| New Book Captures Ethos Of Early Lewis Settlement
, Scots in North America
Posted: 12-Jun-2005, 02:08 AM
Group: Celtic Nation
I thought that forum members might be interested in a couple of recent articles on my new Book, "1851 Exiles" - The Story of the Isle of Lewis Settlement in Huron Township, Bruce County, Canada. The book tells the story of 109 families who were evicted from their crofts and transported overseas in 1851 by Lewis landlord and former opium magnate James Matheson.
All the best,
EMAIL: [email protected]
New Book Captures ethos of Early Lewis Settlement
By Marie Wilson
Kincardine News Staff
?A Lewis housewife would do up her housework, collect her ashes, walk 8 or 10 miles to Kincardine, knitting her husband?s or son?s sock all the way to receive two cents (for ash). One of these she placed on the plate at church, fifty per cent of her cash. It was heroic.?
A quote used in ?1851 Exiles? by Angus Macleod.
When Angus Macleod, a musician and writer who lives on Kincardine?s North Line, was growing up in the Ottawa Valley, his family would come to Kincardine to visit Grandpa Bill Macleod who lived on Hwy. 9.
?My brother Al and I thought he was senile, that he had lost it,? he said, smiling on this cold February morning at Books and Beans in Kincardine as he recalls how Grandpa Macleod was one of the few Lewis settlers around who could still speak Gaelic. ?We though he was making it up.?
Nevertheless, the early trips to Huron Township instilled within Macleod a deep appreciation for his heritage as a descendant of the Lewis Settlers ? 109 families who were evicted from their lands on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in 1851 during the Highland Clearances. The families settled in Huron Township where they thrived, raised families, formed a community and made valuable contributions to the area.
Macleod has already contributed to the preservation of that heritage through his talent as a singer/songwriter with The Silent Ones, a CD he felt compelled to write after a trip to his Hebridean home, Mid Borve, in 1996. However, he has recently published a book entitled 1851 Exiles, which also tells the story of the Lewis Settlers.
?The CD dealt more with the eviction of the Lewis Settlers and the terrible injustice done to these people,? he said of the CD, which has sold about 5,000 copies to date. ?The book is more focused on the amazing things that they did, it emphasizes the positive.?
Stories survive generations
And in compiling the research for his book, which Macleod describes as an account of ?characters that he has tried to personalize,? he spent hours listening to stories of family history from Lewis descendants in Huron Township which since restructuring five years ago, is now known as the Township of Huron - Kinloss.
?I was surprised by how much knowledge people have of their past. Stories have lived within families since they left the Isle of Lewis,? he said.
Macleod notes the case of Peggy Chappell, a local historian who has carefully compiled articles, letters and pieces of history from the Lewis Settlers and who is also the great-granddaughter of Councillor Dan, one of Huron Township?s more prominent, original Lewis Settlers.
?Peggy tells a story about Councillor Dan MacDonald and his father discovering a deceased whale that was deposited onto the Lewis shoreline by the tide. Councillor Dan and his father cut a chunk of the blubber and ate it. They went back the next day to get more, but while Dan?s father was cutting the whale, the tide carried him out to sea on top of the whale. Dan?s father stuck his knife deeper into the whale and hung on until he was rescued,? Macleod said.
Although Peggy and her mother thought the story was made up, Macleod said so much reference has been made to the tale by so many that it?s thought to be based in fact, though somewhat embellished as stories, orally told are apt to become.
In trying to freeze forever in time the story of the Lewis Settlers, Macleod has captured the essence of what it was like to be a fisherman from a land by the sea where one?s livelihood depended on fishing and gathering kelp (used in iodine) to suddenly find oneself in a foreign land of dense, dark forest.
?They were dumped into 19th century Upper Canada where there was nothing but trees. They didn?t know how to clear land or survive in the wilderness, but they did,? he said.
Connects with early settlers
Macleod captures the daily lives of the settlers with amazing detail and empathy.
He introduces his readers to young Lewis Settlers who would sing old Gaelic love songs, while tending to the tedious task of watching sugar kettles as the sap boiled down in the production of maple syrup.
?Recognizing the song, young folk participating in the same wearisome chore at a neighbouring homestead would usually join in followed by group after group until the whole bush was filled with the magnificent sound of their voices in unison.?
He tells of the hardship of clearing land with only axe, hoe and manual labour.
?It was arduous labour to say the least ? no wonder Aeneas McCharles wrote that he and his brother ?nearly broke our backs and were physically used up before we came of age? in describing his early years in the bush.?
And he tells of a place where not one, but two churches rose up ? the Huron Presbyterian Church and Knox Presbyterian Church - and to say there was some rivalry between the two would be an understatement. The practice of religion among the Lewis Settlers in the new world intrigues Macleod, and he tries to find a balance between the extremely devout people with moral values associated with Calvinism and people who obviously still held some stock in traditions steeped in paganism. These themes are explored in tales of the Lewis witch and fears of traveling on a road near what is now Amberley because of a suicide that occurred there with its ensuing implications of a restless spirit.
Despite their hard lives, the Lewis Settlers had an indomitable spirit, which Macleod?s book celebrates.
?They were incredibly persistent and they survived,? he said, noting it was quite common for men to walk to and from Goderich and Kincardine for supplies.
In addition to creating an intimate picture of the settlers, Macleod has compiled a lot of useful information, which makes 1851 Exiles an excellent reference book on local history, especially for those interested in Genealogy.
He lists the names of the Lewis Settlers, where they came from in Scotland and where they settled in Huron Township. In addition, he includes a list of those buried in the old Lewis Cemetery, albeit incomplete. Various photographs from Scotland and Huron Township ? the cover depicts a picture of Councillor Dan MacDonald ? concludes the book.
Although he may have once thought his grandfather?s Gaelic a little strange, Macleod has definitely come full circle with his appreciation for his unique heritage. That appreciation is shown in the wonderful dedication at the front of his book to his father.
?Dedicated to the memory of my father, Glenn Allan MacLeod, whose wonderful stories planted the seeds for this book some forty years ago.? 1851 Exiles is available online at www.torquil.net or by calling (519) 396-5368.
Official Website of Angus Macleod
Email: [email protected]
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