Come Visit Us!

The flags are out, the path is straightened, the bagpipes are playing and we are now open for the season.

It’s been a long snowy winter for us here on PEI but it only makes us welcome the sun more. Our stage is ready for picnickers and our story is ready to be told so come along and we’ll spend some time talking about Lord Selkirk and his historic settlement, the Acadians and their serene graveyard, and/or the Belfast Riot – yes, we had a bloody battle happen not far away.

If you are arriving by ferry in Wood Islands, head left toward Charlottetown and we’re only ten minutes down the road. See our ‘Contact Us’ page for detailed directions.

Church of Scotland on the grounds at Croft House

Church of Scotland on the grounds at Croft House

The Croft House honours the memory of our Scots ancestors.

The Croft House honours the memory of our Scots ancestors.

picnic at the park

picnic at the park

Entry to ancient Acadian Cemetery

Entry to ancient Acadian Cemetery

Piper warm up

Piper warm up

Rob and Audrey putting up the Royal Stewart bunting

Rob and Audrey putting up the Royal Stewart bunting

Tartan Day 2014

The sixth of April is designated as Tartan Day in PEI and was celebrated in style this year by the Belfast Historical Society.

St. John’s Presbyterian Church on the Garfield Road in Belfast entertained a great crowd of lovers of all things Scots with various bits and swaths of tartan seen on audience members and performers alike.

The old timbers of the ancient church reflected the sounds of guitars, pipes and drums and here is a pictorial diary of the event.

A lovely evening to celebrate Tartan Day

A lovely evening to celebrate Tartan Day

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Victoria Sweet practiced a bit before the program started. She is an accomplished musical artist, playing the keyboard, flute, small pipes and Celtic low whistle. Her husband, Graham, accompanied her with vocals and guitar.

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The evening got off to a rousing start, led by the Belfast Pipe and Drum.

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Ian MacPherson was the MC for the evening and here, pictured, is Donald MacDonald, a director of the BHS as he introduces Patricia Murray. A swath of Royal Stewart dress tartan adorns the wall behind him.IMG_3880

The concert was dedicated to the late Stanley Bruce who was instrumental, politically, in getting legislative approval for Tartan Day in 1992. PEI was the second province to recognize the date, it being initiated in NS. It is now celebrated across Canada. He is pictured on the right in the picture with the banner in his Bruce tartan from last year’s concert. His wife, Anne, was presented with a bouquet of flowers.

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Patricia Murray, an Islander living now in Moncton, is a celebrated Celtic performer and was accompanied by well-known Island musician Frances McBurnie.

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The Sweets, Victoria and Graham, then performed some well-loved Scots’ melodies.

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The audience consisted of some well-known and loved Islanders. In the forefront is Hazel Davies, President of the BHS. It warmed our hearts having her there after the health issues she has overcome since last summer.

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Mary MacGillivary followed, accompanied by Ben Reid and Robin Brooks.

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Darlene Compton, of the BHS, then presented the Selkirk Award to Margaret Ross MacKinnon for her dedication to all things Scottish.

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Margaret Ross MacKinnon with the Selkirk Award.

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Rob MacLean, son of J. Angus MacLean, performed the Scottish poem titled the Immigration of the Islanders by Malcolm Ban Buchanan. It tells of the Scots leaving Scotland for the New World,. The poem includes actual sailing instructions for leaving the Isle of Skye.

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The entertainment ended as it had begun, with the Belfast Pipe and Drum. Refreshments were served in the church basement, allowing performers to mingle with the public for conversation and reminiscences.

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The Selkirk Award.

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Margaret Ross MacKinnon and Donald MacDonald under the Lion Rampant with the Selkirk Award.

The Seventh Son

The shores would have been thick with trees but that deep red soil a balm to farmers' hearts.

The shores would have been thick with trees but that deep red soil a balm to farmers’ hearts.

Continuing to read from the book ‘Lord Selkirk of Red River’, details of the settling of the land are fascinating to read and pulls you right into the times.

