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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter XXIV - Character of the Celt

People of all nations have their own peculiar traits. It may be colour, or size, or mind, or all of these combined. Sometimes one or more of these traits are so prominent that anyone who understands such things can instantly recognize the nationality of the individual. At other times, owing to the blending of races, or education, or diplomacy, they are so subdued that detection is difficult. The average Celt of to-day is of a very mixed breed, and hence national traits, or race characteristics, are bound to vary. The original Celtic tribes of Britain were probably of Asiatic origin, and were a tall, muscular, dark-haired, dark-skinned, dark-eyed, long-headed (dolithocephalic), and mentally-alert people. Probably the majority of Celts in the British Isles come under this designation. The minority are a tall, fleshy, red to fair-haired and skinned people, with blue to grey eyes, with broad heads or faces (brachy-ocephalic), and who mentally come under the designation of plodders. These are Celts with Nordic and German blood in them. To the trained eye the people of Waipu have a large mixture of this blood in them. Thus we have two types of the Celtóthe black and the red oneówith many degrees of mixture and mental outfits. Notwithstanding their evident mixture, the Waipu people proclaim themselves as genuine Highlanders or Celts, and they certainly show many Celtic traits. This would imply that the maternal blood (mothers being Celts) is more dominant in them than the paternal or Nordic blood. It is frequently observed in all breeding that the progeny sometimes partake of the characteristics of the female and sometimes of the male parent; while at other times they partake of neither (atavism). Country, language, tradition, etc., will no doubt have some influence, se that the bulk of Celts in the British Isles may be regarded as more Celtic than Nordic or Germanic.

The Celt is reputed to be a firm believer in religion, and one who readily resents the scoffing of things that to him are sacred. He venerates the clergy and all such individuals as sincerely devote their lives to practical religion. This is readily observed in those parts of the British Isles where he predominates. The realm of mysticism appeals to him, and the more mysterious the problem the more he insists upon solving it. He is the most chivalrous of men towards women, the most loyal to his nation, and the most venerative to his God of all the peoples of Europe. In war he is brave to the point of recklessness, yet in trouble gentle and sympathetic as a child. The history of the British Isles is full of the gallant deeds of its Celtic regiments. If a difficult and dangerous task has to be accomplished, choose a Highland regiment. If daring and endurance is demanded the same holds good, for anything men can accomplish they will do. The Celt is very reticent in matters affecting himself. In poverty or affluence, adversity or success, he is silent. He feels himself the equal of his compeers, and resents any airs of patronage or superiority. He loves learning, is ambitious, but not avaricious. Proud and independent, yet generous, and extremely hospitable. He is apt to live in the past, and ponders over the great deeds of his people with the utmost pride. In this he is somewhat oriental in type, and though long ages have passed since he left the Orient some characteristics of his Eastern origin are still present. He loves a generous and kindly leader, and should that one be capable and self-sacrificing then the Celt will follow him even to the point of death.

In Scotland he is a Presbyterian, in England a Methodist, and in Ireland a Roman Catholic. It matters not to which sect he adheres, but once his choice is made he is immovable. Disappointments may come, persecutions may be practised, bribes may be offered; but he remains steadfast to his own convictions. He is persistent in a cause, and his superb fighting qualities make him a dangerous antagonist and a desirable friend. He is indifferent to blandishments, but sympathetic towards sufferings.

Though these traits in general are characteristic of the Celt, no individual and no nation is possessed of all the good or bad qualities of mankind. We are all members of the one large family, each with oneís own peculiarities. Neither possessions nor nationality place us outside the family circle. We cannot rid ourselves of our common humanity. This ought to teach us charity, tolerance, sympathy, and the trying to learn of each otherís peculiarities and points of view as the only road to world peace and mutual good feeling.

