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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter V - Off To America


Owing to the troublous times, Norman decided to visit the Golden West. Hearing that a ship was about to sail from Lochbroom with a number of Scottish outcasts, he determined to join them. This was the barque "Frances Ann" of 400 tons bound for Pictou (formerly a French settlement), Nova Scotia. For some years one or two ships left some port in the north each summer with local outcasts bound for various parts of the American Continent. There were no macadamized roads in those days. Roads of a kind— mere tracks—there were in abundance, but fit only for foot and horse traffic. Horse trains carried the aged, sick, and children in "crubag packs" (wooden frames with wicker baskets) from Kildonan, Strath Brora, Strath Naver, Durness, Assynt, and elsewhere in Sutherland; from Kilmuir, Kiltearn, Strath Conan, Loch Alsh, Loch Carron, Plockton, Kinlochewe, Ullapool, and elsewhere in Ross to the shores of Lochbroom where the "Frances Ann" lay at anchor.

Such trains are unknown to-day in the British Isles, but in those days they were quite common. Each horse was tied to the tail of the preceding animal by a hair rope, and in this fashion all goods and people were transported. Such scenes were worthy of the artist’s brush, but few there be who are capable of depicting such heartrending scenes.

The outcasts as they arrived at Lochbroom found shelter in the homes of the adjoining crofters and fishermen of the locality. "A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind," while those who have suffered are generally the most kindly disposed to their fellow sufferers. The day of their departure had arrived. On July 14, 1817, the Rev. Lachlan McKenzie, of Ullapool, met the people as they were about to embark. All morning Alec Roy and Dan Ban sounded the Coronach. The hills of Lochbroom resounded to their dirge of death, while the people gnashed their teeth and cursed the men and laws that drove them into exile. There was a hush. Here comes the man of God, and the services opened by his reading the 102nd Psalm. Here David beseeches the Lord to confound his enemies and restore Sion to its pristine glory. Norman led them in singing in Gaelic the words:—

Ri m’urnuigh cisd ‘Ichobah ‘Righ.
O Lord unto my prayer give ear,
My cry let come to Thee,
And in the day of my distress
Hide not Thy face from me.

The singing over, Mr. McKenzie engaged in prayer and commended the people to the keeping of Almighty God. Their lot was hard, but let them remember David’s prayer, and in His own time God would incline His ear unto them and restore them to Sion.

Then with hand-shaking, pogadh (salute), beannachds (good-byes), tears, and wailing, the people entered the boats and rowed to the ship’s side. The scene was pathetic, and almost beyond human endurance. In some cases, owing to the approach of the grim tyrant, children were snatched from their parents and the aged from their children. There have been many sad scenes in history, but few can exceed the grimness, bitterness, and desolation of the Highland crofters bidding an eternal adieu to their beloved mountain homes. Need one wonder at the echoes of their bitterness still being heard in almost every corner of the English-speaking world. Those ignorant of the cruelties, expulsions, and misappropriations of the past wonder at the antagonism of the descendants of these people to the persecutors of their ancestors. Evil deeds, like good deeds, bring their reward; while nations, like individuals, have tenacious memories.

Some 400 men, women, and children boarded the "Frances Ann." The conveniences and provisions were of the rudest character. Indeed, some aver they were packed like cattle and considered as of much less importance. Fortunately they were one people, with one language, one grievance, and one religion. Many of them knew Norman McLeod personally. They knew him to be a bold seaman and a preacher of rare fame. With these qualifications he spontaneously dropped into the position of leader. At this time he was described as an active, well-built young man, standing over six feet high, with dark hair, high cheek bones, grey eyes, a voice of thunder, and a presence that commanded respect. The Celt and Viking were evidently combined, for certain characteristics of each race were strongly marked in him. As the ship weighed anchor, Norman gathered the people on deck. Then, with bowed heads and clenched hands, he led them in singing McCrimmon’s lament:—

"Cha tille cha tille cha tille me tuilleadh."
Return, return, return we never;
In peace nor war return we never;
With silver
or gold return we never;
Eternal adieu, return we never. Cha tille, no more.