‘…He started surveyors at work, arranged for the building of a storehouse for provisions encouraged leading settlers to take parties over portions of his land, and set out to explore it for himself. For the next two months he traveled tirelessly, overland by stout Canadian pony and around the shores in a canoe, planning and laying out in his minds eye. Wherever he went he read the quality of the soil in what grew wild upon it. He might sleep on the ground, in a hammock slung between trees, or in the house of an established settler whom he would question searchingly on the problems his people must face, how best to clear land, the expectation of harvest in successive years, the application of his own knowledge of farming to these some-what different conditions. By flickering candlelight or leaping flames it all went down in his diary in immense and careful detail.’

The book goes on to describe the trials of dealing with cautious and stubborn Scots who had precious little money and were ‘suspicious of every effort to hurry their decisions.’ Apparently one large farm-owner was trying to attract the Highlanders with an offer of a free cow with each farm but had no takers because the Highlanders thought the offer too good to be true. Selkirk felt amused exasperation!

There were also  rival proprietors who tried to lure them away to western and northern PEI as well as Quebec. There was much arguing among the settlers and Selkirk, who had offered partially cleared land near the shore for at a dollar an acre and half a dollar an acre farther inland, adjusted his price to half payable in cash and half paid in produce.

It worked. The lots were snatched up. But Selkirk had envisioned the farms as large wheels around small villages, The settlers all wanted some shore frontage and so the lots were long narrow farms with log houses at the front – ‘almost a continuous village running for miles.’

Selkirk prepared to leave in late September ( the ships had arrived in PEI in early August), thrilled to see the progress – settlers had moved off the shore into cabins, they were comfortable with logging and clearing land and Selkirk felt confident as he sailed off.

Come to PEI and see the areas now – Belfast remains a busy little village and our shores and farmland stretch for miles.

And PEI is celebrating this year. For 2014 marks 150 years since Confederation, the time that these northern colonies joined to become Canada. There are celebrations all over our Island and we welcome visitors to join with us.

excerpt from ‘Lord Selkirk of Red River’ by John Morgan Gray, 1963

This is the shore the settlers saw as they unloaded their supplies...210 years later

This is the shore the settlers saw as they unloaded their supplies…210 years later. Mary Angela White photo

 

Chapter One: The Seventh Son, page 20

“…A condition of them (the emigrants) remaining bound to him required that he undertake to accompany them, to see his promises fulfilled, and if they were to move in 1803 he must contract for supplies and ships before he could know their destination or even be certain they would sail at all. And, when at last it was settled, he had to turn his back on Britain just as the menace of renewed war with Bonaparte laid him open to charges of desertion of which his enemies would one day take full advantage.

If it worried him, he scorned to show it, Sand once the coast of Scotland had sunk into the mists astern he had little enough time for remote problems. Sailing in the ship Dykes, slightly ahead of the Polly and the Oughton, he had locked himself up for five weeks with a shipload of the most lovable, disputatious, an immovably stubborn people ever to land in British North America, any one of whom, it may be assumed, would have been pleased to discuss land grants with him the whole way across the Atlantic, and many of  whom probably did.

…If the voyage was an omen, the colony seemed born under a lucky star for on August 3 well aheda of expectations, the Dykes was in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The wind failed them them for a few days, as they went slowly in past the Magdalen Islands and the North Cape of Cape Breton. In idle contentment the people looked at these outer fringes of the promised land while they fished for cod and mackerel over the side.