It has been the custom in some circles to traduce the Celt as an undesirable national. His language and traditions are said to be archaic, and his peculiar habit of adhering to them gives offence. In these things he but reveals his character, for he is determined that he is not to be effaced, and acknowledges no superior in race or language. Many Saxons are as much Celt as they may be Saxon, while the contrary is equally true. After living and intermarrying in the one small island for about 2,000 years, who with truth can say I am pure Celt or Saxon." This is particularly the case in a country that has been subjected to war and conquest, lust, rapine, and the sword. Every now and then some prominent man makes the announcement " I am a pure "Celt" or "Saxon," or something else. Well, poor man, be he peer, peasant, or parson who makes such a statement, he betrays a woeful ignorance of human nature, or the credulity of his fellows. Who can give a clean certificate to ancestors of whom he knows nothing? Who can vouch for the motives, passions, and conduct of his fellow men, far less his ancestors? The thing is impossible, and the attempt reveals a weakness in the human fibre that savours of vanity, pomposity, animosity, or ignorance.

That which has occurred in the British Isles is now going on in America. Two thousand years hence who can say in that great country "I am pure English, or Irish, or Jew, or German, or something else." The question has merely to be stated for any individual of average intelligence and knowledge of the world to see its absurdity. Human vanity is boundless, and unfortunately it is as prevalent in the peer as in the peasant. Wisdom is a thing sought by few, but if sought it is no respecter of persons.

Variety of race is easily observed in Waipu. Some present Celtic traits, some Nordic traits, and others something quite different. The shape of the skull and colour of the eyes and hair in many of them are distinctly Nordic, while their mental outfit is as distinctly Celtic. The same conditions are observed amongst the people in the north of Scotland where the ancestors of those people resided. Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, and the Western Isles were so overrun by Norsemen that their marks are permanently left there. They intermarried with the Celtic women for about 400 years and left a trail of place names, words, customs, superstitions, and traits of character that time has been unable to eradicate. Then, too, the genuine olive-skinned Celt is equally patent and probably he predominates. In this interbreeding it is curious to reflect upon the marked persistence of the maternal Celtic character amongst them.


Norman McLeod was one of the old school of divines. He could say with Tennysonó

More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of.

or, in the words of Bacon:

"A little philosophy inclineth a manís mind to atheism, but depth of philosophy inclineth it to religion."

It is stated that his forte lay in preaching perdition and the tortures of the lost, and that his theology was austere, crude, and repulsive, mixed with some doctrines which he himself invented. His theology was the result of his training and the days in which he lived. The same ideas were preached in Scotland during Normanís day. Indeed, they were preached by a contemporary of his to the same class of people in fair Dunedin city. Many years ago we perused the minute book of a certain kirk session in Dunedin, and its contents revealed to us the narrow and austere theological and ecclesiastical government of the people. There was nothing new in it, and it is probable there was nothing new in Normanís teaching. It was the training of the day, the theology of the times, that was at fault and not the preacher. The rank and file of the professions are not as a rule original investigators. Perhaps it is just as well that they are not so, for otherwise society would be so unsettled with new doctrines that no one would have fixed opinions.

Throughout the pages of history we find that men require leaders, and apparently Norman McLeod was the man destined to become the leader in this episode. Norman was a strong man mentally and physically. He had great personality, and it is personality that makes the man. Study the pages of history, and witness the various degrees of personality in the leaders of mankind. It cannot be well defined; but there it is, and quite apparent to all careful observers. Without it no one can be great or even rise much above the level of his fellows. With a supreme degree of it, that man is supreme. Here is the estimate of one of his parishioners who was not his admirer :ó He was a big man of leonine countenance, a giant mentally and physically, and recalled to oneís memory the character of the great cardinaló

He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one,
Exceeding wise, fair spoken, and persuading,
Lofty and sour to those that loved him not,
But to those men that sought him, sweet as summer.

He ought indeed to have been a cardinal or a pope, for in that position he would shine; while with us he was lost. I have heard him in church castigating one of his parishioners at a dreadful rate for a trivial offence of which we thought little; yet this man was one of his special friends. Next day we visited him at his hospitable home, and while sitting around the table he was full of youthful talk, simple and sweet as a child. He played the part of father to the whole community, and like a good father he bore no malice to anyone who came under his lash. If anyone attempted to dictate to him, he flung defiance in their face. If they assumed airs of superiority, he quickly levelled them. He always preached manís innate dignity, which neither riches nor learning could add to nor labour, poverty nor weakness degrade. He taught all men to trust each other as brothers. He himself would help anyone in their most menial tasks, and he never assumed any airs or sought any reward.

