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The following is a narrative written by Joanne (MacFadyen) Turner’s great great Uncle Malcolm F. MacKinnon of Churchill which gives us a detailed account of the hope and trepidation of a group of Scottish Emigrants sailing to Cape Breton and PEI in 1833. We estimate this piece was written in 1894. It would have been his father’s (Archibald’s) and grandfather’s (Neil’s) account of the journey. For those living in the Churchill, Riverdale, Bonshaw and Argyle Shore area with ancestry connected to MacDonalds or MacKinnons, you may find some clues or questions in this lengthy but historically rich piece. We would love to hear from you in the comments’ section, or you can email vivian@eastlink.ca. This is a transcription of an earlier transcription of a story originally written 123 years ago, so we have made our best attempt at accuracy. 

A number of gentlemen in the old country, having lands in Canada had agents to see after their claims. The business of these agents was to populate these lands. Having sent a glowing report home, the people of the Isle of Mull and surrounding districts being those influenced, hastily disposed of their goods and chattels, except such that they could conveniently take as luggage to the Great Land of America.

So the poor people bid adieu for aye to the dear land of their birth, the land so dear to each one of them. Just think of the many tears shed when they arose and left the old homestead, never never to see it again. How dear the land of green heath and shaggy wood, the land of mountain and the floor, has been to these humble peasants, yet as humble as was their lot, they felt a pang of sorrow when they cast the last look on the old place.

They then went to Tobermory, from whence they were to sail. Tobermory is a place of some importance in Mull, on account I am told, being the third best harbor in Scotland. It is not much of a place to look at. Indeed there is no footing for anything like a building at the shore, by reason of a very scraggy and rocky hill rising immediately from the waters edge. But solid breastworks being built, there was a row of fine houses at the base of the hill at that time.

Those solitary emigrants after getting their little odds and ends packed in trunks, some of them huge ones, they then prepared to embark on an Emigrant ship or tub called the Amity from Glasgow. The ship I understand was built at Quebec.

Captain Samuel Andrews being in command, having engaged the required number of officers and seamen, they left Tobermory about the first of July, 1833, in excellent spirits no doubt, meditating on the future good fortune in America.

They sang the Emigrant song in the Big Hotel before, mixed no doubt with the good old uisge-beatha (whiskey). The following is the song in Scottish Gaelic. (The original writing included the chorus only. We have included the full lyrics here and English translation – video link to a vocal performance of this song at end of article.)

‘Illean bithibh sunndach – Boys be Happy

Chorus
‘Illean bithibh sunndach – Boys be happy
A-null air a’ bhoidse – Going on a voyage
Fàgail ar dùthcha – Leaving our country
Gun dùil ri thigh’inn beò ann – Without hope of doing well there
‘Illean bithibh sunndach – Boys be happy
A-null air a’ bhoidse – Going over the ocean

Verse 1: 
‘Illean cridheil gaolach – Hearty, loving boys
Togaibh rite h-aodach – Hoist the sails
Tha buidheann mo ghaoil-sa – A group of dear folk
Di Ardoain ‘dol a sheòladh – Are setting sail on Friday

Verse 2:

Gur mise tha gu cianail – I am homesick
A’ fàgail a’ Chrianain – Leaving the Crinan
A’ dol do’n dùthaich fhiadhaich – Going to the wild country
A dh’iarraidh ar lòin as – To make a living

Verse 3: 

Gur mise tha fo ghruaimean – I am in despair
A’ dol a shiubhal chuantan – Travelling over the oceans
Tha ‘n t-soitheach dubh a’ gluasad – A black ship is moving
Gu muladach a sheòladh – Sailing in sadness

After the unusual embracing and such, fond and precious remarks, the shrill note of the Captain’s ship ahoy, they went on board, being a fine day and the future after plotting the course, then she moved away, having all the appearance of fine weather. They felt comfortable as could be expected under the circumstances, making new acquaintances to fill the gap made by the old ones left behind. They progressed.

The old tub, as they called her, moved majestically along. Till they encountered a storm along the Irish Coast. The storm was severe. Indeed, some of the poor passengers begged the Captain to return back again, but he being an able seaman proceeded on the voyage. After three days, the storm abated and they forgot their terror, being too busy putting things to rights, attending the sick etc.

