The Laird Of The Glens

Transcribed by Dorothy Farish, with corrections by Walter MacDonald, Wareham, MA.

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(PARO NFG - MacDonald - 294)

Lecture delivered by the Very Reverend Dr. Daniel MacDonald in the Market Hall on Thursday, January 27, 1881.

The chapter in our Island History which I have prepared for this evening contains an account of the immigration to this Island from Invernesshire, Scotland, which took place in the year 1772 --- just one hundred and eight years ago last June, and only a few years after Canada and these Maritime Provinces had formally become British Colonies.

By way of introduction, I shall briefly refer to some of these honored names connected with this enterprise, and to the particular circumstances which induced these sturdy pioneers to take a part of it. The descendants of those sturdy pioneers would be only paying a just tribute of gratitude and justice when they call to mind that the credit of leading forth and accompanying their forefathers to the generous, virgin soil of St.John's Island (renamed Prince Edward Island) after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and father of Queen Victoria in 1779, nine years or so after it had, by the Treaty of Paris, 1763, formally become a British Colony, is justly due to the enterprise and indefatigable perseverance of Captain John MacDonald of Glenaladale.


Captain MacDonald was the Laird or proprietor of the two estates of Glenaladale and Glenfinan; and you will hear his name mentioned by Gaelic-speaking Islanders as Fer a Ghlinne, or Laird of the Glens.

The term Glenaladale is composed of three Gaelic words, "gleann", "all" and "dal", corresponding to the three English words Glen, Stock, and Fields. Glenfinan takes its name from the little river, Finan, which flows through this glen, and falls into the upper end of Loch Shiel and the river itself is called after Saint Finan, the apostle of the Christian religion in those remote and rugged regions.

So much for the origin of the names from which Fer A Ghlinne derived his title. It may not be uninteresting to refer here also to the Glenaladale family, the Clan Vic Ian Og, or clan of young John, to which many or nearly all of the immigrants of 1772 belonged.


When the princely estates of MacDonald of Clanranald were held in their integrity by that powerful chieftain they comprised a considerable part of Invernesshire, such as Moidart, Arisaig, Marara, Borodale, Glenaladale, Glenfinan, etc., together with some of the Hebrides.

At a period when every Highland chief was in fact a patriarchal sovereign, were ready and indeed compelled in most cases to protect themselves by the sword, Clanranald found himself surrounded on different sides by numerous and powerful clans who proved themselves very troublesome neighbours. A strong and well-guarded frontier was at that time as necessary for a single clan as it is now for a single state or empire.

It was while this state of things existed in its primitive vigor - about six centuries ago, that there seems to have raged a vehement feud between the MacDonalds and some of the neighbouring clans who were continually making raids on the Clanranald territory. Hence the chief of Clanranald was induced to adopt a policy, then by no means uncommon, of giving the estate of Glenaladale to a younger son of his own, known in the history of the clan as Ian Og, or young John, on condition that he and his descendants would protect the borders of the Clanranald country against the incursions of their restless and powerful neighbours.

Ian Og who was of a fearless and warlike disposition - a perfect game cock, by the way, - went to work, and soon his name became a terror to his troublesome neighbours. So thoroughly did he do his work, to the satisfaction of his father and chieftain, that the latter in addition to Glenaladale, gave him also the territory of Glenfinan. In virtue of the compact, the MacDonalds of Glenfinan always held a conspicuous place in the forces of Clanranald for many centuries.

When the unfortunate Prince Charles Edward Stuart landed on the West Coast of Scotland in the territory of Clanranald in 1745, Alexander MacDonald, the laird of Glenaladale of the day together with young Clanranald, were among the first to join his standard. It was also in Glenfinan on Glenaladale's estate that the young prince unfurled the royal standard of the Stewarts in the presence of Glenaladale, Loch Shiel, Glengarry, Lochiel and other Highland and Lowland noblemen and chiefs. It was this same Glenaladale that accompanied the Glen Ronald Contingent in Charles Edward's romantic advance into the heart of England and fought with them at the battle of Prestonpans and Falkirk, and finally at the decisive and fatal battle of Culloden Moor.

At the time of the Battle of Culloden, John, the subject of this notice, was but a child. In consequence of the severe losses sustained by the Glenaladale family in the affairs of 1745 and 1746, and there being no colleges at that period in Scotland for the education of Catholic students, young Glenaladale was sent to Ratisbon in Germany, where he made a complete course of studies.

After having completed his studies, he returned to his native country and was considered one of the most finished and accomplished young gentlemen that the country could produce. He was first married to a Miss [Isabella] Gordon of Wardhouse, aunt of Admiral Sir James Gordon, whose brilliant naval career in the history of England is well known. His only child by that marriage survived its amiable mother only a few months.

After many years of widowerhood he subsequently married Miss Margaret MacDonald, Gernish, by whom he had a family of sons and one daughter. Such then was the pedigree, birth, education and social position of Captain John MacDonald of Glenaladale, who was the principal means of settling on foot and carrying into execution the emigration scheme of 1772.


It is proper now to refer here to the particular circumstances that led to the emigration of those people we speak of from their long cherished homes.

At that time of which we speak, Alexander MacDonald of Boisdale carried on what can be truly called a religious persecution against the tenants in the Island of Uist, or Long Island. This man, who was a near relative of Glenaladale, after having married a lady of very advanced and strong Protestant opinions, was carried away from the faith and conceived the idea of carrying his tenantry with him.

It may appear strange to us, living in an age and country so different from those in question, that a petty landlord could for a moment entertain the idea of forcing his new ideal of religion on his tenants; but if we consider the unlimited sway that these Highland chiefs exercised over their subjects to the days of Culloden, we find they exercised as absolute and despotic an authority over their people as an emperor of Russia or a Turkish pasha exercised over his miserable serfs.

He (Boisdale) actually attempted with his Bathi Bui, or yellow walking stick, to drive the tenants to the Protestant Church, like a flock of sheep, which caused the poor tenants to christen the new religion attempted to be forced on them Cred Bathi Bui, or the religion of the yellow stick (cudgel).

At the time of which we speak, the Island of Uist or the Long Island was of Boisdale who, besides his own property in the Island had a large tract of land on lease from the laird of Clanranald, which he sublet to other tenants. His tenants thus amounted in number to over two hundred families, all of them professing of course the Catholic religion.

