The largest groups of Scottish Catholics settled in
the Glengarry district of eastern Ontario, Prince Edward Island and
eastern Nova Scotia. Though there were other pockets of settlement in
Ontario, Quebec, at the Red River, and other western communities, it was
mainly in the above-named regions that their traditions developed. While
it may be risky to write on a tradition it must also be borne in mind
that history must include attitudes and impressions, the material from
which traditions are made.
Canadians have usually referred to the Scottish
presence in Canadian history without making any strong distinctions
between Highlander/ Lowlander or Catholic/Protestant. The general effect
of this lack of categorization has been beneficial, for it has largely
ignored certain aspects of the Scottish historical past which might
possibly have led to a re-opening of old wounds in the New World.1
For most Scots in Canada it has been
sufficient that they be known as Scots or as Canadians of Scottish
origin. The common homeland bound them together, regardless of their
former geographical or religious situation in Scotland. Yet for anyone
who has made any attempt to understand the Scottish-Canadian character
it is quite evident that there are definite differences among those of
Scottish background and that such distinctions have in part determined
their attitudes and roles in Canada. In effect, they have helped to
mould views concerning man and his role in Canadian society. They should
not therefore be lightly dismissed.
One of the most obvious differences in those with a
Scottish background has been the factor of religion, particularly the
views held by Presbyterians and by those of the Roman Catholic faith.
Those within Presbyterian-ism have been numerous and have occasioned
remarks on the propensity of Presbyterians to dispute fine theological
points.2 It may also be argued the
tensions within this denomination3 have been creative. Certainly there
was, in the Presbyterian fold, an opportunity for the concerned
individual to express his views. The organization allowed for a greater
participation in church affairs through the realm of debate and
discussion. Such was not the tradition in the more tightly-structured church of
the Roman Catholics; the hierarchical pyramid distributed authority from
the peak downward and assembly meetings were not a part of the system.
They were, however, assured of security and therefore had little
compulsion for debate and discussion. This basic difference in style and
orientation, it is suggested, had a definite influence on the subsequent
roles played by Presbyterians and Roman Catholics in Canada.4
Often criticized as being motivated by the cult of
success, the individual Presbyterian would be described by some as the
typical Canadian. This is both unfair and inaccurate, for while
Presbyterians have made an enormous contribution to Canada's historical
development, other groups of different religious and ethnic backgrounds
have counterbalanced this stereotyped Presbyterian projection. One such
group has been the Roman Catholic Highlanders.5 Like other
Scots, they are found in every province and territory of Canada.
This characteristic of mobility has been noted of Scots for centuries
and even during the so-called Middle Ages they could be found in many
countries of Europe as traders, teachers, religious or soldiers. The
urge to move was also common to those who came to the New World and the
early records of our fur trading companies reveal the names of many
Scots. The voyages of men such as David Thompson, Alexander MacKenzie
and Simon Fraser also bear testimony to this fact. Generally, the Scots,
including the Highland Catholics, did not tend to remain together in
specific geographical areas for long periods of time; though some stayed
and carried on their traditional life style, many others moved to
compete elsewhere. Largely through the traditions preserved in the
regions mentioned above it is possible to discern patterns rather
different from those of other ethnic-religious groups. In the changes
which occurred between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries,
we witness the emergence of a sub-culture that had become an integral
part of the Canadian mosaic.
By the 1850s these Highland Catholics had well
fashioned their own society in the New World and their traditions were
solidly established. They were less Scottish and more Canadian or Nova
Scotian, or Islanders. Completely at ease in this society, they had been
active participants in all religious, economic, educational and
political developments. Their life pattern was their own and in the
rural areas it was to remain essentially unchanged until World War
It is true that they were
becoming Anglicized and that the Gaelic was losing its grip, but other
cultural traits and traditions have survived to the present time. In
studying their traditions it is fair to argue that, with the exception
of later patterns of outmigration, these were formed by the 1850s.
The most westerly of what may be considered one of
the Highland Catholic regions in Canada, Glengarry, is also the most
easterly county of the Province of Ontario. Alexandria, named after the
first Bishop, Alexander Macdonell (Alastair Mhor), located approximately
midway between the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, is considered to be
the centre of the county.6 The Scottish defeat at Culloden and the
subsequent economic changes were the remote causes of this Glengarry
settlement, for many Scots emigrated to America in search of greater
opportunities. Some joined British regiments and fought for the King
during the American Revolution, only thirty years after Culloden.
When the hostilities finally terminated in 1783 it
was evident that they could not remain in their former locations;
British North America would be their new home and thousands trudged
northward. The families of many of the soldiers had been departing
during the last years of the war, to be reunited later with the husbands
and fathers. In 1783 the King's Royal Regiment of New York and the Royal
Highland Emigrant Regiment were disbanded; the men moved northward in
search of a new life.7 The Catholics
among them asked to be allowed to settle in a body and the government
tried to meet their request. As a result several strong Catholic
colonies were planted in Glengarry and Stormont.8 Other
Catholic Loyalists, though not Scottish, were attracted to the region;
also among the disbanded members of the Royal Highland Emigrants were
many Presbyterians whose chaplain, Reverend John Bethune, acquired a
3000-acre grant near Williamstown where he built the first Presbyterian
church in Upper Canada.9
The Presbyterians and Catholics in those areas shared
many basic traditions; their loyalty to the Crown, their repugnance
toward certain aspects of society to the south, and, for many, their
common Scottish inheritance. The religious hatreds which had kept them
apart in Scotland were largely ignored or sublimated; pioneer conditions
and common political problems helped in forcing a greater tolerance.
The Catholic settlers received their first
Gaelic-speaking priest in 1785:
Having laid before the King a memorial of Mr. Roderick MacDonell,
stating that at the solicitation of a considerable number of Scots
Highlanders and other subjects of the Roman Catholic persuasion who,
prior to the last war, were inhabitants of the back settlements of the
Province of New York, and to whom, in consideration of their loyalty and
services, lands have lately been assigned in the higher parts of Canada,
he is desirous of joining them in order to serve them in the capacity of
a clergyman, in the humble hope, that on the arrival at the settlement,
he shall be allowed by Government an annual subsistence for the
discharge of that duty.I0
The priest was Reverend Roderick Macdonell of the
family of Leek, the man who was to make possible the success later
enjoyed by Bishop Alexander Macdonell. Though his territory extended
south to the Mohawk Valley and westward to Illinois, he thoroughly
enjoyed working with his Gaelic-speaking Scots in Glengarry and Stormont.
With the assistance of kinsmen in the North West Company, most of whom
were Catholic, he completed the first stone church, St.
