By the late Rev. Donald R. Sutherland
FSCNS President Emeritus (Composed 1996)
On April 20th, 1996, I was asked by the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia to write an article dealing with some of the history of the Federation – its successes and failures. It is difficult for me to be too specific since I do not have access to the papers and documents of the past. However I do have my experiences and involvement in the Association to draw upon, therefore, for the most part, this article will be from a personal perspective.
As one gives some impressions of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia we need to remember that in the very beginning and during the International Gatherings, it was perhaps easier to work up excitement and find willing workers, than it is today. It was new then and people wanted to see just what could be done. This obtained in my case and that of A.W. (Sandy) Robertson during the 1987 International Gathering of the Clans and it applied to John R. Campbell during the 1991 International Gathering and the 1995 Gathering in Halifax under Fran Sutherland.
The impetus for the forming of the Federation of Scottish Clans in this area was the International Gathering of the Clans, which was held, with great success, in Nova Scotia in 1979. It was with reference to that gathering that Lorna Inness wrote an article entitled "Noteworthy" that was published in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald in September 1981. She quoted Lila Fraser Gashus of Halifax who was involved with the first Clans meeting in Antigonish on September 12, 1981. Gashus stated, "The need for such a group became apparent two years ago when the International Gathering of the Clans was held in Nova Scotia."
Gordon Archibald, Chairman of the Scottish Societies of Nova Scotia, and members of the group's board, thought in some way the various clan societies should be organized to give them a stronger voice. Problems in communication and coordination were obvious. At the time, recalled Mrs. Gashus, the various clan events were planned independently and sometimes Clan Gatherings were unable to [meet] because the [meetings] were too close together and meeting places too far apart in location.
The first step was the placing of an advertisement in this paper (Chronicle Herald), inviting the Clan Societies and People with clan or family names without a local organization to get in touch with people actively involved with Scottish activities. There were some 38 names in the list which appeared with the ad.
And so the Clans gathered at Antigonish in the Council chambers. The meeting was presided over by Dr. D.V. MacDonald, Vice-Chair of SSANS, and there it was agreed that an association be formed. Pro-term officers and directors were named with Rev. Donald R. Sutherland, Whycocomagh, as President; Donald F. MacLean, Halifax as Vice-President; Ian R. Cameron, New Glasgow, as Secretary; and Judge R.D. MacDonald, Antigonish, as Treasurer.
Charles Macintosh, Q.C., of Halifax was named chairman of the Constitutional Committee and at the [following] meeting in Antigonish on October 24th, he presented a full slate of officers for approval. Members of the nominating committee included Rod J. Chisholm, George F. McLean and Clarence MacLennan.
The first annual meeting (was) held in May 1982, at which time the nominating committee presented a full slate of officers for approval. 2 Members of the nominating committee included Rod J. Chisholm, George F. MacLean and Clarence MacLennan.
The aims and objectives are clear: the stimulation of interest in Scottish culture and connections, improvements in communication between such groups here and the coordination of the suggestions involved, setting up a newsletter. 3 I might add, this newsletter eventually became the "Clansman" with Angus M. MacQuarrie as Editor and Publisher. This highland periodical has recently (October/November issue) changed its name to "Celtic Heritage." The Editor is Alexa Thompson and the Publisher is Angus M. MacQuarrie. This fine publication became a reality through the work of the Federation of Clans and the Department of Tourism.
This new organization, wrote Lorna Inness, "will promote the Gaelic language, the study of traditions, with a view to becoming an authoritative voice on highland dress and its use, protocol, clan customs, highland courtesy, music and genealogy ."
The Vice-President of the Federation at that time, Donald F. MacLean of Halifax, greatly aided the Federation, as well as the Clans, by being available at the Highland Games in Antigonish and New Glasgow to assist with genealogy and to share his knowledge of Scottish culture. The officers and members of the Scottish Clans Executive, brought in at the annual meeting in May 1982, constituted an able group of people and much was accomplished through their activities and leadership. As I reflect, I feel that through the Federation, considerable positive ecumenical work was accomplished. The Clans are made up largely of persons of the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. I dare say that more good fellowship and loyalty to one another was developed there, than often is accomplished in our relations between different churches.
As one travels across the Province, one is bound to meet members of the Clans with whom one has worked and whose company and fellowship we have all enjoyed.
From the very beginning, it was my distinct honour to have been named interim President. Later, in May 1982, I was confirmed as President. It was a great privilege and challenge to server the Federation of Scottish Clans.