The first efforts of Boisdale to force his people were directed to the children of his tenants whom he invited to attend the gratuitous instructions of a Presbyterian tutor employed in the education of Boisdale's own sons. The poor people at first suspected no evil designs and gladly availed themselves of the opportunity and the school was numerously attended.

It was not long, however, before the real intentions of Boisdale became apparent; abuse and misrepresentation of the Catholic religion was mingled with the schoolmaster's daily lesson, and those who were learning how to write had often offensive and scurrilous sentences to copy.

In the spring of 1770 when Lent arrived, violence was used to force flesh meat into the mouths of the poor children. No sooner did their parents hear of these scandalous practices than with the concurrence of the Rev.Father Wynne, an Irish Catholic missionary stationed in the Island, every one of the children was withdrawn from the school at Boisdale.

This interference with his designs provoked a very violent letter from Boisdale to the humble missionary priest, threatening him with immediate apprehension as a criminal if he presumed again to exercise any of his religious functions or even to remain on the Island; and pushing his violence to such a length as to swear by a terrible oath that if he were to meet the priest he would twist his head from his shoulders. Father Wynne, accordingly, returned home to Ireland and the vacant mission was supplied by the Reverend Alexander MacDonald.

Boisdale did not stop there. At the term at Whitsuntide 1770 he summoned the tenants together to hear a paper read to them in their native Gaelic language containing a formal renunciation of their religion and a promise under oath nevermore to hold communication with a Catholic priest. The alternative was offered them - either to sign this infamous paper or lose their houses, lands and homes on the Island, which, under the circumstances, was equivalent to ruin and starvation for nearly all of them.

To the honour of these poor people, however, their unanimous resolution was at once taken, and they all to a man declared that they would beg or starve rather than submit to such conditions, and suiting the action to the word, they all returned home at once and made instant preparations to quit their native homes and go wheresoever the Almighty God in His Providence should direct them.


Such was the state of things in the South Uist in the summer of 1770; and the evil example of Boisdale threatened to spread to other parts of those remote Islands.

When Father Kennedy, a Catholic missionary priest, landed on the little Island of Muck, he was arrested by the orders of Mrs.McLean, the wife of the proprietor, who was at that time absent from the Island. He was kept in close confinement until a boat could be prepared to convey him back to the mainland. None of his people were permitted to see him and when asked what offence he had committed Mrs.McLean's reply was to cite the example of Boisdale and to announce her determination never to allow a Catholic priest again to set foot on her husband's estate.

At this time the very existance of the Catholic religion in the Western Islands of Scotland seemed at stake. Bishop Grant, the aged Vicar Apostle of the Highlands, in great anxiety brought the matter under the notice of his colleagues at Presshome in July 1770. They resolved to take the opinion of the Venerable Dr.Challoner upon it and accordingly in the joint letter which Bishop Grant wrote to Dr.Challoner, in the name of himself and his colleagues, he confided to him their difficulties in the following terms:

"While through your charity and friendship Divine Providence has been thus pleased to bestow such great favors upon us, it has at the same time been pleased to send us just now a very severe affliction by the violent persecution which has already gone a considerable length against us in the Western Isles. The fatherly care you take in welfare of religion among us naturally induces us to communicate to you all our afflictions as well as joys; but we the more earnestly beg leave to give you the full account of this affair, because we have the greatest confidence that our good and merciful God will, through your means, afford some remedy to so great and dangerous an evil.

The giving you a minute detail of this affair would only be too long for the compass of a letter, we have, therefore, drawn up an account of it on a separate paper which Dr. Hay will forward to you along with this."

The bishops also transmitted an account of this affair to Cardinal Castelli; and Dr. Hay also while enclosing that letter to the Rev. Mr.Grant, their agent in Rome, informs him that the only remedy for the threatening evil suggested to the best informed on the subject was emigration to some American colony.

The great obstacle to this plan was the necessity for a considerable sum of money which it involved; it must, therefore, be the last recourse, but if matters should come to extremes an effort must be made to raise the sum required by application to the Catholics of other countries.

Of MacDonald of Glenaladale, the chief promoter of the scheme of emigration, Bishop Hay speaks in the following terms:

"Worthy Glenaladale, the chief promoter, affirms that he will sell all he has for that end and that he will go himself along with them. His conduct indeed upon this occasion is exceedingly edifying; he seems to have inherited all the zeal of primitive times as well as the piety of his own worthy ancestors."

A letter written by Bishop Hay, addressed to Bishop Grant November 27,1770, contains the following:

"MacDonald of Glenaladale is here in order to treat of a place of large tract of land in the Island of St.John in the Gulf of St. Lawrence of most excellent soil and fine climate and who through a man so much for the government is most willing to give them all encouragement and their being Roman Catholics is far from being an objection with him. There are, he says, about fifty families of the French inhabitants upon the Island, of whom his Lordship has received a most favourable account, and he is glad to think that this proposal may be the means of getting a Catholic clergyman to the Island for their benefit. Indeed, a friend of mine, a Presbyterian minister, who went out there last summer as a teacher and factor, and who is himself very well disposed toward us, wrote to me this harvest a very affecting letter about the poor French Catholics there; representing their case in the most moving terms and begging that I would see to get a Catholic clergyman sent among them, upon which I wrote their situation to Rome to the Reverend Robert Grant, desiring him to see and provide one with a sufficient knowledge of the French language, and he tells me that he is in hopes of getting a very pious and good man. By this I hope the French people will be supplied, whether our people go or not."

In the month of October Boisdale still continued to rage against his poor Catholic dependents with unrelenting fury; but the scheme of emigration was going on apace.

Bishop Hay wrote to the Rev. Mr. Grant on October 11,1771 in the following terms:

"A great number of Glenaladale's neighbours are selling off their stock to be ready to go with him next spring. It is thought that Highland gentry will soon have very serious cause to repent the oppressive measures they have adopted for some time past."


The good Bishop Challoner in the fullness of his generous heart entered earnestly into the cause of these poor people and had the memorial printed in London at his own expense, together with an extract of a private letter with which Bishop Hay had accompanied it. This memorial which Dr.Challoner had printed in pamphlet form for the following title

"Memorial for the suffering Catholics in a violent persecution for religion, at present carried on in one of the Western Islands of Scotland, for twelve months".