Andrew's, Stormont, in 1792.11 Presbyterian Scots also made
contributions to the building of the edifice; the frontier was doing
what post-Reformation animosity had made impossible in Scotland.12
Reverend Roderick Macdonell was
joined by Reverend Alexander "Scotus" Macdonell13 who led the
entire parish of Knoydart in Glengarry, Scotland, to the New World.14
Some passengers disembarked at Ile St. Jean but the great majority
continued on to the Glengarry district. "Of those who came, not all were
Catholic, but the Catholic settlers, as a rule, banded together and
formed groups where, later on, missions were opened or parishes were
formed - thus St. Andrew's, thus St. Raphael's, thus Alexandria, etc."I5
During the decade of the 1780s others arrived from Scotland and as the
population west of the Ottawa River increased, largely through Loyalist
migration, there began an agitation for a separate province for those of
British extraction. Partly as a result of such agitation the
Constitutional Act of 1791 was passed in the British Parliament; among
its provisions was one creating two provinces, Upper Canada for those
generally west of the Ottawa River, Lower Canada for the French
Canadians to the east. On June 16, 1792, Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe
issued a proclamation dividing the province into counties, the
easternmost of which were styled Glengarry, Stormont and Dundas.16
The people of Glengarry remained isolated during the
early decades of settlement and as a result the oral culture remained
strong. "It was the old man's delight to take me on his knee, while he
sat on the old log bridge, and tell me of times gone by, of strange
adventures, of giant men, of haunted hills, of blessings and of curses."17
As with their fellow Scots in Nova
Scotia, the bard held an important cultural ranking:
The bard is old but tall and of a dignified
bearing. His long flowing white beard gives him almost a venerable
look, his memory is unbelievably retentive; the unwritten songs and
tales which entertained our grandfathers, and their grandfathers
before them, he still remembers word for word ... his marvellous
memory has permitted him to retain almost everything of interest in
genealogy, history and folklore.18
As early as the 1790s the Glengarry Scots were making
their presence felt in other avenues of Upper Canadian life.19
"The influence of the Catholic Highlanders was to find its fullest
expression under Reverend Alexander Macdonell, an astute cleric who
cultivated the lines of civil and ecclesiastical power very shrewdly in
efforts to advance the welfare of his religious followers. Not only was
he the first Roman Catholic bishop of Upper Canada but he also led the
way in promoting the temporal advancement of his people. In education,
and particularly in aligning the faithful with the British connection,
the man showed strong qualities of leadership. "An ardent patriot and
Conservative, he saw no inconsistency in defending Catholicism and
British interests, at a time when Catholics were not admitted to full
citizenship in the British Empire."20
It has also been said
that support of Tory rule was secondary to his desire to extend
Catholicism; McGee is reputed to have called him "the greatest old Tory
in Canada."21 In addition to
building schoolhouses and churches, he supervised the training of native
clergy and more than 40 were trained during his tenure, with much of the
expense borne by himself.
Appointed a bishop in 1819, he was also made a
legislative councillor in 1831; he shrewdly used both positions to
advance the interests of his people, for he realized that concessions to
Catholics were made for political reasons. Constantly, and sometimes
successfully, he sought government aid for Catholic schools and
teachers.22 In return he gave
the government of the day strong support and was outspoken in his views
on American republicanism and the radicalism of William Lyon MacKenzie.23
By 1828, there were at least 36,435 Catholics in Upper Canada24
and their growing numbers forced the government to listen to requests.25
Macdonell cultivated good relations with the Protestant population and a
healthy rapport existed between him and his non-Catholic friends:
A tablet was set up to his memory in his church
at St. Raphael's by the Highland Society of Upper Canada. It is not
without significance that the motion for its erection was made in
the Society by the Rev. Hugh Urquhart, Presbyterian and late
Headmaster of the Grammar School at Cornwall. While Roman, the
Bishop's work and approach had always been Catholic.26
Bishop Macdonell had no problem in being accepted as
a Scot and in his way he made many friends among his Presbyterian
countrymen. Along with William McGillivary of the North West Company, he
was one of the founders of the Highland Society in Canada.27
Religious differences that may have existed
could often be sublimated under a common sense of ancestry and
tradition. In 1852 there were 3,228 Macdonells or MacDon-alds in
Glengarry and thirty other clans numbered from 50 to 545 each.28
It is hardly surprising that their Scottish ancestry should be a
relative source of unity.
Though rather isolated at Glengarry, the Highlanders,
Catholic and Protestant, soon made themselves known in every area of
provincial life, even to becoming members of the "Establishment."
Alexander (Sheriff) McDonell represented Glengarry in the House of
Assembly;29 his brother Angus
represented York; another Angus McDonell (Sandaig, Glengarry) was also
in the Assembly in 1804. All were Catholics and Alex (Sheriff) was
elected as Speaker in the session which opened in 1805.30 Two
other brothers, John and Hugh Macdonell, were members of Simcoe's first
Parliament in 1792-96.31
Were not Glengarry's men, even within that
generation, to take their places among the country's leading
citizens? In law there was Angus Macdonell, member and first
president of the Law Society of Ontario, 1792; in commerce,
Alexander Macdonell, Greenfield, and Finnan Macdonell, chief factors of the Hudson' Bay
Company; in exploration, Simon Fraser, discoverer of the Fraser
River, whose remains lie buried here at St. Andrew's; in politics,
Colonel John Macdonell, M.P., first Speaker of the House of
Assembly, 1792; in war, Colonel Macdonell, A.D.C. to General Sir
Isaac Brock, the hero of Queenston Heights; in education and
religion, the Honourable and Right Reverend Alexander Macdonell,
first Bishop of Ontario; in diplomacy, Hugh Macdonell,
consul-general in Algiers. But enough; these and the Colonel
Chisholms, the Colonel Frasers, the Sandfield Macdon-alds, and a
host of others, have their names written on the pages of Canadian
history for all to read.32
The society of Glengarry was rapidly maturing in the
1820s; the log cabins of the original settlers had almost completely
disappeared and were replaced by frame, or occasionally brick,
structures. Properties were being improved or enlarged; those not
wishing to remain in agriculture were seeking opportunities elsewhere.
By 1824 there were 7,084 people in Glengarry alone.33 This had increased to 10,333 by 1831;34
coach roads, though not always providing comfortable rides, were common,
and informed discussion on public issues in Upper Canadian society was
As one might expect from the foregoing the Macdonells
were the most prominent of all the Glengarry settlers. "Of the members
elected to the Assembly from Glengarry from 1791 to 1840, all were
connected either by blood or marriage with the Macdonells who came to
America on the Pearl in 1773, except Alexander McMartin and John
Generally, it appears that the Highland Catholics
accepted the existing political situation partly out of self-interest,
partly from deference to those in authority. If any of them thought
along radical lines there is little evidence to suggest that they so
acted. Bishop Macdonell even cautioned those of his followers who
supported the Reformers instead of Lieutenant-Governor Bond Head.35
For such loyalty to established authority he
was praised by the Orange Order although he also had his differences
with members of that body.36 The same loyalty was given to
the government during William Lyon MacKenzie's efforts towards abrupt
changes in the political system. Generally, he reflected the views of
his people. They and their ancestors had supported British institutions
and causes at Quebec in 1759, during the American Revolution and in the
War of 1812. They were not about to change drastically for William Lyon
The expansion of the settlement was steady, without
dramatic changes. The decade between 1841 and 1851 represented the
period of fastest growth, for the population rose from 12,546 to 17,596.37
The highest population figure in the history
of the district was reached in 1891 with 22,447. Thereafter there was a
slight decline in each decade as out-migration continued to other parts
of Ontario and the western provinces.38 Throughout the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the population was heavily Scottish and approximately 50%
Catholic, the latter figure increasing throughout the twentieth century.39
The value of farm produce had increased by
mid-century to the point where it was estimated at $4,006,952 in 1861,
with the value of livestock at $660,548.40 This expansionist trend continued through to the last
decade of the century, but with increasing farm mechanization and a
diminished demand for such skills as blacksmithing and carriage-making,
the non-farm dweller dependent on such trades moved elsewhere.
Out-migration had been a fact of life with the Glengarry Scots almost
from the beginning. As in Nova Scotia, the attractions of family life
were not irresistible to people with a marginal agricultural background.
Moreover, the district had developed into a comfortable routine; like
others in Canada West they had adapted to the Act of Union and
responsible government, though not entirely without complaints. Through
a combination of older cultural traits and adaptation to New World
conditions, these Catholic Highlanders had fashioned their own society.
