Clan Donald Activity in Nova Scotia, 1983 by Judge Ronald A. MacDonald

Under the leadership of Commissioner John Kennedy MacDonald (Brig. Gen. Retd.) the Clan Donald Society of Nova Scotia enjoyed 10 days of concentrated activity in conjunction with the 1983 international Gathering of the Clans in Nova Scotia. Highlighting the Clan Donald activities were the visits of two of the Clan Donald Chiefs, Clanranald and Glengarry.

The festivities commenced on Saturday, 6th July, with a gala evening dinner at Morrison Hall, on the campus of St Francis Xavier University. Present were 110 persons from several Canadian Provinces as well as some of the American States, who heard guest of honour, Ronald Alexander MacDonald of Clanranald, bring everyone up to date on progress in the Clan Donald Lands Trust and plans for the short term at Armadale. Resplendently attired in Clanranald tartan, the Chief of Clanranald brought a cheerful note in his formal remarks and in his greetings to individuals after the formal meal.

Present at the head table besides Commissioner J.K. MacDonald and his wife Dadie and Clanranald were leading figures in the Clan Donald Society of Nova Scotia and Ontario, including Kathleen MacDonald of Antigonish, Mr and Mrs Stephen MacDonald of Dartmouth, Mr and Mrs Charles MacIsaac of Judique, Judge and Mrs Ronald MacDonald of Antigonish Charles and Margaret MacDonald of the Grand River Valley branch (Ontario), and Bob and May MacDonald of the Toronto branch.

Also present and receiving a presentation as the party who had travelled the longest distance for the occasion was Mrs Betty MacEachern Fuss, of Nevada, whose roots were for two generations in Lochaber, Antigonish County. Mrs Fuss was accompanied by her husband. Further, Mr and Mrs W.J.H. Henderson, highly active members of the Toronto branch, were in attendance and were introduced.

The meeting was graced as well by the presence of the Hon. Sandy Cameron and his wife Shirley. Mr Cameron is the leader of the Opposition in the Nova Scotia Legislature. Senator and Mrs Al Graham, of Ottawa, Sydney and Antigonish were present. Both Mr and Mrs Graham trace their roots to pioneer Clanranald stock, Further, the Hon. William (Bill) Gillis and his wife Joan, took in the occasion. Dr Gillis is Member of the Legislature for Antigonish.

Regrets were received from Deputy Prime Minister Allan J. MacEachen, from Gordon Leggett, Clan Donald Ontario, from Forrest MacDonald, Clan Donald California, and from all the Clan Donald chiefs who could not attend due to conflicts in schedules. In addition, Norman MacDonald, Secretary of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh, was unable to be present although he had made express plans some months earlier to be in attendance.

The view expressed by many was that the Clan Donald dinner would rank as one of the most successful and enjoyable formal events held by the Clan during the International Gathering Year. The tasteful meal was enhanced by entertainment by one of Antigonish’s most popular singers, Patricia Kennedy, whose roots go back to the Lairds of Kinlochmoidart. Miss Kennedy was accompanied by Margaret MacGregor MacDonald.

Later that evening the festive air continued to the Mackay Room on the St F. X. campus where the band “Gael Force” played to the enjoyment of hundreds at the annual Highland Society Highland Ball. Chairman of the event was Alexander G. MacDonald. Clanranald appeared to enjoy himself immensely in meeting more of his clanspersons and Highlanders in general.

Sunday 10th July:  Events continued the next day with the Ecumenical service marking the formal opening of the Antigonish Highland Games at St Ninian’s Cathedral. The procession of many dozens of tartan-clad persons of Highland descent was led by Mr Donald Beaton, President of the Society, who invited Clanranald to accompany him at the head of the worshippers. The St Ninian’s Choir, led by director and organist James Macpherson, selected music from Celtic sources, thrilling the packed congregation was the sound of the pipes, played by Doug Boyd, in combination with the organ in the highly acclaimed acoustics of the cathedral.  That afternoon was the first Clans Day, sponsored by the Federation of Scottish Clans, Rev. Donald Sutherland, President, The Clan Donald tent ranged with more than one dozen others in a colourful assembly at Columbus Field.  Artefacts at the Clan Donald tent were presented by Joseph MacDonald, McAras Brook, Margaret MacDonald of Southside Harbour, and Angus (Captain Angus) MacDonald of Heatherton, all Antigonish County. The march past of the Clans was led by Clanranald, who was escorted by Commissioner J.K. MacDonald and by William “Bill” Bowers of Atlanta, Georgia, whose collection of Clan Banners added greatly to the occasion, as did his presence and that of his wife Blanche, who proudly points to Keppoch blood in her background. After bidding goodbye to new and old friends, Clanranald left for Sydney, Cape Breton and from there to the United Kingdom, with promises to return “soon”.