During the voyage Norman led them daily in family worship. Being a practical seaman, he made notes of the daily sailing, the position of the ship, the winds and ocean currents. In mid-Atlantic the ship sprang a leak, and the Captain decided to return to the nearest port in Ireland. Norman convened a meeting of the passengers and explained to them all the circumstances. They empowered him to ask the Captain to proceed to America. This he did, and the Captain was about to place him in irons when he informed him that from his own reckonings the ship was much nearer to America than to Ireland. A consultation of Captain, Officers, and Norman was held. The chart was produced, the position of the ship fixed, the winds and currents examined, and thus he clearly demonstrated that their chances of safety lay in continuing the voyage.

"Well," replied the Captain, seeing a crowd of men and women around him, "I will proceed on the voyage under stress, but if ever we arrive in America you will find yourself in gaol." "Of that I will take my chance," replied Norman. The male passengers—some of them were expert seamen—manned the pumps, kept the vessel afloat, and in due time she arrived safely at Pictou. On their arrival the Captain was gallant enough to address Norman as one of his friends, and said: " Well, McLeod, I must say you are a better seaman than I am." "Not at all, Captain," replied Norman, "it was all the Lord’s doing, and to Him be the praise; but, come, let us all be friends," and so they shook hands all round.

So far as can he ascertained from the few Nova Scotian survivors at Waipu, the people who embarked on the " Frances Ann " came from the following localities. Here it may be remarked that up until 1745 the various clans had each their special territories in which the common surname of the clan was almost universally used. If strangers entered their territory by marriage or other reasons they usually assumed the surname of the clan. This custom explains the many non-territorial surnames to be found in territorial lands throughout the Highlands. Sutherland was the territorial home of the McKays, Sutherlands, and McLeods; Strathnaver was about the centre of the McKay or Reav country, and known in Gaelic as "Duthaich Mac-Aoidh"; Strathbrora was about the centre of the Sutherlands’ country, and known in Gaelic as " Cataobh "; while Assynt on to Durness was the territorial home of the McLeods; Ross was the territorial home of the McKenzies, and there also we find Rosses, Kennedys, McLennans, Gillanders (the latter is the proper name of the Rosses), McRaes, and Dingwalls. Thus from Sutherland would come the McKays, Sutherlands, McLeods, with a few Morrisons, Mathesons, Munros, Nicholsons, Finlaysons, and others; from Ross would come McKenzies, McDonalds, McLeans, McLennans, Rosses, Gillanders, Urquharts, McRae’s, Munros, and a few others. The bulk of the people at Waipu bear the names McKay, McKenzie, McLeod, McLean, McDonald, McLennan, McMillan, McRae, Munro, Morrison, Ross, and Sutherland. Hence they are almost entirely descendants of Ross and Sutherland refugees.

PROBABLE CAUSE OF EVICTIONS

It may be asked why all those cruelties seem to concentrate around the years 1800-1840. Well, different individuals will offer different solutions, according to their idiosyncrasies and knowledge of affairs. It may be surmised, however, that money and a feeling of security had some influence upon the Highland evictions.

When men become rich and powerful, with little prospect of a coming downfall, they frequently become tyrannous. The old proverb has it "that money is the root of all evil "; while everyday experience shows us that money is a curse to some individuals as to some nations.

After the ‘45 the landlords, by the action of the government, became rich, prosperous, and secure; hence by the law of sequences a period of tyranny would be brewing. It came in various forms throughout the British Isles, and in the Highlands it expended its energies in evictions and rents. On the contrary, had there been a successful invasion or other national catastrophe, it is probable that no evictions and no manifestations of tyranny would have ensued. We see this phase of the matter clearly exemplified to-day in national affairs. There is one nation in particular which has several other nations by the throat. In effect it says:

"You had us by the throat yesterday, and it is our turn to-day." Some, at least, of the evicted people saw this, and frequently referred to it. When an individual has nothing he as a rule, is considerate of others; but make him strong in physique or money, and usually he tramples upon them. In this he follows the law of cause and effect, and as with individuals so with nations, until they become degenerate or are destroyed.


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