There are certain differences, as well as
similarities, to be noted in the conditions of the Highland Catholics in
Prince Edward Island, even in a brief treatment of their story. The
first significant settlement began with the Glenaladale pioneers in
1772, though some Highlanders, "Scots by Montgomery," and others, had
come earlier.41 As in the Glengarry
district the name of one priest stands out strongly in memory: this was
Reverend Angus MacEachern, who arrived in 1790 and who remained to
become the first Bishop of Charlottetown. During the pioneer period he,
more than any other, provided leadership and spiritual guidance to the
Highland Catholics of Prince Edward Island and eastern Nova Scotia. His
tenure corresponds roughly to that of Bishop Macdonell in Glengarry;42
their contributions were similar, for they firmly established both
Catholicism and an ethnic influence in their respective areas.
Organized by Captain John Macdonald, the Laird of
Glenaladale, a group of 210 Highlanders left Scotland aboard the ship
Alexander on May 1, 1772, intending to improve their situation on
the Island of St. John. Captain Macdonald's attention had been drawn to
the island by letters received from its earliest Scottish settlers, a
party of disbanded Fraser Highlanders who had settled there after the
fall of Quebec.43 Approximately 100 of
the group came from Uist, while the others, among whom were many
Macdonalds, came from the mainland of Scotland.44 Their
departure differed from the majority, for they left for religious45
as well as economic reasons. Settling initially at an area where Captain
Macdonald had originally purchased lands, they gave it the name of
Scotch Fort. With them was the Reverend James Macdonald, a cousin of
Captain John, who had chosen to accompany his countrymen; he spoke
Gaelic, English, Italian and French, having learned the last two
languages while studying in Rome. His ability in French was appreciated
by the Acadian families already on the island and living around
Malpeque.46 Father Macdonald remained there as a missionary
with the Acadians and Highlanders until his death in 1785. Also with the immigrants
was Doctor Roderick Macdonald, another cousin of Captain John.
Since Captain John Macdonald owned the lands and was
willing only to lease them, some of the settlers left Scotch Fort47
within the first few years in an attempt to
get land of their own in Cape Breton or elsewhere.48 In this
way, settlement was dispersed throughout the island with the original
settlement, Scotch Fort, becoming a distributing depot. Those who came
in the 1790s and early 1800s tended to move to other parts of the
island, particularly the area now known as King's County. By the
mid-nineteenth century the Scottish-born were heavily concentrated in
western and southeastern Queen's County and widely scattered in King's
and Prince as well.49 Some of the early settlers were
recruited for the British Army during the Revolutionary War and in
conjunction with a body of Nova Scotia Highlanders, those recruited
became the Second Battalion of the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment.50
Another well-known group of settlers who came together were those
brought over by Lord Selkirk in 1803, settling at Orwell Bay.
The population expanded51 relatively
slowly during the final decades of the eighteenth century, but through
natural increase and immigration it increased quite rapidly in the first
three decades of the nineteenth.52 People on the island had been exporting agricultural goods since the
1790s and their export figures rose dramatically by the 1820s, with
significant amounts of oats and potatoes. During the same period the
occupied and improved acreage increased considerably, as did the number
of livestock.53 Generally, such expansion continued in most
categories until the early 1880s;54 it was about this time
also that the highest population of the nineteenth and the first half of
the twentieth centuries was recorded.55 Like their Highland
brethren in Nova Scotia, these Islanders were not particularly noted for
being, as a group, good farmers. Many combined fishing or lumbering with
their agricultural endeavours, often to the detriment of the last-named
operation. The routine and drudgery of nineteenth century farming
operations appeared to have little appeal when contrasted with the
greater freedom to be found in other occupations. Undoubtedly, this was
a factor in the high rate of out-migration later in the century; the
family farms could accommodate only a fairly fixed population and many
people had little desire to remain in the occupation anyway.
As in Glengarry and eastern Nova Scotia, it was the
clergy who provided the initial leadership in education. During 1831, in
an effort to supply native clergy, Bishop MacEachern used his house as a
college. Having been made Bishop of Charlottetown in 1829, hereby
gaining greater independence from the Bishop of Quebec,56
he was anxious to meet in his way one of his most
pressing needs. This venture also marked the beginning of what may be
termed higher education in Prince Edward Island. This first institution,
Saint Andrew's, was later replaced by St. Dunstan's, founded by Reverend
Bernard Macdonald, the first native
Islander to be ordained to the priesthood, and the successor of Bishop
MacEachern in 1835.57 It was Bishop
Macdonald, and Bishop Peter Ma-clntyre who succeeded him, who bore the
responsibility of gaining an educational system suitable to the Catholic
population. Scores of priests, many of them descendants of Highland
Catholics, received their early training in the above-named institutions
and went on to service in other parts of Canada and the United States.58
By mid-century the Catholics were receiving the guidance of some of
their native clergy and though they were drawn into local religious
feuds of the period they were apparently not singled out for criticism
as Highland Catholics. Here, as elsewhere, their approach was moderate.
However, in issues involving the entire Catholic population, such as
separate schools, they generally supported their fellow non-Scottish
Catholics. At Confederation, when the school issue was involved, they
followed the lead of their bishop and gave it their support through the
The evidence of a Catholic tradition is stronger in
Nova Scotia than in the other regions. Catholics were present in greater
numbers and they occupied larger regions; as in Glengarry and Prince
Edward Island, they remained relatively isolated for a long period of
time and this enabled them to retain their traditions with some degree
Economic hardship in Scotland provided the basic
motivation for emigration, though some of the early settlers had, like
those in Glengarry, a background of military service in British
regiments during the American Revolution. One scholar attributes this
support of the monarchy to the tenant relationship: "The loyalty of the
Highlander in America to the Crown was a logical extension of his
unquestioning obedience to his immediate landlord."59 It is possible that the close association between the
tacksmen and the crofters led to an assumption of obedience which was,
upon the disintegration of the clan system, transferred to others in
authority. There were several heavy waves in the tides of Scottish
immigration, the first large permanent settlement arriving at Pictou
aboard the Hector in 1773.60 The pre-Revolutionary emigration61
was affected by the events of 1775-1783 in the American colonies, but
much the same set of causes was important during the period 1783-1803,
which marks another phase. The year 1803 saw the first serious
government effort to regulate the emigrant trade to North America.62
Generally, those who left during this period were not "the wretched
helpless exodus that was to come in the next century." They were of
varying trades and occupations, and some of them travelled unassisted.63
During the period 1803-1815 there were more who left Scotland through
lack of alternatives than in the preceding decades of the eighteenth
century. As the "clearances" intensified, more Scots found themselves
forced to emigrate. Following the smashing of Napoleon's delusions at
Waterloo, many Highlanders returned home to find glens filled with the
bleating of sheep but empty of human voices. Evictions, over-population
and widespread economic distress in Britain after 1815 brought on the
final and heaviest phase of Scottish emigration to Nova Scotia. This was the last, and most
distressing, major influx of population. Thousands of Scots, both
Protestant and Roman Catholic, managed, without government assistance,
to survive the "coffin ships," disease and poverty, and to establish
themselves in a new land. The immigration of this period shaped the
character of Cape Breton.
