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Canadian History
Identifying the Highland Scots: 
Nineteenth century immigrants in Nova Scotia
by A. M. Austin

Scottish immigration to Nova Scotia in the nineteenth century is an aspect of this province's history which has been shrouded in myth, symbolism, mistaken identities and pride. Many present day Nova Scotians with Scottish surnames, or some Scottish connection, can often be found expressing their pride with having some association with things Scottish. The chance to wear a tartan and be identified with an ancient Highland clan, or to participate in one of the province's many Scottish festivals, is considered more than just a good time to many - it is, for some, a rite. Although the Scotch element is only one of several ethnic groups that has contributed to the growth and development of Nova Scotian society, it is often the most visible: kilted Highland pipers can be found at many tourist bureaus on a summer's day and pipe bands are an essential part of every Nova Scotian parade, an unrealistically large proportion of Pictou County claims to be descended from that famous first load of Highlanders who came over on the Hector and, finally, Cape Breton is often perceived as the real 'Highland Heart' of all that relates to the Old Country here in the new. For the historian looking back at the settlement of Scottish immigrants in nineteenth century Nova Scotia, the real obstacle is to move beyond all the ethnic stereotypes and to find the real people who came to make a new life and new living on the shores of this province.

This paper is concerned with the scraping away of myths and stereotypes surrounding the Nova Scotian Scots. In particular, this paper will not simply recount the arrival of the Scottish immigrants, rather it will hopefully acknowledge a few of the key elements of the folk-culture of these people. Looking beyond traditional generalizations should help to illuminate some of the basic traits of the actual Scottish character, from which the identity of these nineteenth century immigrants may be revealed.

A study of this nature would appear to be an overwhelming task in social history - and indeed it is. This paper therefore does not purport to be comprehensive or definitive. It is important to note that there is an apparent lack of good, objective material written on the culture of the Nova Scotian Scot (at least from a social historical perspective), thus the sources used in this research are vast and varied. In order to keep the scope of this study within manageable limits, the Highland Scot settlers - those Scots originating in the Highland and island areas of Scotland - will receive the primary attention here - this is not to suggest that the Highland Scot is anymore important than those immigrants which came from the Lowlands of Scotland. In an attempt to find what was, or more correctly what is, at the heart of the Highland character, this study will focus on various themes such as the Scottish emigration, the religion of the immigrants, economic factors, the language, and the arts and recreation of these people. The logical place to begin this search for the real elements of the Highland character is in the Highlands of Scotland.

The Highlanders are the descendants of the Gaelic branch of Celts who entered the British Isles a few centuries before the birth of Christ. Most of these people settled in Ireland when the Romans came during the first century A.D. By 400 A.D. a substantial number of these Irish Gaels crossed over and occupied the western Highlands and islands of what is modern day Scotland. Charles W. Dunn describes the emergence of a distinct Highland culture:

Here, combining the missionary activities of the Christians with the military conquest of invaders, they established their own Gaelic culture. They introduced to the country their own monastic system, their own clan organization and legal code, their own forms of art, and their own Gaelic language, literature, and music.1

Up to 1746, the Highlands operated under the clan system, but after the failure of the Stewart rising on the moor at Culloden, the Lowland government undertook the systematic destruction of the clan system. There were many changes within the next few years; among them the clan chieftains were deprived of their role in Highland society and their military power was removed, the wearing of the kilt and playing of the Highland bagpipes was also proscribed. As much as the Highlanders loved their land, this indignity was enough to make some want to leave. No longer were the clansmen able to live a life of subsistence farming, military service to their chief and cattle rustling.

The clan chieftain now became a landlord and was forced to gain an economic return from the soil. Under the clan system there was a hierarchical system of familial respect where a few substantial tenant farmers rented land from a tacksman (who was usually a blood relation to several of the tenants, cottars and often the chief himself). The tacksman was responsible for rallying the clansmen at a time of war and to aid the chieftain in administering land leases and providing work for the cottars and tenants. It was really a patriarchal system. With the changes after 1746, the tacksman's job became increasingly precarious. Below the tenant farmers in the order of things was the cottar to whom the tenants sublet small scraps of land. These cottars, who made up much of the population of the Highland villages, laboured for the tenants growing oats, potatoes, barley, and raising black cattle. For generations, until the changes of the mid eighteenth century, this system worked smoothly.

