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The Scottish Catholics in Prince Edward Island 1772 - 1922
Chapter III

The voyage of the "Alexander" across the ocean was comparatively uneventful. The weather was fine, no serious storm was experiencd, and the good ship made her way slowly it is true but comfortably towards her destination. There were no mishaps of consequence to be recorded, no sickness to cause alarm, and only one death occurred, that of a little child whose frail form was committed to the deep in the presence of its bereaved mother. Doctor MacDonald was busy among the passengers, and thanks to his skill and devotedness, the usual epidemics experienced on immigrant ships were happily avoided.

Father James, too, helped by his presence to keep order amongst the passengers, and though the ship was greatly crowded good cheer constantly prevailed, and a spirit of kindly fellowship went a long way towards beguiling the tedium of the voyage. After six weeks on the water, and well up towards the end of June, one clear morning something like a blue cloud, lying low on the horizon was descried from the deck of the vessel, and soon the inimitable coast line of far famed Abegwit sprang forth from the haze that enveloped it, as if eager to meet them half way. There were some who gazed on it in absolute silence, rendered mute by the depth of their feelings, whilst others, their eyes streaming with tears, thanked God, whose guiding hand had led them safely through the dangers of the ocean voyage. There lying in full view was the land of their adoption, henceforth the scene of all their hopes and aspirations. There it lay with its primeval forest stretching down to the waters edge, mingling the green of the spruce with the red of the native clay in pictures formed by the glorious sunlight in the limpid waters of the surrounding sea.


Fareweel, fareweel my native hame,
Thy lonely glens and heath-clad mountains,
Fareweel thy fields of storied fame,
Thy leafy shows and sparkling fountains;
No more I'll climb the Pentland's steep,
Nor wander by the Esk's clear river,
I seek a home far o'er the deep
My native land, Fareweel forever.

Thou land wi' love and freedom crown'd,
In ilk wee cot and lordly dwelling
May manly hearted youth be found,
And maids in every grace excelling;
The land where Bruce and Wallace wight,
For freedom fought in days of danger,
Ne'er crouched to Proud usurper's might
But foremost stood, wrong's stern avenger.

Tho far from thee, my native shore
And toss'd on life's tempestuous ocean
My heart, aye Scottish to the core,
Shall cling to thee with warm devotion,
And while the waving heather grows,
And onward rolls the winding river,
The toast be "Scotlands broomy Knowes
Her mountains, rocks, and glens forever."

(You Have Gone From Us Forever)
A Hebridean Farewell

Where wide Atlantic's long reverberant wave,
Breaking among the slumbrous Hebrides,
By many a low green wave, -
Though Love shall cling to many a haunted shore
While ye go faring o'er the dark'ning seas,
Ye shall return no more.

Yet, whether the deserts stretch around,
Or through dull cities, go your wandering feet,
How shall that sleepless sound
Which filled your nights and days since ye were born
Upon the door of dreams through darkness beat,
And wake your hearts forlorn !

Or, in the shadows of life's passing days,
Or when the stars are dim with weeping rain,
Once more the misty bays
Shall rise to your remembrance, wide and lone, -
You'll see the peat-smoke windward drift again,
And hear the grey seas moan.

Westward the breezes bear you from our sight,
Beyond the dark horizons sinking slow,
Far past the verge of Night ;
Yet, valiant hearts, who were in need most true,
When years drift by, and Time's tired pulse beats low,
We shall remember you.

The good ship continued on her course, keeping all the while as near the shore as possible, so that the passengers might have a chance to contemplate at leisure the beauties of the land henceforth to be their home. Up Northumberland Strait they made their way, past Point Prim, where the clearings made by the exiled Acadians were still plainly visible, past the Head of Hillsboro Bay, where fourteen years before, ships of war lay in the offing demanding at the cannon's mouth the surrender of Fort LaJoie; past the two headlands stretching out into the waters, as if eager to clasp hands across the entrance to the harbour; past the three tides, where the East, West and North Rivers mingle their waters on their way to the Gulf, and as the immigrants gazed enraptured by the beauty of what they &:w, the Captain brought his vessel to, and soon she was riding at anchor at a point directly opposite the sloping ground, whereon stands today the City of Charlottetown.

Needless to say that in 1772 Charlottetown did not resemble in any detail the City of today. In fact at that date it was nothing more than a City in embryo. Its site, it is true, had been well chosen and it had been carefully laid out with wide streets intersecting at right angles. It contained military barracks of some pretensions, a residence for the Governor, who had arrived only two years previous, a hotel or two that scarcely surpassed the standing of ordinary taverns, private residences to accomodate a scanty civic population; so that taking it all in all, it was only a mere village, though it was the centre of Government, and the principal scene of business activity for the entire Colony. The immigrants, however, had not much time to study these things ; as their stay here was only short, so eager were they all to continue their journey. Soon the anchor was weighed once more, and the "Alexander" glided up the East River till they reached Lot 36, where lay the lands purchased in the previous year by Captain MacDonald. Here the final stop was made, and the passengers leaving the Ship landed on the North side of the Hillsborough River, at a point known for some time as "The Portage."