One curiosity among the men who used the cuddy weed, was that their lips were burned with the poker iron they lit their cuddies with. Having no flintstone, they were obliged to used the iron. I think if it was now, many a fine pair of mustaches would be disfigured, for a time at least.

After the storm calmed down, the weather was fine until they came to the banks of Newfoundland, where a hurricane struck them, and the ship being tossed on her beam ends. For three hours they were in a perilous position, I am told, until she righted again, and you may wager that they were a pious lot. But people soon forgot those things and became themselves again.

I am told this was the severest storm there ever was on the Island, that to the knowledge of the oldest inhabitants. One old man being hurt at the time of the storm, died soon thereafter and was buried at sea. Also, one child. Those two were all the deaths. There was also one birth.

After seven weeks of tossing on the Great Atlantic, they landed at Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton, about 250 souls, and the great number remaining there, having friends to greet them. (Editor’s note: exact date was August 21st, 1833, reference here.)

The Amity of Glasgow proceeded to her destination, Quebec, to load with lumber, being build for that trade, made her a very poor sailor and a sorrowful time for passengers (seventy).

The number who came to the Island was sixty-eight souls, many married couples and families, made up fifty-eight. Unmarried men were seven. There was also one woman and two children.

They took passage in two small French schooners bound for Charlottetown and landed there in due time. After resting their bones, they went to the country to look out for a home for the future, settling here and there all over Queen’s County.

Not having space will not permit me to give a detailed account of them individually, but a remark or two will not be out of place, I hope.

Mr. John MacFarlane, who afterwards settled on Melville Road, brought an iron plow, and I am told it is in good working order yet. They all lived to a ripe old age and honorably passed on.

Mr. MacDonald after moving about a little, settled on Strathgartney Heights, where he ran a smithy. Mack was always welcome at neighbours’ fireside or at home on winter nights, being always attentively listened to, being a grand hand at Legends and Traditions. He died at the age of 82 years on Strathgartney Heights.

The three oldest of the family were girls, who got married and moved to different parts of the Island.

Neil, the eldest son, being a seafaring man, went to sea and got married to a lady in Glasgow. He died at the early age of 41, leaving two sons.

The next, Flora, is deserving of special mention. She was about 19 years when she came to the Island. Fourteen years after, she married Edward Whitehead, a private in the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusilieres. He was stationed in Charlottetown then. They were soon called away and, after remaining in Halifax for six months, went to Winchester, England, remaining there two years. This town is noted as the place Cromwell made a decree that all travelers passing should get one pint of beer and a slice of bread. This was after he burned the town.

He was a commander on the fourth day of April 1854, but sad to relate he was killed at the first engagement at the Battle of Alma on the 20th September. Samuel Morell was Whitehead’s chum for eighteen years, went through the war and came back without a scratch, which was a lucky thing for the widow. Friendship ripened to affection and he married her after she came back to England. Those gentlemen have great respect for the Scotch women.

Mr. Morell was keeper of Regent’s Park for 28 years and six months until he took ill and died April 6th, 1888. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Morell felt lonesome and came back to Prince Edward Island to live with her brother Donald on Tryon Road.

Mrs. Morell saw some wonderful sights in her time. She saw the Great Eastern launched. The SS Great Eastern was a mammoth ship. She was 680 ft. long. They launched her at a cost of 60,000 pounds. Her trial was disastrous, several being killed by an explosion. Mrs. Morell saw Queen Victoria several times, likewise all the Royal Family. I think that would be a treat to see the Royal Family of Great Britain.

She receives a pension as a soldier’s widow of two shillings and sixpence a month, is now about 80 years old and retains her faculties.

This is an account of John, and Christy got married to a Mr. Miller and moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where she now lives, prosperous and happy.

The next on our list is Mr. William MacDonald, having a family when he landed of six boys and one girl. He settled in Argyle Rear, where he died leaving two sons there. They in turn left their farms to their sons, now the third generation who is still living there in good circumstances.

Next comes Neil MacKinnon who died at the age of 82 years, leaving a wife, five girls and three boys. His wife was one of the Lochbuie MacLeans, a clan noted for longevity and a strange Legend of Ewan of the Little head or The Headless Horseman. The old lady died at the venerable age of 91 years, retaining her faculties till the very last.

The eldest of the family, Allen settled on a farm in River Dale, Lot 30, and died about eleven years ago, leaving a widow who still survives him, but no family.

