MG1 Vol. 559 RANALD No 278
EARLY HIGHLAND EMIGRATION TO NOVA SCOTIA AND PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
By COLIN S. MACDONALD, Amherst, N. S.
Read before the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Nov. 4, 1932,
Although during the past fifty years or more, different writers
have written concerning the Highland Scottish settlements in Nova
Scotia, there has not so far been compiled, to my knowledge, a general
sketch covering the whole field. The chief contributors up to this
time have been the authors of the county histories of Pictou, Inverness
and Antigonish Counties, though many others have contributed articles
of an historical nature to various newspapers and magazines. Among
these others of a past generation might be mentioned Rev. A. MacLean
Sinclair and Rev; Ronald MacGillivray, both of whom were genuine
enthusiasts and both of whom are no more.
So far, therefore, the bulk of the literature on the subject has
been written from a purely county viewpoint or, in some cases, the
author may have tended to limit his field to the history of those
Scottish Celts of his own religious denomination. It is my purpose
to trace briefly the early migrations of our Highland forefathers
to this Province, and at the outset I may say frankly that for the
most of the information given I am indebted chiefly to the county
histories above described as well as to many other casual writings
and to sundry works of Scottish history. To attempt at this date
to secure much information among the descendants of the pioneer
Highlanders is well nigh impossible. The universal answer given
is "The old people are all dead and the young people do not
know." Moreover, our early newspapers are incomplete, and the
pioneer settlers were too busy establishing homes to devote much
time writing up their own history.
As regards his own fitness for undertaking the work, the writer
has no illusions; it would be far better undertaken by one who has
spent his life among the descendants of the old Highlanders. Possibly,
the preparation of this sketch, brief and imperfect as it is, may
encourage others to go on with the subject. Only those who have
attempted any historical research work of the kind, know the difficulties
met with in a constant search for facts. It would seem that, if
anyone had the time to devote to going over the Public Records of
the Province in the Provincial Archives, a great deal of interesting
data might be unearthed, but it is difficult to find anyone who
has the time and inclination to undertake the work.
Before speaking of the actual coming of the first Highlanders to
our Province, something should be said of the reasons for their
coming. The Scottish clan system, which had existed for centuries
in the Highlands, received its deathblow on the failure of the rising
of 1745. The heritable jurisdictions of Chieftains were abolished
and the national dress was proscribed. As the most of the clans
were Jacobite and had been out on the losing side, the vengeance
of the English Government was directed against them, and in some
districts the treatment received was yery severe. Apart from the
chieftains and a few leading families of each name, the body of
the clan did not possess much in the way of means, and this, taken
with their unfortunate experience in the decades succeeding 1745,
gradually induced the growth of a desire to leave the old country
and establish new homes in America, where free land might be obtained.
For a full discussion of the situation in Scotland at that time,
one can refer to any standard work of Highland history or to some
of the well known clan histories. At all events, around about 1770,
emigrants were leaving Skye for North Carolina and did for a considerable
time thereafter. Then in 1772 many of the Glengarry MacDonalds,
having differences with the chieftain, emigrated to the Mohawk River
Valley, in New York State, but on the outbreak of the Revolutionary
War, not holding Republican principles, they emigrated again to
the St. Lawrence River, in Ontario, and formed the Glen-garry settlements
in that district.
Prior to 1772 the only Highland immigrants to come to Canada, so
far as I have ascertained, were those who arrived
in the ship "Annabella" which brought settlers from Kintyre
to Malpeque, P.E.I, in 1770, but I am inclined to think that the
majority of this lot were Lowlanders. Certain details of this immigration
are given in a footnote in Warburton's History of Prince Edward
Island. In 1772 the ship "Alexander" came out from South
Uist to Scotchfort, P.E.I., with 210 set-tlers from South Uist and
the adjoining mainland, the emigra-tion being sponsored by Capt.
John Macdonald, Laird of Glenaladale arid Glenfinnan. The most of
these immigrants remained in Prince Edward Island, though a good
many moved over to Inverness County and some to the mainland of
Nova Scotia. In 1922 a handsome memorial cross was unveiled at Scotchfort,
P.E.I, to mark the site where these Highlanders landed and in memory
of the three principal men who came with the party.
