FATHER ALLAN MACINNES, O.M.I.
Oblates of Mary Immaculate
ST. PAUL’S PROVINCE
April 22, 1980
I received your letter a few days ago, at my
sister’s home, here in Vancouver. It was pure delight.
I think I can help your project to some degree. To
begin with, the "emigration of 1849" was not an emigration, it was part of
the "Highland Clearances". There are two excellent books on that subject.
I forget the titles and authors but they are easily available. My great
grandmother, a widow with seven or eight children were in that group of
125 families. She was a Mrs. Neil Johnson. One of her boys (17 or 18 years
of age), Angus Johnson, resisted so valiantly that it took six soldiers to
put the handcuffs on him.
I don’t know whether they landed at Hamilton or
where, but they eventually settled in the area you mention–Glenelg and
Bornish. I always understood some or many of them lived in Park Hill near
London, Ont. I know a good deal about the descendants of that Johnson
family. Years ago I met John Angus Johnson in Toronto. Through him I met
others in Toronto, Brampton, Thorold, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Vancouver,
Chicago, Hibbing, Minn., Denver, Colorado, etc.
As to the MacInneses buried in Clandonald–that was
my father Angus, my brother Neillie and there is also Neillie’s oldest boy
(Angus) buried there.
But the MacInneses you have on your chart are not
our branch. They may be related to us on the MacInnes side, but they
certainly are on the Johnson side. The Flora MacIntyre who married Michael
MacInnes had a son Angus. His wife was a Johnson–a first cousin of my
mother’s. I visited this Angus MacInnes at his home in Thorold, Ont. many,
many years ago. At that time he was very old, hummed Gaelic songs but I
could get little information from him, except that his father came from
Benbecula, South Uist. He did understand that he was my mother’s first
cousin on the Johnson side. He had two sons, Jim and Jack MacInnes. There
were, to the best of my recollection, two daughters–Mary and another one.
I think they are all dead now. Jack MacInnes (the old man’s second son)
was married and had a family in St. Catherine’s [sic], Ontario. Some of
that family must still be around. Jack was very active in the labour
Mrs. Johnson, the widow with the Johnson family, was
born Anne Campbell and is buried in Paris, Ont.
Our MacInnes line goes like this:
Donald Innes - Ireland
Angus Innes (no Mac) - Ireland
Duncan MacInnes who came to South Uist
Angus (my dad)
The first two in that line remained in Ireland. But
Duncan came first to Edinburgh, Scotland, and was engaged by the Lord of
the Isles (Clanranald) who had his main Castle in South Uist - Ormaclete
Castle. Duncan went out there as a metal worker–tin, silver or gold if
there was any there at that time.
His son Donald married ?
Andrew, Donald, Angus Ban, Iain (John) another
Angus–a common practice in those days to have two brothers of the same
name, distinguished by "Ban" (Fair) or "Dubh" black, "Red" etc. One Angus
(not Angus Ban) came out to Cape Breton. I met several of them down in
So nobody in my direct line came to Canada at that
time. The Angus MacInnes I met in Thorold might very well have been
related to us. Benbecula is just across the South Ford, from Ardmore where
I was born. My grandfather Andrew MacInnes was reputed to be the best
piper in South Uist. He died when my father was only three months old. The
names Donald, Angus & Andrew suggest a connection. So the MacInneses on
your side are to be looked for in St. Catherine’s [sic] Ont.
On the MacIntyre side I think I can help you. There
were MacIntyres in what I thought was Park Hill and Glenelg who came from
South Uist in 1849. They were related to some of the MacIntyres who came
out in 1923 and 1924.
The group that came out in 1923 settled, not near
Red Deer, but in Westlock, north of Edmonton. All of that Westlock group,
including MacIntyres, MacInneses, Campbells etc. did very well. There are
still some MacIntyres in Westlock. I can easily check on them. I have an
old friend here in Vancouver who knows them. I know or knew all the
MacIntyres who came out with us in 1924 to Red Deer. I stayed there one
night and got a job on a farm the following day.