What a splendid testimonial, and that, too, from an unfriendly critic. Ingratitude towards their great men is the mark of strong peoples, so runs the proverb, and it is markedly true in the case of Norman McLeod and his people. History shows us that weak men neither attract attention nor invite opposition. His simplicity and independence of character was well exemplified in his refusing to accept any salary during the whole of his ministerial career. He accepted the assistance of his people in the shape of labour or goods, but he returned the compliment as the occasion demanded. He sustained his household by the old Highland method of attaching to himself certain retainers, who became as members of his family. As to the ethics of this system we are not concerned. It was the custom of the day, and presumably both parties were satisfied. In all ages weak people have sheltered themselves under the wings of their more powerful fellows. History is full of such incidents, and we can see it daily flourishing around us. it is suggested that he exercised some mysterious power over his people, and ruled them with a rod of iron. That is not likely; but if he did so it illustrates his power and their weakness. His career shows him to be a strong man, which times and circumstances frequently produce. Weaker men resent this type of character; but it is the circumstances and not the man which ought to be resented. In the days of Normanís youth there were many men of his type in the church. The state of religion and the social system required them, and they were not lacking. Some of them were wont to drive their recalcitrant parishioners into church at the point of the sword or with the aid of a stout cudgel. Others denounced evildoers by name from the pulpit. Who but has read of that terrible ecclesiastical weapon, the pillory or pillar or cutty stool, a weapon in use in remote country parishes until the middle of the nineteenth century. Worse still, can we forget that modification of the "branks," an iron chain fastened to the wall at the doors of every parish church, and to which certain offenders were caught and forcibly chained on the Sunday; while their fellows were invited to spit upon them as they passed in or out of the church. All these things would be well known to Norman, and some of them he may have witnessed. They were the accepted modes of church punishment, and Norman, in applying them or modifications of them to his parishioners, developed nothing new or unusual.

The influence and power of the clergy was enormous. They were supposed to derive their authority from God, and hence the ordinary man was helpless. The effect of this upon some of the rising generation was disastrous, for upon gaining freedom they frequently went to the other extreme and so became social wrecks. Many of the adults, especially men, avoided the clergyman. He was too censorious, too unreal, and fit only for the company of saints. Amongst the more ignorant, the clergyman was supposed to he not like other men, but a superman, and so to be feared. Even to-day this feature of clerical sanctity still persists, and hence it debars him from the everyday life of the people. Indeed, it is as old as the hills and common to savage and civilized man.

Under the old Church of Scotland dispensation, every parishioner had the right of baptism and the Lordís Supper. There was no preliminary or inquisitorial examination. On the other hand, the Free Church clergymen surrounded both ordinances with such examinations, warnings, and possible punishments that most people shirked the responsibility, and the church defeated its own interests. The men could not shirk the rigours of the baptismal ordeal, as their women drove them into it; but the fear of eating and drinking unworthily effectually barred them from the Lordís Supper. As a consequence, only aged people as a rule became communicants, and that probably to the disadvantage of the church and the community.

How it came about that Norman never celebrated the Lord's Supper and rarely administered baptism is difficult of explanation It is possible, seeing he was a "stickit minister" at the outset of his career and so could not legally celebrate either of these ordinances, that he surrounded them with extreme sanctity. Subsequently, on his being ordained by the Presbyterian Church of New York, he was still outside the Church of Scotland and remained so all his days. His church at St. Annís did not join the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia. They continued an isolated Presbyterian body during his career there. This was carrying his ideas regarding a Free Church to extremes, and no one in his community seemed able or willing to act contrary to his wishes. It is true that in Nova Scotia and in New Zealand his people were strangers in a strange land. They were the first to organize a Presbyterian Church in Cape Breton, and also the first to organize one at Waipu. In both instances it was the early days of the settlement when institutions of both church and state were somewhat loosely organized, and stood apart.