It was also a privilege for me, as President, to be a member of the Board of SSANS, as were succeeding Presidents. The Board met quite frequently to feed in ideas from the Clans and festivals, and of course, to prepare for the 1983 International Gathering of the Clans in Nova Scotia. In the 1983 Final Report of the Executive Direct, Michele McKenzie states, “The 1983 International Gathering of the Clans (IGC) was a resounding success in Nova Scotia, with over 91,000 people participating in the many festivals, events and clan gatherings. A total of 43 clan gatherings, 25 annual festivals, and four special programs, constituting the eight-week event over the period of June 27th – August 20th, generating an estimated $18 million in tourism revenue.”
The Board of SSANS for 1984 was comprised of Dr. A.G. Archibald, Chairman Dr. D.V. MacDonald, Vice-Chair A.B. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer Rev. Donald R. Sutherland, President of the Federation, Michele McKenzie, Executive Director, Mrs. Kay MacDonald, Jack MacNeil, Leonard Jones, Stuart Brown, Reg Rankin, Walter Y. Tucker, and Dr. Greg Gass. This comprised a consensus working groups that was receptive to some of our suggestions. Dr. Gordon Archibald was a true gentleman and his job was not an easy one. He was firmly in command and as one looks back, one realizes it was necessary to have it that way. He always treated me very kindly, and on two occasions I had the honour to represent the Clans at the International Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. On one memorable occasion four of us, June Cameron, Hazel Thomson (Secretary of the Foundation), Joan Sutherland and I motored to the Stone Mountain Games, near Atlanta. We enjoyed it thoroughly. Attendance at the Stone Mountain Games is truly worthwhile for any chairperson. I suggest it be put on your “must” list, as games to visit.
The first Federation of Scottish Clans Executive consisted of the following: Rev. Donald R. Sutherland, President; Donald F. MacLean; Vice-President; Ian R. Cameron, Secretary; and Judge Ronald D. MacDonald, Treasurer. Additional members were Hazel Thomson, who later became Secretary of the Federation; Shirley Campbell, an able person who did a great deal for the Campbell Clan as well as for the Federation during her term as Secretary; and Rod J. Chisholm, Q.C., who succeeded me as President of the Federation. Other members included George MacLean and Councilor Peter MacPhee. This was an excellent group to work with, one which I shall always remember with affection and respect. As years passed, the Federation or Scottish Clans attracted different members, the majority of whom were loyal dedicated workers with an acute interest the Scottish culture of Nova Scotia.
Michele McKenzie, the Executive Director, was an excellent person for the Clans to work with, and she certainly made a mark for herself in this field. The Executive Director of the International Clans of Nova Scotia for 1995 was K.C. Beaton of Mabou, who did an admirable job. Jack MacNeil of Dartmouth headed the International Gathering of 1995 and through his many years of association with SSANS, along with the expertise of Bill MacLennan, Fran Sutherland, Rod J. Chisholm and Dr. Gordon Archibald, was in an excellent position to do superb work. Fran Sutherland, as President of the Federation, provided drive and good leadership. Fran, a native of River John, served very ably as President of the Atlantic Association for Clan Sutherland. As a result of her presence and experience, I am sure that the Clans and the International Gathering profited. (To show how some of the members from Cape Breton, who sit on SSANS, were impressed by our president, Fran Sutherland, she was asked to officially open the 1995 Gaelic Mod at St. Ann's, Cape Breton. Jean Watson, a native of Pictou, Vice-President of the Federation at that time, also contributed greatly to the success of the Gathering. As well, she can be credited with playing a major role in the establishment of “Tartan Day” in Nova Scotia [and Canada].”
In September 1986, William Crowell, from Lake Annis, in Yarmouth County, then President of the Clan Cameron Society, expressed the view that "it would be worthwhile to have a special Scots Day or Tartan Day to encourage a more general wearing of Scottish attire." 6 In , this suggestion was approved by the Federation in Antigonish. With dogged determination, Jean Watson strove tirelessly to see that it was passed by the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia. [The bill was presented in Province House on April 6th, 1987.] Thanks to her efforts and the Federation's input, Nova Scotians have April 6th declared as "Tartan Day." She and Fran Sutherland were instrumental in getting recognition for Past Presidents [of the FSCNS]. On Saturday, October 14th, 1995, the first Past Presidents' pins were presented at the Federation meeting in St. James Anglican Church Hall, Pictou, by President Fran Sutherland. This was warmly received by all.
In my role as President of the Federation, I spoke to various groups in Nova Scotia, such as Clan Gatherings, Rotary Clubs in Truro and Sydney and radio and television stations. The purpose was to provide information on the Gathering and to elaborate on the positive effects it would have on the culture and economy of the province. It was a resounding success and I would say in all humility, that I did my level best to help ensure that the 1983 International Gathering of the Clans more than met the expectations of the planners and the people.