The great influx of Scottish immigrants (said by
some authorities to have exceeded 25,000 souls), gave quite a new
complexion to the population of Cape Breton .... The island is now
decidedly "Scotch," with every probability of its continuing so to
the end of time.64
Population moved from Pictou eastward and thus Cape
Breton was the last to be settled. While much of the island was still in
the pioneer phase, Pictou was leading in the struggle for educational
and political reforms. Heavily Presbyterian, and situated closer to
Truro and Halifax, Pictou was the first Scottish community to be
influenced by the stronger Anglo-Saxon customs. As a result, Pictou
County changed more quickly, and its cultural traditions, particularly
the use of Gaelic, were transformed or weakened. The language lasted
longer in Antigonish, and maintained a strong foothold in Cape Breton
well into the twentieth century.65 By
mid-nineteenth century the character of the eastern part of the province
was definitely Scottish and Nova Scotian in flavour.
As an ethnic group the Highland Catholics in Nova
Scotia had characteristics peculiar to themselves and these remained
largely unchanged in the new environment for well over a century. Their
attitudes on education, their loyalty to the state, to institutions, to
individuals, their conception of the role of religion, the maintenance
of a folk culture and a strong attachment to their native soil all
these lived on with them and were reinforced in eastern Nova Scotia. Nor
did they forget the old: "In pride of origin Nova Scotia Scots are
equalled, if that is possible, only by the Norsemen overseas."66
In time they came to be recognized on their own merits and weaknesses,
through a composition of ethnic and regional traits, as Nova Scotians of
Scottish descent. A Nova Scotia society was maturing by the end of the
second decade of the nineteenth century. "Nova Scotians as such were
emerging, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes and facing their own
problems, in various ways, but with discernment and energy. They were
conscious that they were Nova Scotians."67 "Between 1789 and
1826, when the Acadian Recorder began its all-too-brief career, a new
generation had grown up, proud of their province and the things that
were theirs by right of birth."68
The year 1791 marked the arrival of the first large
number of Highland Catholics in Nova Scotia. They came largely from the
Western Isles and landed in Pictou in September of that year,
practically destitute. Forced out by economic conditions in Scotland,
their initial period in the province did not constitute much of an
But the emigrants landed at Pictou in September
practically penniless and though that small community, itself
containing only seven hundred individuals, made an effort to support
the newcomers, eventually it was necessary to appeal for aid to the
They were treated as well as conditions would warrant
by the people of Pictou, few of whom had any surplus of food to
dispense. Upon the urging of Bishop Angus MacEachern of Prince Edward
Island, many of them moved eastward.70 Reverend James McGregor, an Anti-Burgher cleric and the only minister in
the Pictou district, exhorted his people to treat the newcomers with
kindness, but he was disturbed by some of their values and his comments
illustrate certain differences in attitudes between the Catholics and
Much of their time was spent in naughty
diversions, jestings which are not convenient nor decent, in telling
extravagant stories of miracles done by priests, and absurd tales
about ghosts, witches, fairies, etc. The minds of the Protestant
Highlanders, being partly tinctured with these superstitions before
the arrival of the Roman Catholics, were less prepared to resist
their influence than the minds of more reasonable and sceptical
Christians. They had been pretty much weaned from the remains which
the first settlers brought from Scotland, but we have not got wholly
over these bad lessons. 71
Apparently, denominational differences were not yet
strong enough to erase the Highland predilection for ghost stories and
other elements of their folk culture.72
The first Scottish settlers in Antigonish County came
in 178473 as a result of British
imperial policy, and land grants were awarded on both sides of
Antigonish harbour, as well as at the eastern end of the present town
boundaries. Included in this group, which also had a military
background, were a number of English and Irish settlers. The first
Highland settler in the area was Angus MacDonald, who acquired 500 acres
of land at Arisaig. He had earlier taken up a grant at Merigomish, but
fear of the Indians caused him to return there. The honour of being the
first permanent settler on the gulf shore goes to John Ban Gillies, who
was followed by McAra and former members of the 82nd Highland Regiment.74
The last-named settled along the shore and established permanent
settlements to which they gave such names as Knoydart, Moidart and
Arisaig.75 Some had moved eastward from Pictou to settle with
their fellow Catholics. By 1820 there was a string of small scattered
settlements, populated by Scots from the western Highlands and the
Isles, all along the Gulf Shore from Merigomish to Ballantyne's Cove on
the eastern side of Cape George. Many came from Barra and they worked at
both farming and fishing in their new homes. The vast majority were
Catholics who had first landed at Pictou before moving eastward.
Subsequent patterns of settlement naturally turned toward the inland
parts of the district where initially they settled along the rivers and rich intervales.
By 1817, and certainly by 1820, settlement patterns were following those
already laid out.76 Like their pioneer
countrymen elsewhere in British North America, they faced the formidable
task of clearing the forests and establishing homes and though they had
very little experience in cutting trees, they seemed to do so with a
vengeance in the new environment.
Dorchester Village (Antigonish) developed as the
principal trading town of the county because of its central location. It
one of the prettiest villages in the eastern
section of Nova Scotia .... It has but one principal street . . .
and contains about 45 dwelling houses, exclusive of other buildings.
The Court House is built on a hill of moderate ascent, and commands
a pleasing view of the whole village .... The Roman Catholic chapel
... is by much the largest and most respectable looking building in
the County . . . not at all disproportioned to the extent of the
congregation .... There is also in the centre of this village a
small Presbyterian meeting-house.77
By 1827 the total population of Nova Scotia was
estimated at 142,548, with 123,848 on the mainland and 18,700 in Cape
Breton, giving an increase of 41,795 on the mainland since 1817. Sydney
(Antigonish-Guysborough) had increased from 6,991 to 12,760 during the
decade.78 There were also marked
increases in cultivated acreage, in the production of potatoes, hay,
wheat and other grains, and in livestock.79
Contemporary accounts show certain similarities to
other regions populated by Highlanders:
Gaelic is the language of this part of the
country - I Mean, it is that tongue which you hear in every
cottage, and that which strikes the ear on passing through the
street of each little village. Scotch, both from the High and
Lowlands, are here [Sherbrooke]80 found without intermixture: the former make but indifferent farmers:
accustomed to a hard and penurious mode of life, they are too easily
satisfied with the bare existence that even indolence can procure in
this country .... In the course of another generation, a very
different order of things will prevail, for the sons of these
Highlanders, more accustomed to think for and depend upon
themselves, and instructed by an occasional excursion to other
districts, appear to be a more promising race and to inherit but
little of the apathy generally exhibited by their fathers.81
This apparent lack of ambition among Highlanders was
referred to on other occasions but always in the context of agriculture,
in which they had no tradition. Upon leaving the farm to compete in
other activities they acquitted themselves at least as well as others.
There was less criticism of this nature in reference to the Highland
farmers of Pictou County, thus suggesting that the hybrid of Highland
Presbyterians and Lowlanders were more ambitious. Writing in the late
1820s Haliburton commented:
The Highlanders are not so advantageous a class
of settlers as their Lowland neighbours. Their wants are
comparatively few, and their ambition is chiefly limited to the
acquirement of the mere necessaries of life. If in some instances
they extend their clearings they derive not so much advantage from
them as others. Their previous habits have fitted them better for
the management of stock than the cultivation of the soil, and they
are consequently more attached to it... . The Low-landers, on the
contrary, to the frugality and interest of the Highlanders, add a
spirit of persevering diligence, a constant desire of improvement,
and a superior system of agriculture which renders them a valuable
acquisition to the Province.82
While there is justification for such an assessment
it must be kept in mind that the habits of the Highlanders were rooted
in centuries of tradition. Nor were they to be generally disturbed by
appeals to efficiency and progress; this is particularly true of the
Catholic Highlander, who was taught that his reward would come
eventually. Soon after settlement they were providing for their
necessities and for the majority this was sufficient. Never having known
prosperity, they did not miss it; thus, they were good pioneers.