Monday, 11th Ju1y: This day featured the unveiling of the portrait of Judge Hugh MacDonald (1827-1899), the first person of Highland descent appointed to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. His great-great-grandfather was John MacDonald of Morar, a captain in the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Prof. Ray MacLean, co-author of “Beyond the Atlantic Roar”, addressed those assembled at the Court House on the history of the local judiciary, while Judge Ronald A MacDonald read a short biography of Judge Hugh MacDonald. The ceremony itself was performed by Christina MacDonald of St Peter’s and John MacDonald of Soldier’s Cove, who are descended from brothers of Judge Hugh MacDonald.Welcoming visitors to the ceremony was the Antigonish Clanranald Pipe Band.

Visit of Glengarry: The activity of Clan Donald continued later that week with the arrival of Air Commodore (Ret’d.) Donald MacDonell of Glengarry, Chief of the MacDonells of Glengarry, accompanied by his wife Lois and his daughter Lindsay Cuthbertson, who is now a resident of Halifax and married to the distinguished archivist and historical author, Brian Cuthbertson.

Glengarry and his wife had no sooner than arrived when they were whisked off to the annual dinner tendered by St Francis Xavier University for Highland Games dignitaries. There, splendidly attired in Highland Dress, they were warmly welcomed by University President, Rev. Gregory MacKinnon, and met with executive members of the Antigonish Highland Society and guests of the Society for the official opening.

The next morning, Glengarry, Lois and Lindsay were guests of honour in the Highland Games parade, featuring over one dozen pipe bands. Throughout the day they attended at the Antigonish Highland Games and the Clan Donald tent, escorted by Commissioner J.K. MacDonald and by Kathleen MacDonald and Agnes MacDonald.

Later in the afternoon, an informal gathering of MacDonalds and MacDonells was held on the lawn to the rear of the residence of Judge Ronald A. MacDonald. The weather co-operated to permit a leisurely meeting of Glengarry with his clanspersons. Included among the dozens of persons in attendance were Father Malcolm MacDonell, President Emeritus of St Francis Xavier University, and presently a Commissioner with the Human Rights Commission, Ottawa; his sister Margaret MacDonell, who among other things is the author of the recently published “The Emigrant Experience”, a publication of New World Gaelic Poetry; Dr John E. MacDonell, Chief of Staff, Saint Martha’s Hospital; Judge T. Donald Tramble, Grant MacDonell and John MacIsaac (all descendants of Donald MacDonell of Nine Mile River (1755-1858), patriarch of one of the leading MacDonell families in this province), and Rev. Malcolm MacLellan former President of St F. X. University and author of  “The Glen”.

Perhaps the largest contingent of MacDonells was that of the family of Dr Aeldred MacDonell, Professor of Medicine Notre Dame University, Indiana, a native of Port Hood. Including offspring and in laws, more than a dozen of his family were present.

Glengarry, Lois and Lindsay left for Halifax the next day prior to his trip to the United States as a guest of Ellice McDonald Jr and his wife Rosa. The impression left with all is that the Clan Donald is fortunate that there are fine men with excellent personal qualities at its forefront.

Clanranald Gathering Port Hood: The final activity that involved MacDonalds was the Clanranald gathering at Port Hood on 6 August 1983. While not strictly a matter promoted by Clan Donald, it was nevertheless an expression of Clan Activity under the sponsorship of the Clanranalds of the Port Hood Area of Inverness County and the Chestico Days Committee of that area.

Among the principal workers for this event were Cathy MacDonald of Port Hood, a student of the Celtic Heritage and an active Clanranald member; Morag MacDonald Graham of Judique; and Phyllis MacEachern MacDonald of Port Hood.

One of the Highlights of the day was a parade of “floats.” Judging of the floats was done by three distinguished individuals – Mr Justice Angus L. MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court; Mr Norman MacDonald of the Beaton Institute, and presently Chairman of the Nova Scotia Gaelic College Board; and Judge Ronald Angus MacDonald of Antigonish. Their first choice went to the Port Hood Clanranald Association for a truly excellent presentation. Guest of Honor on the occasion was Flora MacDonald, former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for Canada, and currently Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands. Miss MacDonald’s roots are in Mabou and North Sydney, Cape Breton Island. She is, of course, recognised as a leading figure in the Canadian Parliament.

A short history of the Clanranald in the old and new world was given by Judge Ronald Angus MacDonald. The Port Hood Clanranald gathering was attended by hundreds of Clanranald persons, the Clanranald being by far the most numerous of the MacDonalds in the Maritime Provinces of Canada.

Matron Margaret C. MacDonald: On the same day, 6 August, a ceremony marking the birthplace of Matron Margaret Clothilde MacDonald was held at Bailey’s Brook, Pictou County. She had served with great distinction as Matron-in-Chief of the Canadian Nursing Service in the First World War. She sprang from one of the most distinguished families of Pictou County and indeed Nova Scotia. Hundreds gathered to do honor to her memory.