I had the honour of giving the opening invocation before a full house at the [Nova Scotia International] Tattoo in Halifax, where the 1983 International Gathering of the Clans was officially opened by Premier John Buchanan. I remember the late Harrison Sutherland of Dartmouth and River John telling me how proud he was to see a "River Johner" and a Sutherland giving that prayer at the Metro Centre. I might add that the prayer that I gave, which was very short, had to be scrutinized by Col. Fraser of Halifax. The prayer had to be written out. There was no jumping up and giving a prayer as the spirit might guide me. There were times of fellowship with all the guests, for example, the dinner hosted by the President of St. Francis Xavier University, the dinner at the Saraguay Club hosted by the New York Times, the wonderful clan dinners that Joan and I attended and the closing at St. Ann's. There were musical evenings at the Le Bruns', Deanie Beaton's and Rod J. Chisholm's, to name but a few places. The Federation always took a prominent part and it was an honour to represent the Clans.
The Federation decided that it should recognize the many volunteers, workers, Federation and SSANS members who gave so freely of their talent. A celebration to pay tribute was held at the Agricultural College in Bible Hill. A splendid meal was followed by and evening of fellowship and music. Being the President of the Federation required major input into the payment of expenses for this event. I approached the late Bill Sobey of Sobey's Stores, and Todd MacLennan of Brookfield Creamery. Both committed themselves to a specific financial contribution to ensure that there would be no embarrassment with regard to expenses, I approached Mr. Graham Dennis, publisher of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, and he gave me to understand that they would cover any shortfall.
The Federation of Scottish Clans was truly grateful to all those firms that stood behind us. Another major assignment that I was given by Mr. Bill MacLennan, the head of SSANS in 1991, was to organize a closing ecumenical service to be held at the Sacred Heart Church, Sydney. The priest was the Rev. William Roach. Through the protocol that one had to consider, I was dealing with Rev. George MacInnis, who was a very godly, decent and humble individual. I was on holidays at the time, and the program had to be approved by Mr. Kenzie MacNeil, the producer, whom I had met before, having conducted his mother-in-law's committal service at the Whale Cove cemetery, Margaree Harbour. We exchanged telephone calls and faxes. MacKenzie is a great person, but dealing with a meticulous person can sometimes be stressful. At least we are still friends! I arranged an able preacher for the occasion, the Very Rev. Angus MacQueen, D.D., and L.L.D., who impressed the congregation. Those who know him would have expected nothing less and he delivered the goods!
There was a lot of talent at that service – Carl MacKenzie, Rev. Joe Gillis, Rev. Francis Cameron, and Doug MacPhee. The Rev. Lorne MacLeod of Whycocomagh-Little Narrows, came to my rescue, representing the Presbyterians and the Rev. Tom Whent, representing the United Church clergy of Sydney. The Whents were vacationing on Prince Edward Island and they made a real sacrifice to be present for this service. Greetings were given by John R. Campbell, President of the Federation, Jack MacNeil and Bill MacLennan. I conducted the Kirkin' o' the Tartan and the Mabou Gaelic Choir helped us all out with renditions in Gaelic. Later, some of us attended a musical event at Centre 200, and there, many carried banners and markers representing the various Clans.
As President of the Federation I helped organize various Clans and attended clan meetings such as MacAulays, MacKinnons, Munros, Mathesons, Grants, MacLennans, MacNeils, Murrays, MacMillans, Frasers, Chisholms, Camerons, MacQuarries, and Clan Chattan. The successful. Organization of these Clans was the result of the efforts by many, including those of Shirley Campbell, Ian R. Cameron, Rod J. Chisholm, Hazel Thomson, June Cameron and Donald MacLean.
It was my privilege while holding this office, to meet many of the chiefs and representatives who came to Nova Scotia. These included Lord and Lady Cromartie, Sir Torquil and Lady Matheson, Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel and Lady Margaret Cameron, Ronald MacLennan, The Chisholm of Chisholm and his wife, Lord and Lady Strathnaver, and Chief George MacMillan and his wife, Jane. All of these persons were a pleasure to and it was an honour to represent my own clan.
It was my pleasure when called upon by Mary Campbell to assist her when asked to look after the inter-faith service that was held at the Gaelic College, July 27th, 1991, to hold a Deanie Munro Beaton Memorial Day. Members of the Federation, along with the Antigonish Highland Society, assisted Mary who spearheaded the service to honour Deanie's memory. She was a great piper and entertainer who brought much pleasure and enrichment to the Scottish culture of Nova Scotia.
Rod J. Chisholm of Antigonish has been connected with the Scottish movement in Antigonish and Nova Scotia for many years. For a number of years he was the driving force behind the Knoydart Celebration in Pictou County. This celebration honoured the memory of those who died at Culloden on April 16th, 1764, with a specific tribute to three veterans – John MacPherson, Angus MacDonald and Hugh MacDonald – who are buried at Knoydart. Rod has given much to that event and through this observance, the Federation of Scottish Clans has received positive publicity.
Those who have served in the office of President of the Federation are as follows: Rev. Donald R. Sutherland, Rod J. Chisholm, Q.C., A.W. (Sandy) Robertson, Neil J. MacNeil, John R. Campbell, Charles MacIsaac, Fran Sutherland and Jean Watson. The current President is Dal Maclntyre.
Secretaries of the Federation include: Ian R. Cameron, who designed the Federation of Scottish Clans pin; Hazel Thompson, Shirley Campbell, June Cameron Janet MacKay, Fred H. Watt, and the present secretary, Bill Fisher.
One of the highest honours which were conferred on me was made on a motion by my good friend A.W. (Sandy) Robertson of Truro, who is presently living in the Valley. This motion was passed by the Federation. The honour was the title “President Emeritus" of the Federation of Scottish Clans of Nova Scotia. It was a high moment for me and I shall long remember the many friends and leaders who have served and continue to serve in the Federation of Scottish Clans.
Others who served the Clans faithfully and well, include A.W. (Sandy) Robertson, George MacLean, Peter MacPhee, Neil James MacNeil, Dr. Donald Ferguson, Mr. and Mrs. Paige Baird, Ronald MacDonald, Art Chisholm, Janet MacKay, John R. Campbell, Clarence MacLennan, Alcorn Munro and Calvin MacLennan. Their endeavours, along with those of many others, named and unnamed, assured the success of the Federation. We shall remember them all with thanksgiving. I think of Dal Maclntyre, who has struggled hard and long to promote the strengthening of the Gaelic language and culture in Cape Breton and indeed throughout the Province. I believe that the Federation will go into the future marked by success. Officers can make the difference between success and failure. We should keep this in mind in all our Clans.
The growth of the numbers of Clans as members of the Federation has remained fairly constant. In 1981 there were approximately 30 clan groups. In 1988, there were 38 Clans and in 1996 there were 35 Clans as members:
The present member Clans include [in 1996]: Baird, Elliot, MacIntyre, Murray, Baillie, Farquharson, MacKenzie, Ramsay, Cameron, Ferguson, MacLennan, MacFie of Canada, Campbell, Gunn, MacLeod, Ross, Chattan, Henderson, MacMillan, Sinclair, Chisholm, Lamont, MacPhee, Sutherland, Colquhoun, MacBean, MacPherson, Ross, Donald MacDougall, MacQuarrie, Watson, Donnachaidh, MacGillivray, Matheson
The present executive: President Dal MacIntyre, President Emeritus Donald R. Sutherland, Past President Jean Watson, First Vice-President Olive Bowen, Second Vice-President Jack Ross, Treasurer Verna Matheson, Secretary Bill Fisher
The Executive at Large: George MacKenzie, Bill Sutherland, Carol Terry, Robert Murray, Calvin MacLennan, Fred Watt
The Federation of Scottish Clans of Nova Scotia has certainly given exceptional service and leadership to the Scottish movement in Nova Scotia. It is one of the unique bodies as such in Canada and it has provided help, encouragement, and leadership to the Clans of Nova Scotia and elsewhere. The Federation has found through the years that some of the Clans have minds of their own, and some so-connected nationally and internationally that the Federation's support can only be of a limited nature.
The Federation of Scottish Clans has been helpful to good causes throughout its inception. In 1995-96 the Federation gave to the Gaelic Cultural Society and the Multicultural Society. In the past, the Gaelic College of Cape Breton has received donations as well as strong support at its inception of “The Clansman” (Celtic Heritage, Aug/Sept 1996, vol. 10, no. 4) It still strives to disseminate information and when invited, the Federation attempts to send representatives to Nova Scotian schools to speak about Scottish culture. In 1997, the Federation put even greater stress on Tartan Day – April 6th – a date which is now listed in the Pictou County Tourist Brochure.
When evaluating any organization in terms of its strengths and weaknesses, one cannot underestimate the importance of leadership. Its effectiveness and achievements are directly related to the drive and dedication of those involved. The leadership of the Federation in all ranks has been of a high order, with diligent work reflecting deep commitment. Of course there are always areas that need improvement, and we hope, with pers