One of those MacIntyres is one of my dearest
friends. He is Patrick MacIntyre, Edmonton, alberta. He is a highly
intelligent man, who knows every Gaelic song you can name. He also has two
sons who are top-notch pipers.
I will be visiting Patrick in Edmonton around June
24th. I am sure he can tell me a lot of MacIntyre lore.
I have three very important questions to ask him.
1. Is he related to Donald MacIntyre, the best
Gaelic bard Scotland has produced in centuries. Donald not only composed
incomparable Gaelic songs. [sic] I have one of his comical ones here on my
desk. It is about a bar on Paisley Road, Glasgow. I knew that bar– "Buth
Dhomhnail ‘ic Leoid". I knew this Donald MacIntyre. He translated into
Gaelic some of the best poems of Robbie Burns. The Gaelic version is an
improvement on Burns. I know–I read them both in Scots and Gaelic.
2. Second Question: are they related to Duncan Ban
MacIntyre, one of the most famous Gaelic bards of the 18th
century. Duncan Ban MacIntyre was "out in the Forty Five" but had enough
good sense to throw away his sword and go home to write poetry.
3. What he knows about the MacIntyres of 1849. I am
sure he will know of Alex MacIntyre who came out in 1923.
By the way, the name Peter is Padruig or
Peadair in Gaelic. Both are anglicized Peter or Patrick–it is the same
I hope this will be of some help to you. I have
known so many MacIntyres both in South Uist and Canada. There are some in
P.E.I. I met one of them, who was a Cabinet Minister in the Provincial
Government. He knew little Gaelic–he could count up to ten in Gaelic. He
was related to Bishop MacIntyre of Charlottetown, P.E.I. They were
certainly originally from South Uist. I will try to check on that.
Dear Peter, I have just hit the Jack Pot. I phoned a
friend & a relative of mine–Mrs. Jimmie MacLean. She was a Mary MacDonald
from Toronto. Her uncle ..... MacIntyre, was from South Uist. I knew him
very well. He made me promise him ten years in advance to say his funeral
Mass. I did.
He was one of the strongest and gentlest men I have
ever met. He has two daughters living in Toronto. They are all familiar
with the MacIntyres in Park Hill, near London, Ont. They often visited a
relative Columbus or Columba MacIntyre in Park Hill. They saw letters
there going back to the 1800s. I am enclosing their address and that of
their first cousin of theirs in Toronto. All you need to do is mention my
name––Fr. Allan MacInnes. I am related to them in several directions. Here
are the addresses:
1. Mary & Chrissie MacIntyre/
This used to be Mimico. Now I think it is Toronto
2. Mrs. L. (Red) Anthony
These are all good friends and relatives of mine.
I am getting a wee bit old–74, but I have been
pretty well over the world. Europe (I lived in Rome for five years),
Southern Africa, South America, and of course Canada and the U.S.
I forgot to mention that the Mary O’Henley on your
chart is a well......South Uist. I knew many of them in South Uist and
Cape Breton. There is one here in Vancouver whom I know very well– Peggy
O’Henley, now Mrs. Colin Leblanc. That, too, is an interesting line of
There still remains a question in my mind. How did
you find my sister’s address? This is the second request for genealogical
help I have had in three months. Genealogy is not my line. I was a
theologian and philosopher. But I did pick up wee bits of information here
and there. If you knew Gaelic it would make things so much easier. Some
day I hope we shall meet. I can’t quite picture you in my mind, but I
think you are a very determined person with the patience and meticulous
care demanded of a scholar.
I hope this helps. With all my kindest regards,
Fr. Allan MacInnes O.M.I.
P.S. Forgot to mention that I taught in our seminary
in Ottawa for almost 30 years–also St.Paul’s University, Carleton
University etc. That is why I know Ontario so well. A "wee boy" from South
This was a letter to a Peter McIntyre of Toronto,
later of London, ON, and was passed on to me by Donald Read, whose mother
was a McDonald from the Parkhill/Bornish area of Ontario. Don has
researched and published an excellent history and genealogy of the South
Uist people who settled in that area in 1849 and after.