The Memorial when printed was distributed among the English body by his own particular friends. Public collections were taken at the chapels of all the English ambassadors in London and a considerable sum of money was thus realized. Bishop Hay wrote an account of the foregoing transaction to the Rev.Dr.Grant in Rome January 31,1772, and on receipt of this intelligence Bishop Grant said in reply:

"I am charmed with Dr.Challoner's behaviour and I pray that Almighty God may regard him for all his charity."

Bishop Hay contributed largely to the success of this undertaking out of his own slender means as well as by his pen. We learn this incidentally from a letter from Glenaladale addressed to him on December 8,1771 in which he says:

"I do certainly admire the extent and heroism of your charity towards Boisdale's victims but I feel little pleasure in being the admirer. Could I persuade myself that you spared so much to them out of superfluity rather than out of what seems your whole or a great part of it I could more easily reconcile myself to it."


Before the end of the year 1771 Glenaladale had purchased an estate in Prince Edward Island to which he proposed to bring a numerous colony of Highlanders the following spring.

In order to adopt his plans to the best advantage, he visited the Island of Uist in the month of February 1772 in company with Bishop John MacDonald. Of the thirty-six families residing on Boisdale's own estate mentioned in the Memorial as being in the greatest distress he had the mortification to find that ten or twelve of them had renewed their leases only a few days before their visit. About twenty-three other families had refused to do so unless they were permitted to enjoy the regular attendance of a priest.

These poor people seemed at first overjoyed at the prospect of a release from their prolonged misery, which the visit of Glenaladale offered them, but on examination their poverty turned out to be much greater than it had been calculated. This discovery at first unsettled the calculations that had been made as to the probable expense of their migration.

None of them unassisted could defray all of the expense of the passage out, but rather than that the scheme of emigration should fail at this stage for want of funds, Glenaladale generously declared his willingness to sell his own estate at home. When it came to the point only nine families, consisting of twenty-five grown persons and eighteen children accepted the offer of emigration, although afterwards many more changed their minds and went.

Glenaladale, writing from Greenock on March 8,1772, mentions that a vessel had been chartered and would be ready for sea by the 20th of that month. The expense of conveying the emigrants to America he said would cost about 1500.00 sterling.

A few days afterwards this indefatigable man travelled to Edinburgh to see Mr. Bruikshanks and received 500 of the memorial fund, Bishop Hay being in France at the time. On March 23 he returned with the money to the Western Coast.

The emigrant ship had in the meantime sailed to Arisaig during the preceding week and after ten days stay there went out to Loch Boisdale in South Uist.

Early in May 1772 two hundred and ten emigrants sailed for the Island of St.John - one hundred of them from Uist and one hundred and ten from the mainland. They took with them very fortunately a whole year's provisions and were accompanied by the Rev.James MacDonald as secular missionary priest.

The reverend gentleman before leaving obtained faculties from Rome to last until such time as he could have them renewed by the Bishop of Quebec.

Mr. Roderick MacDonald, a skillful medical doctor, was also among the passengers and owing to his prudent skill combined with skillful nursing on the part of the passengers themselves, all of them - although they had several cases of fever during the passage - arrived safe in America at the end of seven weeks with the loss of only one child.


On a fine morning in the month of June, 1772, "the powerful king of day rejoicing in the East," had begun to cast its golden beams over the "forest primeval", which at that early day with the exception of an occasional plot of ground lately abandoned by the poor Acadians fringed the banks of the noble bay and river of the Hillsborough down to the very western edge, as the good ship Alexander glided proudly over its rippling waters. All on board anxiously endeavoured to get a good view of their future home from the most favourable positions. The variety of maple, birch, beech, spruce and pine, with their branches literally kissing the limpid waters which they overshadowed, presented to the passengers - especially those from the Outer Hebrides - a striking contrast compared to the barren, rugged, rocky and storm-beaten coast whence they had come, for you must remember that in the Outer Hebrides, not a tree, not even a twig the size of your little finger is hardly ever seen to grow.

The good Father MacDonald, who was walking on the quarter deck reading the breviary, captivated by the prospect before him closed his book for a moment in order to enjoy a scene which appeared beautiful beyond description. A few minutes later as the morning advanced there might be seen, grouped on the quarter-deck, a knot of passengers composed of the priest, the doctor, and other leading members, expatiating in their choicest Gaelic on the beauties of the scene that opened to their view. All was profound silence and deep solitude, only broken by myriads of wild fowl which in sportive glee and with rapid wing played over the bosom of the sleeping waters, or the weird like frail bark of the then sturdy Micmac, which with no less rapid flight, gracefully skimmed the rippling waves.


With the old French forts on each side of the harbour, could be distinctly traced out; but they no longer bristled with Gaelic metal or offered anything calculated to dispute their progress. Now as they came abreast of the old fort on their right, a break in the forest on the north side of the Hillsborough River and intended for a town yet to be built, with stumps in most places down to high water mark, loomed quietly in sight.

Towards this partially cleared spot of ground the bold captain of the Alexander directed his course, and after coming in front of that charming but solitary spot of ground destined in after years to be the busy seat of trade and commerce and beauty and fashion, and seeing neither wharf or pier, not even a buoy to which he could bring his ship to drop anchor in those well-sheltered waters which we now call the noble harbour of Charlottetown.

I cannot now say positively whether Donald MacDonald, Glenaladale's brother, came out with the staff of mechanics and labourers sent out the previous year to put up buildings for the impending emigrants, or whether he took passage out in 1772.

Be that as it may, it is certain that it was through his cleverness and energy that the captain of the Alexander was prevailed upon - much against his will - to continue his voyage up the Hillsborough and land the passengers at a point up the river, the most convenient to the head of Tracadie Bay, the place of their final destination.

To have insisted so warmly on this point need not appear strange when we consider at that time the principal means of transit from one locality to another was by water and from time to time of the early French settlers a crossing from one water to another had been in progress and had been called a portage. We must remember there was no railway or steamer, or even a St.Peter's Road in those primitive times. The ordinary and only practical route from Charlottetown to Tracadie was by water, up the Hillsborough River.

The brig Alexander, accordingly, weighed anchor and made her way in the best manner she could up the river, passing with much difficulty through the narrow and crooked channel between the mussel beds at Frenchfort, till she came to a point nearly opposite the head of Tracadie Bay. Here, in an unbroken solitude, she landed the passengers and their household goods, on the north bank of the Hillsborough, and as the passengers found that a certain place that the French actually had a fort created there, they very naturally, by way of distinction, called their place of landing Scotchfort, a name it still retains.