Next to Allen is Archibald, who was my father, was a tailor and farmer, settled in Strathgartney Corner, where he died on the 20th May 1891, aged 77 years.

Catherine married Malcolm MacKinnon and the mother of ten sons and two daughters. She has now two sons on the Island and one daughter. Five sons in the Western States. Two died in the Eastern States and one is on the Island. The other daughter made a home in New Hampshire.

Margaret married Mr. Donald MacLeod of Harlington. She had three daughters, two married and one single. Mrs. MacLeod died 1893 aged 74 years.

Flora married James Murray and they settled on a farm in River Dale. She died May 1893 aged 71. She has two sons in the States and one on the Island on the homestead. Three daughters are on the Island, two married and one single. She was one of a pair of twins. Her other sister Mary, is living in Ontario.

The youngest son John was a child of three years when he came to the Island, leaving him now 64 years next birthday. John like everybody had some peculiarities, one being content to remain a bachelor, but it seems to agree with him. However, he is a hale and hearty man today. He has filled different positions in his time. Learning the tailoring trade first, but thinking he missed his calling, he went to school and after getting a license to teach Grammar School, he filled that position for a number of years.

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The tailor shop was on the second floor of the barn at the right. They had a round stove with a “ring or rim” to set the irons upon. Located at corner of highway and Riverdale Road. Buildings no longer there since highway upgrade.

Malcolm F. MacKinnon included his bio with the story:

Malcolm, tailor, of Churchill, was born April 20th 1867 at Churchill, son of Archibald and Isabella (Ferguson) MacKinnon. The parental grandfather Neil MacKinnon was born on the Isle of Mull, Argyleshire, Scotland, and came to Prince Edward Island August 11, 1833 on the ship Amity of Glasgow, and located on Strath Alban. He was married in his native country and became the father of eight children: Archibald, Allen, John, Catherine, Mary, Flora, Margaret and Sarah.

Archibald MacKinnon, father of Malcolm who wrote this, was also born on the Isle of Mull and accompanied his parents on their immigration to PEI. He followed his trade as a tailor but the last twenty years of his life was engaged in farming. He married Isabella Ferguson, a daughter of Peter Ferguson of Hampton, PEI, and had a family, namely, Peter who died in infancy, Neil, Charles, Peter the second, John Archibald, Malcolm F., Sarah wife of Charles MacFadyen, Catherine deceased, Christie, and Isabel the wife of Duncan MacGillivary. He was a member of the Church of Scotland and always supported the Liberal Party. His death occurred on May 26, 1891. Malcolm F. who wrote this sketch was a tailor also, and was a member of the L.O.A.B.A. and the Sons of Temperance, also a Member of the Scotch Kirk.

I hope this will give you an idea of your ancestors, that’s if they are or not. There is a sketch written by Ewen MacKinnon of DeSable born 1837 and Margaret MacKinnon, his Grandfather being John MacKinnon, a native of Isle of Mull, Argyleshire, born in 1787.

Photos of MacKinnon Family’s record book:

Editor’s Notes:

  • Archibald and Isabella (Ferguson) MacKinnon Family tree, click here.
  • Notation on site – The Ships List: PANS, Financial Mss., Passenger Money, op. cit., John Jean (Collector of Customs) to Charles Wallace, Arichat, August 23, 1833. Brig Amity, from Creek Tobermory, Port of Greenock, landed 258 “passengers” at Ship Harbour on August 21. Jean collected the passenger money—£64/10/0
  • Video of group performing the song Illean Bithibh Sunndach (Boys be Happy):

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Many families in Clyde River have an ancestral connection to Colonsay, Scotland. Immigrants to Prince Edward Island in the early 1800s sailed on the Polly 1803, Dykes 1803, Oughton 1803, Spencer 1806 and settled in Belfast, Clyde River and surrounding areas, becoming part of the Selkirk Settlers. Common family names are Darrach, MacLean, MacNeil, Bell, Currie, MacPhee, MacEachern, to name a few. Here is drone footage of Colonsay. Enjoy. If you have visited here, share your experience in the comments.

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Millar’s Life Review was provided to us by Joanne (MacFadyen) Turner which was written by Norma Thomson (Millar’s niece, Norman’s daughter) in 1986 for a course she had taken on the Dynamics of Communication with the Elderly and their Families. Millar MacFadyen taught at Clyde River, Cornwall, Kingston and East Wiltshire Schools during his career. Millar would have been 87 at the time of this interview.