Father Allan was a good friend of mine and we often
had him over for dinner. I would always make sure I had a dram or two of
good Scotch whisky for him as well when he came. It was he who, in 1971,
baptized my second son, Alasdair, whom he always referred to as "Alasdair
Mor". He called my older son "Donnchadh Beag".
I first met him when Donald Rankin took me out to
Holy Rosary Scholasticate in Orleans one Sunday afternoon in 1970. Donald
wanted me to meet Fr. Allan and Fr. Alexis Gillis. Donald had first met
Father Allan in 1950 when Donald had got his first car and had gone out to
Orleans to visit Fr. Marcellinus Gillis. These two brothers, Alexis and
Marcellinus, were from Iona and had become Oblates. Father Allan and I
took to one another immediately.
In the early 1970s Father Allan celebrated the first
Mass in Scottish Gaelic in Ontario. This was in a little chapel at St.
Joseph’s church on Laurier East in Ottawa. He was assisted by Donald A.
Rankin of Mabou Ridge and Ottawa, Billy MacEachern of Judique and Ottawa
and Katie MacDonald of Iochdar, South Uist, and Toronto. I attended with
my wife and two sons.
Father Allan had a long painful bout with cancer and
Donald Rankin visited him in the hospital a week before he died. Father
Allan wished for one last little deoch before he died and said to Donald,
"Tha uine bho’n a bha blas agam air uisge beatha. Am faigh thu botul dhomh?"
Donald replied, "Botul mór na botul beag?"
Father Allan whispered, "Botul beag. Feumaidh mi
cead fhaighinn bho’n dotair air son blas a’ghabhail!"
Donald got him the little bottle but still doesn’t
know if Father Allan ever had a taste of it.
Another little anecdote about whisky concerned the
time he went to visit his old area in South Uist and some kind person gave
him a treasured bottle of the Politician whisky. Father Allan
accepted it with great grace and was looking forward to enjoying it. On
the ocean liner on the way back to North America, he encountered and
enjoyed a young American couple who were returning from their European
honeymoon. Feeling he must do something for them, he gave them the rare
bottle and never had a taste himself of the "free, God-given" whisky that
was such a boon to the people of Barra, Eriskay and South Uist during the
dreary years of WWII.
He had such an engaging personality that people
often altered their usual patterns to accomodate him. On one of his visits
to South Uist he took the local bus and asked to be put off at the nearest
stop to a certain person’s home. The bus driver, who had been enjoying a
lively conversation with Father Allan, drove out of his way off his route
and delivered the priest directly to the place he had asked about.
As he mentioned in his letter to Peter McIntyre, he
had been in many countries and he spoke Gaelic, French, Spanish, Italian,
Latin and English. At the party after my son Alasdair’s baptism, he was
chatting with Donald Rankin and Wilfred Gillis in Gaelic, then with most
of the rest of us in English. What really floored our former landlords, an
Italian couple, was when this Scottish-Canadian priest sat next to them on
the chesterfield and carried on a long conversation with them in their own
colloquial tongue. They were surprised and as happy as Hell!
On one of his last trips to Rome, a city he had
lived in when he was younger and loved, he was part of the team of experts
in canon law who were assisting in the formulation of Vatican II. When all
the work was done, this group, from all over the world, asked Father Allan
to compose a few songs for their farewell gathering and dinner together.
This Father Allan did, writing and printing up Latin verses for all the
songs, set to old Gaelic airs. It was a great success!
Among other things, he was full of interesting
Gaelic lore, some of which he passed on to me. For instance, he asked if I
knew the names of the fingers in Gaelic and, when I professed ignorance,
he had me put my hand on a piece of paper and he traced the outline with a
pencil. Then he wrote in the names as follows:
An ordag—the thumb (also, the big toe)
Am ealbhag—the index finger
An gunna fada ( the long gun)—the middle finger
Mac an Aba (son of the Abbot, or MacNabb)—the ring finger
Ludag beag an airgead (the wee finger of the silver)—the pinkie or little
On another occasion, he said to me, "Tha
toimseachan agam dhut." (I have a charm for you.) Years later I used this
charm as the basis for an article which appeared in the Winter 1993/94
edition of the magazine Am Bràighe. It is reproduced here.
