a moment would he fancy himself in the ''land o' cakes." This is somewhat singular, too, when we consider how large a fishing population is scattered around the Scottish coasts, and how fain the people are to venture abroad.

That Newfoundland, after several generations of practical severance from the motherland—for there has been no immigration to the island to speak of—should not have forged out a Newfoundland dialect composed of an amalgamation of the various existent dialects, is owing to the isolation of the communities, there having been no railroads until within the last few years, and even no common roads until comparatively modern times. The people around each bay were as completely separated from their neighbors of the next bay, especially in winter, when even the sea was sealed, as the Highlanders were segregated in the straths and glens in our grandfathers' or even our fathers' days.

However, if the mass of Scotchmen have not done much to colonize Newfoundland, some individuals have done a good deal. This especially refers to Mr. R. C. Reid and his sons. Mr. Reid is a native of Coupar-Angus, but he has been all over the English-speaking world in pursuit of his business as a bridge contractor. He had first learned the art and mystery of a stone-mason, the calling of Hugh Miller and Alexander Mackenzie. From journeymen's work he advanced to contracts, and there must be few men in the world who have built more great bridges over majestic rivers than Mr. Reid has done. The international bridge over the Niagara river was erected under his superintendence. A great number of the bridges on the line of the Canadian Pacific railway were also built under his compelling eye. Bridges in Texas, Mexico, Pennsylvania, and at the "Soo" across the St. Lawrence, have engaged his energies at various times.

His last achievement, and the crowning one of his life, was the building of the railway across Newfoundland. The building of the railway was after all only an incident of his contracting career, but the bargain with the Newfoundland Government by which he became the deus ex machina of Newfoundland makes him emphatically one of the men of the day. By it he becomes virtually the general manager of the island. All the railways of the colony pass into his hands; so do all the government telegraphs; the St. Johns dry-dock becomes his property; the new electric street car in St. Johns is a little side dish; he has the largest saw-mill on the island; he will soon have the only pulp mill; he is the owner of more than three million acres of the land; he will have ninety-five steamers plying around its coasts within a few months; a new hotel at St. Johns of first-class dimensions is already planned. It is indeed difficult to find another man occupying a parallel position to that occupied by Mr. Reid. So that if Scotchmen have hitherto neglected Newfoundland, Mr. Reid has atoned for it by scooping in the whole thing. Mr. Reid is popularly known as the Czar, but his manners are not those that we associate with the word Czar. He is the most immodest and unassuming Czar you ever met. Scotchmen are not really modest. They are best represented by that one who prayed "Lord, gi'e us a gude opeenion o' oorsels." But they, with the cunning of the serpent or the wisdom of the philosopher conceal time "gude opeenion" from the observation of the generality. I do not think that any man could have accomplished what Mr. Reid has done without a good opinion of himself, but he conceals it most completely.


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