This name had come down from the time of the early French Settlers, who on their journeys from Fort LaJoie to St. Peters, were accustomed to go up the East River in boats or canoes, land at this point and portage across country to the head of Tracadie Bay, whence they could continue by water to their destination. From this time the name "Portage" gradually fell into disuse, because it necessarily lost much of its application by the changed conditions that followed the arrival of the immigrants; and furthermore, because they deemed it advisable to select a name for the locality that would serve to recall memories of the Motherland beyond the seas. As they were coming up the river they saw on the North bank, the remains of a Fort erected by the French, which give to the neighborhood around about it the name French Fort. Guided by this circumstance they decided to give their new settlement the name of Scotchfort, and this name it has continued to hold till our day.

Here then, was the end of the great journey that had occasioned so many months of anxious preparation, and had entailed so many sacrifices, trials and tears. Here was the land they had so often desired, so often dreamed of, and which in many moments of despondency they feared they might never see. Here at last they had reached the goal of their wishes, and as they gazed around them, mingled feelings of fear and discouragement welled up within them, and found outward expression in grave forebodings with regard to the future. Around them were the lands, cleared by the labors of the French settlers, who were driven out after the fall of Louisburg in 1758, but now these clearings were gradually disappearing under the vigorous growth of fourteen years. The cellars and foundations of the houses they had occupied ere still quite visible, and these ruins tend to recall to the minds of the new immigrants the painful memories of their own expatriation. Near by could be seen the charred ruins of the old French Church of St. Louis, which had shared in the destruction wrought at the Conquest, and right beside it the Cemetery, where lay the bodies of the Acadian Pioneers who had been spared by a timely death from witnessing the ruin of their homes.

No wonder then, that amidst such surroundings the new immigrants should be sad and dejected; no wonder indeed, that as they stood on the River bank, in the midst of their possessions just removed from the ship, and scattered about in distracting confusion on the shore, their hearts should be filled with sombre melancholy and sigh again for Scotia's "rugged hills."

But, the tall form of Father James moves amongst them. He speaks words of trust in the Providence of God. He has a word of cheer for this one, of sympathy for that other, or of kindly reprimand for a third, and his Priestly presence soothes their troubles, allays their anxieties, calms their fears, and fills their failing souls with a spirit of determination to face all difficulties with hope and courage. So they turn their faces to the future and with abiding trust in God, they begin to measure the possibilities of the situation.
Some preparation had been made for their coming, by the laborers sent out in the previous year by Captain MacDonald. The forest had been felled in places, primitive log cabins had been erected which now stood in readiness to welcome their first occupants. In one of these Father James said his first Mass in Prince Edward Island, surrounded by as many worshippers as could find access within its narrow walls, and thus did the Son of God come down amongst his faithful people, amid circumstances of poverty and destitution, that might well bring back to their minds the touching story of his coming on the first Christmas night in the stable of Bethlehem.

The straitened circumstances of that first Mass were only an index of the privations, which the immigrants would have to endure in every phase of their new life. It was to all that many hardships were in store for them, and looking forward with what hope they would, they could not expect to be able to do more than eke out a mere subsistence at least for many years to come.

It would indeed, be difficult to picture conditions in Prince Edward Island in 1772. The changes wrought by a hundred and fifty years of steady progress have so obliterated the landmarks of the past, that it is practically impossible to realize the state of the Colony at that date. The soil was still covered by the primeval forest except in a few places, where attempts at permanent settlements had been made. Much of the clear lands, abandoned by the French was gradually disappearing under a fresh growth of young trees, that had sprung up to surprising heights in the years succeeding the Conquest.

There were scarcely any roads in the country except some rudimentary attempts at such, in the vicinity of Charlottetown, and in consequence travelling was difficult and often dangerous. The principal highways were the rivers, and over these the travellers proceeded in boats or canoes if the season was summer, and on foot or on skates when winter's frost had covered their bosoms with a coat of ice. When the waterways failed it was necessary to travel the forest guided usually by a pocket compass, or by a blaze or mark cut on the trees to indicate the direction of the route. Of the ordinary necessaries of life the Colony had never more than a scanty supply, and owing to the difficulties of communication from place to place they were at times well nigh impossible to procure. The modern conveniences that in our day obtain in all civilized communities had not yet reached Prince Edward Island, and in consequence, the inhabitants were almost always at their wits ends how to devise ways and means of meeting the most ordinary problems that arose in their daily lives.

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