A Cape Breton Connection to the "Alexander", 1772

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Submitted by Allan J. Gillis - Allan_Gillis@occdsb.on.ca

A Cape Breton Connection to the "Alexander", 1772

by Allan J. Gillis 1997

It is with very great interest that I recently read James P. Lawson's article "Passengers on the Alexander", which appeared in The Island (Spring/Summer, 1991). He is to be commended for taking on the almost impossible task of identifying all of the emigrants on that ship. He has obviously done his research well and his account of them is both informative and enjoyable.

It happens that I am a descendant of some of the "Alexander" people and more of my relatives in Judique are descendants of others on the same ship. Judique, which is on the west coast of Cape Breton (that other Island!), was where Michael MacDonald of South Uist and Prince Edward Island settled in 1775, the first European to do so. He may also have been one of the passengers on the "Alexander" who didn't waste much time in seeking freehold land elsewhere.

" ...very early in their experience of Prince Edward Island, some of the immigrants decided not to remain, but made up their minds to cross over to Cape Breton, where they hoped to deal directly with the government... " (SCPEI p.30)

There has been, ever since, a connection between Judique and Prince Edward Island. If one examines the Dominion censuses for the Judique area from 1871 to 1901, one will always find persons born in P.E.I. It seems to have been a good spot for Judiquers to find wives but there are males from "the Island" recorded as well. This was also true in 1813, when a militia list for the Judique area contained a fair number of young men who had been born in P.E.I. Some of these were from families who had come over on the "Alexander".

Using Mr. Lawson's article and a few other sources, I think that I am able to add a bit more information on the "Alexander's" passengers. Some of this is tentative and needs more research. Other items are quite definite. I'm sure that much more could be done to tie in many Judique people with their relatives in P.E.I. I, for one, am looking forward to the gathering in P.E.I. this coming summer, where I hope to encounter some of my long-lost relatives!

The following is some information that I hope will complement Mr. Lawson's fine article:

1. Mr. McInnis "the mason" (alone): This was Robert MacInnes "Clachair" (stonemason) of Blair Atholl, Scotland. He married Mary MacEachern of Kinlochmoidart and P.E.I. She was a daughter of Hugh "Bn" MacEachern and Mary MacDonald and was a sister of Bishop Angus Bernard MacEachern of Charlottetown and Savage Harbour. She had two sisters and a brother who settled at Judique, Inverness County, Cape Breton.

Robert MacInnes and his family were among the earliest settlers of Judique and his name appears on the first petition for land in the Judique area (1789). Most of the other petitioners were also Scotch who had come to P.E.I. in 1772 or later. The MacInnises are still on the property in Judique that Robert MacInnes settled in the late 1770's or early 1780's. (see: MHIC pp.189, 209, 233; MJI p.7; 1789 Petition)

2. Ewan (Eoghan or Hugh) MacEachern was a son of Hugh "Bn" MacEachern of Kinlochmoidart and P.E.I. He was a brother of the bishop and a brother-in-law of Robert MacInnes (above). He is one of the petitioners of 1789 and he settled at Judique for a number of years. He later sold his property at Indian Point, Judique, to the MacDonalds and MacDonnells and returned to P.E.I. The MacDonnells are still there. (see: MHIC p.190; 1789 Petition)

3. Hugh "Bn" MacEachern of Kinlochmoidart and his wife and six children (see above) moved further east to Savage Harbour. (SCPEI says Hugh Bn, wife and nine children, p.44)

4. Donald MacEachern - b/o Hugh "Bn", moved to Savage Harbour. (SCPEI pp.30-31)

5. Alexander (Sandy "Retland") MacDonald, may have been on the voyage. He, also, was one of the earliest settlers at Judique and his descendants are still there and are yet called "the Retlands". He doesn't appear in the 1789 petition but some of the MacDonalds mentioned may be of his family.

