A Transatlantic Visit by Mary McDonald.

Mary is the Hon. Treasurer of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh.

It was, to me, a member of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh, an unforgettable experience to travel to Canada in August 1975 to be a guest (along with Norman H. MacDonald our Hon. Secretary and Miss Ella McConnell, our then Hon. Treasurer) to Clan Donald members and their friends in that vast Dominion.

The centre of kindness and hospitality was Kileekie House, Hespeler, Cambridge, Ontario, the home of Jim and Elsie Alexander. They are both hardworking and enthusiastic members of the Grand River Valley Branch of the Clan Donald of Canada and from their home we were transported to a whole range of functions varying from a formal Ball and Dinner to ceilidhs, barbecues, overnight stays for supper, mid-morning coffee and rye and afternoon teas. The Sons of Scotland in Toronto arranged the Ball and Mr. Ellice McDonald Jr. and Mrs. Rosa McDonald of Delaware, USA gave the Dinner there.

Mrs. Ruby MacDonald (who hosted us in Guelph, along with Colin MacDonald, the Deputy High Commissioner for the Clan Donald in Canada, and his wife Dorothy) assisted Ella and me in making a very worthwhile trip to Ottawa. The year 1975 was the centenary of the birth of the late Lord Tweedsmuir, formerly John Buchan, and com­memorations for this were taking shape in Edinburgh before we left. Therefore, to drive round the Governor General’s House, Rideau Hall, was of significance to me. Ottawa is a splendid capital city which leaves an indelible memory The spacious setting and handsome buildings dominated by its Houses of Parliament situated between the great Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal, the magnificent War Memorial and the incorporation of natural features within the formal plan, cannot fail to impress the visitor. On my return home I was most elated to find that the man who had planned Ottawa had been brought upon a farm in Corstorphine, Edinburgh, on the land of which my home now stands. His name was Thomas Adams and after leaving Ottawa he had a doctorate conferred upon him for his work with the Planning Department of New York.

The Toronto Branch of the Clan Donald of Canada, with the special effort and kind hospitality of Dr, Gordon and Doris Leggett added a further dimension to my experience. This great metropolis – well named the Queen City – with its skyscrapers rising from the shores of Lake Ontario almost creates the feeling of being by the sea.

This feeling is enhanced by the many yacht clubs which take shelter around the numerous islands encircling the great ocean-going terminal. After viewing the whole of Toronto from the Dominion Bank Building, the highest in Toronto, I was driven quickly around by Doris to see the main buildings at ground level, including the University and the City Hall, at the periphery of which stands the statue of the first Prime Minister of all Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald. To pay our homage as MacDonalds (Doris being a Donald before marriage), we took a photograph of his statue.

At a supper and ceilidh in Pushlinch given at the home of Alex and Margaret Walker (Margaret is the Macdonald) we had an opportunity to see the film, “The Massacre of Glencoe”.

This reminds me of a visit also made to the Ontario Theatre Land of Stratford where Elsie took us to see “St. Joan”. This was superbly produced and performed in an acoustically impeccable theatre. The thrust, or apron stage, brainchild of the late Tyrone Guthrie, completed a perfect theatre; In fact, Tyrone Guthrie had put his unmistakable genius to work here.

A further interesting experience was being taken to a political meeting where I found the proceedings rather different from our own. Another of our hosts, Bill Fraser and Olive, his wife, who live in Galt (Olive is a MacDonald whose forebears came from Skye) were working hard (along with Elsie) to put their candidate into the local Legislature.

They introduced me to the Premier of Ontario, the Hon. W.G. Davies. He was most interested to know that I came from Edinburgh and he informed me that he, personally, had deposited the books belonging to George Brown in our University Library in 1968. This came about during Mr. Davies’ term of Office as Minister of University Affairs, as an exchange between the Universities of Ontario and Scotland to commemorate the 150th anniversaries of the births of Sir John A. Macdonald and George Brown. A generous gift from Ontario to Edin­burgh University made this possible and the generosity continues and the Canadiana of the George Brown Collection grows. Now with the establishment of a Canadian Studies Unit at Edinburgh University there should be added momentum. (Information about George Brown was readily available from the Library of Edinburgh University and is herewith acknowledged with thanks).