Not only was this a time for political and social changes in the Highlands, it was also a time for economic changes. The rising prices for wool and meat during the latter part of the century encouraged the landlords (often the clan chiefs) to clear the inland villages of people and lease the land in large quantities to Lowland sheep farmers. At the same time, the kelping industry saw a boom when Britain experienced a shortage of alkali (made from the ash of burned kelp and used for making glass and soap). Kelp-gathering required a large labour force and so all along the West Coast and in the Hebrides, landlords were establishing crofting townships. A crofter (tenant farmer) held a croft of five or six acres and was expected to produce a meager agricultural subsistence from this poor land. The crofter also worked in the kelp industry - as landlords raised the rent of each croft so that the crofter was forced to seek additional means to pay the rent. The landlords made huge profits from the sale of alkaline ash. It seemed that the crofters were being overworked and taxed to death, all too often by the person they once thought of as a father figure. D.M. Sinclair sums up the situation best when he states, "In a remarkably short space of time the patriarchal system was replaced by the commercial."2 The cottars were worse off yet, basically living off the good will of their crofter relatives, they were scarcely more than beggars.

It appears that by the turn of the eighteenth century family was more important than clan affiliations. The clan chiefs were now to be found in the Lowland cities, or in London, living off the profits of their lands. Those left in charge of the estates (the laird or factor) were often Lowland Scots with no real connection to the people. The only people of importance to the Highlanders, besides family, were their priests and ministers. But for many, this was not enough to keep them home. The destruction of the clan system and its traditional agricultural society, not to mention its replacement with the crofting and kelping system, was not acceptable to many Highlanders - whether tacksman, tenant or cottar. As a result, many saw their future in the New World.

There is much confusion regarding the emigration of the Highland Scots. For the sake of this paper's interests, and this is oversimplifying a fairly complex and controversial issue, the Highland exodus can be divided into two periods: pre 1815 and post 1815 lasting until about mid century. In his study of Highland emigration to North America, J. M. Bumsted refers to the pre 1815 period as a 'people's clearance' :

...early Highland emigration to British North America was based upon pride and choice, and that the transplanted Highlander recognised full well that only by departing his native land could he hope to maintain his traditional way of life.3

Although there were some exceptions, the first emigrants were often the tacksmen who had lost their position in society with the breakup of the clan system. Fearing the loss of land, social status, rights and employment, many tenant farmers decided to emigrate in the pre 1815 period. These two classes could do so quite easily because of their financial position. The cottars and crofters were not so favorably disposed economically and so they had to wait to be forced onto the ships. According to Stephen Hornsby, a crofter in 1810 had "to sell at least eight cattle or their equivalent to raise sufficient money to take his wife and three children to Cape Breton."4

The first Highlanders to come directly from Scotland to Nova Scotia were those who chose to come, thereby escaping the oppression in the Highlands. The passengers aboard the Hector, which landed in Pictou in 1773, were the first of the Highland Gaels to arrive in this pristine colony. Dressed in their Highland long kilts, these first settlers were piped ashore - apparently by a crafty Scot who had not paid his fare but was supported by the others who felt it important to have a piper on board - and were forced to hew a new existence in a wilderness environment. Unskilled and somewhat disillusioned by the obvious hardships that lay ahead, these pioneers quickly got to work cutting down trees and building a new settlement. It should be noted that due to the lack of forests in the Highlands, the prospect of clearing land must have been a daunting one to these settlers.

By the end of the American Revolution in 1783, the poor economic situation in the Scottish Highlands (some factors of which included overpopulation in the crofting communities and the failure of the 1782 harvest) saw several tenants abandoning their land and emigrating to North America. In 1802, 400 Highland settlers landed in Sydney, this was the first direct voyage of emigrants from Scotland to Cape Breton. Almost all of these early settlers were Gaelic speaking and were a complete mix of Roman Catholics and Presbyterians. The Hector settlers in Pictou had been Presbyterian. From that time Catholic immigrants arriving in this port were often encouraged, by fellow Catholics, to join the larger concentrations of Catholics in Antigonish County or to move further east into Cape Breton where there was a relatively equal split of Catholic and Presbyterian Highland Scots.

