Pictou Monument Restored and Re-dedicated by Alastair MacDonald, Pictou County Branch Commissioner

The Pictou County Branch of the Clan Donald Society recently celebrated the unveiling of the cairn at Glencoe.

This cairn commemorates some of the early Highland settlers in that area. It was originally erected by descendants of one of those pioneers in 1947. Throughout the course of time, the monument fell into disrepair. Since it memorialized a family of MacDonalds, the Clan Donald Society undertook a financial and research campaign to restore it.

Located in a rural setting near Sunny Brae, the cairn, which is quite large, has plaques on three of its four faces. On the front, the plaque reads: “Dedicated to the memory of John A. MacDonald and his four sons, Duncan, James, Alexander and Ewen – all of the 84th Royal Highland Regiment, who served with the Loyalists in the Revolutionary War of 1776. Descendants of John MacDonald of Glen Urquhart, Scotland – a survivor of Glencoe 1692.”

The plaque on the left side commemorates the parents and grandparents of the descendants who had the original cairn erected, James MacDonald of Winnipeg.

The unveiling of the restored monument was performed by Edward MacDonald and Catherine Mulholland, son and daughter of James MacDonald, both of whom live in Winnipeg.

The third plaque has the Clan Donald crest and the notation: “Restored by Clan Donald Pictou County and interested friends, 1994.”

The chairman of this undertaking is W.D.J. MacDonald of New Glasgow who initiated a campaign for funds for this purpose.

The financial target was soon reached and the stonework was completed in the spring. The plot of lawn on which the cairn stands was rebuilt by members of the Clan Donald Society and the unveiling took place in the presence of a large crowd of clan members and interested friends on July 17.

At the ceremony, of which W.D.J. (Bill) MacDonald was emcee, an address was given by Betty MacDonald of Bridgeville, on the history of the early Scottish settlers of the area, and particularly the family of the first James MacDonald. A veteran of the battle of Culloden under the banner of Bonnie Prince Charlie, he emigrated with his wife, four sons and four daughters to New York, which was then a British colony, in 1775. Caught up in the turmoil of the American Revolution, he and his four sons joined the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment (the 84th) and their family members were taken to Halifax for the duration of the war.

After the war, the Highland soldiers were offered grants of farm land in Nova Scotia. John MacDonald and three of his sons took up farms in the area around Bridgeville in Pictou County.

“The son James,” said Betty MacDonald, “later known as Deacon James, (settled) on the farm now owned by Grant Thompson. On this farm stood the historic elm tree under whose branches Dr. James MacGregor preached his first sermon on the East River in 1786.

“Deacon James was the son from whom the family on this farm descended. He was known as the strongest man in the regiment. He was married to Mary Forbes and was one of the first elders under Dr. MacGregor. He had many notable descendants, among them Hon. James MacDonald, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia.”

She then related that James moved to Ontario in 1828, where he died at the age of 102, and his wife Mary, at the age of 100, after 81 years of marriage. Their daughter, Margaret, married a son of another John MacDonald who came from Scotland in 1801. They had a son, Edward, who married Jane Grant, and these were the parents of James MacDonald of Winnipeg who had the cairn built in 1947 on a visit to his ancestral home, to honour his ancestors.

In closing, Betty MacDonald quoted Judge George Patterson who, in his book, More Studies of Nova Scotian History, “The Men of the 84th who chose to make their homes in Pictou County were of the same temper and breed as those who came in the Hector. A new country could not hope to be blessed with finer or better settlers.

Footnote to the Online Edition.

Ben MacDonald of Glendale, Arizona submitted corrections and observations on 27 May 2005.