It is said that when all their effects were landed and lay scattered along the shore they all expressed their wonder how they ever succeeded in storing them aboard one single vessel. On first landing many of the emigrants complained of the unexpected difficulties and privations inseperable from the country more cheerful accounts of their circumstances. It would appear, on the whole, that the prospects of the emigrants on their first landing were somewhat gloomy, and that the accounts sent home were rather discouraging.

The noble-hearted Glenaladale, who did not accompany the expedition in person, found himself so much embarrassed in circumstances by his generous exertions in their behalf as to be obliged ultimately to sell his estate in the old country to a first cousin of his own and follow the emigrants to his new home. Strictly speaking, however, Glenaladale only mortgaged his estate to his near relative; but as he was never able to repay his mortgage, Old Glenaladale passed forever out of his hands.

Bishop Hay while communicating this intelligence to the Rev.Grant in Rome on March 6,1773 exclaims:

"Honest man! he is sacrificing fortune and person for the good of those poor sufferers; but what a loss to us that he should leave us."

In the summer of 1773 Glenaladale sailed to Philadelphia and thence to Boston. On his way to St.John's Island from Boston he wrote a full account of his trials and difficulties to Bishop Hay. These difficulties disappeared before his unbending resolution, and shortly afterwards Bishop Hay was able to communicate to Dr.Geddes at Valledolid the cheering intelligence that

"the immigrants were doing extremely well in St.John's Island."

I should state here that when Glenaladale arrived in Boston he learned that a vessel which he had dispatched from Scotland the previous year with a cargo of produce for the emigrants had never reached her destination. I believe she was taken by a privateer. To meet the demands caused by this serious loss he brought with him a cargo of produce from Boston, which sufficed to meet the immediate wants of the colony.


Shortly after their arrival here the Rev. James MacDonald sent Bishop Hay a highly favourable description of the French Acadians, whom he represented as an excellent class of people, and pious, good Catholics.

Here we cannot but admire the generous spirit of this good missionary priest. He was philosopher enough to accept the situation and knew that hardship appeared to him - it was his duty now to make the most of it, although he considered it his duty, now that they had embarked in such an enterprise, to encourage his people in every possible way.

Still, we find that he advised certain friends and acquaintances of his own in the old country not to leave their native homes or incur the risk of encountering the trials and hardships which he knew from sad experience were to be met with on the Island of St.John.

I am indebted to the late Mrs. Irving, daughter of Chief Justice Stewart, for some few scraps of correspondence between Father MacDonald and her mother, Sarah Hamilton Stewart, on the subject of immigration to this Island while Father MacDonald was doing missionary work in Drummond, before coming out here. Mrs. Stewart, who was a pious and exemplary lady, was among the circle of his acquaintances.

When her husband received the appointment of judge for this little colony, she very naturally wrote to Father MacDonald for information respecting the state of the colony. Although we may well suppose that the devoted priest would like to have a few persons of Mrs. Stewart's high accomplishments and well-known piety added to his little community, yet he honestly and sincerely advised her by all means not to come and if possible, to prevail upon her husband to decline the appointment.

Notwithstanding this advice Chief Justice Stewart came to the Island shortly after, and for many years he and his son, the late Captain Stewart of Mount Stewart, called after him, exercised considerable influence in the Colony.

Sarah Hamilton Stewart was born of non-Catholic parents. Her father, Captain Hamilton, was killed in the Battle of Fontenoy the 30th of April, 1745, and his wife, who happened to be on the continent at the time with her two daughters, mere children, formed the acquaintance of a community of nuns, through whose influence she became a Catholic, and to whom she entrusted the education of her two daughters. Some time after her return to Scotland, Sarah was married to Stewart, who had a family by a previous marriage. Mrs. Stewart did not receive the kindest treatment from her husband and step-children out here, but she persevered to the last, and died as she had lived, a good exemplary Catholic and was buried in the Catholic cemetery at St.Andrew's.


Among the emigrants of 1772, besides the MacDonalds, who formed by far the greater number, were to be found McEacherns, McRaes, Gillises, MacKenzies, MacIntosh, McPhees, MacKinnons, and perhaps other names not known to me at present. Of all the passengers I would suppose that the Rev. Mr. MacDonald is deserving of a passing notice.

The Scotochronicon, published in Glasgow in 1859, gives the following account of him on the authority of the M.S.S. of the late Abbe McPherson: -

Rev. James MacDonald, from the diocese of the Isles born in 1736; went to Scots College in Rome 1745; left and returned priest to Scotland 1756. He was stationed first at Drummond, but went with the first emigrants from the Highlands to America in 1772. He died in St.John's Island in 1785. He was a good and pious missionary.

The foregoing notice, together with his correspondence with the Diocese of Quebec - which are preserved in the archiepiscopal archives of that city, and with the perusal of which I was favoured a few years ago - is about all I have the opportunity of knowing respecting this devoted missionary, with the exception of oral family tradition handed down from one generation to another until they have all but died out.

In the first place we find that during the time from the year 1745 to 1756 he studied in Rome. His correspondence with the Bishop of Quebec proves him to have been a gentleman of no ordinary education and piety. His first letters to the Bishop of Quebec are written in an elegant and easy style of Latin; some subsequent letters are written in French and some in English, all of which attests to his perfect familiarity with those languages, and we may rest assured that his knowledge of either Italian or his own native Gaelic was not wanting.

In the next place we find that he died in 1785, thirteen years after his arrival here at the premature age of 49. Now when we consider the conditions of the colony at the time, and the hardship, trials and privations he must have undergone there we need not feel surprised that he wore himself out in so short a time.

His brothers, shortly after their arrival here, finding the country in such a backward state and everything so discouraging, they expressed a desire to go to Canada with a view to accompany them. He did not discourage them from carrying out their project, so far as they were concerned, but as for his own part, so devoted was he to the people entrusted to his care - especially the French Acadians - that he could not for a moment entertain the idea of abandoning them, and thus the idea was abandoned on the part of his brothers who, very naturally, did not like to leave him.

Besides attending to the Catholics of the Colony, and few as they were - particularly the French Acadians - scattered over a great part of the Island, he gave regular missions from time to time to the Acadians along the coast of New Brunswick and the Island of Cape Breton.