Not all of the Highland emigrants were financially stable. It is in the period subsequent to the Napoleonic Wars in which we see the large number of destitute Scots being cleared from the Highlands and forced onto the boats. By 1815 the kelping industry in Scotland was declining and cattle prices were falling. The crofting system was in trouble as unemployment rose. Figures provided by Stephen Hornsby show that crofters were deciding to emigrate en masse - 9000 Scots arriving in Nova Scotia between 1815 and 1825, 2000 of which settled in Cape Breton.5 While much of the inland Highland region had been cleared for sheep farming already and the clansmen moved to crofting settlements elsewhere, the coastal and island areas were now to be cleared on a large scale. In the late 1820s with the kelp industry so poor, and the crofters unable to meet their increased rents, most landlords turned to sheep farming to maintain their estates. Although some of the evicted crofters and cottars found work in other townships or in the Lowlands, many were forced to emigrate. Some landlords even helped the poorer crofters and cottars by paying much of their passage, while others simply cancelled the crofter's debts allowing them to sell what they had to buy their passage to the New World. Much of this emigration came to Cape Breton. In fact, between the years of 1817 and 1838, the population of Cape Breton increased by about 30,000 persons (most of these were Highland Scots).

Although this may seem like a lengthy discussion of the background to the immigration, it is indeed an over-simplification. Furthermore, to understand the essence of the Highland character and culture in Nova Scotia, it is imperative to know why they came here in the first place. By 1848 emigration from the Highlands was in serious decline.

There seems to have been a myth about nineteenth century Nova Scotian Highlanders constituting a Gaelic community of self-sufficient subsistence farmers, uninterested in material progress. These settlers were concerned with survival in this new land and when the opportunity for material advancement presented itself, it was not turned down. Authors Campbell and MacLean, in their study of the Nova Scotian Scots, indicate that farming held no great attraction for the Highland pioneer: it was, essentially, a reality of the pioneer phase and "when Nova Scotia Scots wandered away..." from the province during the mid to late nineteenth century, "they pursued a wide variety of occupations, never feeling compelled to remain in agriculture."6 While hearty might describe the Highland character, pastoral is probably not quite accurate.

The adjective 'clannish' also needs some clarification. Of course the Highland Scots had been closely connected to one clan or another, but it seems that this clan system was not transplanted in the new world. Even if this had been the case, it would be hard to argue that a community of Highland clansmen ever enjoyed a state of socieoeconomic equality on either side of the Atlantic. Ian McKay makes such a point when attacking the myth that Highland Scots brought 'the true spirit of democracy' to the New World with them:

... attempting to read into such pre-capitalist social formations the comforting eternal truths of liberalism overlooked the warlike relations among many clans and the dissolution of the system: "egalitarian democracy" is not the first phrase the Clearances bring to mind.7

Just as the chieftains had been corrupted in Scotland after 1746, so too could the character of Nova Scotia's Highland immigrants be shaped by extraneous forces. This is not to suggest that the well to do Highland immigrants were prepared to show great hostility towards their less prosperous brothers, but there was in most communities an absence of the 'clannish brotherhood' that existed before 1746.

This point may seem somewhat hazy at first, but it is easily supported by the study of a Highland Scot community in nineteenth century Nova Scotia. Rusty Bittermann's study of Cape Breton's Middle River community dispels any uncertainties as to the social and economic diversity of Highland community and culture. This Gaelic speaking settlement contained both prosperous and desperate Scots living side by side. At this point it must be stated that the more prosperous settlers were almost always those who had come by choice in the pre 1815 period, thus they had a certain, albeit limited, amount of wealth to begin with. Many of these early settlers were able to travel and settle with kith and kin and so the frontlands of some Nova Scotian communities were often taken up by related families - the large numbers of Gillises, MacLellans, and MacDonalds in Southwest Margaree is but one example. In Middle River, the prosperous MacRaes and Campbells were, by the 1860s and 1870s, complaining of labour shortages for harvesting at their large farms. The latterly arriving Highlanders, often referred to as Backlanders because of the location and marginal quality of their small land holdings, were hesitant to work for their more wealthy neighbours. These Backlanders were forced to seek wage work outside of their poor farms in order to make ends meet. Many chose not to seek employment with their neighbouring 'brothers', but rather to pursue opportunities in the more profitable industrial sector. Much more could be said regarding the work ethics of the Highlanders, but one thing is clear: the Highlander was interested in the survival of himself and his family, and this far outweighed any bygone allegiance to clan or culture. Where economic advantage emerged, the practical Highlander seized the opportunity. Not all were interested in material wealth, but all aspired for a relative degree of comfort.

