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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter XI - The Sailing of the "Margaret"

No sooner had the money been forthcoming than the ships were launched and duly equipped with all the necessary gear. They were also well provided with food, some agricultural implements, tools, and such furniture and household utensils as would be required on the voyage and the making of a fresh start in their new home. Those who jeered and laughed at the enterprise were now its enthusiastic supporters. They could attribute its success to no other cause than a special interposition of Providence, and so they poured their blessings upon them and lent them their aid wherever practicable.

Meetings were held weekly in the church to render thanks unto God and to bless both givers and receivers. The summer of 1851 proved to be the most memorable in the history of St. Annís, for during it all opponents were converted into friends and all doubters into firm believers. A wave of religious enthusiasm swept over the district, reminding them of that in Assynt of old, and showing them that the faith of their fathers was a genuine and sustaining belief. Success followed success, while the departing friends were loaded with gifts and tokens of goodwill.

The autumn was advancing, and on October 28, 1851, the ships were ready for the journey. During the night, however, a heavy frost descended, and the "Highland Lass," which was anchored nearer to the shore than the

Margaret," became ice-bound. This might delay her departure for a few days or even for a season, but the "Margaret" and her people decided to proceed on the voyage. On the morning of departure the people from all the surrounding districts gathered at the St. Annís Church and fairly crowded the building. Norman preached his farewell sermon from the words: "Fear not for I am with thee." He was always a powerful and fluent speaker, but on this occasion he excelled himself. His countenance shone with a radiance that betokened heavenly inspiration. He traced the hand of God in all the wanderings of his people; he recalled to them their troubles and trials in Caledonia, and their marvellous escape from two nautical disasters; their blessings of good health and worldly prosperity, and their rescue from seeming despair in their present venture. It must be clear to them that an unseen hand had been guiding and prospering them in the past, and so with faith all would go well in the future. Let them accept in trust the words of God just read to them. Let them accept the promise and commit all their cares to Him.

To those of them who were remaining at St. Annís he would say: "Remember the traditions of your people and country, remember your godly ancestors, the men and women who indeed held converse with God. Follow their examples, and if so they might rest assured that neither principalities nor powers could overcome them." Such was the wisdom of his words, the pathos of his voice, and the earnestness of his preaching that there were few dry eyes in the congregation. Some sobbed aloud, while others cried "O Dhia nan gras be mailler rinn" (O merciful God be with us). Bidding good-bye to old Scotia was a heartrending business, but bidding good-bye to St. Annís was equally so.

"Cha teille, cha teille, cha teille me tuilleadh"
(Return, return, return we never)

could now be uttered with as much emphasis as was done on the shores of Lochbroom in 1817. The words indeed were prophetic, for none of the old people ever returned to Scotland or to Nova Scotia.

During the 33 years of their pilgrimage in Canada many of the older generation had crossed the bar or, in their own expressive and familiar tongue, had gone "dhachaidh" (gone home), while a new generation had sprung up who knew not Caledonia. Grief, want, and heartache took their toll. Love of home and Country is a strong trait in the character of the Celt. Be it a turf hut on the hillside or a clay biggin on the edge of the cliff, to the Celt it is the dearest spot on earth. He, indeed, verifies the poetís words when he sings:-

What mortal hand can ere untie
The filial band that knits me to thy rugged strand.

Their circumstances were somewhat different, but the harrowing of their feelings was much the same. "Goodbye, friend and foe; good-bye to the House of God," said Norman; "and may He protect us until we build for Him a new house in the land to which we are about to proceed. The blessings of God be with all those in this land and with His people everywhere."

With these words Norman descended from his pulpit. He was now in his seventy-first year, and with his wife, three daughters, three sons, and 136 of his people, he left the church and proceeded to board the good ship "Margaret."

Duncan McKenzie (the Moses of the settlement) led the people singing in Gaelic the Old Hundredth Psalm :

"Togadh gach tir ard-iolach glaoidh"
(All people that on earth do dwell).

So overwrought were the people, and so clear to them were the mysterious workings of Providence, that everyone wished to depart with the "Margaret." Norman now appeared to them as one of the prophets of old, and everyone blessed him. He possessed marvellous personal attractions, and seemed to have some magnetic influence over his followers. After much weeping, much praying, and endless "beannachds" (blessings or good-byes) all of them found their allotted places on board.

The anchor was weighed, the bell tolled, the gangway lifted, the mainsail unfurled, while everyone on board waved handkerchiefs and caps with countless "beannachds" and farewells as the "Margaret" moved from her moorings.

The moment was tense, friends were parting perhaps for ever. Then went forth a mighty shout from those remaining behind saying "God be with you until we meet again." Heads were bent, tears flowed, and many engaged in prayer. Those left behind were now more overcome than those who had departed, and if ships were available it is probable that everyone in St. Annís would have joined the quest of the Argonauts in their search for the Golden Fleece.


The following are the names of the heads of families, and the numbers in each family, who sailed in the "Margaret," and the townships from which they came :óAnderson (1) Aberdeen, Campbell (7) St. Annís, Dingwall (1) St. Annís, Fraser (7) St. Annís, McGregor, D. (8) St. Annís Glen, McGregor, John (3) St. Annís, McGregor, R. (2) St. Annís, McGregor, Jas. (3) St. Annís, Mathieson (1) St. Annís, Mclnnes (3) St. Annís, McKay, G. (14) Baddeck, McKay, R. (ó) Baddeck, McKay, R., sen. (11) Baddeck, McRae, Miss and family (7) Middle River, McLeod, D. (9) St. Annís, McLeod, John (10) St. Annís, McLeod, G. (3) St. Annís, McLeod, Rev. Norman (8) St. Annís, McKenzie (7) Baddeck, Kerr (1) St. Annís, McLeod, T. (1) St. Annís, McLeodb John (1) St. Annís, Ross (10) St. Annís, Ross, R. (ó), Sutherland (9) St. Annís.


This expedition was one of the most remarkable in the annals of British history. A simple rural people voluntarily leaving their homes in search of a land at the other side of the world of which they knew nothing. What stout hearts, what faith, what loyalty to their leaders these people exhibited. It was indeed the biblical story revived of Moses and Aaron leading their people into the Promised Land.

Well might Norman with his knowledge of classical lore have named his ship "The Argo," his people "The Argonauts," and himself "Jason." They, indeed, were sailing in search of the Golden Fleece, and knew not what lay before them. There is nothing in British history that can approach it, for they built their own ships and equipped them. They found officers and crews amongst themselves. They sailed them successfully, while committing their destinies to the God of their fathers. The nearest approach to it that we have is the voyage of the "Mayflower" and the Pilgrim Fathers. Somewhat similar circumstances moved both parties; but, oh, what a difference in the navigators and the seas which they traversed. The Golden West has been the home of those who have sought personal and religious freedom, the outcast and the persecuted. Its history has been a surprise to the world and its success phenomenal. The St. Annís Argonauts were reared upon the Bible. They likened themselves to Israel in Egypt. They had their Pharaoh and their Moses. They had their visions of a Promised Land, and now with their own Moses and their own Aaron, the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, they were moving into their Land of Promise. The expedition is a marvellous illustration of the results of biblical training and human faith.


As the Argonauts wended their way towards the equator the weather and seas were at their best. Morning and evening the shipís company gathered on deck and engaged in family worship. Then was heard the voices of this band of enthusiasts singing in Gaelic the grand old tune

Perhaps Dundeeís wild warbling measures rise,
Or plaintive martyrs worthy of the name,
Or noble Elgin beats the heavenward flame,
The sweetest far of Scotiaís holy lays.

Probably never before did tropical seas witness such scenes. There were no class distinctions, and none to say "I am better than thee." Captain, officers, crew, minister, and people occupied the same home, sat at the same table, performed the same tasks, spoke the same language, owned the same country, and worshipped after the same manner. They were as one large family with the aged high priest as a common father. Each helped the other, so that mutual confidence and esteem was the dominant note.

Man is a complex creature, both on his moral and his physical side. To relieve the monotony of the voyage and free the mind from its surrounding moods, Rob Donn, Duncan Ban, and other masters of the muse were invited to grace the platform. Then would burst forth a chorus of voices singing the caustic lines of " Ishbal Nic-Aoidh" (Bella McKay) or the pathetic strains of "Ben-doran" (name of Scottish mountain). Norman was a past master in all that concerned the welfare of the human mind. Songs, games, music, story-telling, reading, and feats of strength were regularly practised. The "piob mohr" (bagpipe) was produced, and as the "Margaret" glided over tropical waters the wild skin of "Hey, Johnnie Cope" or "The Deíil amang the Tailors" could be heard wafted over the boundless main. At an appropriate moment Norman would retire to his sanctum, and then both young and old would tread a measure to the lightsome strain of Ian McKayís fiddle. They were children, and happiness expressed in movement is part of the life of all young creatures.

On their way they called at St. Jago, in the Cape Verde Islands, and also at Capetown (South Africa), in order to procure supplies of fresh water, fruits, and vegetables. From both these points they posted letters to their friends at St. Annís. Everything went well, all were in the best of health, the weather was delightful, and the people were happy.


Meantime the "Margaret" proceeded on her eastern journey. They were in no hurry, and decided to run down their easterlies further north than was usually the case. This would prolong the voyage, but it would give them warmer weather and more comfort in sailing. Every day had its duties. Some went to school, some to trades, and some to the routine of the ship. Time passed pleasantly, and on April 10, 1852, after a voyage of 164 days and a sail of 12,000 miles, they arrived safely at their destination.

In those early days there was no wharf at Adelaide and no place at which to tie up their ship, so they were compelled to cast anchor in the stream. This done, Norman assembled the people on deck, reared an altar, and offered thanks to God for His goodness and protection during their long journey. They encountered no storms, while the health of every member of the expedition was excellent. The people knelt and joined in prayer, and then sang Psalm 23:

"Is a Dia fein aís buachaill dhomh"
(The Lordís my shepherd, Iíll not want).

Here it was fully expected that ex-Captain Donald McLeod (Normanís son) would meet them, but after waiting a day or two no Donald appeared. There were no settlers and no habitations near the sea, and they wondered if they had come to an empty continent. Disappointment seized them. Norman, Duncan McKenzie, John Fraser, and John McKay made preparations to, land and find their way to Adelaide. The great South Australian Capital was then a mere village with a handful of white settlers. Here at the local post office they found a letter left by Donald McLeod in which he said that he had gone to Melbourne, and from there would probably have to sail for New Zealand. No arrangements had been made by him and no advice tendered as to how they should proceed on their arrival, and this added intensely to the disappointment of the party.


On making inquiries they were informed that all the land around Adelaide and its harbour was occupied as sheep runs, so that none could be had for a settlement such as they proposed to establish. With this disheartening news they returned to their ship and reported the conditions to the people. There was plenty of land inland away behind Mount Lofty and up the Spencer Gulf, but none near to the budding town. Their spirits drooped, but Norman was equal to the occasion. He told them that in the midst of perplexities it was their duty to turn to God. He had guided them so far, and no doubt He would do so until their final settlement. Then a council of war was held, and it was decided that a party be formed to go inland and spy out the land. The party consisted of Norman as leader, Duncan McKenzie, John Fraser, John McKay, and Kenneth Ding-wall. They scoured the country around Mount Lofty and up towards the Saint Vincent Gulf. The whole country was in a state of nature. It was parched and barren, and seemingly not adapted for agricultural pursuits. The climate was hot and sultry, with an almost entire absence of rivers, streams, or wells. They were a people reared in and accustomed to a more temperate climate, and the fierce tropical sun of South Australia did not appeal to them. Then, too, they were a maritime people and accustomed to the products of the sea. They would not be happy away from their natural element, and thus they decided the Golden Fleece was not to be found in South Australia. While returning to their ship they called at the lone home of a settler on the lower slopes of Mount Lofty. Here they were surprised to meet a Gaelic-speaking Highlander named Gordon, who had been squatting there for some years. He informed them that there was abundance of good agricultural land to be had around Angustown, and strongly advised them to examine it before finally abandoning their quest.

On returning to the ship another council of war was held, and it was decided that those who wished to remain at Adelaide should be permitted to do so, while the others would proceed to Melbourne. Norman was satisfied that there they would meet with Captain Donald and that all would be well. A few of them decided to remain and face the struggle for existence in this new land. The goods and chattels of those who decided to remain were landed, and after a weekís rest the "Margaret" weighed anchor and sailed for Melbourne. The bidding of good-bye to the few who remained behind was extremely pathetic. They were neighbours for a lifetime, and now they were about to be separated for an unknown period. They were in the one continent, but the means of communication were both primitivc and uncertain. It was indeed a trial of faith, but so firm was their belief in the hand of Providence that no one complained. Norman was distressed at the turn of events, but had implicit faith that the dark clouds which presently surrounded them would pass away.

Amongst those who left them was Mr. John Fraser and his family. He was one of Normanís best friends, and took a prominent part in the financing and building of the "Margaret." Mr. Fraser had an offer of occupation and land at a low price from Mr. Angus, of Angustown, and accepted it. Angustown lies some 60 miles outside Adelaide, and to reach it with his household goods, a wife, three sons, and three daughters, he purchased a waggon and a pair of bullocks. Bush waggons and bullocks were the only means of travel in those days, for there were no roads and no places of accommodation along any route. It took them nearly a week to cover the 60 miles. Fortunately, the "Prairie Schooner" was a mode of transit well known to Mr. Fraser, and so they arrived safely at their destination. Most of the others who left the "Margaret" settled in or around Adelaide.


In due time the " Margaret" arrived at Melbourne, but, alas, no Captain Donald was there to meet them, nor a soul whom they knew to welcome them. Melbourne at this time was but a small town of some 15,000 inhabitants. It had, however, suddenly awakened from the sleep of ages owing to the discovery of gold in 1851. Murchison said there was gold there in 1844, but Hargreaves was the actual finder in 1851. Ships and people poured into the port almost daily. All was excitement and fever owing to the promised abundance of gold. The St. Annís Argonauts were taken at a disadvantage. They were a peasant people to whom the lure of gold-fields was unknown. They, however, had come to the end of their journey, and must now seek out new homes. Owing to the gold fever agriculture was neglected, and they found the price of food very exorbitant. Then, too, their liquid funds were about exhausted, but the ship was their own property. Inquiries were made regarding Captain Donald McLeod, but no trace of him could be found. Norman realized they had come to the end of their journey, and an effort must be made to find homes and food for his people. Several crewless ships were riding at anchor in the bay, the sailors having made moonlight fittings for the gold-fields. In those circumstances the prospects of selling the " Margaret" to advantage seemed remote. Ashore they must go, as it was a dangerous and difficult task to house so many people in a small anchored ship in Melbourne harbour. As was his wont when in difficulty, he retired to his closet and laid the matter before God. Here he was directed to go ashore and seek out a suitable spot in which his people might camp. In this warm and genial climate tent life would be quite pleasant. They must settle upon the land, but as they had neither friend nor acquaintance to direct them, they must seek out a suitable locality for themselves. Then he called the people together, and told them that although they had come to a land apparently rich in gold and worldly prospects, still he desired them to continue their peasant life and form a settlement of their own. It was agreed that Captain Duncan McKenzie, John McKay, and Kenneth Dingwall, along with himself, should go ashore and select a suitable camping site. They found a very pleasant spot on the banks of the Yarra close to the budding city, and in due time thither the St. Annís Argonauts moved. By this time a city merchant of Scottish origin heard of their arrival and the difficulties that faced them. He offered to purchase the "Margaret" and to help them in finding suitable land for their settlement. His offer was accepted, and in bidding good-bye to the "Margaret" the last link that tied them to St. Annís was severed. The excitement in shipping circles, the commotion amongst the miners, and the novelty of the scenes around them, greatly helped in reconciling them to their new home. Tents were easily procured, while those who wished it were at liberty to accept any employment offering. In a few days a party was formed consisting of Norman, Duncan McKenzie, John McKay, Donald Campbell, and Kenneth Dingwall to go and examine the lands suggested by their Scottish friend. They tramped the country for many miles around the town in search of the Golden Fleece. They even found their way to the mountain range culminating in Mt. Disappointment. Land there was in abundance, but all in its natural state of forest growth or dry and parched plains. There was no water, no roads, no food, whilst naked savages and wild Europeans roamed the land. After ten daysí wandering they returned to camp and reported their intense disappointment in not finding the Golden Fleece. Norman consoled them with the assurance that God in His own time would open a door for them. They were like the Israelites of old, and had the Israelitesí faith that some day they would arrive in their Promised Land. That night at family worship Norman read the ancient story, and they sang the 137th Psalm :ó

"Aig sruthaibh coimheadh Bhabiloin"

By Babelís streams we sat and wept
As Zion we thought on;
In midst thereof we hangíd our harps
The willow trees upon.

As the next move was uncertain, several of the younger men left for the Ballarat gold-fields and remained there. From time to time they visited the Yarra camp and brought with them large quantities of gold which was much appreciated by their friends.

Norman was determined to keep his People together, and for this purpose he sought for and obtained employment for many of them in and around the throbbing city. Many of the residents had left their homes and occupations and departed for the gold-fields. So powerful was the lure of gold that several business houses had to close their doors for lack of employees to transact business. This was a favourable opening for the Argonauts to obtain cheap dwellings, and Norman looked upon it as a particular dispensation of Providence. The people were not desirous of being separated. They were strangers in a strange land. They spoke a strange tongue, had their own peculiar habits, and so desired to live together as one family. All their lives they had been together, confided in each other, worked for each other, shared each otherís goods, their woes and weals, and were indeed one large and united family. Norman was daily closeted in prayer and seeking Divine guidance in the difficulties that surrounded them. Then one night in his dreams he saw a gallant ship coming to their rescue with a hand pointing towards the rising sun. In the meantime the people began to gather information from traders and whalers regarding New Zealand, the land to which Captain Donald McLeod had gone forth to discover. They sent letters to their friends in St. Annís both from Adelaide and Melbourne. Their Melbourne letters described the rush to the goldófields and the congestion of shipping in the harbour. They had fixed upon no new settlement, but land in abundance could be purchased at a nominal price. After much prayerful consideration Nor-man sought out his fides ahzartes, Mr. John McKay and Mr. John Fraser, the latter of whom they had left behind at Adelaide. On their coming to visit him he made the proposal that he wished them to go to New Zealand, spy out the land there, and try if they could discover anything about his son Donald. While making inquiries, he discovered that a small trading vessel called the "Gazelle" of 50 tons was about to sail for Russell in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Russell at this time was the seat of government and also the principal whaling station in the country, so that most traders made it a port of call. His two friends had not the heart to refuse the fervent and paternal appeal of their aged and revered minister, so they packed their kits and took passage on this small trader for New Zealand. Norman called down the blessings of Heaven upon them; while the friends they were leaving behind would kindly look after and care for their families. All went well, and in due time they arrived at Russell. Soon they found that the seat of government had been removed from Russell to Auckland. The Maoris at Kororareka (Russell) had proved so fierce and troublesome that Governor Grey thought it wise to select a new site for the seat of government and hence selected Auckland.

This locality presented many features that were very desirable as a seat of government. It had a fine natural harbour, friendly tribe of Maoris, a narrow neck of land separating two seas, several small hills that lent themselves as posts of observation or defence, while close by was a wide expanse of fertile country. The pioneers (Messrs. Fraser and McKay) soon made their way down the coast and were highly pleased at the appearance of the country around the new capital. They made inquiries regarding Captain Donald McLeod both at Russell and at Auckland, but no trace of him could be found. After satisfying themselves that here was a desirable country in which to settle, they approached Governor Grey as to the obtaining of land for a special settlement. They were offered blocks of land around the shores of the harbour or elsewhere where the land could be purchased from the Maoris. All rural land at that time in New Zealand was selling at from five to ten shillings per acre with no limit placed upon the amount to be acquired. The terms satisfied them, and so it was arranged that Mr. McKay should return to Melbourne, while Mr. Fraser would remain to prosecute inquiries as to the best spot in which to settle. On McKayís return, Norman and the people were greatly delighted at the good news he brought with him. God indeed had opened a door for them; He heard their prayers and to Him be the praise.

The people of St. Annís heard of the safe arrival of the "Margaret" at her destination, and of the wonderful new land under the Southern Cross. All doubts were now removed; the Argonauts were well; while the prospects before them were considered excellent.