There are obvious and understandable differences to
be noted between Pictou, with its Presbyterian majority, and Antigonish,
with its predominant Catholic population. But the Scottish fact also
promoted tolerance in each area.
At the hospitable board of R.N. Henry, Esq., the
then postmaster of Antigonish, I met four men, each differing in
training, professional character, but each in his own time
sufficiently remarkable to make his society very attractive. These
were Dr. Fraser, who became Catholic Bishop of the Diocese, Dr.
MacDonald, then in full enjoyment of a large country practice, the
Rev. Thomas Trotter, Presbyterian pastor of the village
congregation, and our old friend, Sandy MacDougall. They were all
Scotchmen or of Scotch descent, were fast friends and cronies. Each
would stand up for his own Church or his own snuff box, but they
would all stand up for Scotland and fight to prove a thistle more
fragrant than a rose. I would have given a trifle to have seen and
heard our four old friends once more chaffing each other in Latin,
English, Greek and Gaelic. With these four men I remained on terms
of intimacy and friendship while they lived. Nothing impressed me so
much as to hear questions of philosophy, of practical or abstract
science or of European politics, discussed in the County of Sydney
with the keenest of logic and fullness of information scarcely met
with in the capital.83
The above words of Joseph Howe are revealing
particularly with regard to the Catholic Bishop Fraser and the
Presbyterian cleric, Reverend Thomas Trotter. This toleration of each
other's views was not unusual and has also been noted
with the Catholic Highlanders and Presbyterians in Prince Edward Island
With regard to education, the Scottish Catholics
followed the lead of their Presbyterian brethren. Pictou Academy
received its charter in 1816 through the leadership of Reverend Thomas
McCulloch who became the first Principal of Dalhousie University in
1838. St. Andrew's Grammar School was founded in 1838 by Reverend C.F.
MacKinnon, the same man who established St. Francis Xavier University
for his Scottish constituents in 1853.
During the peak immigration years of the 1820s,
patterns of settlement were established and there were very few who
would willingly have exchanged their place for a return to Scotland.
Largely Gaelic-speaking, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian, they were
laying the basis for a social pattern that lasted until World War
II. Their fondness for entertainment changed
little in the ocean crossing: "I had to try to abolish dancing and
drunkenness, which things the people had been accustomed to. Dancing is
rarer now and there is less drunkenness."84 Religion would remain a very important part of their
social pattern; it was a factor that grew stronger with the Highland
Catholics during the nineteenth century. Whether or not the relative
isolation sustained this view is worthy of consideration. Certainly, it
permitted those of Highland descent to retain their language and customs
long after both were weakening on the mainland.
Victoria County, which received its name in 1851, had
a majority of Scottish Presbyterians, although the first permanent
Scottish settlers there were Catholics from the Isle of Barra who came
via Pictou shortly after 1800.85 Those
from certain districts and of similar religious persuasion tended to
settle together and it became possible to distinguish many origins by
accent. Because of this pattern of settlement it was somewhat easier for
contemporaries to make comparisons:
The Highland Scotch, unless intermixed with other
settlers, are not only careless, in many particulars, of cleanliness
within their houses, but are also regardless of neatness and
convenience in their agricultural implements and arrangements. All
this arises from the force of habit, and the long prevalence of the
make-shift system; for whenever a Scotch Highlander is planted among
a more promiscuous population, no one is more anxious than he to
rival the more respectable establishment of his neighbour.
The Scotch settlers from the Lowland countries,
although they generally know much better, yet remain, from a
determination first to accumulate property, for some years
regardless of comfort or convenience in their dwellings; but they at
last build respectable houses, and enjoy the fruits of their
The same author adds:
Few people, however, find themselves sooner at
ease than the Highland Scotch .... They acquire what they consider
an independence in a few years .... I have observed, that wherever
the Highlanders form distinct settlements, their habits, their
system of husbandry, disregard for comfort in their houses, their
ancient hospitable customs, and their language, undergo no sensible
change. They frequently pass their winter evenings reciting
traditional poems in Gaelic, which have been transmitted to them by
their forefathers .... At their weddings, and often at their dances,
and even at their militia musters, the piper is considered
Thus, if the work ethic and progress are to be the
historical standards, the Catholic Highlander, at least in agriculture,
must be considered a failure. But if one is to judge by the fulfilment
of aspirations and the retention of values, they were highly successful.
Since their ambitions were few, it is hardly fair to berate them for a
lack of ambition. And when the barriers of isolation were broken they
showed themselves equal to any intellectual challenge, despite a barren
background. Satisfied with little, many preferred not to extend
themselves, but as the nineteenth century moved onward they moved with
it, though retaining many of their peculiar ethnic, cultural and
By 1843 the heaviest Scottish immigration was ending
in Nova Scotia, and a few people were leaving the province for other
parts of Canada, Newfoundland and the United States. The economy was
expanding steadily.88 Farming was
easily the major occupation and in many coastal areas it was combined
with fishing. Agricultural societies had been formed but they were
carried on by a few dedicated individuals with most of the Highlanders
giving only intermittent support.89 The number of schools and
students was increasing but government support and direction was clearly
insufficient.90 In eastern Nova Scotia, as in Glengarry and
Prince Edward Island, the Catholic Highlanders had established
traditions recognized, by mid-century, as being different from those of
their fellow countrymen.
The evidence indicates that religion was the most
important single factor influencing the lives of these people, for it
permeated their homes as well as their churches. Most of their early
clergy were educated at the Scots College in Paris or the Royal Scots
College in Valladolid, Spain. It was not until the 1820s and 1830s that
the Catholic Highlanders began to have native sons as priests. These
clergy, often the best educated men in the district, played a role
similar to that of the cure in rural Quebec. They were consulted
on a great variety of matters touching the daily lives of the people and
they took the lead in such important areas as education. Thus, they
commanded respect and their views were rarely ignored. Usually
Gaelic-speaking and deeply concerned for their people, they won and
retained their staunch support. Once that support was given, it was
rarely changed and the highest ambition of many Catholic families was to
have a son study for the priesthood. The status attached
to this has been especially noticeable in Cape Breton, where an
unusually high number of priests have had their origin. In addition to
his role in the community the priest obviously had the great powers of
his ministry, the Mass, the pulpit and the confessional, all grounded in
the deep faith of the people.91 And at the last moment of mortal existence it was the priest who
directed the steps of the dying to Heaven. The actions of these men,
admirable as they were, also reflected their personalities which were
quite often remote and severe. Their views on temperance were closely
allied to those of the strictest Presbyterian cleric, and the priests
executed their charge with vigour.
A pastoral visit to a household was an occasion of
special note; here, the visitor would be nervously entertained by the
head of the household and a sense of relief was often felt upon his
departure. Since leisure activities were frowned on by some pastors,
they tried to discourage fiddling and dancing, which were often
associated with drinking and fighting. Despite their position of
prestige, the priests were never very successful in these matters for
they were trying to change an intrinsic cultural tradition. The approach
of some clerics in matters of temperance and entertainment was extremely
The church structure was usually the most
eye-catching building in the community and would appear to set the tone
for the daily routine of families, which was interspersed with religious
devotions. There would be morning and evening prayer, mealtime
blessings, and the family rosary during the weeks of Lent and Advent. On
the walls of the house would hang a number of religious pictures, a
crucifix, and occasionally a piece of palm. In some homes the use of
holy water for protection during times of danger, such as thunder
storms, was common. Lending a physical presence and support to the
church structure was the "glebe," the dwelling of the priest, usually
presided over by a devout and discreet Catholic housekeeper. The "glebe"
reinforced the religious atmosphere and kept people mindful of where
The most important events of the community were given
"from the altar," usually announced by the pastor before the sermon. Few
ever dared to confront the priest, for public support would not be
forthcoming and the folklore contains stories of misfortune concerning
those who contradicted this part of the social mores.
