The MacDonald Heritage, by Ruth MacKinnon Barlow

Copyright © 1997 - Ruth MacKinnon Barlow
All Rights Reserved

This poem has been included with the permission of Ruth's brother, Art. Ruth passed away Saturday, Jan. 17, 1998 at the palliative care facility of Prince Edward Home. I would like to extend to her family and brother all our best wishes and condolences. Art said that she would be very proud to know that her work had been included here. Our thanks to Dorothy Farish who typed this poem for us, so that it might be included on the Register.

The MacDonald Heritage

by Ruth MacKinnon Barlow


The MacDonald Clan as all can see
Had many branches on its tree,
The story told here in this tale
Is of the branch, Glenalladale.


This was a branch Moydart could boast
From rocky Hebridean coast,
Knoidart, Morar and Glengarry
Were branches too this tree did carry.


In thirteen hundred, history says,
In far off Little Hebrides,
Roderick of Tirom of Moydart
Seemed to give this branch a start.


'Tis said that Roderick gave his truce
and aid to the great Robert Bruce,
Was given land for many miles
And title too, "Lord of the Isles".


His daughter Amie was his heir
And she built a castle there,
To John of Islay she was married
And in Castle Tirom tarried.


The marriage did not last, however,
As John soon lusted after power.
He abandoned family on the Isle
And went to court to live in style.


High Stewart Robert's daughter, Margaret,
At the court became his target,
She did not know his past so grim,
And innocently married him.


Her father became the king in time,
And so began the Stewart line.
The MacDonalds still their homage gave,
In time of stress, the crown to save.


From Moydart came the branch clan Ronald,
A great-great-grandson of that Donald
For whom the whole clan got the name
That spread across the world its fame.


The seventh Glanranald was John Moydart,
He whom Glenalladale did start,
Son, Ian Og gave land o'glens
On pledge that passes he'd defend.


Clanranald Guardian he became -
Or Cashmer, by the Gaelic name.
Glenalladale became his seal
And his estates were on Loch Shiel.


Death knell of Stewart rang at Culloden
And here the clans too suffered, when
they aided Charlie to escape
Both homes and lands were due to rape.


Alexander MacDonald was seventh Laird then
Glenalladale and Glenfinnan.
At Culloden he fought the prince to aid,
Now for his cause he dearly paid.


Alexander's heir was eldest son, John,
Educated in Germany's Ratisbon,
'Tis said seven languages he spoke
And business training did invoke.


When in sixty-one his father died,
His canniness soon was to be tried,
As at nineteen years it was his fate
To supervise his large estate.


Those days in Scotland had their griefs,
As lairds were tacksmen to their chiefs,
As go-between of chiefs and tenants
A laird's life seemed one of penance.


John had a longing to shed this yoke
And to this end some change evoke,
Adding now to his discontent
The chiefs began to raise the rent.


Then too, was their religious plight,
To worship God was each man's right,
To Reformed Church kinsman Boisdale had a mind
To convert all - leave none behind.


Clanranald and Boisdale, South Uist divided
When Boisdale on his scheme decided.
He ordered tenants their faith to change
And worship in ways that were new and strange.


Then Catholic Bishop, Hay and John
Decided something must be done,
And John proposed to mortgage land,
Glenalladale and Glenfinnan.


Emigration was his idea
To that far land across the sea,
Transport his people over there
Where he could aid them with his care.


John's brother Donald in the Navy,
Had seen the lands across the sea.
He brought back maps of St.John's Isle
And praised its beauty without guile.


Plans were made with the Lord Advocate,
To buy some land, so settle their fate,
A public subscription, too, was raised,
And for his efforts, John was praised.


In seventy-one the land was bought
In St.John's Island, 36 the lot.
Brother Donald took men and went to prepare
Cabins and land for the people's welfare.


Two hundred and ten sailed that day
To leave their native land for aye,
They turned their backs on fen and loch
As they departed from Grenock.


T'were hard to leave their native heath
Where forefathers were buried neath,
To gamble on a foreign land
So far removed from native strand.


For seven weeks they forward sailed,
Before the welcome land they hailed,
And by the time they had arrived,
Except for one, all had survived.


Among the band were many names,
But spiritual leader was Father James,
A MacDonald cousin to good laird John
He solaced all, the journey on.