From the late Mrs.Irving I learned that she had at the age of ten heard her mother fondly dwell upon that his company was eagerly sought for by the few aristocratic families in the colony, and that the arrival of Father MacDonald's canoe was always a cheering event among the highest as well as the humblest circles in the community.

But from none did Father MacDonald receive a warmer or more cordial welcome whenever he happened to come to Town than from the gallant Tipperary, who came out from Ireland only three years before the coming of Father MacDonald.

In those primitive times the people would say, the governor, the judge, the priest, the minister - meaning, of course, Patterson, Stewart, MacDonald and DesRuisay. Even in my own early days I often heard the old Gaelic people speak of those distinguished individuals, but they would never take the trouble of giving their names individually - taking for granted that you knew whom they meant when they spoke of Un guvernear, Agus un Judet, Agus un Sagart, Agus un Ministear.

We may well suppose that Father MacDonald felt perfectly at ease in the young parson's company when we call to mind that his own beloved mother, although she became a strict and model Catholic lady, was the daughter of the Rev. Alexander MacDonald, Church of England minister of Ardnamurchan, and was always spoken of among the old Gaelic people as "Nian Mhestir Alister." And the talented, learned and fiery Gaelic poet of the 45-46 epoch. Alexander MacDonald Esq. incumbent of Ardnamurchan must have prayed fervently and earnestly to Almighty God to guide his children in the path of truth, for they all, without a single exception - and they were as remarkable for their talent as for their energy of character - ended by becoming zealous and devoted Catholics.

Indeed, when I think of the genuine warm feelings and brotherly love that mutually existed between my great grand-uncle and the young parson my heart warms at the name of DesBrisay. The direct descendants through sons and daughters of the late DesBrisay are today among the most esteemed and respected citizens in our good city of Charlottetown.

I remember that in more than one of his letters he (Father MacDonald) requested the Bishop of Quebec to send him a portable altar stone of small size, as the one he had carried in his knapsack was very heavy and cumbersome. It does not appear from his correspondence that his modest request was ever complied with - at least during his lifetime.

There are several other little matters of detail, both from his correspondence and from a byegone age which, however interesting they might be for a few, I must pass over rather than encroach on the ordinary limits of a lecture. Let it suffice to say for the present that he came to this country a young man in the prime and vigor of life, blessed with a good physical constitution, and with education and varied accomplishments that would have enabled him to adorn a conspicuous place in a community more advanced than St.John's Island was at that time; but from continual exposure and over-exertion, both mental and physical - he being the first English-speaking priest that ever set foot on Prince Edward Island and the only one here at that time, he went down to an early grave full of honours and full of merit, as I have already said, in the year 1785 at the premature age of 49, and only thirteen years after his arrival in the colony. Well might he exclaim at his dying moments "The zeal of Thy House, O Lord, hath eaten me up."

We have no doubt that kind and sympathizing friends surrounded his death-bed at his last moments and that he received all the tender care and consolations to be expected under the circumstances, but it is nevertheless sad to think that at that time he had no fellow clergyman - either to administer the last rites of religion before his death, or to sign his requiem after his blessed soul had winged its flight to its Judge and Master. Amidst the prayers and tears of weeping friends and sorrowing acquaintances, his hallowed remains were interred in the old French cemetery at Scotchfort, which served at that time and for many years later as the common burying ground for the greater part of Queen's County. No storied marble, no chiselled granite records his many virtues.

Nearly a century has elapsed since his mortal remains began to mingle with their kindred dust and not after a hundred years or so more stately monument was erected to preserve his memory - only a stunted spruce that has sprung up in the course of ages and kindly spread its scanty branches over the last resting place of a self-sacrificing and saintly and truly good man.

In this enlightened age of ours there are hundreds and, I might say, thousands of his grand nephews and their grandchildren's children after them, who appear to be so very modest as to almost have forgotten the very name of a man whose memory, if enlightened Christian zeal and self-sacrifice possessed any charms for them, should ever remain enshrined in their fondest recollections.


I have already said that Glenaladale arrived here in the spring of 1773, the year after the emigrants landed.

You will remember that about this very time the War of Independence broke out between England and her colonies, which afterwards formed the United States.

In proof of his loyalty and sincere attachment to the House of Hanover, I may mention the fact that he was at once offered the rank of Captain by the British Government, which he at once accepted. He also successfully exerted his influence to induce his followers to join the Royal Standard.

We have difficulty in our day to understand how these poor people here - circumstances as they were at the time, and only learning to wield an axe with an awkward stroke - could be so readily induced to lay down the axe and take up the sword; but we are forced to admit that they were men, and that we, their descendants, however proud we may feel of our little selves, are but their great-grandchildren. In conjunction with Major Small, Captain MacDonald was the means of forming the 84th or Royal Highland Emigrants, here and in Nova Scotia, and actively cooperated in making good the defense of these Colonies against the active position which he occupied very little of his time - most of it was spent principally between Halifax, St. John's, Newfoundland and England.

The energy and pluck of Glenaladale will appear from the following single enterprise: During the American Revolution an American Man-of-war - perhaps the same one that made a raid on Charlottetown - came to the coast of Nova Scotia, near a post where Glenaladale was on detachment with a small party of his men of the 84th Highland Emigrants. A part of the crew of the enemy ship landed for the purpose of plundering the inhabitants of the country. MacDonald with his handful of men boarded the vessel, cut down those who had been left in charge of her, hoisted sail, and brought her as a prize triumphantly into the harbour at Halifax. He then got a reinforcement at Halifax, marched back to his former post, and took the whole crew, consisting of Americans and French, all prisoners.

At the conclusion of peace with the United States, the 84th of Royal Highland Regiment of Emigrants was disbanded, after being officers enrolled for about three years. Their services entitled the officers to half-pay and the men to grants of land, which were obtained in Nova Scotia at a place called the Douglas Settlement - about thirty miles from Halifax. The others returned with MacDonald to Prince Edward Island.

As another proof of how MacDonald stood with the British government it may be here remarked that the government of the Island was offered to him, which as a consistent Catholic he was obliged to decline - owing to the oath which was required at that time to be taken.

My space will not permit me to dwell at any length on the events connected with this man's career in the colony. He would not live to what we could call old age. He died in 1811 and was buried in the old Scotchfort cemetery. As a man and a Christian he stood deservedly high among all classes, and his memory has remained embalmed especially in the fond recollections of his kith and kindred. And as regards his military virtues and abilities, I would submit the following

"The unabating zeal of Captain John MacDonald of Glenaladale in bringing an excellent company into the field, is his least recommedation, being acknowledged by all who knew him to be one of the most accomplished men and best officer of his rank in his Majesty's service."