An examination of religion amongst Nova Scotia's Highland Scots is an issue far too emense to be dealt with within the confines of this paper, nonetheless certain observations must be made. Many differences between Catholic and Presbyterians were, and still are, evident. Yet certain notions arise which reveal important similarities between these Scots in nineteenth century Nova Scotia - similarities that impart much concerning the Highland character.

It is interesting to note how strong the Christian faith was amongst the Highland immigrants. They were not overly formal when it came to attitude or approach, but they were enthusiastic about spiritual things both Christian and, at times, pagan. Not unlike the situation in many areas of the Highlands of Scotland, the Nova Scotian settlers were often free from the presence of a resident priest or minister. Having arrived in 1773, the first Highlanders at Pictou waited until 1786 before they received a Gaelic speaking minister. By that time the people had lost much of their Presbyterian identity and the younger generation had been taught only the basics of the Christian faith; yet the fire had remained. For James Drummond MacGregor the task was not to rekindle the flames of spirituality, rather he would 're-civilize' these pioneers - stressing the importance of education, temperance and good work habits.

These people took their faith so seriously that when groups of Highland Catholics began to settle in Antigonish County and in Cape Breton by the early nineteenth century, many Pictou County Catholics packed up and moved eastward. Also suffering from a lack of clerical manpower, the Catholic Highlanders nonetheless clung to their faith. Unhindered by formalities and ritual, at least before the mid eighteenth century, these immigrants practiced a simpler religion. In 1812 the Bishop of Quebec came to Cape Breton, the furthest boundary of his diocese. It was quite a shock for him to find the priests dressed in lay attire and the services lacking in ceremony. Also in his visit, the Bishop was struck, albeit unfavorably, by the emotions shown by the Scots during Mass. Perhaps in this period of freedom from strict organizational control, the Highland immigrants were showing their most fundamental spiritual side, a side easier to conceal under the formality of ceremony.

The establishment of educational facilities by the Scots is another topic too large to be covered here. What is important to note is the support given by the Highland immigrants for the education of their children. Thomas McCulloch, a Lowland Presbyterian missionary and scholar, was the first Scot to set up a formal, college-style school in Nova Scotia. Pictou Academy was attended by Highland and Lowland immigrants alike for the education of the mind and spirit. It is interesting to note that despite the support of the Highland immigrants, McCulloch's school did not teach in Gaelic. This was probably because of the Presbyterian emphasis on English. It would seem that many Highlanders were more interested in a Christian education than in the retention of their native language. While this was going on on the mainland, other developments were taking shape in Cape Breton where the Island's best known Anti-Burgher Presbyterian, that fiery Highland Gael Reverend Norman MacLeod, was inspiring young Highlander missionaries to travel the world for God.

The problem of finding clergymen was just as bad for Catholics as for the Presbyterians, and like the Protestants the Highland Catholics soon found it necessary to educate their own. In 1813 two young men from Arisaig, Pictou County, William MacLeod and John Chisholm, left for Quebec to become the first two priests from Nova Scotia's Highland stock. It was the newly ordained MacLeod who, in 1824, set up the first seminary in Eastern Nova Scotia at East Bay, Cape Breton. It is not necessary to recount the establishment of religious and secular organizations in nineteenth century Scottish Nova Scotia. Suffice it to say that the devotion of the Highlanders to their God and their families was disclosed in their educational aspirations - for it was one of MacLeod's seminary students, Colin Francis MacKinnon, who became instrumental in the establishment of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish; and, likewise, it was Thomas McCulloch who breathed life into the struggling and newly formed Dalhousie College when he became president of that institution in 1838.