Millar, Eric & Norman MacFadyen

Millar, Eric & Norman MacFadyen

Millar was born at Kingston on June 13, 1898. He was the second oldest of a family of seven children. He traces his ancestry to the Argyles (Argyll) of Scotland. Millar’s mother descended from the Campbell’s of Mull and family history suggests he was a descendant of the 5th Duke of Argyle (or Argyll).

Millar and his oldest brother started to school the same year. He was only five years old and his brother was six. He told me back in those days, you could do that. He went to a one-room schoolhouse with approximately 40 pupils all taught by the same teacher from grades 1 to 10. The older pupils helped the teacher out with the younger pupils. He attended school for 14 years.

Norman MacFadyen, Millar's older brother

Norman MacFadyen, Millar’s older brother

By then, the First World War had broken out and his older brother had gone overseas. Millar stayed at home for two years and helped his father on the farm. During this time, he decided he wanted to become a teacher, so he wrote and passed the matriculation examination into Prince of Wales College where he obtained a teacher’s license.

From 1918-1922, he taught school at Cornwall. While there, he met and married Marion Lewis and they were married on December 20th, 1922.

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Millar’s parents: Sarah Jane (Campbell) & John Archibald

He remembers the Christmas of 1918 as a very sad time for the family, as on December 17th, his mother passed away suddenly. She was only 48 years old. The youngest of her children were twin girls, only eight years old. The first world war was just over and they were waiting for the return of the oldest boy from the war. He wasn’t able to get home until July 1920. In 1921, Eric, a brother two years younger than Millar died of T.B. He was just 21.

After his marriage, Millar moved in with his father on the home farm in Kingston. He taught school from 1922-24. He had 51 pupils in grades 1-10. In 1924, he taught at East Wiltshire for two years and then taught at Clyde River until 1932 when he returned to Kingston School and taught until 1935. He farmed and taught school for 16 years. He would get up at 3:00 a.m. and cultivate four acres before he went to school and four more acres in the evening during the busy season.

Millar & Marion (Lewis) MacFadyen

Millar & Marion (Lewis) MacFadyen

In 1941, he obtained the position of principal at Parkdale School and was there for there for 14 years. He taught grades 7 to 10. In 1955, he received a position with the Department of Education as Director of Correspondence Study and Truant Officer of Prince Edward Island. He retired in 1972 at the age of 74 years after working 17 years at the Department of Education.

When he first started teaching, his salary was $305 a year, and, in the final year at the Department of Education, $19,000 a year. When he retired, he received a pension of $3400.

Concerts were the highlight of the school year. At these concerts, they would raise money for needed school equipment. One year, they purchased a teacher’s desk and chair. Another year, it was a bookcase, and, another year, they purchased a school organ for $75. During the depression years, there was not enough money to buy paint for the school, so they held a concert to raise money to buy paint.

In those early years, grades were not mentioned, as a child started with the first primer, second primer, book I, book II, book III, and book IV. Another highlight was the Red Cross organization. He wrote a script for radio and had several people take part. This program was well received by the radio fans, In Parkdale, he organized a program where four pupils would answer questions by one of the other pupils. They had a program every Friday. Questions were asked regarding the home, marriage, boyfriends, religion, etc. The first program lasted five minutes. The final one in June was timed and it had to be discontinued after one and a half hours.

Millar said, “The students enjoyed the program and learned a great deal about Canada, people and how to conduct themselves. It was a great asset towards discipline, and it taught each one how to express themselves without fear, because they became conversant with many topics. A great need is to show that we care for other people. It also showed children that we were interested in their welfare. This is teaching democracy and that we must have as leaders people of high moral character and integrity. We must give our children the right kind of training.”

Millar emphasized that in the old days, teachers taught and did not emphasize their salary. He said, “Today, we need good leadership and the guidance. Our forefathers have left us a good heritage. We must make changes as time passes on but let us preserve the best things of the past and make changes for improvement. Remember, without a good past, we cannot have a great future. Let us remember that the little schoolhouse has produced great leaders in the past.”

Millar attended the Presbyterian Church all his life. He became an elder in 1950 of Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown. He was Clerk of Session for ten years and taught bible class for 15 years. When a charge did not have a minister, he took his turn in the pulpit. He was secretary of the Men’s Association for nine years and of Presbytery for three years.