Now we come to the year 1773, the year in which Pictou County received
its first contingent of Highland settlers. For the sake of conciseness
I shall give a list of the ships which I have come across as bringing
out immigrants, beginning with 1773 and ending with 1853:
1773- Ship "Hector" sailed from Loch Broom, and arrived
at Pictou, Nova Scotia, on September 15. 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 was only a small number of
emigrants on board.
1790- Name of ship unknown. This vessel contained a large number
of emigrants who went out to Prince Edward Island, accompanied by
the Rev. Mr. Maceachern (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, one of which I believe was the "Dunkeld",
arrived at Pictou this year with a large number of settlers from
the Hebrides. The most of these people removed further east along
the shore of Nova Scotia, viz., to Antigonish County or Cape Breton.
1801- Ship "Sarah" brought out 700 emigrants to Pictou,
N. S. *
1801- Ship "Aurora" brought settlers from Strathglas to
1801- Ship "Dove" of Aberdeen brought settlers to Pictou.
1801- Ship "Golden Text" of Aberdeen brought settlers
from Glen-moriston 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, Argyll, Inverness and Uist.
1803- Ship "Commerce", Capt. Galt, sailed from Glasgow
and arrived at Pictou, N. S.
1805- Ship "Polly" is said to have arrived at Canso, N.
S. with some settlers.
1805- Brig "Northern Friends" came out to Charlottetown,
bringing settlers from Ross-shire.
1806- Ship "Rambler" came out from Scotland to Prince
1808- Ship "Claredon" of Hull, England, arrived in Charlottetown
with settlers from Perthshire, some of whom formed the settlement
of New Perth, P. E. I.
1810- Ship "Catherine of Leith" came out to Prince Edward
1810- Ship "Phoenix" came from Tobermory to Prince Edward
Island. One of the passengers, Allen MacMillan, was accompanied
by his wife, mother and three children, and paid ten guineas fare
for each person. The passage took seven weeks.
1816- Ship "The Good Intent" of Aberdeen came out two
to three months in crossing.
1816- Ship "The Three Brothers" of Hull came out to Nova
with some settlers. Many years later this vessel was used as a
guard ship at Gibraltar.
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
with settlers from the Hebrides.
1820- Ship "Alexander" came from Scotland to Prince Edward
1821- Ship "Harmony" sailed from Barra and arrived at
Sydney, Nova Scotia, with 350 settlers from Barra.
1821- Ship "Tamarlin" arrived at Halifax.
1821- Ship "Peggy" came from Scotland to Prince Edward
1822- Ship "Dunlop" arrived at Sydney, N. S. with settlers.
1826- Ship "Northumberland" sailed from Greenock and landed
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
1826- Ships "Highland Lad" and "Dove of Harmony"
arrived at Nova
Scotia this year.
1826- Ship "John Walker" came from Scotland to Prince
1827- Ship "Aurora" sailed from Scotland and arrived at
N. S., with passengers from Edinburgh.
1828- Ship "St. Lawrence" sailed from Tobermory with 208
from Rum-Jonathan Cram, master. The vessel arrived at Ship Harbor,
N. S., now called Port Hawkesbury. -
1829- Ship "Thetis" sailed from Greenock and arrived at
Arichat, N. S. with settlers.
1829- Ship "Mary Kennedy" came from Skye to Cape Breton
and then to Prince Edward Island, with 84 heads of families, landing
at Charlottetown May 31, 1829.
1830- Ship "Dunlop" sailed from Greenock (John Brown,
master), with settlers for Nova Scotia.
1830- Ship "Lord Mulgrave" came from Scotland to Prince
Edward Island, the name of the captain being Cordingly.
1833- Ship "Amity" sailed from Tobermory and took settlers
to Cape Breton, N. S.
1840- Brig "Ruther" of Sunderland (273 tons) came to Prince
1847- Ship "Albion'* sailed from Aberdeen and arrived at Halifax
1848- Ship "Luhan" (Capt. Geo. MacKenzie of New Glasgow)
came out to Pictou from Scotland with a large number of settlers.
The vessel reached Pictou August 11, 1848. Some of the immigrants
were from South Uist and 72 of these moved afterwards to Prince
Edward Island. They came from Pictou to Georgetown, P. E. L, in
the Schr. Dolphin, which arrived at the latter port on November
1853- Ship "Amity" came from Glasgow to Prince Edward
Island, arriving on August 11, 1853.