There were similarities and differences between the
priest and the minister, with the most obvious being the fact of one
being a celibate and the other usually a married man. The greatest
difference was in leadership, which the minister came to share through
his body of elders. The wardens of the Catholic parish went along with
the will of the priest who was accountable only to his bishop. He was
considerably more secure in his position and the Catholic communities
acted accordingly. Another important area of difference was in language;
the Catholic Highlanders and their clergy retained the Gaelic much
longer. This delayed Anglicization and enabled a longer retention of
cultural traditions, but it was also a handicap to economic and social
mobility for some people. Generally, Catholic Highlanders were devout in
their religious practices and gave strong loyalty to their church and
In education, the Scots have made noteworthy
contributions to Canada and here the Highland Catholics appear to have
followed the lead established by their Presbyterian brethren. It was the
Catholic Bishops, Mac-donell, MacEachern and MacKinnon, who supplied
leadership in Glengarry, Prince Edward Island and eastern Nova Scotia.92
They were succeeded by clergy who followed
in their tradition. The institutions established sent hundreds of
clergy, teachers, lawyers and other professional people to all parts of
Canada and there is not a Canadian province which has not benefitted
from them. This, really, has been the essence of their contribution to
the Canadian mosaic. With the Catholic Highlanders, education was
necessary to provide priests and teachers, as well as upward mobility in
an English-speaking society. The emphasis on the classical system and
the education of the "whole man" underlay what they believed. St.
Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia became the best known
institution of the Catholic Highlanders and its administration and
faculty still retain a number whose first language was Gaelic.
With regard to the economic sphere, the most
distinctive feature of the Catholic Highlanders, which is obvious from
the foregoing comments on agriculture, is that they have never fully
adopted the "work ethic." In areas where they had to compete with other
groups they performed very well but, when left to themselves, they
worked only as hard as necessary and left themselves time to enjoy their
music, their ceilidhs, and their conversation. Hence, they have often
been charged with laziness, at least in eastern Nova Scotia. And while
there is some truth in this charge, their scale of values must be kept
in mind. The time to enjoy a good conversation with a friend or
neighbour, the time to attend a "wake" or wedding, the time for fishing
or hunting, were all of high priority in their daily lives. In this
respect they were "people-oriented" and therefore anticipated the revolt
against the dominance of technological control in our times.
Politically, two factors stand out in their
tradition, one following from the other. The most important is that of
loyalty; once given to a party or an individual, only an event of
catastrophic proportions could shake it. Such loyalty in turn led to
conservatism in voting behaviour which has not always worked to their
benefit, for the politician could usually count on their support
regardless of his record. "I think the
Highland people are more traditional. I mean they are more apt to vote
the way their parents would."93 "When
the family was for one party they didn't want to be turncoats, so they
all voted for the one party."94 At least some of the Scot's
adaptability to any new environment arose from his willingness to give
his loyalty to his superiors, in every phase of endeavour. It is far
more noticeable among Catholic Highlanders, however, than among their
Presbyterian countrymen.95 With these people politics may be
described as a secular religion, for it has enabled them to have a
consistent interest and has also
provided an opportunity for identification and emotional release. When
fellow Highlanders, and particularly Catholic Highlanders, were involved
in an election contest, the interest and identification were especially
A land of hospitality,
A land of song and story.
A land where everyone you see
Is either Grit or Tory.96
Men such as John Sandfield Macdonald of Glengarry and
Angus L. Mac-donald of Nova Scotia were held in esteem not only for
their political views but also because they were Catholic Highlanders
and could command support on that basis. The concept of loyalty is most
important in any attempt to understand their political behaviour.
Culturally, the evidence indicates that the Catholic
Highlanders retained their customs and language longer than their
Protestant countrymen. One reason for this is that the Presbyterians
turned much more quickly to the use of English in their religious
service and Bible reading. However, there has been a steady diminution
in the number of those speaking Gaelic in all districts. Out-migration,
the pressures of an English-speaking society, and the lack of efforts
made to retain the language on the part of the people themselves, are
the contributing factors in this decline. Presently, those speaking
Gaelic are found largely in a few rural areas and they are predominantly
over fifty years of age.97
The customs and traditions, especially in music, have
lived on with the Catholic Highlanders; in addition to well-known
Highland gatherings such as Maxville and Antigonish, there are others
held in Cape Breton and eastern Ontario. Outdoor Scottish concerts
featuring Scottish violin selections and Gaelic singing have become
highly popular within the last decade in these areas also. Former
residents flock home by the thousands from other parts of Canada and the
Eastern United States during July and August in order to attend such
gatherings. The pipe bands, the violin music and the step-dancing are
major attractions for these "pariah" people and tourists. Although
efforts are being made to revive the Gaelic, it is probably too late.
Other cultural activities such as story-telling and certain Scottish
sports attractions enjoy but limited participation. The art of
storytelling was dealt its final blow through television and the cliche-ridden
conversation of people everywhere reflects their lack of imagination.98
In the retention of certain cultural traditions the
Highland Catholics have shown their strong desire to remain their own
people. Though they have all but lost their language, they have not lost
their appreciation of other aspects of their culture, and they
especially resent being classified as Anglo-Saxons, a term often applied
to them by government employees and others for the sake of convenience.
There has been a long association between the Scottish Catholics of the
three major areas. Scottish Catholic students from the Glengarry district have often
attended St. Francis Xav-ier University; the Highland gatherings in
Glengarry have been attended and competed in by athletes and pipers from
Antigonish, all of whom claim that they feel "so much at home" in
Glengarry. Scottish Catholic relations between Prince Edward Island and
the Diocese of Antigonish have, beginning with Bishop Angus MacEachern,
been long and close.
The central theme of their contribution to Canada has
been the fact that they have quietly resisted homogenization. Their
loyalty has been strong and quickly given, but they want to be
recognized for who they are. Their view of Canada is shaped by their
origin and by the region in which they live; the constant interplay
between the federal and local levels of government and the thousands who
have migrated to all parts of Canada have kept the views of these people
nationally attuned. Through the federal system and the prism of party
loyalties their attention has been drawn to the centre of power; the
love of their cultural traditions and the freedom to enjoy them has kept
these alive at the regional level. These are the freedoms all Canadians
1. For some religious differences in Scotland, see C.
MacKenzie, Catholicism and Scotland (London: Routledge and Sons,
1936). p. 28; W. Notestein, The Scot in History (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1947); J.H. Burton, The History of Scotland,
2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Blackwood 1873), vii.
2. W. Gregg, Short History of the Presbyterian
Church in the Dominion of Canada (Toronto: Robinson, 1892); A.
MacLean, The Story of the Kirk in Nova Scotia (Pictou: Pictou
3. All of those calling themselves Presbyterians.
4. At this point it should be stressed that the
linkage between Scots and religion has greater meaning and accuracy when
applied to the post-Reformation period, to Presbyterianism, and largely
to the Lowland region and parts of the Highlands. It was the
Presbyterianism propagated by John Knox that did so much to create the
disciplined Scot who contributed so greatly to the corporate life of
Britain and Canada. See J. Porter, The Vertical Mosaic (Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1965), p. 290.
5. For the remainder of the paper the term Catholic
Highlander will be used.
6. J.A. Macdonell, Sketches Illustrating the Early
History of Glengarry in Canada (Montreal: Foster, Brown, 1893), p.
