Early Scottish Pioneers
Recognized in Stornoway Ceremony
STORNOWAY The earliest
European settlers of the Upper St. Francis Valley have finally received
some recognition in the form of a granite monument unveiled on Sunday
by their offspring.
Scottish pioneers expelled
from their homeland settled the area in the mid-19th century. Local
historians estimate that they numbered up to 20,000. About 275 of their
descendants attended the colorful ceremony, which took the form of a
tri-lingual open-air service of the Presbyterian Church.
Mother Nature lent a hand
as well, keeping the sun strong enough to take the edge off an early
autumn northwest wind strong enough to blow hats off.
PIPES AND TARTANS
To the skirl of highland
bagpipes and beneath the collected tartans of their clans, the assembled
throng prayed for their ancestors, then for the future, and witnessed the
unveiling of the six-foot pyramidal cairn.
A plaque in English and
Gaelic on the monument
recalls the pioneers and maps the cemeteries where their remains are
Local historian Duncan McLeod
presided over the ceremonies, organized by Gordon Matheson, Muriel
MacDonald Mayhew, Ruth MacDonald Nicholson, Agnes MacLeod Clark and
Catherjne MacLeod Young.
Karen, Evelyn and Raymond
Smith and Nancy Jellison rounded out the volunteer organizing crew.
Pipers Marc Lebel and
Ronald Sutherland did the musical honors under the watchful eye of
Pipe,Major Sammy Grier.
A scripture was read in
Gaelic by Eva Morrison; the monument was blessed in English by Robert
Presbyterian clerics were joined in the service by Curé Léo Parent of
Stornoways St-Alphonse Roman Catholic church. Speaking mostly in
French, Rev. Parent invited all present to join in the parishs annual
bean supper afterward.
The land for both
St-Alphonse Church and Winslow cemetery across
the highway was given by 19th century village storekeeper James Leonard,
whose grandson Henry was on hand.
The younger Leonard remarked that although
from Ireland not Scotland, Henry, who was later mayor of Sherbrooke,
defended famous local outlaw Donald Morrison in court, and his brothers
helped the fugitive hide in the family hotel and general store.
Invited guests included Megantic-Compton
MNA Madeleine BéIanger, Winslow (Stornoway) Mayor Guy Béliveau, and
representatives of the St. Andrews Society of the state of Maine, and
the Caledonian Society of Restigouche, in Atheistan, New Brunswick.
The cairn was designed and built by David
Gillies, and decorated and engraved by Jean-Guy Lacroix. It includes two
small stones from the Scottish islands of Lewis and Harris, whence most of
the settlers came.
Normal Campbell, of Seatte read a tribute
from his father Alexander, a grandson of the Townships pioneers:
GUIDED BY GOD
"Let us now review briefly the account of the migration of which our
people were a part. When, however, the existing political and economic
circumstances forced the expulsion of our people from Lewis, Scotland, and
they set their course for Canada, little did they realize that in their
distress and deprivation, the unseen Hand of God was guiding their
"Twenty thousand Gaelic speaking
Scots settled in what is known as the Eastern Townships of Quebec. They
named their new settlernents after the
locations they left in Scotland. Something of the character of the people
is captured in an article by a Canadian Correspondent:
"They, a true pioneer,
the Gaels had no material wealth! The ship
they boarded was so small that boxes of bedding and clothing, and perhaps a
wheels were all their possessions. But they had something
infinitely more precious to them than worldly wealth, their Gaelic Bibles,
and in their hearts their language and song, and an integrity unsurpassed
by any other people.
LONG AND ROUGH
"They braved a long and rough
voyage across the Atlantic in less than sea-worthy boats (the mortality
rate was high), and landed in a virgin forest, a sight which they had
never seen before and this was to be their homes.
"What greeted them was not what the
Government and the Land Company had promised them which was warm,
sunny maple sugar groves and productive soil fit for tobacco plantations.
"They found instead, a hard, rocky
forested land, which had to be cleared of large trees, and cultivated with
great hardship, and a bitter, hostile climate that yielded nothing more
than subsistence-level farming.
HARDY YET MYSTICAL "The National Geographic Magazine, in an article a few years ago,
"The Gaelic speaking Celts were a
particularly distinctive race, warlike and hardy, yet also mystical and
artistic. They are described as having a character, and a culture which
bridged the gap between the materialistic West and spiritualistic
"This latter point was
certainly, true of our people, for in every part of this Continent where
they settled, the seeds were sown, not only of Christian civilization, but
of Christianity itself, with all of the, side benefits and blessings.
Unknown to themselves they had become the forerunner of the Lords
Mission in a new world.
"From their limited and difficult beginnings, they managed to develop
and sustain a very civilized and caring society. Their Christian
hospitality and neighborly supportive measures are known, respected, and
remembered by many both far and near.
"The Reverend Malcolm
MacDonald, a native of Whitton, Quebec, a descendant of the early settlers
and of the first church established in the area, says:
"The Book of Books was the
library they opened, and the Church of Jesus Christ was the first
institution they established and that in their homes, and the Gospel of
Christ was the philosophy they espoused. "
"The most casual
observer and historian must admit that these early settlers played a
leading part in setting the course in which the Nation travels today.
"I am indeed grateful
that we are privileged to stand in the stream of. a noble, spiritual,
national and cultural tradition, which has flourished in Scotland for
centuries, and for some 150 years established firmly on this North
American Continent, in both Canada and the United States.
HERITAGE AND TRADITION
"If we were to call the
roll of that great company of men and women from whom we have, all
descended, there would answer from within the portals of the Church
Triumphant, the voice of a company of people equally as noble as those who
ever walked across the pages of the New Testament, or the dusty pages of
human history. For we are truly the recipients and inheritors of an
unusual heritage and tradition, which should be cherished, appropriated,
and transmitted to succeeding generations.
"Our roots are deeply
embedded in a great spiritual, cultural and social heritage, which too
few, I believe, have ever fully appreciated or expressed. Since there is
nothing more important or becoming than a thoughtful, reverent and
grateful recognition of our indebtedness to those who have transmitted to
us the qualities and motivations which are the bases and foundations of
our society and families, may they now know that, the remembrance and
recognition of their lives and gifts are this day being inscribed and
recorded for present and future generations to ponder and revere!"
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