* The "Sarah" and the "Dove" were the two vessels
which came out with settlers from Scotland under arrangements made
by Hugh Denoon of Pictou. In Patterson's "History of Prince
Edward Island," the names are given as the "Sarah"
and the "Pigeon", but Professor D. C. Harvey. Provincial
Archivist, discovered and published the original passenger lists
in September, 1932, and is of the opinion that the name "Pigeon"
given by Rev. George Patterson in his "History of Pictou County"
was an error.
In addition to those who came directly from Scotland to Canada,
a good many disbanded Highland soldiers who had been fighting in
America settled in Pictou and Antigonish Counties in the period
from 1780 to 1800. Reference is made to these in the histories of
these two counties. During the Revolutionary War one battalion of
the 84th Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment was stationed in Nova
Scotia, and at the conclusion of the war the officers and men were
granted land in Nova Scotia and formed the Township of Hants. It
is interesting to notice that the husband of Flora MacDonald, of
"Prince Charlie" fame, was one of the officers of this
batta- lion and evidently thought of settling here for a time, as
in a memorial addressed to the British Government he mentions having
built "a neat little hut," but he and his wife returned
to Scotland permanently. Since this list was first published in
January, 1930, I have been informed by a correspondent in Cape Breton
that in 1832 the ship "Northumberland", (Capt. Mitchell)
came from Tobermory to Sydney, landing 300 from South Uist, and
that in 1838 and 1840 two immigrant ships came out from South Uist
to Cape Breton. In 1930 there was still living in Upper Grand Mira,
Cape Breton County, a woman who came out in 1840 as a child. I am
also informed that the last immigrants to Guysborough County, who
settled around Giant's Lake, came out in 1843, but am ignorant of
the name of the ship or where they landed.
From Ontario a correspondent has written to me to say that in 1802
his grandfather, Major MacMillan, brought 370 settlers from Lochaber
to Pictou, but that the settlers proceeded to Ontario. My correspondent
is not aware of the names of the vessels in question but he has
copies of the passenger lists.
The period between 1790 and 1820 seems to have been that during
which the volume of immigration was greatest, particularly in Antigonish
County, and I have seen somewhere that a little later than 1820
a number of settlers removed from that County to the Island of Cape
Breton, it being thought that the good available land in Antigonish
was all taken up. It should be remarked here that from the time
the first Highlanders came to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia,
there was for forty or fifty years thereafter a good deal of shifting
to and fro, for family or religious reasons, or in the hope of getting
better land or land on more favorable terms.
As has been remarked often, the majority of the Highland immigrants
were of sturdy physique, but not secularly educated. With the exception
of clothing and some small personal effects, few families brought
out anything in the way of house furniture.
Although many of the immigrants came out in vessels westward bound
in search of cargoes of lumber for Europe and thus secured comparatively
cheap transportation, this was not always so, and in many cases
the fare of the family to Canada must have been a severe burden.
About 1817 the brig "Hope" came out from Greenock to Pictou,
and at that time the fare charged for a certain passenger and his
family was £3-5-0. In this case the head of the family was
allowed credit for the cost on his undertaking to repay it within
four months after his arrival. The amount quoted does not seem unreasonable,
but it is also recorded that in 1820 the cost of bringing a certain
family from Tobermory to Pictou was £52-10-0, which seems
Nowadays, with our rapid steamers and cheap postage, and with free
education for all, communication between families in Scotland and
Canada is an easy matter. But it was far otherwise around 1800.
At that time sailing vessels came only at long intervals and the
cost of postage was very high. It is stated that the postage on
a certain letter from Scotland to Plaster Rock in 1800 was three
shillings. So, for the reasons brought out, communication between
relatives on both sides of the Atlantic soon ceased, though among
the descendants of some Highland Celts one hears of cousins who
stayed in the old land or emigrated to Australia or other countries.
It is not my intention to give figures showing the number of descendants
of Highland Celts in Nova Scotia, nor to mention the number who
have removed to the United States and to other parts of Canada.
We know, from an old Scottish pamphlet, that in the first six years
of the nineteenth century not less than ten thousand people emigrated
from the Highlands to America, chiefly to the Maritime Provinces.
It would be interesting to say something of the old legends and
folklore of the Gael, and of their habits and characteristics, but
it is outside the scope of this article, and, besides, I must leave
the subject to someone better qualified for the work.
In closing this brief article, it seems to me that we may well be
thankful that we do not have to face what our early Highlanders
did, viz., the destruction of their national life and the necessity
of faring forth across the ocean to establish new homes in an uncultivated
and forest country.