6. Father James MacDonald, s/o Miss ______ MacDonald "Maighstir Alasdair" and Ranald MacDonald, was a first cousin of Capt. John of Glenaladale. He was born ca. 1736 and went to the Scots College in Rome at age 18. He was there eleven years and was ordained in 1765. For the next seven years he was a missionary in Scotland, with his headquarters at Drummond. He was fluent in Gaelic, Latin, Italian, French and English. He died at the home of Colin MacKenzie at Scotchfort in 1785. (His last words, spoken in Gaelic, meant "Keep the Faith!") Being the only priest on the island, he was buried without the benefit of a proper Catholic ceremony. Although he had ministered to the needs of the Acadians as well as his own people, all of them carelessly forgot, in time, the exact location of his grave. They had no Gaelic-speaking priest on the island until Angus Bernard MacEachern arrived five years later. Also, it is recorded in HCCENS that his cousin, Father Augustine MacDonald, was later buried next to him. (SCPEI pp.13-14, 19, 27-28, 31-31)

7. Donald MacDonald, brother of Fr. James, was said to have been born at Culloden. He and his brother Ranald were the progenitors of the "Tracadie" MacDonalds of P.E.I. (GSOI pp.63-64)

8. Ranald MacDonald, brother of Fr. James and Donald (see above)

9. John MacDonald (ca. 1754 - ), son of Ranald "Borrodale" MacDonald, son of Angus, was about 18 when he sailed for P.E.I. in 1772. John was a cousin of Captain John of Glenaladale and one of his early cronies in P.E.I. He later returned to Borrodale and his papers are widely quoted in the article "Clanranald's Tacksmen of the Late 18th Century".

"In a letter written to him by Captain John of Glenalladale in 1806 there is a reminiscence of the times when he lived on Prince Edward Island. [Your old acquaintance, the Sandhill River, where you have caught many a trout, eel and perch, guzzled many a draught of rum, cracked many a horse joke, swore like a trooper and stunk like a badger.]

By 1780 he was a merchant in Quebec although there are no details of this. In 1785, on the invitation of his uncle Alasdair an Oir, Glenalladale [Alasdair "of the gold"; bought the Glens from Captain John: my addition], he returned to Scotland to factor the Glens and to assume at the same time the tenancy of Borrodale." (GSOI pp.71- 76)

10. Donald Henderson (and his wife), Eigg. Donald Henderson appears in the "Eigg Roll" of 1765 and is listed there as age 20 and single. (ER)

11. Neil Henderson is in the "Eigg Roll" as Neil McErrick of Galmisdale (an approximation of the Gaelic for Henderson - MacEanruig). He was 18 in 1765 and was single at the time. (ER)

12. Lauch(lan) MacKinnon (and his wife) could be one of the two Lauchlan MacKinnons on Eigg in 1765. The first is Lauchlan MacKinnon of Cleadale, age 29, married to Marjory MacDonald, age 26. They have two sons: John, age seven, and Malcolm, age two.

The other Lauch(lan) MacKinnon is Lauchlan MacKinnon, age 19 in 1765, of Fivepenny in Eigg. He was single and may be the one who actually emigrated (He was closer in age to the two Hendersons and to Alexander MacDonald, and more likely to go with them each being single or recently married.) (ER)

13. Alexander MacDonald could be any one of three young men of that name in Eigg in 1765. The first is Alexander MacDonald of Cleadale, age 19, son of Widow Ann MacDonald. The second, also from Cleadale, is Alexander MacDonald, age 22, son of Mary MacLeod. The third, by the same name, is age 27 and is from Howland, Eigg. (ER)

14. Dr. Roderick MacDonald, cousin of Capt. John, studied medicine in Edinburgh and practised in the Highlands and in P.E.I. He drowned while crossing the ice at Tracadie Bay. He left a wife, two sons, and four daughters. (They moved to Vernon River in 1801). Their descendants are known as the "Doctor" MacDonalds. (SCPEI pp.36-37)

15. Michael "Mr" MacDonald; trader, poet, ship captain, md. Anne MacEachern, d/o Hugh "Bn" in 1772. (MHIC p.233) The first white settler in Judique, he came from P.E.I. in 1775. He composed "Fair is the Place". (see below)


Allan J. Gillis, Jan. 27, 1997

"O 's alainn an t-aite
Th'agam 'n cois na traghad
'N uair thig e gu bhith'g aiteach ann
Leis a'chrann, leis a'chrann, O.
Ni mi'n t-aran leis na gearrain
'S an crodh-bainne chuir mu'n bhaile;
'S cha bhi anna oirnn's an earrach.
Chuirinn geall, chuirinn geall."
"Fair is the place
I have here by the sea,
When it come time to till it
With the plough, with the plough.
I shall make bread land with horses
And put the cows to graze;
We shall not be in want in spring,
I wager, I wager."*

* From a song by the South Uist bard, Michael "Mr" MacDonald, composed at Judique, Cape Breton, in 1775, translated in The Emigrant Experience by Sister Margaret MacDonell."

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