He retired in 1972 at 74 years of age, and since that time, he has written three books of poetry and several single poems. He was a member of the Gideon Society for several years and during those years preached several sermons. He was a delegate from the Prince Edward Island Teachers’ Federation to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation twice, once in Winnipeg and once in Toronto. Millar’s first train ride was in 1941 when he travelled from Charlottetown to Winnipeg to attend the meeting.

He remembers his first car ride and that was in 1916. A friend of his was driving around and picked him up to take him for a ride. He was much older when he had his first plane trip, when he travelled from Charlottetown to Toronto for a funeral. He said, “It was necessary for me to get to my destination in a hurry, so it was my only choice to go on the plane.”

I asked Millar what his favourite word was. He said “Sui Generis” which means unique, unequalled or unparalleled.

I asked Millar if he had his life to live over again, what would he do differently. He answered, “Nothing different, I have thoroughly enjoyed my life.”

Editor and family notes:

  • Millar lived 99 years, 1 month. He died July 14th, 1997.
  • Clipping about Clyde River School examinations include a thank you letter from students, click here.
  • Millar was principal of Parkdale School during his career. When some of his former pupils had a reunion at the new Parkdale School on Confederation Street, they planted a tree and placed a plaque in the front yard for Millar. It was a very special time for him. He was very proud and overwhelmed.
  • There is a book of Millar MacFadyen’s poetry in the museum collection at the Riverview Community Centre.
  • Millar was also a descendant of Thomas and Jane Beer. Their first daughter Mary Anne (Beer) married Archibald MacFadyen. Their son John Archibald married Sarah Jane (Campbell), and their son was Archibald Millar. Refer to lineage on http://www.janedyment.ca, click here.
  • Both Joanne (MacFadyen) Turner and Jane Dyment who are members of our History Committee are descendants of Mary Anne (Beer) and Archibald MacFadyen. Joanne (MacFadyen) Turner is a descendant of Millar’s older brother Norman, making Millar her great-uncle.
  • Millar was Roger Younker’s grandfather. Roger was the News Anchor for CBC Charlottetown’s Compass program for many years.
Millar's childhood homestead, Bannockburn Road

Millar’s childhood homestead, Bannockburn Road

  • Millar’s home place was on property now owned by the Dixon family on the Bannockburn Road, just a 1/4 mile past the Kingston/Clyde River border on the right-hand side. The house is no longer there.
  • Millar’s mother’s obituary stated she “was taken suddenly ill with heart trouble.” Her children were Norman, Millar, Donald (Eric) (died of T.B. at 21 years old), Margaret (Florence), Jeannette and Alexandrena. Another of her daughters predeceased her, Rebecca Louise at 7 months, 13 days. She was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Donald E. Campbell of Darlington. She is buried in the Clyde River Presbyterian Cemetery. More details on obituary and genealogy at www.janedyment.ca, click here.
  • When Millar’s grandparents (Campbell’s) moved to Charlottetown, they lived in a house at the corner of Kirkwood and University Avenue which is now the location of Shopper’s Drug Mart. The home was referred to as Argyle Cottage.

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Doris & Donald MacDonald (2016 Selkirk Award Recipients), The Honourable H. Frank Lewis & Mrs. Dorothy Lewis

It was an honour to attend the Belfast Historical Society Fundraising Dinner last evening at St. Andrew’s United Church in Vernon Bridge. They mentioned that the Belfast area at one time included what is now Vernon Bridge all the way down to Wood Islands. Belfast Historical Society Member Audrey Shillabeer offered an introduction to the Society’s work over the past 40 years before presenting this year’s Selkirk Award.

The delicious dinner was prepared by Steven & Jennifer Taran and Kim Doherty-Smith & Ken Smith along with their team of volunteers. Following the dinner, they raised some extra money with a cake auction. The auctioneer was entertaining and had a knack for loosening the purse strings of a room full of Scots. The final cake, a fruit cake prepared by Donald MacDonald went for $201! Apparently, it was made with brandy which helped to launch the bidding.

Audrey’s 2016 Selkirk Award presentation follows:

The mandate of the Belfast Historical Society (BHS) is to preserve, protect, and promote the history, heritage, and culture of the larger Belfast area. Our Society came into existence in 1976, and is 40 years old this year. Happy birthday to us!

At a 1978 BHS general meeting, then President Mary Ross first suggested the Society establish special awards to recognize adults who contributed to our Belfast community.