Cape Breton/ Uist
Folklore: I have a charm for you
by Allan Gillis
The charm below was given to me in the early 1970s
by Father Allan MacInnis, O.M.I. Father Allan was born at Ardmore, near
Loch Skiport in South Uist, in 1907 and came to Alberta at the age of
seventeen with the "Clandonald Settlers". A brilliant educator and an
expert in canon law, as well as an accomplished linguist, he always
retained a deep love of his Hebridean home and his Gaelic traditions.
Father Allan died in Vancouver, B.C., on May 6, 1983.
Father Allan learned this incantation from an old
woman near Loch Skiport to whom he and another young lad had to bring a
horse with a sprained leg. The woman, who was regarded locally as
something of a ‘white witch’, took a string which she knotted again and
again and then either tied it on or passed it around the affected limb.
The knotted string or "snaile’ was passed around the horse’s leg while the
cailleach intoned this charm:
Chaidh Calum Cille a mach,
Calum Cille came out in the morning;
Chuinnaig e casan a chuid each. He saw the legs of the
Chuir e gaoisid ri gaoisid; He put hair to hair;
Craichdean ri craichdean; Skin to skin;
Feòl ri feòl; Flesh to flesh;
Cnàimh ri cnàimh; Bone to bone;
Smir ri smir. Marrow to marrow.
‘S mar a leithis e sud, And, as He healed that,
Leiseadh e seo. Let Him heal this.
As can be seen, the successive layers of animal
tissue are mentioned from the outer to the innermost: gaoisid (hair),
craichdean (skin), feòl (flesh), cnàimh (bone), smir (marrow). When asked
if the charm worked, Father Allan chuckled and replied, "As far as I can
remember, it did!"
Charles Dunn mentions in Highland Settler
that a similar charm was recorded from Neil MacDonald of Albert Bridge,
Cape Breton, whose grandfather came from North Uist. His version, which is
called "Eolas an t-Sniomh (Charm for the Sprain), is:
Thainig Criosd a mach;
Fhuair e cnamhan an eich
Air bristeadh mu seach.
Chuir e fuil ri fuil Agus feoil ri feoil;
Mar leighis e sin,
Gu leighis thu seo.
(Mr. Dunn’s translation: Christ came out; He
found the bones of a horse broken apart. He placed blood to blood and
flesh to flesh; as He cured that, so cure this.)
It is interesting to note that Calum Cille (Columba)
effects the cure in the South Uist charm while Christ does in the Cape
Breton one. For the Catholics, Calum Cille would be a representative of
Christ. Also, in most versions I have seen, the charm is used only on
animals. However, the late Alex Angus MacEachern of Creignish, Inverness
County, told me that a similar charm was used locally to cure a person
with a sprained ankle. He had never heard of it being applied to animals.
Mary L. Fraser also refers to this custom in her Folklore of Nova
"Sprains were cured by an old woman saying a rhyme
over the injured member, or by placing around the sprain a string made
from white spool thread knotted with seven knots, The person who is
responsible for this bit of information asserted that she had actually had
a sprained ankle cured in this way."
In Margaret Fay Shaw’s Folksongs and Folklore of
South Uist there appears another use of a piece of knotted wool: the "snàithlin"
was supposed to remove the curse of the Evil Eye on cattle. In the same
volume there are other cures for sprains and strains: "Skin an eel in long
strips and wrap it round as a bandage with the fat side in. The eel fat
soothes the skin and, being elastic, will not bind too tightly. Put sprain
in a running stream."
Further information on Gaelic incantations can be
found in Volume XVII of the Transactions of the Gaelic Society
of Inverness (1890-1891). Another variant of the charms above appears
there in Gaelic. As well, this paper gives examples of very similar charms
from the Orkneys, Norway, Denmark and Germany. There is even an example
from the Sanskrit Atharva Veda:
Let marrow join to marrow, and let
limb to limb be joined,
Grow flesh that had fallen away, and now every bone also grow,
Marrow now unite with marrow, and let hide on hide arise.