Another cousin, "Dr.Roddy"
Took care of all the ills of body.
These two were dedicated then
To give their lives to God and men.


The exodus had other trees
MacIntosh, MacMillan, MacKinnon, MacPhee's
MacCormack, MacRory, Gillis and Bain
These, and others from mainland came.


MacIsaac, MacInnis, MacIntyre and Martin,
MacLellan and Cummin and also MacEachern,
These were all listed on Laird John's record
For paying their passages, these could afford.


Many others from Uist were aided by John,
Though lacking in funds, he carried them on,
With hopes that a new life would here be unfurled,
He financed their journey to the New World.


In the month of June, Scotchfort was reached,
On Hillsborough, east, the good ship beached.
And Father James then led forth his flock
With thanks for safety from Grenoch.


The bounteous land revealed its charms,
As it was apportioned into farms,
And cabins arose in the nick of time,
While axes rang in the forest prime.


Some land had been cleared and left first-rate
By expelled Acadians in fifty-eight.
Even today, some cellars remain
Their tragic loss was the Scotsmen's gain.


Now the long winter that lay ahead,
Began to fill some hearts with dread.
On winter's arrival, should food they need,
How could they all these people feed?


Supplies from Scotland failed to arrive
And the settlers needed this help to survive,
Rations were low and illness was rife -
The people dejected became with the strife.


In seventy-three, his affairs then in hand,
Laird John left Scotland, to join his band,
From Boston a vessel he brought with supplies
To the needy settlers on St.John's Isle.


His disheartened settlers were ready to go
And related to John their sad tales of woe,
To them the future looked very dark;
But courage and hope he was able to spark.


In seventy-three the Revolution began
And John was called to defend his new land.
This led to Halifax, far from his hame
And 'twas there Captain John he became.


His Highland Regiment rose with might
And led the defenders in a good fight
To keep the invaders from seizing the strand
That shore of New Scotland, so near to their own land.


But back to his own land rents were unpaid,
Captain John's sister, Nellie, wrote, justly afraid
For "Seizure" was whispered over hill and dale,
The threat to seize land of Glenalladale.


For "quit rents" were unpaid, since John was not there
To tend to his estate and protect with his care.
In eighty-one to England he went
To protest the loss of his lands, his intent.


Governor Patterson had led the attack
While absent John had been "stabbed in the back."
By high-handed action Captain John had been caught
While, for his new country, so bravely he fought.


In eighty-three, the Scot's Regiment disbanded
And Captain John his release being handed,
At last was free to pick up the reins
Of tending his settlers welfare again.


Withal Captain John had been sorely tried,
In action, in eighty, brother Donald had died.
Away from the colony many had roamed,
Some in Cape Breton tried life on their own.


For hospitality Scots are famed
And Captain John was true to his name,
A new house was built where his own land lay,
It stood at the head of Tracadie Bay.


His love for his homeland was demonstrated
When, at his call, his clansmen celebrated
The birth of Saint Andrew, to all so dear
That in their hearts they would always revere.


The Caledonian Society John began
Lest they forget their native land,
While in memory of his late wife and son
The official tartan was named the Gordon.


The quit rents were cancelled in 1806.
Providentially, John was let out of his fix,
Which hampered his progress for many a year
And filled him with grave apprehension and fear.


Lot 35 had been leased by John,
Now, he wished to buy it for his own.
In '92, General Maitland he sought
And from him, the purchase was finally wrought.


In ninety-three, he chose a new spouse,
'Twas Margaret MacDonald of Ronald's house.
A kindly soul of great dignity,
She was known as the Queen of Tracadie.


From this union came Flora, Donald, William and John,
And finally Roderick Charles came along.
To John, education was almost a law -
He hired a tutor named Donald Shaw.


Alas, Captain John in his sixty-eighth year,
Left this mortal life and those he held dear.
Margaret most bravely her burden did bear
With so young a family left in her care.


Captain John left a will, his land to divide
For his wife and children to provide.
Grand Tracadie was willed to his wife, Margaret,
And near in Donald's town, Flora he sent.


The eldest son, Donald, New Glenalladale went,
While William to district St.Martin's was sent.
New Moydart was chosen for son John's part,
While Arasaig was Roderick's start.


