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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter IX - Norman Returns to St. Ann's

Shortly after his ordination Norman returned to St. Annís as a fully licensed minister. His people were delighted to have him back amongst them, and immediately installed him in his former position as preacher, teacher, and law-giver. His fame as a preacher spread throughout the Island. Some hundreds of Gaelic-speaking people had in the meantime settled in the neighbourhood of St. Annís. They came from Lewes and Harris, and settled on the North Shore down to Smoky Mountain, and up the Glen towards Baddeck and Big Hill. With so many new settlers arriving, the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia took steps to have them supplied with Gaelic-speaking ministers. The people as a whole, however, were poor and so unable to support a paid clergyman. In this dilemma Norman McLeod stepped into the breach. He offered to preach for them without fee or reward in the open air or any suitable cabin until such time as they had erected a church of their own. This proof of brotherly kindness appealed to the people immensely, and so Norman became the local hero.

At this juncture the Government of Nova Scotia appointed him as schoolmaster, postmaster, and justice at St. Annís. These offices gave him an official status in the district that greatly increased his influence. His instructions were obeyed without question. It was the old Highland ecclesiastical power over again, when the people in argument were wont to say "O thubairt a meinester a" (Oh, the minister said it). This was an ex cathedra dictum that no one dared to question.

Norman was 40 years of age when he settled at St. Ann's, and he remained there for 31 years. During his time the congregation prospered temporally and spiritually. Under him all violations of the civil and moral law were duly inquired into and punished. He denounced sin and sinners from the pulpit, so that he became a terror to evildoers and the friend of all those who do well. Under his patriarchal rule the people of St. Annís were distinguished for their intelligence, rectitude. and sobriety. He was a total abstainer, and discountenanced the use of every form of alcohol amongst his people. He recognized the evil effects of the drinking habits of his day, and with the help of God he determined to stamp them out amongst all those whom he could influence. Some time thereafter Judge Marshall, of Sydney, Cape Breton, and he organized temperance societies throughout the Island. His activities in the church, temperance, and educational affairs were ceaseless. In 1840 he formed a branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society in St. Annís, and through it was the means of sending thousands of dollars to the parent society in London.

As the years rolled on the population of St. Annís and neighbourhood made rapid strides. New churches were erected and new ministers inducted. The parent church could not accommodate all those who desired to worship there. So popular had Norman become, and so attractive was his preaching, that he filled the church twice over every Sunday. Then it was decided that a larger church should he erected, and in the year 1846 a church was constructed at The Cove capable of seating 1,500 people. This temple Norman continued to fill for several years. He had ceased from teaching and justice work and devoted himself entirely to the work of the Church.


Few popular men pass through life without finding enemies and detractors. Envy is a common weakness. Are you rich? If so, you excite envy. Are you successful? Then you excite envy. Are you popular? There are those who envy you. To escape this you must be of the rank and file. No section of the community is free of this weakness, and Norman soon proved this. It is said that some of the neighbouring clergymen began to whisper that Norman was not a saint. One of their number, the Rev. Mr. James Fraser, is said to have been a fellow student of Normanís at Edinburgh. He, it is alleged, said that the story of Normanís rustication was untrue. As is usual in such things, the tales regarding his rustication became more and more fanciful. His enemies declared it was owing to some lapses on his own part; while his friends denounced the wicked professors. Then a Rev. Mr. John McDonald took part in the controversy. Eventually the various tales reached Normanís ears, and his partisans took up the cudgels in his defence. A bitter and wordy warfare went on for a year or two, in which the leaders took little or no part. What was true and what false was distorted out of all proportion. It is said that the Rev. Mr. McDonald had to bear the brunt of the battle, and in his defence the Rev. Mr. Fraser took action against some of Normanís partisans. This was the signal for Norman to act. He gallantly accepted all responsibility for his party, and thus the clergymen were at each otherís throats. There was a long legal fight from which Norman emerged untainted; but his followers were cast into damages. All this led to intense ill-feeling amongst the people. They advised Norman to defy the court and refuse to pay any damages. Poor Norman was in a dilemma. If he paid the fine he mortally offended all his partisans, and if he failed he offended the majesty of the law. For a time he evaded payment, while his partisans challenged the other side to a pitched battle. Eventually he was threatened with durance vile; indeed, some assert that he endured seclusion for a time rather than pay an unworthy foe. On seeing defeat, his friends came to the rescue and made reparations. This act of self-immolation doubly endeared him to his people, but it probably may have influenced subsequent events.

Partisan feeling became intense in his church. All the members of his original flock were his enthusiastic supporters and admirers. Some of the newcomers, especially those from Lewes and Harris, disapproved of Normanís patriarchal rule and the conduct of his people in the litigation episode. As a result of this ill-feeling, numbers of them left the St. Ann's church and set up an organization of their own under the leadership of Mr. John Ross, Catechist of Mira. The Catechist in the Presbyterian Church in the Highlands was always a man of much importance in the religious life of the parish. He was a sort of locally licensed church officer with a small salary, and devoted much of his time and energies to visiting the sick and afflicted and generally aiding the minister in the teaching of religion and looking after the spiritual and moral wellbeing of the people. As such John Ross was a man of importance in St. Annís, and his defection from the church was a severe blow to it.


The St. Annís settlement at this period was very successful, but there was no outlet for the energies of the rising generation or the development of trade. As a consequence some of the young men left to push their fortunes in other spheres of life. Some went into other parts of Canada, some to the United States, and some to wander the world as sailors. No matter how an experiment of this kind may succeed for a time, human nature is such that the wanderlust which seems to be inherent in the Celtic race will eventually bring about disintegration. Experiments of a similar kind are common in history; but time and human nature upset the ideals of its prophets, patriarchs, and enthusiasts. So in St. Annís, under the patriarchal rule of Norman, disintegration set in.

To stem the tide Norman and his people conceived the idea of organizing a shipping trade of their own. Some aver that he conceived the scheme while in durance vile. It is unlikely, however, that it could have been the production of any single brain, for the effort required combination. The scheme was to build a ship, load her with their surplus produce, and send her in search of markets. The project was sound enough, but their knowledge of trade affairs was defective. When the scheme was announced the people were enthusiastic about it as a fine interposition of Providence. They set about the extending of their fields and the dreaming of wealth. Sawpits were erected and much log-felling undertaken. In a little over twelve months they constructed a fine barque of some 300 tons, loaded her with their surplus produce, gave the command to Normanís son, Captain Donald McLeod, and sent him to Glasgow to bring back gold. Unfortunately for the St. Annís traders, they were probably unaware of the fact that trade is not carried on by gold, but by exchange of products. They had all they required in food and clothing, so that silver and gold was their vision of trade. Captain McLeod and his ship arrived safely at Greenock, the Glasgow port of those days. No arrangements had been made as to buyers or consignees, and Captain Donald soon found he could not sell a shipload of produce in shillings or poundsí worth. The sailors had to be paid, the ship had to pay dues, and eventually ship and cargo had to be sold at an immense sacrifice. What became of the proceeds seems very uncertain. Captain Donald McLeod disappeared, the venture was a failure, and the dream of the St. Annís people proved but a dream.

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