As can be seen, charms of this type were once very
widespread. The only other mention of a ‘snaile’ that I have seen in
Canada was in a Newfoundland booklet for tourists, under the heading
"Quaint beliefs and practices". It reads as follows:
"Sick calves had peculiar knot tied over them. It
was tied nine times and pulled clear; if it became tangled, the calf was
certain to die."
The number of knots (9) is also specified in several
of the Scottish descriptions of these cures. It makes one wonder if this
Newfoundland remedy was collected from the Scots Gaels of the Codroy
Valley or from their Irish compatriots on "The Rock". I also wonder if any
of these charms were known in Glengarry County, Ontario, or the Lake
Megantic area of Quebec or, for that matter, in any other areas of Canada.
Allan Gillis is a piper and teacher
living in Ottawa.
FATHER ALLAN’S OBITUARIES
This first obituary appeared in the Ottawa
MacINNES, Rev. Allan O.M.I
Died Vancouver, B.C., on May 6, 1983. Born on March
15, 1907, at the Isle of Uist, Scotland. The son of Angus MacInnes and
Euphemia Johnston. He joined the congregation Of the Oblates of Mary
Immaculate at St. Laurent, Manitoba, in 1927 and was ordained a Priest on
July 15, 1934, in Rome, Italy. From 1935 until 1973 he served in the
Ottawa area in various capacities as the superior of the Scholasticate in
Orleans; as teacher of Dogmatic Theology and as Spiritual asvisor to many.
In 1973 he returned to the west to spend his retirement years’ The wake
will be on Tuesday, May 10, at St. Augustune’s Parish, Vancouver, with the
funeral on May 11 in the same church. Interment will be at the Oblate
Cemetery in Mission, B.C. He is survived by 2 sisters, Mrs. Annie McDonald
of Delta, B.C., and Mrs. Marion May of Sylvan Lake, Alberta, along with
numerous nieces and nephews.
The second obituary appeared
in the The B.C. Catholic, Week of May 23-29, 1983
Father Allan MacInnes, OMI
His Heart was Highland
By FATHER MACKEY, OMI
The lines of the Scottish poet of long
ago reveal the mystery of the indomitable heart of that frail son of the
Hebrides, Fr. Allan MacInnes, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, whom God called
to his eternal rest during the night of May 5, 1983, after a long and
"From the lone shieling of the misty
Mountains divide us and a waste of seas. .
Yet the blood is strong, the heart is Highland–
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides."
It was on the isle of South Uist in the Hebrides
that Allan MacInnes, second youngest of a large family of seven boys and
two girls, was born to Angus MacInnes and Euphemia Johnston on March 15,
In the warmth of that deeply Christian family, his
unwavering faith and almost defiant Highland heart were forged. And it was
here too that his great gift of brilliance was first detected and
acknowledged by being granted a scholarship while still in grade school.
With his family, at the age of 17, he left Scotland
to settle in Red Deer, Alberta. And "Clandonald", as the area was known,
became almost an island of Scottish tradition in the prairie waste.
Fr. "Mac", as he was later affectionally to be
called, continued his education in Edmonton and entered St. John’s
Juniorate in 1925. His long and dedicated Oblate life began when he
entered the novitiate at St. Laurent and took vows on September, 8, 1928.
He had barely begun his scholastic studies when his brilliance was again
recognized and he was sent to the Angelicum in Rome to finish his studies
and where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1934.
Fr. MacInnes had a great love for youth and gladly
accepted his obedience to St. Patrick’s College, Ottawa, where he spent
the first five years of his priesthood. But it was in 1935 that he began
what was to become his life-time commitment, a Professor of Dogma, Moral
and Canon Law at the Oblate Seminary, Holy Rosary Scholasticate, where his
deep faith and keen intellect helped to nurture the vocation of many an
Oblate priest and brother. Even when he became superior of Holy Rosary in
1953, he still retained his extraordinary empathy with youth, whom he
captivated with his quick wit and almost endless patience and compassion.
