Emigration to Nova Scotia
by John Dye
Emigration to Nova Scotia
of Early Settlers
(Note that reel misplaced - some parts missing)
in the Weekly Scotsman, Edinburgh)
old pamphlet written in the early part of the nineteenth century by Mr.
Robert Brown it appears that in the first six years of the nineteenth
century not less than ten thousand people emigrated to America, chiefly
to the Maritime Provinces of Canada. This was before most of the notorious
clearances described by Alexander MacKenzie took place
It is true that in Glengarry there had been clearances in the last part
of the eighteenth century, and we know that about 1772 a few hundred Highlanders
emigrated to the Mohawk Valley in New York State, and afterwards removed
to Ontario, following upon an outbreak of the Revolutionary War. They
settled round about the present Glengarry district in Ontario, and they
and their descendants did yeoman service for the British Government in
the Revolutionary War and in that of 1812.
Again, we learn that in 1790 about 100 persons were evicted from Ard-na
fuaran, in Arisaig, but there do not seem to have been any other evictions
of consequence in Arisaig and Moidart before 1810.
The most of the early emigrants to Lower Canada, then, left for economic
or religious reasons, chiefly the former. Some years ago, while looking
over a copy of the "Scots Magazine", published, I think, in
1772, I came across a letter written by someone whose name I have forgotten
describing the trouble caused in the West Highlands by the tacksmen and
better-off farmers selling their lands and stock in order to emigrate
to America, and thus removing a large amount of capital from the country.
Up to that time it would seem that most of the emigrants had gone to what
are now the United States of America, and Lord Selkirk, writing in 1806,
states that up to 1803 the people in Skye had such a bent for emigrating
to Carolina that no emigrant ship had left Skye except with settlers for
The First of the Fleet
The earliest vessel leaving the West Highlands with emigrants for Canada
seems to have been the "Alexander", containing 210 settlers
from South Uist and the adjoining mainland. This emigration was sponsored
by the then Laird of Glenaladale, Capt. John MacDonald and the emigrants
were Jacobites or their descendants. The vessel came to the island of
St. John, (now Prince Edward Island) and the descendants of these settlers
now number very many thousands.
From 1772 on, the movement increased rapidly. There follows below a list
of some of the old vessels which took out these emigrants on their long
voyage across the Atlantic:-
1772 - Ship "Alexander" landed at Scotchfort, P. E. I. in July.
Had about 210 passengers from South Uist and the mainland.
1773 - Ship "Hector" sailed from Loch Broom and arrived at Pictou,
Nova Scotia on Sept. 15th. There were about 180 passengers from Ross-shire
and Loch Broom. The master's name was John Spears.
1775 - Name of ship unknown. The vessel was wrecked on the north shore
of Prince Edward Island. There were only a small number of emigrants on
board, one of them becoming later Chief Justice (Stewart) of Prince Edward
1790 - Name of ship unknown. This vessel contained a large number of emigrants
who went but to Prince Edward Island, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. McEachern
(afterwards Bishop of Prince Edward Island). The settlers were from the
Western Isles and the adjoining mainland, and the vessel landed at Scotchfort
P. E. I.
1791 - Two vessels, names unknown arrived at Pictou this year with a large
number of settlers from the Hebrides. The most of these people moved further
east along the shore of Nova Scotia - viz. to Antigonish County or Cape
1801 - Ship 'Sarah' brought out 700 emigrants to Pictou, N. B.
1801 - Ship 'Pigeon' brought a small number of settlers to Pictou
1801 - Ship "Aurora" brought out settlers from Strathglas to
1801 - Ship "Dove" of Aberdeen brought settlers to Pictou.
1801 - Ship "Golden Text" of Aberdeen brought settlers from
Glenmoriston to Nova Scotia.
1802 - A vessel, name unknown, brought 370 Highlanders to Nova Scotia.
1803 - Ship "Favourite" sailed from Ullapool and arrived at
Pictou with 500 passengers. The master's name was Ballantyne.