This award, the Selkirk Award, named for Thomas Douglas, the 5th Earl of Selkirk, would be given for a wide range of projects. It was determined that the Award would be given annually to individuals or groups in recognition of excellence for projects undertaken about the history of the Belfast district, or for outstanding contribution to preserving the heritage of the Belfast area.

Lord Selkirk brought 800 Scots from the Hebrides to our area over 200 years ago beginning in 1803. His settlement was conceived as a “model village” designed to address the real and serious issues of the day.

For his designed community, he recruited emigrants with wherewithal and with some means— “a very fine class of immigrants,” they’ve since been called. Belfast was the first and only truly successful Selkirk settlement — the others coming within a decade in Ontario and then Manitoba.

Selkirk is said to have set “the enduring Scottish culture on Prince Edward Island” and many in this room likely trace their ancestry back to these early Scots. The Scottish-Canadian culture here in Belfast is as deep as your DNA. Matrilineal and patrilineal threads first spun in the old country are dyed deep in this unique community fabric.

Many in this room work tirelessly for the memory of their ancestors and assure that the stories move along into the future, including tonight’s Selkirk Award Winners.

In our 40th birthday year, the 2016 Selkirk Award is given tonight to two of our historical society’s own — Donald and Doris MacDonald.

Over the last ten years that I have known them, I have come to think of Donald and Doris as the “Keepers” of our historical society and, more importantly, of perpetuating our stories.

Keepers are people who manage or look after something valuable, and in some cases, something fragile were there not people to attend to it. Keepers are trusted to ensure the continuity of something.

Celebrating keeps us together. Events such as Scottish dinners, Polly Days, Tartan Days, Christmas fairs and such gatherings happen here in large part because Donald and Doris know them to be important.

Music keeps community culture alive, and Donald and Doris are the best at conceiving, planning and executing the events that bring —and keep — us together:  ceilidhs and concerts in the Gaelic tradition.

If food keeps us together, the MacDonalds have baked enough cookies, biscuits, blueberry cakes, Christmas cakes; made enough soups, chowders, and stews;  scooped enough ice cream and strawberries to assure our memories are tied to sated appetites and good company.

And, much of what the MacDonalds do is not glamorous, yet they keep on doing  what can only be seen as hard work. They have served as directors and officers in the Belfast Historical Society;  kept up with our mandate to present educative guest speakers by first finding and then engaging them — not always an easy task!  They’ve kept inventory straight, they’ve kept books and records, reported to associations, and to government agencies. They have completed grant applications, written letters, hired staff and supported them, attended partnering meetings throughout the province and so forth.

Often with sleeves rolled up, they have even kept up the maintenance of the Croft House and its grounds.

All of this is done with love, pride, dedication, charm, and sometimes — as the need arises— resurrected humour,  the latter— on occasion — needing to be fortified by a smoothing toddy.

Donald and Doris keep the vision, keep the faith, and keep our future bright!

Please help me welcome Donald and Doris MacDonald to the microphone to receive their award.

For your outstanding contribution to preserving our history, heritage and culture, I — with gratitude and joy — present to you the 2016 Selkirk Award.  Congratulations, my friends.

Editor’s Note: By 1807, Lord Selkirk had sold or granted for services 16,222 acres of his holdings to over 150 individuals on Lots 31 (which included Clyde River), 57, 58, 60, 62 and 53 — over half of that total on Lots 57 and 58. To learn more about Lord Selkirk and his Settlement, please link to this interesting article written by J.M. Bumsted for Island Magazine.

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Hilda Beer

Hilda Beer attending Landscape of Memories book launch at Riverview Community Centre

In writing memorials for our community website, one knows it is only a matter of time before you must write one for a dear family member. Emily Bryant had kindly prepared the lovely tribute to my mother back in 2012. The other challenge for me now is to write a piece on someone who would not want me to be too showy in my praise.

When I reflect back on a woman I have known my entire life, who I grew up next to and who was my second mother, it is difficult to narrow down the many wonderful memories and qualities that I cherish. She represents a generation that is all but gone from our lives. The Murray Diaries written by Hilda’s grandmother offer insight into what built this generation of strong and steady folks, not easily knocked down by events or influenced by trends. They knew where they came from and their values, they knew their relations from near and far and they abided by their faith at all times. They were born at the end of The Great War and lived through The Depression and World War II. They were there for each other during times of celebration and times of sorrow. They saw unprecedented growth in technology and medical advances but never lost sight of the difference between a need and a want. They considered life to be a precious gift.