He had hoped to arrive first at the rendezvous, in order to have some kind of shelter ready for the other settlers. But, in site of the Dykes’s swift voyage, the Polly with the people from Skye on board had arrived two days ahead of them. She rode gently at anchor in the agreed spot while the long and confusing business of unloading onto distant beaches by small boats went forward. Selkirk had now to lose still more time calling on the governor and being drawn reluctantly into Charlottetown’s modest social round…

….A few days later he sailed back to his grant and landed in Orwell Bay after dark. Word of his coming spread to a few of the settlers and they gathered to welcome him, like a Highland chieftain, at his landing. The scene at the water’s edge brought back to Selkirk a memory of Seaforth being greeted by his people at Kintail, on his own first trip to the Highlands eleven years before. In his romantic nature there was always a lurking wish to be a Highland chief and he treasured the scenes that established some claim to the title. He looked now with pleasure along a mile of shore where his people had constructed scores of lean-tos out of evergreen boughs. Before each shelter burned a great fire round which settlers moved with their pots and pans or squatted contentedly in the summer night, It was a wild and beautiful scene, this first ragged edge of settlement crouching between the forest and the water.”

The book continues to follow the day-to-day setting up of the colony and goes on to follow Lord Selkirk on his life and travels.

The beginning of Tartan

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This is clan Douglas tartan and is the background of our blog’s opening page, referring to Thomas Douglas, the fifth Earl of Selkirk who led the Scots to PEI in 1803.

It is thought that tartans originated back in the midst of time. Each area of Scotland made dyes from the plants that grew naturally in their area.

They began with simple two-colour checks that evolved into cross-cheks ‘into a profusion of differing patterns …that today number well over two thousand.’*

The Romans noted the Scots as exuberant wearers of colour in stripes, variegated and chequered clothing and tattoos.

Tartans were certainly evident during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. After the English subdued the Scots it is said they were greatly shaken by the ferocity of the Scots and determined to quash all rebellion.

The Act of Proscription forbade wearing of any ‘tartan, kilt and plaid’* except by landowners. THe Act was repealed in 1782.

There is another view – that the Victorians of the early 18th century promoted tartans and it developed into a cult. Wearing dress tartan after 6pm was definitely a Victorian custom.

On April 8, 1815, naming and registration of official clan tartans began.

*Scots Kith and Kin, 2008 edition.

Tartans – MacRae

MacRae dress tartan

MacRae dress tartan

There are four MacRae tartans. The dress tartan, shown above, green MacRae, hunting MacRae and MacRae of Conchra.

In the 14th century, the MacRaes of Clunes quarrelled with the nearby Frasers so accompanied their neighbours the MacLennans across the Ross-shire to Kintail. They commanded Loch Alsh from the fortress of Eilean Donan, restored by a 20th century Chief.

The name comes from a small class of ‘Macs’ that do not mean ‘son of’.

The earliest form, Macrath, was a baptismal term meaning ‘son of grace’ or ‘of good fortune’.

taken from Scottish Kith and Kin  2008.

MacRae is a name still evident in the PEI community of Belfast.

The Scottish Tartans

MacPherson weathered red tartan

MacPherson weathered red tartan

“The are are two main schools of thought on the origin of tartans. One view is that way back in the mists of time every Scottish family had a distinctive tartan pattern, the colours of which were obtained from the plants which grew only in their locality. The opposing view stated stat clans, kilts and tartans were an early 19th-century invention which the Victorians developed into an enormous cult. Somewhere between these two schools lies the truth.” ~Scots Kith and KIn 2008

This book, available at the Croft House, is a guide to the clans and surnames of Scotland and includes the responsibilities of wearing a tartan and which to wear if you have no tartan associated with your name.

MacPherson means ‘son of the parson’, followed back to 1153. After Culloden, Cluny MacPherson shared his Benalder ‘cage’ for weeks with Prince Charlie and remained himself in hiding for nine years. Despite large rewards offered, the loyal clansmen betrayed neither.

MacDonald of the Isles tartan

MacDonald of the Isles tartan

Greatest and most widespread of all the clans, Clan Donald is mostly rooted in the old Gaelic, Pictish, and some Norsemen. ‘After 11493, vast power of the Lords of the Ises was transferred to the Earls of Argyll in the South Isles and Huntly in the North Isles and Highlands, not without flaring resistances and memories that still cling. Chiefship shifted to the Sleat branch in Skye, called MacDonalds of the Isles to distinguish them from the branch-clans.’     ~Scotch Kith and Kin 2008