Something can be said about the Highland character when considering the attitude of these Scots towards non-Scots and their attitudes towards the differences within their own society. For instance, Campbell and MacLean point out that the Catholic/Presbyterian division did not take on the ugly characteristics that religious tensions have generated in other societies:

Despite the launching of an occasional bigoted broadside there was ... a general spirit of tolerance. One explanation may well be that all took pride in their Scottish background... and appeared to believe that 'the happiest lot on earth is to be born a Scotsman.' 8

This pride in being Scottish, and especially being a Highlander (being from Scotland's Highlands or islands), did not seem to take on a seriously bigoted or racial tone. In Margaret MacPhail's excellent account of pioneer life in Cape Breton, Loch Bras d'Or, a Highland father is happy to see his daughter marry a local Dutchman. It is interesting to note the criteria by which Presbyterian John MacNab measures the worth of his daughter's future husband:

I am thinking a good man for Charlotte is that dutchman that works for Mr. Beaton. He is a good worker, sober and saving... The folks say he is mean. Well, that's a good fault in a hard working man. Him that is generous has many friends while his prosperity lasts.9

Having made sure he was a good Christian (and a Protestant at that), MacNab judged the man by his potential as a provider for his daughter and not by the man's nationality or lineage. MacPhail's book also illustrates the oft observed custom of hospitality to strangers. Colin S. Macdonald, while studying the Highland immigrants a century later, observed this trait still evident amongst families of Highland descent:

On some occasions, when travelling in Eastern Nova Scotia, I have called at some houses (of strangers) to make enquiries, and when about to leave have heard the words: " I'd be glad if you could stay the night." 10

Modern, mainstream society would do well to incorporate into its culture some of these aspects of the Highland disposition.

The language of the Highlanders was Gaelic, or spelt in the original form Gaidhlig. By the time of the emigration however, a large number of Highlanders had, if nothing else, been introduced to English. More specifically, English had made irreconcilable intrusions into the culture of the Presbyterian Highlanders. Scottish Catholicism on the other hand, had been left to struggle largely on its own in Scotland - with little direct influence from Rome. As a result of this the Highland Catholics were completely Gaelic speaking before arriving in the New World.

Gaelic in Scotland had been forced to take on a more oral nature when opportunities for literacy declined. The uprooting of Gaelic in the Lowlands during the eleventh century meant that Scottish education would be English dominated (most educational institutions were in the Lowlands). Educational facilities in the Highlands, if available at all, were sparse and inadequate, thus many of the emigrants to Nova Scotia could neither read or write their mother tongue. Those who were literate in Gaelic produced little in the form of literature, except for a few notable poets. The best known Gaelic poet in Nova Scotia was John Maclean who immigrated to Antigonish County from the Island of Tiree in 1819. Maclean wrote about both spiritual subjects and the hardships of pioneer life. There were a few Gaelic publications, however, being produced in Nova Scotia during the latter half of the nineteenth century. They were largely unsuccessful though because by this time there was not a large Gaelic reading population. One paper is worth mentioning; MacTalla (The Echo), edited by Presbyterian Johnathan G. MacKinnon. Produced in Sydney and enjoying a readership in places as far off as Scotland, MacTalla ran as a weekly from 1892-1904. Besides its prevalent role in family life, Gaelic only held one strong position in the public life of the Nova Scotian Highland community, the church.

Gaelic in the church was threatened too. In Scotland, the official language of the Presbyterians, whether Church of Scotland or Anti-Burgher as the Secessionists were known, was English. Despite the influence of the early Gaelic speaking missionaries and ministers, it was only a matter of time in which the Highland Presbyterian element would be Anglicized - and from a larger perspective, it was the language of advancement in the New World. While many parents tried to keep Gaelic as the language of the house, successive generations of Nova Scotian Presbyterians were quick to forget the 'domestic gibberish'.

In Catholic circles, especially in the isolated regions of Cape Breton, the Gaelic held on longer. The Catholic Church in Scotland had not yet, by the turn of the eighteenth century, been fully Anglicized like the Presbyterians, thus there was still a Gaelic influence from the homeland. By mid-nineteenth century many second and third generation settlers were forced to seek employment in the English parts of the Maritimes, or further away in places such as the 'Boston states' (this was a common Nova Scotian term for New England where many Gaels went in search of employment). While Gaelic was still the language of many homes and quite a few parishes by late nineteenth century, the encroachment of English was overpowering. Whereas the use of Gaelic had been actively attacked in Scotland for two centuries, Gaelic was also being actively suppressed in certain parts of mainland Nova Scotia.