His wife, familiarly known as "Queen of Tracadie", survived him by many years, and at her death was also interred in the old cemetery at Scotchfort.

Besides his brother Donald, two sisters Margaret and Helen, also accompanied him to this country --the familiarly known among the old folks as Miss Nelly.

Donald did not remain long here; he got a commission in the English service, but fell a few years later in a naval engagement with the French.

Margaret was married here to Lieutenant MacDonald of the 4th Royal Highlanders - well known in his day as Ian Mar, or Big John of West River. He left two sons and one daughter - the late Donald MacDonald Esquire of Charlottetown and the Honorable John Small MacDonald (Small being added to his name by his father as a compliment to Major Small, his companion in arms).

Helen, the late Mrs. Brennan of Charlottetown - was well and favourably known in this community to require any further notice at my hands.

Miss Nelly was engaged to be married to an officer in the English service, a young gentleman of high character and great promise; but he unfortunately fell in the service of his country not very long after their engagement. So true to her betrothed was she that she subsequently declined many proposals of marriage made to her, so she thus continued to be Miss Nelly to the last, when she was buried by the side of her kinfolk.

Glenaladale's own family consisted of four sons: Donald, William, John, and Roderick, and one daughter, Flora. The education of the children was well attended to. Donald and William were sent to England to complete their education at the Catholic College at Stoneyhurst, but the vessel which they took passage was shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland where William met with a watery grave. Donald proceeded on to Stoneyhurst where he completed his education and after his return to the Island took a prominent part in public affairs of that day up to the time of his death, which took place in Montreal over twenty years ago. John and Roderick both studied in Montreal and in Paris, where they both completed their education. The Rev.John MacDonald - as we shall now call him and well known in this community, after having received the order of priesthood in Paris exercised the ministry for some years in Glasgow, Scotland, from which place he came back to this Island, and having attended to the Eastern missions of King's County, including Georgetown, Launching, East Point, Souris, St.Peter's, and St.Mary's, he returned to England in 1845 and died at Brighton (England). In the end of October, 18--, Roderick, after having completed his education in Paris, obtained the commission of paymaster in the English army and served for many years on different stations - among others in Fredericton, N.B., in Bermuda, and in the Ionian Island, Greece where he died over twenty five years ago. Flora, the only daughter of Glenaladale, was sent, at the tender age of nine years, to the Ursuline nuns of Quebec, where she remained until she grew up to be a young woman, and received a complete education. A few years after her return home she married Lieutenant Alexander MacDonald of the Glengarry Fencibles, and died in Charlottetown a few years ago, leaving a family of two sons and two daughters to lament the loss of a good and highly-accomplished mother.


I may here also state that another brother of Glenaladale - the Reverend Augustine MacDonald, Maighistir Uistham, came to this Island in the early part of the present century, about the year 1809.

The following is all that I find recorded of him in the Scotochronicon:

"Rev. Augustine MacDonald, from the Diocese of the Isles entered the Scots College in Rome 1757 aged 13 years, left it and went priest to the mission 1769. He was always a man of great piety and unbounded zeal. Some time after 1800 he went to America and there soon died after."

The immediate cause of his death, as I often heard the old people say, happened very simply. It was caused by unskilled blood-letting; the vein being pierced through caused mortification to set in the arms, which after great pain and agony terminated fatally. His remains also lay interred by the side of those of his brothers. He may have been well advanced in years on coming to this country.

As we see from the above biographical sketch, he made a twelve years course of studies in Rome and was considered a profound theologian, an eloquent preacher and a general scholar. In my early days I was often deeply interested while listening to the good old folk relating the innocent anecdotes about Maighistir Uistham. He appears notwithstanding his profound learning, to have been a man of a childlike simplicity. Like the great Bishop Hay and the still greater Cardinal Newman, he was a tolerable performer on the violin - at least in his own estimation. And according to what I could learn from those who knew him intimately, his proficiency on the violin was what he prided himself most on. You might call in question the depth of his knowledge as a theologian, or his eloquence as a preacher, and he remained quite unconcerned, but the moment you found fault with his music you evidently touched him on the tender spot. I often heard the very old men and old women give an account of the days when a very young child they attended catechism with him; and how, after a severe and painstaking instruction, particularly if they had answered well, he would take his violin and give them some lively tunes. Nay more - he would even get the children to dance, and whenever any of them displayed extra skill and agility in tripping it on the green, he appeared to take it as a special compliment paid to what he considered his own good music.

I refer to these trifles merely to show the admirable character of the dear old gentleman; how in his old age he could so unbend himself as to minister to the amusement of innocent children. It reminds me of St.Philip Neri's love of children, and even of Him Who said: "Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come to me; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

It must be remembered that many of the emigrants of the mainland did not emigrate from necessity, but volunteered, at their own expense, to take a part in the expedition for the benefit of their less fortunate neighbours. Many of those, it appears, purchased freehold properties on Lot 37, immediately or shortly after their arrival here, and never settled permanently on the Glenaladale estate. Others, after remaining for some time in Tracadie, removed to other parts of the Island, and even to Antigonish, Nova Scotia and to the Bras D'Or Lake, Judique, Creignish, and other parts of the Island of Cape Breton, according as they found it convenient to do so.

It is generally supposed that my distinguished name-sake, MacDonald from Bras D'Or, was descended from one of these early pioneers. Many others again - and perhaps from an attachment to Glenaladale more than from necessity - remained on the estate and their descendants are there to the present day. Among those we may count any number of MacDonalds, a few MacKenzies and McRaes and perhaps some others.

We find at the present day the direct descendants of the Gillis family on Lot 37, Queen's County and at St.Peter's Bay at Lot 44 in King's County.

The McKinnon family settled, some on Pisquid Bay, Lot 37 and others at Black River, Brackley Point.

Angus Ban McPhee - after remaining over twenty years in Tracadie - bought a tract of land adjoining the MacDonalds of Allisary, and settled on it, while Roderick MacIntosh moved still further East, and finally settled in Neufrage, Lot 43, King's County. Our veteran legislator, John McIntosh Esquire, who for many years represented his native district in our provincial legislature, belongs to this family.