He was always the gracious host and sought after by many people from
various walks of life. And he even lists as one of his "hobbies" during
those years at Holy Rosary his nearly 30 years of service on the
matrimonial court. Little wonder that his funeral was a living memorial to
his great contribution to the Oblate priesthood in Canada. Nearly 40 of
his former students, from all across Canada, joined with Fr. Allan Noonan,
provincial of St. Paul’s Province, Fr. Roy Boucher, O.M.I., provincial of
St. Peter’s, and Fr. Joe Rossiter, pastor of St. Augustine’s, to
con-celebrate in the presence of Archbishop James F. Carney and one of his
former students, Bishop Hubert O’Connor of Whitehouse.
The Gaelic quotations of Fr. Larry MacLennan, O.M.I.,
who preached the sermon, brought memories and tears to the eyes of his two
sisters, Mrs. Annie McDonald and Mrs. Marion May.
As Fr. Mac’s body was carried through the doors of
St. Augustine’s, the lament of the bagpipes drowned out the noise of the
city streets and spoke of his great reverence for his Scottish tradition
and the yearning in his heart for his homeland.
The third obituary was printed in Oblate Missions,
p. 25, No. 153, June, 1983.
FATHER ALLAN MacINNES, OMI
On May 5, Father Allan MacInnes, OMI, died quietly
during the night, finding release at last after a long and painful
illness. He was seventy-six. His death in Vancouver brought to an end the
life of a brilliant theologian, a renowned and revered teacher and a
beloved friend to many, particularly to the members of his Oblate family.
Born on one of the Uist Isles of the Outer Hebrides,
he emigrated with his family from Scotland while he was still a boy. The
family homesteaded in Alberta. His Catholic upbringing and his own deeply
religious spirit led him to choose the life of an Oblate of Mary
Immaculate. He made his high school studies in Edmonton, boarding at St.
Mary’s Home with the Sisters of Providence while attending Third Street
High, the Catholic Secondary School of Edmonton at that time. He finished
his high school studies at St. John’s Juniorate, Edmonton, before entering
Noviciate at St. Laurent, Manitoba, in 1927. He pronounced his Final Vows
as an Oblate on September 8th, 1931. He pursued his
philosiphical studies at Lebret, Saskatchewan, and his theology at the
Angelicum in Rome, where he was ordained on July 15th, 1934.
His first obedience, to Holy Rosary Scholasticate,
set the course for his career. There he served variously as Professor of
Philosophy, of Dogmatic, of Moral, and of Ascetical Theology, and of Canon
Law. In 1953 he was appointed its Superior, a post he held for three terms
till 1959. After his terms as Superior he taught at St. Patrick’s College
in Ottawa. For a year he was a visiting professor at the University of
Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland in South Africa. At the end of the Second
Vatican Council he undertook the preaching of parish missions to
facilitate the renewal of the Church.
Father "Mac" will be remembered as a scholarly
professor of broad erudition and profound wisdom, qualities which made him
much sought after by people in all walks of life. He was equally a kind
and fatherly confessor and director of souls. He had an extraordinary
empathy with youth who admired his wit and intelligence as much as they
were captivated by his gentleness and compassion. He never failed to show
himself a friend of unbounded generosity, a convivial host, a man of warm
and kindly jest and great good humour. Always there was in him the memory
of the Isles of Uist, a pride in his Scottish ancestry and a love of the
bagpipes whose music carried a wistful and moving reminder of his roots in
The contribution he made to the education of Oblate
priests here in Canada, more than anything else, is his monument, his gift
to the Church and to posterity. He communicated to his students the image
of a full and joyous humanity that will long endure in the hearts of his
beloved Oblate family.
His deeply regretted passing brings to mind the
words of the Scottish poet, Robbie Burns:
"When Nature her great masterpiece
And framed her last, best work, the human mind,
Her eye intent on all the wondrous plan
She formed of various stuff the various Man."
Compiled by Allan J. Gillis,
St. Andrew’s Day, 2002, with a toast to Father Allan.