Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Canadian History
To the Scottish Pioneers
by Charles Bury

Our thanks to Anne McClaughry for sending in this material for us to use.

Early Scottish Pioneers Recognized in Stornoway Ceremony

To the Scottish Pioneers...

STORNOWAY — The earliest European settlers of the Upper St. Francis Valley have finally received some recognition — in the form of a granite monument unveiled on Sunday by their offspring.

Scottish pioneers expelled from their homeland settled the area in the mid-19th century. Local historians estimate that they numbered up to 20,000. About 275 of their descendants attended the colorful ceremony, which took the form of a tri-lingual open-air service of the Presbyterian Church.

Mother Nature lent a hand as well, keeping the sun strong enough to take the edge off an early autumn northwest wind strong enough to blow hats off.

To the skirl of highland bagpipes and beneath the collected tartans of their clans, the assembled throng prayed for their ancestors, then for the future, and witnessed the unveiling of the six-foot pyramidal cairn.

A plaque in English and Gaelic on the monument recalls the pioneers and maps the cemeteries where their remains are buried.

Local historian Duncan McLeod presided over the ceremonies, organized by Gordon Matheson, Muriel MacDonald Mayhew, Ruth MacDonald Nicholson, Agnes MacLeod Clark and Catherjne MacLeod Young.

Karen, Evelyn and Raymond Smith and Nancy Jellison rounded out the volunteer organizing crew.

Pipers Marc Lebel and Ronald Sutherland did the musical honors under the watchful eye of Pipe,Major Sammy Grier.

A scripture was read in Gaelic by Eva Morrison; the monument was blessed in English by Robert Sandford.

The Stornoway ceremony

Presbyterian clerics were joined in the service by Curé Léo Parent of Stornoway’s St-Alphonse Roman Catholic church. Speaking mostly in French, Rev. Parent invited all present to join in the parish’s annual bean supper afterward.

The land for both St-Alphonse Church and Winslow cemetery across the highway was given by 19th century village storekeeper James Leonard, whose grandson Henry was on hand.

The younger Leonard remarked that although from Ireland not Scotland, Henry, who was later mayor of Sherbrooke, defended famous local outlaw Donald Morrison in court, and his brothers helped the fugitive hide in the family hotel and general store.

Invited guests included Megantic-Compton MNA Madeleine BéIanger, Winslow (Stornoway) Mayor Guy Béliveau, and representatives of the St. Andrew’s Society of the state of Maine, and the Caledonian Society of Restigouche, in Atheistan, New Brunswick.

The cairn was designed and built by David Gillies, and decorated and engraved by Jean-Guy Lacroix. It includes two small stones from the Scottish islands of Lewis and Harris, whence most of the settlers came.

Normal Campbell, of Seatte read a tribute from his father Alexander, a grandson of the Townships pioneers:

"Let us now review briefly the account of the migration of which our people were a part. When, however, the existing political and economic circumstances forced the expulsion of our people from Lewis, Scotland, and they set their course for Canada, little did they realize that in their distress and deprivation, the unseen Hand of God was guiding their destiny.

"Twenty thousand Gaelic speaking Scots settled in what is known as the Eastern Townships of Quebec. They named their new settlernents after the locations they left in Scotland. Something of the character of the people is captured in an article by a Canadian Correspondent:

"They, a true pioneer, the Gaels had no material wealth! The ship they boarded was so small that boxes of bedding and clothing, and perhaps a few spinning wheels were all their possessions. But they had something infinitely more precious to them than worldly wealth, their Gaelic Bibles, and in their hearts their language and song, and an integrity unsurpassed by any other people.

"They braved a long and rough voyage across the Atlantic in less than sea-worthy boats (the mortality rate was high), and landed in a virgin forest, a sight which they had never seen before — and this was to be their homes.

"What greeted them was not what the Government and the Land Company had promised them — which was warm, sunny maple sugar groves and productive soil fit for tobacco plantations.

"They found instead, a hard, rocky forested land, which had to be cleared of large trees, and cultivated with great hardship, and a bitter, hostile climate that yielded nothing more than subsistence-level farming.

"The National Geographic Magazine, in an article a few years ago, wrote:

"The Gaelic speaking Celts were a particularly distinctive race, warlike and hardy, yet also mystical and artistic. They are described as having a character, and a culture which bridged the gap between the materialistic West and spiritualistic East.'

"This latter point was certainly, true of our people, for in every part of this Continent where they settled, the seeds were sown, not only of Christian civilization, but of Christianity itself, with all of the, side benefits and blessings. Unknown to themselves they had become the forerunner of the Lord’s Mission in a new world.

"From their limited and difficult beginnings, they managed to develop and sustain a very civilized and caring society. Their Christian hospitality and neighborly supportive measures are known, respected, and remembered by many both far and near.

"The Reverend Malcolm MacDonald, a native of Whitton, Quebec, a descendant of the early settlers and of the first church established in the area, says:

"‘The Book of Books was the library they opened, and the Church of Jesus Christ was the first institution they established and that in their homes, and the Gospel of Christ was the philosophy they espoused.’ "

"The most casual observer and historian must admit that these early settlers played a leading part in setting the course in which the Nation travels today.

"I am indeed grateful that we are privileged to stand in the stream of. a noble, spiritual, national and cultural tradition, which has flourished in Scotland for centuries, and for some 150 years established firmly on this North American Continent, in both Canada and the United States.

"If we were to call the roll of that great company of men and women from whom we have, all descended, there would answer from within the portals of the Church Triumphant, the voice of a company of people equally as noble as those who ever walked across the pages of the New Testament, or the dusty pages of human history. For we are truly the recipients and inheritors of an unusual heritage and tradition, which should be cherished, appropriated, and transmitted to succeeding generations.

"Our roots are deeply embedded in a great spiritual, cultural and social heritage, which too few, I believe, have ever fully appreciated or expressed. Since there is nothing more important or becoming than a thoughtful, reverent and grateful recognition of our indebtedness to those who have transmitted to us the qualities and motivations which are the bases and foundations of our society and families, may they now know that, the remembrance and recognition of their lives and gifts are this day being inscribed and recorded for present and future generations to ponder and revere!"

Return to Canadian Scottish History


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus