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History of the Scots in New Scotland (Nova
Contributed by Janet Mackay
New England, New France and New Spain were already established on this side
of the Great Atlantic Roar" when New Scotland was founded by Sir
William Alexander, and King James of Scotland in the early 1600s. At that time, New
Scotland consisted approximately of the Atlantic Provinces as we know them today, and the
Sir William Alexander with King James devised a settlement
scheme of granting the title "Baronet of Nova Scotia" to any who would purchase
large grants of land in New Scotland (Nova Scotia), secure and settle those lands. These
Baronets of Nova Scotia received their lands in New Scotland (Nova Scotia) during the
ancient ceremony of "Earth and Stone" while standing on a plot of land deemed by
imaginative legalese to be part of New Scotland (Nova Scotia).
William Alexander, son of Sir William Alexander, brought out
settlers to Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, in the late 1620s and established Charles Fort
there. When the colony again went back to the French, about three years after their
arrival, these Scottish emigrants were required to return to Scotland.
More than a century later, when the French and the English
had finished their "tug of war" in claiming Nova Scotia from each other, and the
English finally kept it, Scottish emigrants again began to come here. They settled in all
parts of Nova Scotia. When the 1871 census was taken, the Scots made up the greater
percentage of the population in Colchester, Inverness, Pictou and Victoria Counties. They
also settled in large numbers in each of the other counties and became one of the leading
groups in developing New Scotland (Nova Scotia).
These Scots came from all regions of Scotland, and for many
reasons. Those emigrating from the Lowlands of Scotland, such as Dumfries and the border
areas, were seeking adventure and a better opportunities in the new colony. They settled
in many areas of mainland Nova Scotia.
In the mid 1700s, Governor Lawrence invited people in New
England to come to Nova Scotia and settle the lands vacated after the expulsion of the
Acadiens. Those who came, and now known as the Planters. They had been settled in New
England for about a century. Among them were many Scottish people who had fled from
Scotland to Ireland to gain freedom to pursue their religious persuasions. They settled
mainly in the Truro and Londonderry areas, and are known in New Scotland (Nova Scotia) as
the Ulster Scots.
Following defeat at the Battle of Culloden, life and times
became very difficult in the Highlands. The people were forbidden to speak their language
(Gaelic), play the Bagpipes (considered instruments of war) or to wear their Highland
dress. The economy went from bad to worse, and the atrocities committed on the Highlanders
by Butcher Cumberland and his followers left tales almost too horrible to tell. The
Highlanders, if they could, left.
The first Highlanders to come to Nova Scotia arrived on the
Ship Hector at Pictou in 1773. Through the years, up to and especially during the Highland
Clearances, shipload after shipload of Highland emigrants crossed the difficult seas to
Nova Scotia. The main ports of entry was Pictou, followed by Sydney, Halifax and others.
Pictou became rightly known as the Birthplace of New Scotland
Other Highlanders went to the Carolinas in the USA as we know
it today. They were required to take an Oath not to fight against the British. When the
American Revolution broke out, they found themselves fighting with the British. Many
Regiments, such as the 82nd and 84th Regiments, came to Windsor, Nova Scotia to train. The
82nd and 84th Regiments were disbanded in Nova Scotia, and the soldiers given land grants
in Hants, Halifax, Cumberland and Pictou Counties.
Following the war, many came with other Loyalists to Nova
Scotia to begin their lives yet again. They settled mainly in the western regions of Nova
Scotia. It is interesting that in Digby area, there is a small coastal community by the
name of Culloden.
Today, the descendants of these Scots and others who came
after them -=- many arriving even in our time -=- form a major part in the life and
development of Nova Scotia. We look back in time to remember the original inhabitants of
Nova Scotia, the Micmac people, and honour them with much gratitude for their kindness and
help to the first Highland settlers. We look forward in time to a more Multicultural
community in Nova Scotia, and participate in the Multicultural Associations and Councils
throughout New Scotland (Nova Scotia).
"The only difference between our ancestors and the Boat
People (Vietnam emigrants, in their struggles for freedom)," said Rev. Robert McClure
in addressing the North British Society in January 1985, "is 200 years."