1803 - Ship "Alexander" arrived at Pictou with passengers mostly
from Lewis. The owner's name was MacIvor.
1803 - Ships "Polly", "Dykes" and "Oughten"
arrived at Charlottetown P. E. I. These three vessels brought out about
800 settlers. Known as the Selkirk settlers. They were mostly from Skye
with some from Ross, Argyle, Inverness and Uist.
1805 - Ship "Polly" is said to have arrived at Canso N. S. with
1816 - Ship "The Three Brothers" of Hull came out to Nova Scotia
with some settlers.
1817 - Ship "William Tell" came out to Canso N. S. with settlers
1819 - Ship "Victory" arrived at Pictou, N. S. with settlers
1819 - Ship "Speculation" came out to Nova Scotia, sailing from
Greenock with emigrants from Lochaber. This ship had previously been captured
from the French in the Napoleonic Wars.
1819 - Ship "Economy" arrived at Pictou, having sailed from
Tobermory with settlers from the Hebrides.
1821 - Ship "Harmony" sailed from Barra and arrived at Sydney,
Nova Scotia with 350 settlers from Barra.
1821 - Ship "Tamarlin" arrived at Halifax.
1822 - Ship "Commerce of
.." arrived at Plaster
Rock, N. S. with settlers from Muck. This ship had cleared from Tobermory.
1824 - Ship "Dunlop" arrived in Sydney N. S. with settlers.
1826 - Ship Northumberland" sailed from Greenock and landed at St.
Andrew's, New Brunswick, with passengers from the Hebrides. Many of the
settlers removed later on to Inverness County, N. S.
1826 - Ship "Tamarlin" arrived at Sydney N. S. with passengers
from North Morar.
1826 - Ships "Highland Lad" and "Dove of Harmony"
arrived at Nova Scotia this year.
1827 - Ship "Aurora" sailed from Scotland and arrived at Port
Hastings, N. S. , with passengers from Edinburgh.
1828 - Ship "St. Lawrence" sailed from Tobermory with 208 passengers
from rum - Jonathan Cram, master. The ship arrived at Ship Harbour, N.
S., now called Hawkesbury.
1829 - Ship "Thetis" sailed from Greenock and arrived at Arichat,
N. S. with settlers
1830 - Ship Dunlop sailed from Greenock (John Brown master) for Nova Scotia
1833 - Ship Amity sailed from Tobermory and took settlers to Cape Breton,
1847 - Ship Albion sailed from Aberdeen and arrived at Halifax with settlers.
When the first settlers came out to Lower Canada practically the whole
country was an unbroken forest and settlement naturally began along the
shore and the rivers. One of the tragedies of the first settlers was that,
coming from a treeless country, or comparatively so, they did not know
how to use the axe. The second generation mastered its use quickly and
many of the pioneer settlers in Nova Scotia around 1810 or 1820 used to
go to the Miramichi Country in New Brunswick to work in the lumber camps.
These provided the only source of ready money at that time. A good deal
of lumber seems to have been imported from New Brunswick into Britain
and one reason for the low fares charged the pioneer settlers in coming
out was that the vessels were obliged to come out anyway for cargoes of
As is well known, certain parts of Nova Scotia are peopled largely by
descendants of those who came out in the vessels mentioned above. The
Gaelic language is still used considerably in some districts but it seems
likely that in another generation, it will have largely disappeared or
be understood only by some of the older people. Obviously, except in a
few cases, the Highland population in Canada has long ago lost touch with
its cousins in the far off islands and glens of Scotland.
The pioneer settlers to Lower Canada brought out with them their loyalty
to law and established authority, and a sturdy hardihood. While many of
them were followers of Prince Charlie, their descendants afterwards proved
abundantly their loyalty to the British Crown. In Canada the familiar
Scottish clan names are written in places of highest honour.
Clanranald, December 26th 1929
of this paper will be interested to learn that 'Clanranald' is a native
Nova Scotian. His parents were former residents of Antigonish and he himself
is now a prominent citizen of Liverpool N. S.)