Then, too, the old people, especially those of them who sailed from Scotland along with him, were so attached to him that his words to them were law. He came into their lives at a very critical moment. He proved himself a wise and loyal friend, and they repaid him by giving him equal loyalty. This is a phase of human nature that is remarkably strong in the Gael. Discontent began with the Canadian generation, for with them a new generation had arisen who knew not Joseph. He knew them all from childhood. He assumed the role of pater familias, and as such he resented dictation. Even to-day, some 60 years after his death, there are Normanites and anti-Normanites at Waipu. A few more years and everyone who knew him will have passed away. Posterity will be better able to judge of his value to them than they themselves have been able to do. Though many years have passed they are still too near. As is the case with all such men, time will erase their small parts. while the larger ones become more prominent. A century hence Norman may be perpetuated in bronze and the Waipu poets sing his fame.

To the early Waipuans Sunday was a holy day and the fourth commandment strictly observed. Church attendance was considered a duty which no one shirked. The people were somewhat widely scattered, so that the church and Sunday was the common rallying ground. Men and women in large numbers rode from the more distant parts of the parish to attend church. It was an Assynt or Loch-broom Sunday over again. All work was suspended. All supplies for man and beast were prepared on the Saturday. No newspapers, no gossip, no vanities, could be indulged in. Much of this respect for Sunday has been abandoned, and seemingly we are moving towards the other extreme.

Religion and men are inextricably bound together. The thing itself is stable, but the modes of interpreting it vary. Every age has its own ideals. It is easy for us to laugh at the ideals of our predecessors; but curiosity asks, are we perfect, and has the last word in knowledge and interpretation been uttered in our day? No one is bold enough to answer this in the affirmative. We laught at the ignorance and methods of our fellows, and our successors will laugh at us. Oftentimes the pulpit is more dense to change than is the pew. The one is deeply involved in the subject, while the other gives it merely a passing thought. Norman, to his disadvantage, had little or no intercourse with any of his fellow clergymen, and so remained conservative and angular in his ideas. Indeed, he had little intercourse with the out side world, for his life was isolated and he exhibited the angularities of a recluse. The wise man of old said, "as iron sharpeneth iron," etc., and it is as true to-day as ever it was. Norman met with few men who could sharpen his wits, and hence we must judge him according to his times and opportunities. The testimonial given by him to his fides achetes, Captain Duncan McKenzie, when contemplating a visit to his old home in Nova Scotia, reveals the patriarchal trend of mind of the writer.

We, the undersigned, have great freedom of mind in certifying that the bearer, Duncan McKenzie, Esquire, merchant, member of the Provincial Council of this province, and our familiar acquaintance for a long score of years, has invariably sustained an unblamable moral character, and therefore may be accordingly depended upon by those to be interested in any business or transaction wherein they may happen to be engaged with him during his expected voyage to North America, especially among our friends in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, where he is already so well known.


Auckland, New Zealand,
December 4, 1863.

The quaint wording and phraseology of this letter leads one back to the days of old. It shows the extremely high tone of the life and morals of the people. It is patriarchal and typical of the man and his people. Duncan McKenzie had an unblemished reputation amongst the people. He is described by them as one of the best men that ever lived, and if there be saints on earth he was one of them. It is evident from the testimony of the people that these men and women were deeply inbued with Christian doctrines. They were great students of the Christian ethics, and strove in their lives to follow the example of the Great Master.

With all his peculiarities, Norman MeLeod was a marvellous man. He had immense force of character, abundance of self-confidence, with a helping hand for everyone in all their difficulties. He had no personal ambitions, no ideas of self-aggrandizement, no love of money, and no love of ease. That he had his limitations is quite evident; but his good points far outweighed his weak ones. What would not such a man have accomplished in a wider field of action? What would he not have accomplished as the leader of an army, a rebellion, an expedition, a social or religious movement? Just think of it!

Lives of great men oft remind us,
We can make our lives sublime;
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

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