7. Approximately 1462 Highlanders moved in 1784 to
settle the townships of Lancaster, Charlottenberg, Cornwall, Osnabruck
and Williamsburg. This had been the corps of Sir John Johnston in the
8. Bull, p. 75.
9. Ibid., p. 76.
10. Lord Sidney, Secretary of State, to
Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton of Canada, 24 June, 1785, PAC, Series Q,
24-2, p. 29. Quoted in Msgr. E.J. Macdonald, PA, VIG, "The Diocese of
Alexandria - Past and Present," Unpublished manuscript, p. 1.
11. According to the late Msgr. E.J. Macdonald, the
parish of St. Andrew's was the oldest English-speaking Catholic
settlement in Ontario. The stone church was partly paid for by a
contribution of £222 from Highlanders of the North West Company. Another
church of the district, St. Raphael's, was gutted by fire in 1970. The
former mother church for Upper Canada, it was reputed to have been built
in 1821. See Macdonald manuscript, pp. 43-45.
12. Bull, p. 78. Built without tower or steeple in
1792, the church was 78' by 39', with a height of 15' and walls 3'
thick. Replaced by a larger structure in 1860, it was later used as a
13. Commonly known as "Scotus" in order to
distinguish him from the "Warrior Bishop," Reverend Alexander Macdonell
14. 604 people.
15. Macdonald manuscript, p. 3.
16. Macdonell, p. 75.
17. Macdonald, supra.
18. Ibid., p. 42
19. Angus Macdonell, first president of the Law
Society of Ontario, 1792; Alexander Macdonell, Greenfield, and Finnan
Macdonell, Chief Factors of the Hudson's Bay Company; Colonel John
Macdonell, MP, first Speaker of the House of Assembly, 1792. See Chapter
IV by K.J. Duncan for settlement patterns in
20. FA. Walker, Catholic Education and Politics in
Upper Canada (Toronto: Nelson, 1955), p. 18.
22. Ibid., pp. 18-34.
23. J.A. Macdonell, Alexander Macdonell (Alexandria,
1890). See pp. 79-83 for a list of Macdonells who supported the
government during the uprising of 1837.
24. Rev. H.J. Somers, The Life and Times of the
Hon. and Rt. Rev. Alexander Macdonell, D.D., First Bishop of Upper
Canada, 1762-1840 (Washington: Catholic University of America,
1931), p. 96.
25. Ibid., pp. 214-221.
26. C.S. Sissons, Church and State in Canadian
Education (Toronto: Ryer-son, 1959), p. 10.
27. Macdonell, Early History ... ,p. 185.
28. E.C. Guillet, Early Life in Upper Canada
(Toronto: University.of Toronto, 1963), p. 45.
29. 1800-1812, 1813-1816, 1820-1834. See Brother
Alfred, Catholic Pioneers in Upper Canada (Toronto: MacMillan,
1947), pp. 20-21.
30. Ibid., pp. 22-23. The relationship between
Scottish Catholics and Presbyterians was sometimes better than that
which existed between Scottish and Irish or French Catholics. This was
as true in Nova Scotia as in eastern Ontario.
31. Guillet, p. 39.
32. E.J. Macdonald, p. 6.
33. With 3,101 in Dundas and 4,714 in Stormont,
Census of Canada, 1870-71, iv, 83.
34. Ibid., p. 104.
35. Bull, pp. 109-110. John Sandfield Macdonald,
first Premier of Ontario, Member for Glengarry and later Cornwall,
lukewarm Catholic and moderate Reformer, became the best known political
figure in the history of the district.
36. Ibid., pp. 110-111.
37. Of the 17,596 people in Glengarry in 1851, 8,870
were Catholics. Census of Canada, 1870-71, Vol. iv, 104, 131,
180. Of a population of 18,732 in 1941, the number of Catholics had
risen to 13,388, many of them French Canadians who moved into the
district. Between 1861 and 1871 the population actually declined from
21, 187 to 20,524. Census of Canada, 1870-71, 1,
38. The lowest population was recorded in 1951, with
a figure of 17,702. Census of Canada, 1951, 1, 6-41, Table 6.
39. The patterns were similar in eastern Nova Scotia,
though a decade earlier in each case, the peak being reached in the
early 1880's, the decline most marked in the early 1940's. Census of
Canada, 1860-61, 272-277.
40. Expansion is easily noted in the following table,
although there is a decline in the number of horses used.
41. A.H. Clark, Three Centuries and the Island
(Toronto: University of Toronto, 1959), pp. 54-56.
42. Bishop Macdonell, 1804-1840; Bishop MacEachern,
43. A. MacLeod, "The Glenaladale Pioneers,"
Dalhousie Review XI, (1931-32), 316.
44. J.C. MacMillan, The Early History of the
Catholic Church on Prince Edward Island (Quebec: L'Evenement, 1905),
45. Ibid., pp. 41-42.
46. Ibid., pp. 44-45.
47. The Tracadie district.
48. The Arrival of the First Scottish Catholic
Emigrants in Prince Edward Island, and After, Memorial Volume,
1722-1922 (Summerside: Journal Publishing Co., 1922).
49. Clark, p. 88.
50. MacLeod, pp. 319-320. In 1778 the name of the
Regiment was changed to the 84th.
51. With 4372 in 1798, of whom 1814 were Highland
Scots. See Clark, pp. 60-61.
52. Clark, pp. 66-69. The Highland Catholic
settlement became concentrated to the north and east of the major
Scottish settlement areas, Tracadie Harbour, and Orwell Bay. Ibid.,
53. Ibid., pp. 69.76.
54. Ibid., 1853: 30,000 cattle; 50,000 sheep;
20,000 pigs; 6,000 horses; 1881: Census of Canada, 1881, iv,
86-87: 25,182 horses; 166,496 sheep; 40,-181 pigs.
55. Census of Canada, 1881, iv, 2. The census
gives the population of 1881 as 108,891. Of this number, 48,933 were of
Scottish origin; 47,115 were listed as Catholics; 33,835 were
Presbyterians (pp. 6-11). The population in 1871 had been 94,021 (p.
56. The Arrival of the First Scottish Catholic
Emigrants . . . , pp. 66-67.
57. A son of Angus Macdonald, one of the original
58. J. Donahoe, ed., Prince Edward Island Priests
(Minneapolis: Webb, 1945). Though incomplete, the book does give an
indication of the religious attitudes of Prince Edward Island Catholics.
Two of the best-known natives of the Island were Reverend James Morrison
and Reverend Alexander Macdonald, the respective Bishops of Antigonish
59. I.C.C. Graham, Colonists from Scotland:
Emigration to North America, 1707-1783 (Cornell: University Press,
1956), p. 150.
60. The first Scottish settlements in Nova Scotia
were established in 1629, one at Baleine Cove in Cape Breton, the other
at Port Royal on the mainland. The Baleine Cove settlement lasted but a
few weeks, while that at Port Royal survived until 1632, when the Treaty
of St. Germain-en-Laye restored Acadia to the French. See C.B.
Fergusson, The Boundaries of Nova Scotia and its Counties,
Bulletin No. 22, 1-6, Public Archives of Nova Scotia (PANS).
61. M.I. Adam, "The Highland Emigration of 1770,"
Scottish Historical Review, xvi. There is some disagreement with
certain views put forward by the author. See: Ian Grimble, "Emigration
in the Time of Rob Doun, 1714, 1778," Scottish Studies, vii
62. H.I. Cowan, British Emigration to British
North America (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967), p. 48.
63. Graham (p. 189) estimates that fewer than 25,000
Highlanders emigrated to British colonies between 1763 and 1775. Another
source states that ten vessels of Highlanders went to the American
colonies in 1773, "and yet these persons . . . were in general,
extremely averse to an entire and abrupt rejection of British
authority." See R.C. MacDonald, Sketches of Highlanders . . .
(Saint John: H. Chubb and Co., 1843), p. 60.
64. It could be argued that this is a mixed blessing.
For the quotation see R. Brown, A History of the Island of Cape
Breton (London: S.L. Low, Son and Marston, 1869), p. 425. An
estimate of the number of Scots in Nova Scotia in 1803 would approximate
9,000-10,000. Scottish settlement there slowed in the period 1803-1815,
but it did not cease completely. Despite the slowness of migration to
Cape Breton between 1802 and 1817, the population had reached 6,000 by
1815. See Council Books, Cape Breton, 1785-1820, Vols. 318-323,
PANS. By 1838 the population of the island had risen to about 38,000.
During the period 1815-1838 the population of Pictou increased from
8,737 to 21,449, while that of Sydney (Antigonish-Guysboro) went from
7,090 to 16,359. See J.S. Martell, "Immigration to and Emigration from
Nova Scotia, 1815-1838," Publication No. 6, PANS, 1942), 10. In the
final phase of immigration to Nova Scotia, 1838-1851, 16,000 people
moved into the province; of these, 14,000 were of British extraction.
See Mrs. R.G. Flewelling, "Immigration to and Emigration from Nova
Scotia, 1839-1851," Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society
(Halifax: 1949), pp. 75-105.
65. The extinction of Gaelic is a very strong
possibility. By 1961 only 0.05% of Nova Scotians and 6.4% of those in
Inverness County, the most Scottish area, claimed Gaelic as the mother
66. A.H. Clark, "Origins and Religions in Nova
Scotia," The Geographical Review 50 (1960), 340. Many of Scottish
descent still seem to believe that the "greatest lot on earth is to be
born a Scotsman.''
67. D.C. Harvey, "The Intellectual Awakening of Nova
Scotia," Dalhousie Review, XIII, 21.
68. A. MacMechan, "The Nova-Scotia-ness of Nova
Scotia," The Canadian Magazine, xxv (1905), p. 566.
69. Cowan, pp. 20-21.
70. Included in this group were the parents of Colin
Francis MacKinnon, who was to establish St. Francis Xavier University in
1853. Pictou remained a major point of entry through the entire period
71. G. Patterson, Memoir of Rev. James McGregor,
D.D. (Philadelphia: Martien, 1859), pp. 257-258.
72. Patterson also made certain comments on the
Highlanders: "Accustomed to extreme poverty, they readily endure
hardship, but it is said that they are apt to be content with a
condition but little beyond what they previous enjoyed, and do not show
the same eagerness for progress that others do. This had, to some
extent, been the case where they have settled by themselves, but where
they have mixed with others, there is so much of the spirit of emulation
in them, that they will soon compete with their neighbours in almost
everything." A History of Pictou County, p. 174. In a reference
to the Lowlanders, Patterson states: "They were distinguished by steady
industry and rigid economy, and they generally not only made a living
but saved money." Ibid., p. 275.
73. J.W. MacDonald, M.D., Manuscript History of
Antigonish County, (1876), 2-3. Also C.J. MacGillivray in "Timothy
Hierlihy and his Times," a paper read before the Nova Scotia Historical
Society at Province House, Halifax, November 3, 1935. More space will be
devoted to Antigonish County, for it had a higher proportion of Catholic
Highlanders in its population than had any similar district in the
74. A.A. Johnston, A History of the Catholic
Church in Eastern Nova Scotia (Toronto: Longman's; 1960), I, 133.
75. Among the Highlanders were John Smith, Dugald Dan
MacDonald, Malcolm, Martin and Donald MacDonald. Martin MacDonald, a
relative of John Sandfield MacDonald of Glengarry, is also credited with
being the first settler on the Gulf Shore, having settled at Knoydart in
1784. See G.S. MacDonald, "West Highland Emigrants in Eastern Nova
Scotia," Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society
(Halifax, 1959). Another source, Patterson, states that MacDonald
arrived there in 1778. A History of Pictou County (Montreal:
Dawson, 1977), p. 160.
76. The population of certain districts in 1817 is
given as follows: Gulf Shore-Malignant Cove, 399; Ohio-West River, 103;
St. Mary's 262, Manchester Road, 113; Settlement of Cape George, 279;
Morristown, 118; Little River and Tracadie, 391; Harbour Busher
[sic]204; Pomquet, 163; Antigonish, 835; Addington Grant, 56; Census
of Canada, (1817), 445, Document 6, PANS.
77. T.C. Haliburton, An Historical and Statistical
Account of Nova Scotia (Halifax: J. Howe, 1829) II,
78. B. Murdock, A History of Nova Scotia or Acadie,
3 Vols., (Halifax: J. Barnes, 1865-67), n, 591. In 1827 there were
18,659 Anglicans, 37,225 Church of Scotland Presbyterians, 20,410
Catholics, 9,408 Methodists, 19,790 Baptists and 8,365 others. Sydney
County had 7,180 Catholics, 1,473 Church of Scotland, 4,107 Church of
England. See W. Moorsom, Letters from Nova Scotia Comprising Sketches
of a Young Country (London: Colborn and Bentley, 1830),p.353.
79. Sydney County. Statement of Stock in the Province
of Nova Scotia, G.D. 45/3/456. General Register Office, Edinburgh.
80. 40 miles from Antigonish, now in Guysborough
81. Moorsam,pp.331-332, 344.
82. Haliburton, p. 279.
83. Quoted in Johnston, pp. 465-66. Sandy MacDougall
was Alexander MacDougall, a young barrister who later became
Attorney-General of Nova Scotia. MacDonald was a Dr. Alexander MacDonald
who came to Antigonish from Scotland some time between 1805 and 1810.
R.N. Henry was the father of W.A. Henry (1816-1888), one of the Fathers
84. Reverend Joseph Moll, May 1821. Quoted in
Johnston, pp. 420.
85. G. Patterson, "History of Victoria County,"
unpublished manuscript, 1885, pp. 6-8.
86. J. M'Gregor, British America (Edinburgh:
Blackwood, 1832) I, 183.
87. Ibid., pp. 184-186.
88. Exports of farm products, fish, lumber and coal
in Cape Breton rose from £45, 170.2.6. in 1830 to £ 100,403.9.10 in
89. See Agriculture: Local Societies, 1841-1860,
Sydney and Cape Breton, Vols. 20, 22, PANS.
90. See School Papers, Inverness County,
92. The history of many Catholic communities in
Saskatchewan and Alberta also indicates that religious leadership was
supplied by priests of Scottish descent from Nova Scotia and Prince
93. Interview, Scottish Presbyterian farmer, Pictou
94. Interview, Catholic Highlander farmer, Antigonish
95. An analysis of voting behavior among the Scots of
eastern Nova Scotia from Confederation to 1960 confirms this view. See
D. Campbell and R.A. MacLean, Beyond the Atlantic Roar: A Study of
the Nova Scotia Scots (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1974) pp.
96. From a Cape Breton folk-song.
97. The 1961 census listed only 3,702 people in Nova
Scotia who could claim Gaelic as their mother tongue.
98. In interviews carried out with 100 people of
Scottish descent the most impressive factor noted was their flexibility
and beauty of expression in English. All of those interviewed had Gaelic
as their first language and had grown to adulthood in an oral culture.
Their love and appreciation of words was both refreshing and admirable.