Were Gaelic speakers overcome by the all powerful English language? Or was the Gaelic not so important to the Highland Scots of late nineteenth century Nova Scotia? These are tough questions and deserve more attention than can be given them here. One observation that can be made from this study is that religion was one of the strongest influences on the Highland mentality in Nova Scotia. Practicality was probably one of the other key elements of their character. It was practical to learn to read and write English in order to live in Nova Scotia, and ultimately this New World. Where the Highland community was Presbyterian, the Gaelic was first to go as the working language. While the Catholics held onto the Gaelic for a longer time, outside influences on the Gaelic parish would soon find Mass performed in both and eventually one language. However Gaelic was preserved, and still is used, for special occasions in the Catholic churches where there was/is a strong Highland influence, the role of the church is perhaps why in these communities the Gaelic still lingers.

At the heart of their faith and their practical approach to life, there appears to be a sense of simple jollity that underlies the Highland character. Highlanders are often pictured as lovers of whisky, bagpipes, haggis and the Highland-fling, but of course this is a stereotypical image grounded in scant facts and much fiction. In fact, haggis and whisky are far more applicable to the Lowlands. There are, in any case, some very unique and important aspects of Highland 'play culture' that provide us with an awareness of the Highland nature.

One of the chief features of Highland social life, both in Nova Scotia and Scotland, was the ceilidh. The ceilidh was a gathering of relatives and friends with songs, legends and stories (sung and told in Gaelic - at least while it was still being spoken), music (especially the fiddle or bagpipe), food and tea (and sometimes something a little stronger). Step dancing to the fiddle tunes, a more popular and practical dance form than the 'fling', was originally performed by the males, but by the turn of the eighteenth century the immigrant women and girls were quickly catching on.

Besides the ceilidhs, the Highland immigrants seemed to use any occasion for a good party; and in areas where the parties involved drinking, a 'friendly fight' was not uncommon. The light-heartedness of the Highland spirit is illustrated in a story common to the Antigonish area. This version is taken from Campbell and MacLean's book, Beyond the Atlantic Roar:

... on his way to a mission church at the Keppoch in Antigonish County one Sunday morning, [a cleric] encountered two young men, slightly the worse for a night of drinking and dancing. He berated them strongly, ending up by stating that he doubted if they even knew the Lord's Prayer. One of the men, holding a violin in the crook of his arm suggested: "Well, you whistle it, Reverend, and I'll try it." 11

It is a little known fact that for many Highlanders evicted during the Highland clearances, fiddles and bagpipes had to be smuggled on board - at this time the Highland culture was being actively suppressed by the English authorities and so getting onto an emigrant boat with one's Highland culture in hand was not easy. In his book, On the Crofter's Trail, David Craig provides an insightful and highly useful look at the present day remnants of Highland culture in Cape Breton. From one excerpt where he is recalling a country dance at Glencoe Mills, Inverness Co., Craig describes a step dancer who dances with a vitality that would be hard to find in present day Scotland:

The music, like the heat, was Scots and it wasn't Scots, and although we knew the steps of the reel well enough..., the solo turns were quite unScottish, they were more like dancing I had seen in Donegal [Ireland]. An acknowledged maestro, woman or man, would take the floor, everyone else drew back, and in the dusty space a metronomic frenzy was let loose, legs shooting forward from the knee, sideways from the knee, feet flying like shuttles, torsoes and heads bobbing but never turning, arms at the sides, only the legs and the feet flip-flip-flipping with the tireless precision of a loom.12

This may seem like an overly long quotation, but it is important because it describes an expression of the Highland character. If culture is the expression of the spirit of a people, then jolly would seem to describe the soul of the Highlander. By bringing their faith, stories, songs, music and dance with them, these settlers were able to preserve the essential elements of the Highland character - elements that had become outlawed in Scotland after 1746. Even though the Gaelic had lost much of its position in the life of the immigrant population by the end of the nineteenth century, the music and dance survived. And in some of the communities originally settled by Highlanders, these cultural expressions still flourish today.