But Castle Tioram and part Arasaig,
Were meant to be sold to provide a nestegg,
To pay his just debts and thus do his best,
To pass from this world with his conscience at rest.


Margaret kept the estate intact,
Castle Tioram and Arasaig divided in fact
Among all the heirs. Her own share
She gave to Roderick Charles, deeming it fair.


To Stonyhurst, as Captain John meant
Donald and William were to be sent,
But, alas, William was lost at sea,
For him the plan was not to be.


Daughter Flora moved to Donald's Town in '21,
Mrs. A. MacDonald she has become.
Their marriage was blessed with children five,
In Donald's Town she lived and thrived.


In 1819, Donald chose as his mate
Ann Matilda Brecken, his choice was first-rate,
The marriage performed by MacAulay, J.P.
As divergent beliefs would not let them agree.


This strong minded union was later to bear
Fruits of division and many would care,
Religious beliefs were a very strong note,
For at this time Catholics had no right to vote.


In the 30's, however, a change came to be
And this minority at last were free
To have a say, and as their voice
Donald MacDonald was their choice.


His popularity he retained,
And Head of Assembly he had gained,
When in '54, in Quebec, he died
Of cholera, with strangers by his side.


To son John, the church became his vocation
And in England spent years in this relation.
His father's example, deciding to try
He, too, brought out settlers to P.E.I.


Both Scottish and Irish Catholics came
In 1830 to his land, New Moydart its name,
So landlord and priest, he combined with verve
But found it impossible two masters to serve.


His problems so complex he failed to solve
And from his dilemma he could not evolve,
Returning to England he decided to stay
And live out his life in a quieter way.


Roderick Charles was true to Captain John's thought,
And to educate men he also sought,
The Maritime colonies owed much to his mind,
A continuing memorial he left behind.


Donald's death was a trick of fate,
For he had failed his will to make,
Of his seven children, five still remain
And their brother, John Archibald, as attorney retain.


A Scottish custom, and one deemed fair,
The oldest son should be the heir,
To this the family all agreed
And to John Archibald went the deed.


Though Augustine and William began business in oil,
They later turned to a crop from the soil,
An unfortunate affair caused the partners a rift
And William was left, on his own now, to shift.


Tobacco was destined to be a choice which
Within a few years would make William rich,
A gifted financier, William proved to be
And would hang choice fruits on the family tree.


In 1886, John Archibald had been
Wed to Mary Ellen Weeks, then aged eighteen,
From this marriage twelve children came -
Donald's one son to carry the name.


For the isle of his birth William's love remained
With a keen sense of heritage always retained.
He built a large house seen for many a mile
For John and his family to live there in style.


In ninety-eight, his favours in sight,
Queen Victoria dubbed him a knight,
Henceforth as Sir William he was noted
And to good deeds he remained devoted.


In his program for youth he could always rely,
on Dr. James Robertson, his staunch ally,
Short courses in farming, manual training, too,
He introduced, with the future in view.


In Montreal, William's house was bought,
Where his mother and sister shared his lot.
When they passed on and he was alone,
His lovely niece, Anna, shared his home.


But then with his family he caused a rift
When Anna got married, he cut them adrift,
Though education he still provided
Further interest in them subsided.


The farm was changed to Sir William's name.
By financial arrangement he now held the claim.
In nineteen o' three, when John Archibald died,
To sell Glenalladale he did decide.


A lamentable trait in his character we find,
A stubborn Scotsman can't change his mind!
But in nineteen-seventeen, before his end,
Niece Anna became, once again, his friend.


Consolidated schools, wishing to try,
He built one in Hillsboro, in P.E.I.
He was fifty years in advance of his time,
Though the school later closed, the idea was fine.


His life, though ascetic, his goal was for all,
Now we in the present, his name can recall
And honour the scion of this noble clan,
Whose aim through his life was to benefit man.


So hail to this clan, may it never fail
It's branches Moydart, Clanranald and Glenalladale,
In Canada's history this name is prime,
And so will continue in the annals of time.


(This narrative poem commemorating the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the MacDonald settlers to Lot 36, Isle of St. John, in 1772 is dedicated to the memory of Philip Whidden Barlow, husband of the author.)

Dave Hunter and The Island Register: Source Code and Graphics© 1997

Last Updated: 1/18/98 4:50:11 PM

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