In 1770, the tenants of the Laird of Boisdale in South Uist, Scotland, were faced with the alternatives of renouncing their religion (Roman Catholic), or, of being deprived of their humble crafts. To a man, they chose the latter, and realizing they had nowhere to turn for justice, they decided to immigrate to America. In fact, the first large-scale migration of Highlanders to what is now Canada had its beginnings in the determination of a number of those pioneers to defy their leader and to choose exile, rather than the abandonment of their principles.

It was this situation which gave rise to the emigration scheme that produced the colony at Scotch Fort, P.E.I., in 1772. In the succeeding years Prince Edward Island became a "port of call" for many of the Highlanders who continued to immigrate to America.

The first Catholic bishop to officiate in the Highlands of Scotland, after such appointments became possible following the Reformation, was Bishop Hugh MACDONALD. His connection with this story is very interesting and the following excerpt is taken from the works of the late Rev. Dr. Angus Anthony JOHNSTON (b.1897), Diocesion Historian of the Diocesis of Antigonish:


Bishop Hugh was a half brother of Allan ROY, 7th Laird of Morar, (mainland opposite South Uist) and was therefore of Clanranald stock. A nephew to Bishop Hugh was Father James MACDONALD, born 1745, first resident pastor of Arisaig, Nova Scotia, 1793 -1798; died in Quebec City in 1807.

A nephew of Father James was Allan MACDONALD, son of Angus, son of John Og MACDONALD, son of Captain John MACDONALD of Guidale (Bonnie Prince Charles army), brother of Bishop Hugh and half brother of Allan Roy MACDONALD, 7th Laird of Morar.


Allan (b. [abt] 1790-1798; d.[abt] 1827-1835) emigrated to Prince Edward Island with two brothers (Ronald & Augustine [aka Uistein]) early in the 19th century. From there he and his brothers went to Fraser's Mills, Antigonish Co. and shared 1500 acres. He later settled in Lower South River. He married Christine CAMERON (aka Christie Mh'or; b. [abt] 1790 -1797; daughter of Ewan CAMERON & Margaret GILLIS) and had a large family --ten sons and one daughter reaching mature age, besides two who died young. These included:

1) John Hugh (b.1827, d.1910; occ: Judge; Antigonish, NS),

2) Alexander (d. [abt] 1905-1910 at Beech Hill),

3) Joseph B. (d. [abt] 1900-1910, Arichat, Cape Breton; barrister),

4) Donald (lived Fraser's Mills; d. on the old farm),

5) Angus (lived Fraser's Mills; d. on the old farm),

6) Allan (lived Richmond Co, CB),

7) Andrew (lived Richmond Co, CB),

8) John "BigJohn" (b.1815; d.1893, Cape Breton),

9) Augustine (lived Soldier's Cove, Richmond Co, CB; d. Cape Breton),

10) James (lighthouse keeper @ Pt. Tupper; d. [abt] 1905-1910 at Beech Hill)

11) Mary (m. Hugh KELL; lived Goshen, Queen's Co, NS).

One of the above sons, John (aka "BigJohn") married, while in Antigonish

Co, a Jessie ROBERTSON of Antigonish. Their children were:

1) Hugh (b. [abt] 1835-1845)

2) Christina

3) Mary, grandmother of Rev. Dr. A.A. JOHNSTON.

Hugh migrated to Australia (abt. 1856-1866) and little is known of him. There is a possibility that he m. (abt. 1866 in Victoria, AUS [ref. 718]) an Eliza QUINN (b.1845, Donegal, IRE; d.1903; p. David QUINN & Annie BURKE). Children:

1) James (b.1868; reg. area of Peters Diggings, ref. 4676)

2) Margaret (aka "Jane"; b.1869; reg. area of Peters Diggings, ref. 10733).

Christina married Angus CAMPBELL of Soldier's Cove, and Mary married Gabriel MACDONALD of Soldier's Cove.