It is the historian's task to go back into the past, to go beyond traditional images, and to find out what really was the important components of a society or culture. When you scrape away all of the Scottish pretenses of modern-day perceptions of the Highlanders, the question becomes: What is left? What is at the heart of the Highland character? By the end of the nineteenth century certain basic elements within Nova Scotia's Highland immigrant population emerge. Faith and religion was certainly a key ingredient of their society. These people had a contented disposition (clearly for reasons other than material wealth), this is evident in their hospitality to strangers and the absence of a strong racist element in their society. And while Gaelic may have died as a working language, the spirit of the Gaidlealtachd, or Gaelic culture, was still strong by the end of the nineteenth century. These practical people kept their faith, continued to sing their songs, play their music and step their dances, while bravely facing their future in the changing society of a rapidly modernizing Nova Scotia. Perhaps when all of the conventional stereotypes are removed, the character of the Highlander becomes something less Scottish and more Celtic - but this is the subject of another study in social history.


1. Charles W. Dunn, Highland Settler: A Portrait of the Scottish Gael in Nova Scotia, (Toronto, 1953), p. 3.

2. D. M. Sinclair, "Highland Emigration to Nova Scotia", The Dalhousie Review, Vol. XXIII, (Halifax, 1943-44), p. 209.

3. J. M. Bumsted, The People's Clearance: Highland Emigration to British North America, 1770 - 1815, (Edinburgh, 1982), p. xvi.

4. Stephen Hornsby, "Scottish Emigration and Settlement In Early Nineteenth-Century Cape Breton", in K. Donovan ed., The Island: New Perspectives on Cape Breton History, 1713 - 1990, (Sydney, 1990), p. 54.

5. Ibid., p. 54.

6. D. Campbell and R. A. MacLean, Beyond the Atlantic Roar : A Study of the Nova Scotia Scots, (Toronto, 1974), p. 183.

7. Ian McKay, "Tartanism Triumphant: The Construction of Scottishness in Nova Scotia, 1933 - 1954", Acadiensis, XXI, 2, (Fredericton, 1992), p. 42.

8.Campbell, op. cit., pp. 226-227.

9. Margaret MacPhail, Loch Bras d'Or, (Windsor, 1970), p. 160.

10. Colin S. Macdonald, "West Highland Emigrants In Eastern Nova Scotia", Nova Scotia Historical Society Collections, Vol. 32, (Kentville, 1959), p. 15.

11. Campbell, op. cit., p. 201.

12. David Craig, On the Crofter's Trail: In Search of the Clearance Highlanders, (London, 1990), p. 112.


Bittermann, Rusty. "The Hierarchy of the Soil: Land and Labour in a 19th Century Cape Breton Community" in The Acadiensis Reader: Volume One. Fredericton, 1990.

Bumsted, J. M. The People's Clearance: Highland Emigration to British North America, 1770 - 1815. Edinburgh, 1982.

Campbell, D. and MacLean, R. A. Beyond the Atlantic Roar: A Study of the Nova Scotia Scots. Toronto, 1974.

Craig, David. On the Crofter's Trail: In Search of the Clearance Highlanders. London, 1990.

Donovan, Kenneth ed. The Island: New Perspectives on Cape Breton's History. Sydney, 1990.

Dunn, Charles W. Highland Settler: A Portrait of the Scottish Gael in Nova Scotia. Toronto, 1953.

Haliburton, Gordon. "For Their God" - Education, Religion and the Scots in Nova Scotia. Halifax.

Macdonald, Colin S. "West Highland Emigrants In Eastern Nova Scotia" in Nova Scotia Historical Society Collections, Vol. 32. Kentville, 1959.

McKay, Ian. "Tartanism Triumphant: The Construction of Scottishness in Nova Scotia, 1933 - 1954" in Acadiensis, XXI, 2. Fredericton, 1992.

MacPhail, Margaret. Loch Bras d'Or. Windsor, 1970.

Sinclair, D. MacLean. "Gaelic In Nova Scotia" in The Dalhousie Review, Vol. XXX, No. 3. Halifax, 1950.

Sinclair, D. M. "Highland Emigration to Nova Scotia" in The Dalhousie Review, Vol. XXIII, Halifax, 1943 - 44.

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