Of others who in the course of time moved to Tracadie to the otherparts of Queen's County I might mention Clan Angus Ban, some of whom purchased lands at Vernon River, North Pole, while other members of the family settled on the Tracadie Estate, on the south side of the Hillsborough, where the descendants of some of them still reside.

The Doctor's family also purchased lands at the head of Vernon River, and settled around Orwell, but they were so numerous that they all could not find room there, and so some of them remained in Tracadie where their descendants are to be found still.

Although Ewen Ban MacEachern, the venerable father of Bishop MacEachern, came out with the Glenaladale emigrants in 1772 with all his family except Angus, the future Bishop, who was at that time a student at Valledolid in Spain. Father MacEachern did not come out until nearly twenty years later, so that from the lamented death of Father James MacDonald until the arrival of young Father MacEachern, the Catholics of the Island had no resident priest among them.

The MacEacherns it would appear were among those who did not remain for any time on the Tracadie estate. I shall not attempt to give the life and times of the illustrious Bishop MacEachern, who was really the most remarkable man that ever came to this country. In the first place it does not come within the scope of my present lecture, and secondly, I am not sufficiently well prepared with dates and figures, to do the subject justice. The subject would, as I have said, be only doing an injustice to the memory and missionary career of a great and good man, by giving mere imperfect scraps.

Of those who purchased lands outside of the Tracadie estate just after their arrival here, we may mention Domhnul Mic Aonghas [MacAenas], originally from Allisary, near Loch Aylart in Invernesshire, Scotland. He purchased a tract of land on the south side of the Hillsborough River, Lot 37, and settled on it. The land is still occupied by his descendants. He had four sons: John, Angus, Allan, and James - and several daughters. The late Bishop MacDonald of Charlottetown was his grandson.

I may here observe that the bay around which Glenaladale's people first settled was in the time of the French called Tracadie, and as this name has survived all the changes of colonization, I shall use it now in preference to any other.

About, or near the same time, Jim MacThomas settled on the East side of Pisquid River on a tract of land which he called Apple Valley, from the number of apple trees still remaining in that neighbourhood from the time of the French.

Domnhul Mic Alasdair [McAllister] settled on lands adjoining him and called the place Alderfield, and Domnhul Mic Raonull [McRaol], originally of Bornish, after the time-honoured homestead of his worthy ancestors. All of this tract of country is still occupied by their direct descendants, now in the third and fourth generations.

Of the two brothers of the Rev. James MacDonald, the one called Raonull Mic Raonull (Ronald, the son of Ronald) purchased a tract of land about the same time at Maple Hill, Lot 37 and settled on it, while the other brother, Donald, settled in Tracadie. They were both blessed with large families.

Ronald had five sons: Angus, Allan, James, Ronald, and Alexander, and one daughter, Clemmy. From the time of Clementina, Sobieski of Poland, and more especially after the vain, rash attempt of Clementine's eldest son to regain the throne of his Royal ancestors, Clemmy - as well as Nancy, Flora, Peggy, and Nelly - were for a long time favourite names in many old Highland families. Of course such names as these would nowadays be considered vulgar and must give place to Wilhelmina and Minnie and Libbie and Enid and Fiddle-de-de.

In reference to Ronald, who settled at Maple Hill, I shall make about one or two remarks. He always managed mainly through his own energy and influence and no doubt as at no little sacrifice, to keep up a good school at Maple Hill, and this school was attended not only by the children from the new settlements at Allisary and Pisquid, but MacDonald of Glenaladale also sent his children in twos and threes, as they grew up, to board at Mr.MacDonald's in order to attend the school always kept on his premises. Flora, the late Mrs.MacDonald, who was the oldest of Glenaladale's children, loved to talk over the good old times when she, as a mere child, was placed in charge of Mrs.MacDonald of Maple Hill, in order to attend school. She often told that Mrs.MacDonald had been sometimes richly deserved of the epithet the Caillich Chfosta or "Cross old Woman". Flora's brothers - Donald, William, John and Roderick - also attended this school.

When we consider the sterling character, the thoroughly finished gentleman that Glenaladale was, and that with the practical knowledge of the world he entrusted his children at such a tender age - and for a number of years - to the care of Mrs.MacDonald at Maple Hill, we must naturally come to the conclusion that Raonull Mic Raonull and his wife were a worthy couple.

Father James MacDonald's other brother, Donald, settled at Grand Tracadie. He also had a family of five sons: Ronald, Alexander, Augustine, James and John - and I believe but one daughter - Helen, the late Mrs. Alexander MacDonald of Apple Valley. Of their sons, James, John and Augustine remained in Grand Tracadie, where many of their descendants still remain. Alexander settled at Bear River, Lot 44, King's County. He had a numerous family of sons and daughters. All his sons except the oldest and the youngest had a special vocation for a sea-faring life, and they stood high as master mariners. The captain and first and second mate, officers of the ill-fated ship " Country of Richmond", lost a few weeks ago off the coast of America, were the grandchildren of Alexander.

Another man of Domnhul, MacRael, settled at Bedeque, where his descendants still reside. The Reverend Ronald Bernard MacDonald, Daniel H. MacDonald Esquire - director of the Summerside Bank, and the Hon. John A. MacDonald, speaker of the House of Assembly, and their cousin Angus MacDonald Esquire of Bedeque are grandchildren of Ronald who settled there.

I am well aware that the foregoing sketch is imperfect in many respects and if I be found fault with for having passed too lightly over names that might very justly have demanded a fuller notice at my hands, my only apology is the want of material to enable with prudence to go more into detail. For much of what I have advanced I am indebted to the fireside conversations that used to pass between my late father and his many intelligent and ever-welcome guests, to which in the days of my childhood and boyhood, I often listened with the liveliest interest.

I also derived a great deal of information, more recently, on these matters from the late Mrs. MacDonald of Bear River, Mrs. MacDonnell, and the late Mrs. Irving - besides what I could glean from the Scotocronican. To have woven the raw materials thus derived into a highly wrought web was, however, a task that required a more gifted head and hand than your humble servant can lay claim to.

But before taking leave of this subject the important question may be asked: "Have the descendants of these people, whose emigration to this country I have been describing, made the progress for the last hundred years and more than we have naturally expected?" After making every possible allowance in their favour, such as the backward state of the colony on their arrival here, the peculiar difficulty they had to contend with, that they were almost entirely ignorant of ordinary farming, that in fact farming was a thing they had to learn, while those from other countries came out here ready-made farmers.