"Big John's" wife Jessie ROBERTSON died and he moved with the family mentioned above to Soldier's Cove to land bought from the land grant of Marion MACDONALD. He was engaged as a teacher in the nearby community of Grand River and, while there, met and married his second wife, Christina MATHESON. "Big John's" first dwelling, a temporary one, was erected in what was known as "the Black Rock Field". Later his permanent home was established in the lee of the "Mountain" and close to a natural spring. Rock for the basement of this house was obtained from "the Mountain".

Just east of his house he planted an orchard of apple trees. To the north of the house close to the "Mountain" he grew several plum trees. Hay fields stretched to the south and west of the house. At the shore almost directly below the house was built a wharf, this could accommodate fairly large sailing vessels. (As a matter of fact, two of his sons, Allan J. and Roderick, owned, for a time, a vessel by the name of " R. Ferguson" of 24 tons and registered in the year 1886. This information is taken from the book of John P. Parker MBE Master Mariner, CAPE BRETON SHIPS AND MEN.)

A barn was situated below the apple orchard. On the top of the high hill, familiarly known as "the mountain" there was a limekiln, this was used for processing lime for use on the "acid" soil of the area.

"Big John" taught school for several years in his own community of Soldier's cove. He raised a second family of seven children (five sons and two daughters). They were:

1) Allan J.

2) Jessie (Jane)

3) Alexander

4) John J. (b.1860; d.10 Oct 1936)

5) Roderick

6) Margaret

7) Daniel

Allan J. lived the greater part of his life in Louisbourg, where he raised his family. Jessie married Allan JACKSON and lived in St. Peter's. Alexander is believed to have emigrated to California. John J. acquired the farm of Big John and lived here. Roderick lived in Sydney. Margaret first married a MACNEIL and then a COY in Halifax, and lived there the remainder of her life. Daniel emigrated to the United States and is known to have lived in Thomaston, Connecticut.

Later the house of Big John was removed from its foundations, after Allan J. moved his household to Louisbourg, and it became a part of John J.'s home. In the year 1903, John J. built an additional part to the home and this became the kitchen. At that time the veranda was also added.

John J. built a large barn, the remains of which we can see today at the site. This barn had three large mows for hay, a horse stable, a large bin for threshed oats and a loft for oat sheaves. It was equipped with a mechanical device known as a Fork which ran on an iron track attached to the top of the roof. The Fork was drawn across the track by a stout rope running from the Fork to a block pulley, which was attached at the doorway and fitted with a whipple tree to which a horse could be hitched. Needless to say, this was a labour saving device to carry the hay to the farther storage places.

Attached to the length of the barn on the south side was the cow stable and pigpen. To the east of the barn was attached a sheep shed. A short distance below the barn was the hen house with its slanting roof and its entrance facing south.

At the shore of the cove below the house was built a government wharf and shed to which came schooners laden with goods for the surrounding communities.

John J., son of "BigJohn", met the young lady who was later to become his wife, while she was visiting her Aunt MACDONALD, (wife of William SUTHERLAND, who owned the present SUTHERLAND farm almost directly across the water of Soldier's Cove). She was Rebecca MACDONALD (1862-1931) of Antigonish County (p. Daniel MACDONALD and Annie CONNORS). Rebecca's visit was all too short as Rebecca had to return to Halifax where she was making her home since the early loss of her parents. John J. soon after left Soldier's Cove to go to work in Halifax where he found employment as a carpenter. Here he continued the courtship of Rebecca in earnest, and on 29 August 1887, John J. and Rebecca were married at St. Mary's Cathedral in Halifax.

It is uncertain as to how long they remained in Halifax after their marriage. Certain it is that they returned to the farm at Soldier's Cove soon to clear and cultivate the land inherited by John J. As his older brother Allan J. inherited the old homestead and surrounding cultivated land, John J. and Rebecca had to set about clearing land and making a home. John J. had, previous to going to Halifax, cleared land and begun his house. He brought his bride here.