Aunt Hilda’s mother Katherine lived until she was 100 years old, having descended from strong MacDonald genes, the same as my mother and their long-living cousins. Hilda’s father, Wallace Murray, died when she was nine years old. I had the honour of transcribing 5 of the 15 years of Murray diaries (1911-1926) that recounted her father’s daily life which she joyfully read. I still recall the time she came over to scan and enlarge a small family photo when she had a chance to see the face of her father and she kept it framed in her bedroom from then on.

Aunt Hilda was my mother’s first cousin, their mothers, Katie and Janie, were sisters. The two families were very close. They lived directly across from each other, one on the Clyde River side and the other on the Meadowbank side of the river, and as kids, they would run down to the bottom of the fields to talk across the water. As young women, they married brothers Arnold and John Beer, so we children, Blois, Doreen and I, were double relations and neighbours to their children Donna and Fred. Cousins and sisters-in-law Hilda and Hazel enjoyed working and raising their families on a farm, were members of Burnside Presbyterian Church, participated in the Missionary Society and were life members of the Clyde River Women’s Institute.

The W.I. ladies remember Hilda as a dedicated, graceful and humble worker – beautiful inside and out. She was true to the Mary Stewart Collect. She preferred to be in the background, but her quiet strength was a great source of wisdom. She was a wonderful baker and took pride in the presentation of food and arranging things to look nice. Audrey MacPhee recalls Hilda then in her 90s arriving at the Centre with her basket over her arm which held goodies for the Strawberry Social, even though it wasn’t expected, and her saying “Oh, it’s not much”. Also, in her 90s, she came both days to the Apple Pie Festival and “crimped to perfection” dozens and dozens of pies, all the while enjoying the camaraderie of other community volunteers and instructing young helpers.

Hilda believed in living a healthy lifestyle. She ate organic vegetables from her own garden before it was popular to do so and walked every day that she could. Her and Uncle Arnold only retired from farming in their early 70s but continued a regimen of daily walks to the back fields of their property. They graciously hosted many visiting Beer, Darrach, and Murray relatives; church guests; and family gatherings at their home. After Uncle Arnold’s passing in 2001, she spent winters in Charlottetown but enjoyed summer retreats back at her country homestead. We enjoyed visiting her there and she always had delicious cookies. She was blessed with great health up until a year ago when she developed Fibrosis which compromised her breathing. Her mind and memory were intact. She was a valuable resource on Clyde River history projects and attended many of the historical lectures and events along with her daughter Donna.

Hilda was proud of her family – Donna (Glydon) and Fred (Jeannie), her grandchildren Joelle (José), Jason and Jeff (Mariska), and she was especially blessed to live long enough to see her great-grandchildren Jonas, Jorgia, Henry and Matilda. Each one of her family has a knitted afghan that she lovingly made for them over long Island winters.

Aunt Hilda was part of a generation of solid folks that offer great examples of how to live life well.

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While Walter Shaw was Premier, The Guardian interviewed him about the Old St. Catherine’s Cemetery, also referred to as Shaw’s Cemetery. I found that clipping and it is rich with details. Here are some interesting excerpts from the article:

The cemetery opened in 1808-10, shortly after the first pioneers arrived from the Western Scottish Highlands and Isles. It was a non-sectarian burying ground where people came from miles around to bury their beloved dead.

The land was set aside by Walter’s grandfather Malcolm Shaw who emigrated from Mull in 1806. The old homestead was located about 300 yards above the cemetery overlooking the river. At the time of the interview, he said the depression in the ground was still visible.

The first burial from the new arrivals was a man named MacArthur, from the Riverdale and Churchill branches of the family, in 1810. There is an old story that three MacArthurs occupy the one grave – the original pioneer, his son and grandson. Walter says this could have easily happened as grave markers were usually a small sandstone which could have become displaced, or a small stick that would quickly decay. The graves of many early pioneers have no marks of any kind to locate their exact positions, although most have well-placed headstones.

Shaw said that people from Rocky Point to Bonshaw, Nine Mile Creek to Canoe Cove, Clyde River to Churchill and from the borders of Emyvale are buried here. There is even people from Wood Islands buried here including a relative of the Hon. Cyrus MacMillan.