The news spurred them on with the reconditioning and re-equipping of the "Highland Lass," so that late in the spring of 1852 she was ready for the voyage. All their land and stock had been previously disposed of, and was now occupied by new settlers from the surrounding districts. The excitement on the leaving of the "Margaret" was again renewed. They lacked the guidance of their aged minister, but the "catechists " and " men" (church elders) came forward and filled the blank. Now they had no doubts as to the possibility of the voyage and suitability of the land to which they were about to proceed. On May 17, 1852, the "Highland Lass," under the command of Captain Murdo McKenzie, set sail for Adelaide with 188 passengers. Again there were countless "beannachds" (good-byes) and prayers, with much weeping and heartbreaking. The people now seemed convinced that it was the destiny of all of them to leave St. Annís and to settle in Australia. The old proverb has it that "man proposes but God disposes." They were leaving to settle in Australia, but it was destined that they should settle in New Zealand.

The following are the names, numbers, and localities of the "Highland Lass" passengers so far as can be ascertained :óFinlayson (ó) Baddeck, John Finlayson (4) Baddeck, Roderick Finlayson (4) Baddeck, Roderick Gillis (3) Baddeck, N. Gibbons (ó) Sydney (C.B.), Donald McDonald (10) Boularderie, Donald McDonald (11) P.E. Island, Neil McGregor (2) St. Annís, Angus McKay (ó) Baddeck, Duncan McKay (5) Baddeck, Duncan McKay (11) Baddeck, Jonathan McKay (ó) Bad-deck, Duncan McKenzie (7) Baddeck, Murdock McKenzie (7) Baddeck, Hector McKenzie (4) Baddeck, John McKenzie (8) Baddeck, Wm. McKenzie (3) Big Harbour, Donald McKenzie (5) Big Harbour, Murdock McKenzie (5) Big Harbour, Roderick McKenzie (ó), i)onald McLean (9) Baddeck, John McLean (7) Big Harbour, McQuarrie (ó) Middle River, Alex. McRae (6) Middle River, Duncan Matheson (ó) Grand River, Thos. Orman (ó) Halifax, Colin Simson (ó) Sydney Mines, K. Stuart (7) St. Annís Glen.

The voyage of the "Highland Lass" was uneventful. She called at Cape Town as did the "Margaret" for fresh supplies of water and vegetables, and remained there for several days. Resuming her voyage, she arrived at Adelaide on October 23, 1852, after a voyage of 159 days. The journey was long, but the conditions were pleasant and the people happy. At Adelaide letters awaited them to proceed to Melbourne where the Argonauts had temporarily settled. This was the ship which Norman saw in his dreams, and so he looked forward to her arrival with the utmost pleasure. When she cast anchor in the bay there was much joy in the Yarra camp, and also on board the "Highland Lass." Friends met friends, hearts were reunited, and all sincerely trusted there would be no more parting. After the preliminary greeting, Norman told them of the difficulty they had in securing suitable land near to Adelaide or to Melbourne. Then he informed them of the expedition he had sent to New Zealand, and of the warm welcome and kind offer made to their representatives in that land. New Zealand, it was said, was a land similar in climate to the south of England, where agricultural pursuits could be successfully carried on upon the old lines. They had the offer of lands bordering upon the sea, from which source they could readily obtain much of the food to which they were accustomed. The newcomers were very much surprised at the turn of events, but the glowing descriptions of Mr. John McKay soon reconciled them to the intended venture. The elders of both parties spent several days in studying the situation. Some were anxious to try the gold-fields and some to settle on the banks of the Yarra. Norman invited all the newcomers to the Yarra camp, and after partaking of such hospitality as their circumstances permitted all of them gathered at family worship. Then could be heard the novel situation of some 300 Gaelic-speaking people singing the 133rd Psalm:ó

"O Feuch, cia meud am maith a nis"

Behold how good a thing it is,
And how becoming well,
Together, such as brcthren are,
In unity to dwell.

The people were charmed with their aged minister and the manner in which he conducted their worship. It was the old Norman of St. Annís, and no one could supplant him in their affections. It recalled Sutherland, Ross, and the Isles to their memories, and therewith they were happy. Next day he sought out the elders of the new party and invited them to join the Yarra camp in proceeding to New Zealand. He revealed to them his dream, and was satisfied that God was directing them to that distant country, and thither they must go. The people felt themselves helpless under the persuasion of their friend, and if God had destined them to go there then go they must. For has not the poet said:-

There is a Divinity that shapes our end,
Rough hew them how we will.

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