John J. and Rebecca had eight children:

1) Tom (b. [abt] 1898; d.1920, at 22 years of age)

2) John (died in infancy)

3) Ann

4) John Allan (Jack) (d. 29 June 1954)

5) Mary (Minnie)

6) Jeanette

7) Hugh Anthony (b. 14 Aug 1901, d. 20 Feb 1946): my grandfather

8) Christine

At the time of this writing (original-1979), only one of the family is still alive and that is Mary who lives with her grand niece, Dianne LANDRY, RR#2, St. Peter's, at the age of 83. Although physically incapacitated, she is still mentally alert.

Ann married Angus MACDONALD of Creignish and lived her later years in Yarmouth, NS. Christine married a Mr. WALSH and lived in Halifax. Mary (Minnie) married Maurice MURPHY of Louisbourg and lived in Ontario and Detroit until retirement. Jeanette married William MACKENZIE of Hay Cove and lived in Sydney.

Hugh Anthony McDonald made his home in North Vancouver having left home in 1922 (note: he was the first Macdonald, of the clan, to come out to the West Coast). Hugh MACDONALD married twice:

[1] Hannah Floreen DALBY (b. Victoria, BC; m. 10 Oct 1925; d.Duncan, BC)

Children: Ronald Francis

[2] Violet May BINDLEY (b. 6 Dec 1912, Norwich, Eng; m. 27 Oct 1932; d. 21 Nov 1992, N. Vancouver, BC). Children were:

1) Frances Leona (b. 22 Aug 1932, Vancouver, BC)

2) John Hugh (Bud) (b. 25 Dec 1934, Vancouver, BC)

3) Glen Anthony (b. 18 June 1939, Vancouver, BC)

4) Alan Douglas (b.? Nov 1940, Vancouver, BC)

5) Danese Violet (b. 11 June 1942, N. Vancouver, BC): my mother

6) Lorne Gordon (b.? Feb 1944, N. Vancouver, BC)

John A. (Jack) married Elsie FOGWILL of Paignton, S. Devon, England during World War I and returned in 1918 to be joined by Elsie and daughter Marjorie [1] (Midge) in August 1919. Children were:

1) Marjorie (d. in childhood-1924)

2) John (d. in childhood-1928)

3) Rebecca (Betty)

4) Mildred

5) Marjorie

6) Thomas

7) John R.

Rebecca (Betty) married Thomas SUTHERLAND and resided in Soldier's Cove; Mildred married John (Jack) B. Fraser and lived in Detroit. Marjorie married Justin MACKENZIE and lived in St. Peter's. Thomas married twice: [1] Nancy, [2] Pat MACKENZIE, and lived in Revelstoke, B.C. John R. married to Helen MACNEIL and lived at the old Homestead.

John A. (Jack) inherited the farm from his father (John J. "BigJohn"). John, along with his wife Elsie and children, lived on at the farm except for a few years spent overseas as Pipe Major of the Cape Breton Highlanders. Prior to and following this war service he was a lighthouse keeper at St. Esprit Island, and continued in this employment from 1935 to the time of his death.

This sketch of the MACDONALDS of Soldiers Cove is an endeavor of Marjorie [2], the fourth daughter of Jack and Elsie MACDONALD, to record briefly the history of her family for her children, and their children, in the years to come. (This sketch was updated in 1996 by Cory Johnson.)

Should anyone wish to delve more deeply into our heritage, there is much available in history books - particularly Rev. Dr. Angus Anthony Johnston's "A History of the Catholic Church of Eastern Nova Scotia" and "History of Antigonish" volumes I and II edited by Raymond MacLean.



To anyone doing research on the Macdonalds, please contact Cory Johnson (grandson of Hugh MacDonald & Violet May Bindley) via Internet or Postal address below.

Thank you.

Internet: crj@canada.com


Cory Johnson

#319, 7060 Elwell St.

Burnaby, BC

V5E 1K6