Because of the lack of roads and the difficulty of travel through the thick forests, homesteads were located near the river to take advantage of river travel facilities, Walter said. The cemetery was located near the river bank for the same reasons. Funerals came by boat in summer and by ice in the winter. The old road that the funeral processions took could still be seen in Walter’s time, and a portion of the new road follows the old trail.

Previous to 1915, Walter said his father Alex would organize an annual cleanup of the cemetery and he knew the exact location of all the graves and plots and could even identify them in winter without a chart when an interment was necessary. After his death, the cemetery was neglected until there was organized effort made by his family and the community in the 1930s to maintain this community treasure.

His closing words describes this old cemetery as “a lasting and beautiful memorial to those who founded it and who sleep in its embrace.”

Editor’s note:  The MacMillan was likely Margaret MacMillan who was married to Duncan Darrach. The MacMillan’s settled in Wood Islands. We featured a story on the MacMillan clan earlier here.

List of those buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery – link here.

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Argyle - 1It’s summer in Prince Edward Island, a time when aside from all the tourism activity, Islanders travel anywhere from 2 to 30 minutes to stay at their cottages. It’s not that we don’t like our neighbours but it’s just that we have already heard all their stories over the winter and we are in desperate need of some new ones and we are drawn to the shore. We don’t want to move too far away from home because we want to make sure we actually know the characters in the stories.

I am in Argyle Shore. It’s where my parents took us to the shore as children and where my grandparents took my mother and her siblings in summers. My mother’s family went to MacDougall’s shore as they were relations. Our parents took us to Argyle Shore Provincial Park. You could park handy to the water. The Park had picnic tables, play equipment and washrooms close by. There was even a natural spring to keep soft drinks cold. We were fortunate if we didn’t have to stop at the cemetery on the way. My mother liked to walk through, linger and remember Argyle Shore people that she knew as a child.

The Selkirk Settlers’ migration extends to Argyle Shore. It’s MacPhail country for the most part. Historical ties run through communities from here to Wood Islands. In the Murray Diaries (1911-25), there is mention of family from DeSable down for a visit to Clyde River. The DeSable relatives took the Murrays for a drive in their new car in 1922. In Mary Ann MacDougall Darrach’s letters (1904-07), she wrote that she had travelled from Clyde River down to Eldon. I recall her writing how “good it was to see my people”. Grace Seller Inman-Morrison from Argyle Shore was asked what was the greatest thing that happened in her lifetime and she said it was the telephone. When she married and moved to another community, it offered her an opportunity to stay connected to her people.

I am staying on Harvey Inman’s shore, Grace’s son, right beside Argyle Shore Provincial Park. In fact, he manages the Park. On the field below his home place, he has created a small community of cottage dwellers. Many began renting a cottage from Harvey years ago and went on to purchase their own little piece of heaven. It’s a quiet place offering ample time for rest and reflection. As you travel along Route 19, you will see many similar cottage communities in DeSable, Canoe Cove, Rice Point, Nine Mile Creek, Cumberland, Fairview, New Dominion and Meadowbank where friends and relatives reconnect after long winters. There are Islanders, those married to Islanders, long-term summer residents from other parts of Canada and New Englanders for the most part.

There is little in the way of commerce here. The Blue Goose Restaurant and Bakery is in DeSable. Harvey’s store in Crapaud has the largest variety of offerings unless you want to make the trip to Cornwall. Anna’s Country Kitchen even has a drive through. Victoria offers fresh fish, theatre and artisan shops. But there is no need for much. The view of the Northumberland Strait sustains you. I recall when I stayed here years ago for the first time. Harvey told me it was so quiet you could hear the moon come up. Last night’s buck moon, the name for July’s full moon, performed a silver symphony reflected across the strait.

I enjoyed a visit with Harvey and Evelyn last evening and we talked about the Clyde River history lectures we hosted last winter. As a first cousin of Ron MacKinley, he also knows how to tell a tale and he recounted a few stories about playing hockey at North River Rink and the strict loyalties divided by the West River. He had viewed the photos on the Clyde River site and smiled when he saw the men sitting around having a good chat. He said in earlier days, they would have been fierce opponents on the ice.

That’s it for now from across the river on the shores of Argyle. I hear someone playing fiddle music in the distance. Harvey says there’s a wedding on Cranberry Lane.

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