George Brown was born in Alloa in 1818, his father was an Edinburgh Merchant and he lived in Nicholson Square from 1826-1837. In 1837 he and his father emigrated, in advance of the family to America. Father and son founded the “New York British Chronicle”. In 1843 the family moved to Toronto where father and son founded the newspaper ‘The Banner” then went on to found “The Globe” in 1845, a weekly publication, which became a daily paper in 1853. “The Globe” set a new pace in Canadian journalism and in 1851 George Brown was elected to the Legislative Assembly as a Reform Member. George Brown and his father were greatly influenced at this time by the Disruption of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, their sympathies lying with the new Free Church of Scotland. This fact, as well as a commitment to the Adam Smith economic liberalism, shaped his character as a Reform Liberal. He is acknowledged as a father of Confederation and, although his political strategy must have been at variance with that of Sir John A. Macdonald, when the Macdonald­-Cartier Government fell in 1864, he was called upon to form an Administration. This, however, never took place but he was included as a Reform Member in the Great Coalition which was formed to bring about Confederation. He was reckoned to be the power behind MacKenzie who followed Sir John A. Macdonald as Prime Minister. It is interesting to know that George Brown married a daughter of the great Edinburgh printing house of Nelson. He died in 1880.

Like Sir John A. Macdonald, George Brown is commemorated by a statue by the City Hall in Toronto. He was a great power in Canadian politics and trade and, among other things, had an early hand in intro­ducing the Graham Bell sound telegraphy into Britain.

A tour to Niagara Falls was a most memorable occasion. As well as enjoying the prospect of one of the geological wonders of the world, I, in common with all tourists, donned rubber overalls and boots to Stand under the falls and feel the spray on our faces. A very exciting experience! Our host on this occasion was Charlie MacDonald, the then Vice-President of the Grand River Valley Branch.

We were again Charlie’s guests, along with Margaret his wife, at the Canadian National Exhibition’s Scottish World Festival Tattoo in Toronto. Here all the Scottish element of Canada is displayed to the full in a most spectacular fashion and the Scottish blood can almost be heard to leap in the veins of the spectators. The Earl of Elgin was the guest of honour and other notable personalities were specially honoured. Among them was our much esteemed past President of the Clan Donald Society in Edinburgh, Donald J. Macdonald of Castleton, who was presented to the spectators as one of Scotland’s leading historians. He was accompanied by his wife, Bunty, in the train of whose visit to Canada we were included.

Our visit to the Doon Pioneer Village took us back in history to the pioneer days of Canada where a village museum piece is being created, the many educational features of which no doubt attract tourists and interested Canadians alike. Transport is featured strongly with the Conestoga covered wagon and a full-scale Canadian Pacific Railway Station complete with great steam engine of 1911 vintage – a shining beauty! In the village there is an awareness of some of the different races that have played their part in the development of Canada, such as North American Indians, Germans and Mennonites.

The strong British influence, other than the Victoriana aspect is Scottish. The Grand River Valley Branch, under a Board of Trustees chaired by Jim Alexander, are on the point of bringing to fruition a project known as the Clan Donald Log House (an authentic representation of a Scottish settler’s home in pioneer days), and, by the time this is in print, it will be an accomplished fact. The pioneer owner was a Mr. Neil Currie and it is interesting to note that Currie is a sept of Clan Donald. The Curries were the Seannachies or genealogists of the ancient Lordship of the Isles known as MacVurrichs. The name was changed to Currie in the 17th century when it was necessary to conceal being a MacDonald from the Campbells. The log house next door to the Clan Donald House commemorates a Peter MacArthur, an early writer who became known through his articles in the “Farmer’s Advocate” and “The Globe” – the newspaper of great influence already mentioned. According to one Scottish historian the MacArthurs were to the Macdonalds what the MacCrimmons were to the MacLeods, the pipers. Quite a cell of Clan Donald history here!

Although all our sojourneying was confined to Ontario the impressions of the country and the people hove created for me a kaleidoscope of memories from which I shall forever draw upon for reflection of kindness, enlightenment, experience and ties of Clanship.