After making all due allowance in their favour, I unhesitatingly say that many of them at least have not within the last hundred years made that progress which they might and should have made.

You will perhaps say that those of the present generation are more comfortable, dress better, turn out in a better style, and are better educated than their forefathers were. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact that too many of them are neither so comfortable nor independent at the present day as their ancestors were some sixty years ago.

And as to the progress they have been supposed to have made in articles of dress, I, for my part would be equally sceptical on that point. We leave the kilts and filibeg out of the question, for after their defeat at Culloden the poor Highlander was forbidden to wear that dress which he considered the only dress worth wearing, and the loss of which formed the subject of some of the most plaintive Gaelic lyrics of that period. Still some of them - after they came out here - did not scruple to don the kilts at least at a holiday turnout. There were other articles of dress which also distinguished the Highlander of that day, and with which the law in its mercy did not interfere - namely the hair, which the men wore remarkably long, and which plaid into a long queue, fell gracefully over their manly shoulders - and also the time-honoured Scotch bonnet. The Highlanders of old were always known to scrug their bonnets, as they called it in going to battle - that is, they pulled the bonnet close over their brow, the better to protect the head and to prevent the bonnet from falling off in the melee of battle. As long as he had his old Scotch bonnet on his head, he did not look for helmet or coat of mail or any such protection. But nonwithstanding the indulgence of the English laws, so far as the headdress was concerned, we find that both the queue and Scotch bonnet had, for a long time, quite disappeared in this country, and were superseded - now by a fur cap, now by a Koesuth, and now by a Glengarry. Some of our good ladies - and to their credit it is said - have now at length displayed a spirit of patriotism and good sense as thay have donned the long cast-off and half-forgotten Scotch bonnet, but they took good care to call it by a high-sounding name of Tam'O Shanter. Of course we could not expect that our venerable forefathers could have called their everyday headgear by that classical name, for the simple reason that the immortal author of Tam'O Shanter is only another name for the good old Scotch bonnett of our great grandfathers.

Again, in point of intelligence and sound knowledge, founded on good common sense, I would not venture to say that they have much, if anything, to boast over the average run of the present generation, who do not appear to succeed in making an independent living on the very farms which their forefathers bought and paid for at a time when farms were sold for an unreasonably high price. And on which they, old, nevertheless lived as gentlemen. How comes all this? It is for those personally interested to look to it. The fact is self-evident and stares them full in the face, and if through want of energy and honest industry and with their eyes wide open they allow themselves to go to the wall, they will scarcely deserve our pity. Many of them must take a new departure or turn a new leaf, or they will certainly come to grief.

If they expect to thrive in this Dominion of ours, let them be sober and industrious, live within reasonable means, keep clear of debt, and improve their system of farming, without any further loss of time. If the wish of men is for real independence - in the true sense of the term - let them never allow themselves to be carried away by the vain but all too common delusion of aspiring to public offices of emolument and government patronage, for the moment they place themselves and their prospects at the mercy of any government party, ever changing and changeable, that moment they sacrifice their true independence and manhood and enter on a precarious course which may last for a whole lifetime, and in which they will find themselves placed like honest Wilkins Micawber always "Waiting for something to turn up." Let them also take precious good care, that through their recklessness, some of them do not wake up some fine morning to find themselves the mere serfs of grasping Shylocks, slimy and slippery Uriah Heeps, and unscrupulous wirepullers.

We every day listen to parties expating eloquently of the necessity of importing a better class of farmers, and asserting that until a great part of the land on the Island passes out of the hands of the present occupiers into those of a better class of farmers, the colony can neither thrive nor prosper. No doubt the arrival of a class of old-country farmers, possessed of ready capital, would be the signal for the closing of many mortgages and the transfer of many an old homestead into the hands of strangers; and it is also quite possible that a class of farmers, imported from the old country, would be found more tractable and subservient in the hands of those amongst us who fancy themselves born to rule. But as I have already said, let those interested look to it, and look sharp, for there are breakers ahead. Let them act their part manfully and they will find that under Divine Providence that in their own hands rests the opportunity and privilege of adding an honourable appendix to what already is considered an interesting chapter in our Island history. Our Youth, trained up in this wholesome spirit of religion and patiotism, will naturally as a matter of course, imbibe such lofty sentiments as we find embodied in the following lines of Sir Walter Scott:

Breathes there a man with soul so dead

Who never to himself hath said;

This is my own, my native land;

Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd

As home his footsteps he had turn'd

From wandering on a foreign strand,

If such there breathe, go, mark him well,

For him no minstrel raptures swell;

High though his title, proud his name,

Despite these titles, power and pelf

The wretch concentrated all in self,

Living small forfeit fair renown,

And doubly dying, shall go down

To the vile dust from whence he sprung,

Unwept, unhonor'd and unsung.

I might here perhaps be asked why would I place politics under a ban and deny my fellow colonists the right to take any interest whatever in great public questions that may from from time to time be ushered into existence? Would I deny them the free exercise of their native rights as the freehold citizens of a great and free country? Most certainly not. Nothing could be more foreign to my principles or more shocking to my feelings. Let them, by all means, exercise of their birthright of freedom to its fullest extent and discuss freely all issues affecting both private and public interests, but at the same time let it be done in the enlightened spirit of true patriotism and not in the blind cramped spirit of prejudice and bitter fashion.

A man who is honest and industrious and who attends to his business can raise himself in the social scale without attempting to lower or injure the social standing of a neighbour. There is in our great Dominion an ample field for all their talent, and for their energy.

A man may enjoy position and command the respect of his fellow men, in fact, - or he may be a "solid man", even if he never aspired to prominent positions which kind nature perhaps never intended him; for in the greatest and best disciplined army, every soldier of the line, however brave, does not claim the right to be an officer on the Commander-in-Chief's staff. Let them in a word remember that true love of country does not consist in the mercenary lover of the fleshpots of office.

Here I would sincerely and earnestly recommend to parents and others holding responsible and influential positions, if they have the real welfare of those who are to come after them at heart, to inspire their children and others placed under their influence - not only with a sincere love of religion, but also with a sincere love of native country. By their native country, I mean of course this great Dominion of ours, destined in the near future to be one of the leading nations of the world.

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Last Updated: 03/04/2000 2:08:40 AM

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