Sir William Alexander
When old sea dogs regaled King James I with tales of the New
World, Sir William Alexander listened. He noted New England, New France and New Spain.
There was NO New Scotland!
In Victoria Park (Halifax, Nova Scotia), a cairn succinctly
states Sir William's accomplishments:
Sir William Alexander
His efforts to create a New
Scotland in the New World
led to the Royal Charter of
Nova Scotia, 1621
Attempts at settlement 1622-3
The creating of the Order
of Knight Baronets of
Nova Scotia 1624-5
The Coat-of-Arms of
Nova Scotia, 1626
and the occupation of
by Scottish settlers, 1629-32
In 1621, King James granted Sir William
territory between New England and Newfoundland as New Scotland (Nova Scotia). The Baronets
of Nova Scotia were created, as a settlement scheme.
Nova Scotia (approximately the Maritimes today) was divided
into provinces, each sub-divided into dioceses. Each diocese was divided into three
counties, then each county into ten Baronies of 16,000 acres each.
Each Baronet paid 1000 merks for his Barony and 2000 merks to
maintain six soldiers in the colony for two years.
Under Scots Law, Baronets "take sasine" by
receiving symbolic "earth and stone" on the actual land. Part of Edinburgh
Castle was deemed granted to Sir William as part of Nova Scotia. The Baronets were
installed with "earth and stone" there while standing in Nova Scotia. Each
received a badge on an orange ribbon, worn about the neck.
In 1629, Sir William Alexander's son brought 70 settlers to
Port Royal and built Charles Fort. When the land was returned to France (1632), the Scots
Baronet of Nova Scotia is a hereditary title. They enjoy the
privilege of wearing the arms of Nova Scotia as a badge, are addressed as Sir, and place
Bt. or Bart. after their names.
Three years after Hon. Angus L. Macdonald, then Premier of
Nova Scotia, unveiled a plague at Edinburgh Castle (1953) commemorating Sir William
Alexander and Baronets of Nova Scotia, Menstrie Castle (Sir William's birthplace) was
scheduled for demolition. Attempts to bring Menstrie Castle to Halifax failed when Scots
pleaded that it remain in Scotland.
Scots, many in Nova Scotia, financed restoration of Menstrie
Castle and established the Nova Scotia Commemoration Room there.
23 stones from a staircase, of which the Victoria Park cairn
is constructed, are all Halifax obtained of the Castle.
Today the Nova Scotia Commemoration Room requires repair and
refurbishing. The National Trust for Scotland seeks help from Nova Scotians for
Hon. T. G. D. Galbraith, Parliamentary Secretary of State for
Scotland, noted: "If Menstrie castle had to go, it could not have gone to a more
beautiful or appropriate place, but I am glad that it has been left standing where it has
stood, impregnable, for four centuries."
Pictou is a beautiful little town
located on Nova Scotia's Northumberland shore. It is a very historic town which draws
travelers from around the world. Pictou, heralded as the birthplace of New Scotland, is
the home of the first Scottish Settlers. It was in Pictou in 1773, the first boatload of
Scottish immigrants landed from the Ship
Hector. This picturesque town is easily
accessible off the Trans Canada 104, off exits 20 and 22.
The town is a fishing and shipbuilding
centre, home to many medium and small businesses, including local craft shops. The recent
development of the waterfront has thrust Pictou in the forefront of tourism. The Ship
Hector project is the focus of the waterfront development. The aim of the project is to
construct the Ship Hector over a period of 10 to 15 years to emphasize the construction of
the ship during this period. The new Hector Quay Marina will offer docking facilities in
the downtown area. The Hector Trust Archives, Hector Nat. Exhibit Centre and McCulloch
House are also located in the town.
Many local festivals and events take
place during the summer season, including the famous Lobster Carnival. The Hector Festival
takes place in August at the deCoste Entertainment Centre. The nearby marina and boat
docking facilities allow boating enthusiasts to visit the town by water. There is plenty
for you to do and see in this historic community! It is also located within minutes of the
Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island ferry. This is the only ferry that goes to Prince
Edward Island from the province. This makes Pictou a terrific stop for a couple days
before and after the one hour ferry trip to or from the Island. Plan to make this historic
town a stop in your travels.
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