The northwestern portion of
this district consists of a spacious plateau commonly called "River Dennis
Mountain." One of the first settlers on this table land was, Eugene
MacDonald (Aodh Mac-Dhomnuill). At the age of 22, with his parents, two
brothers, four sisters and some thirty other families he sailed in the
ship "Northumberland" from Greenock, Scotland, on the first day of October
1826. He was a native of Ormaclete, South Uist, and belonged to a Sept of
the Clanranalds known as, "Slioch Iain Dubh nan Cathan." Of this same sept
was Neil MacDonald, (Nial MacEachen Dhomhnallaich) who acquired historical
distinction as the father of Marshal MacDonald, duke of Tarentam. This
Neil was a native of Milton — Milltown — (baile-a-mhuil ein) which
The name "Aodh" is not a
common name. It came into being in South Uist under circumstances
sufficiently interesting to deserve recounting here.
On the eve of the battle of
Sheriff-Muir, a remote progenitor of this Eugene, in all probability a
soldier of fortune, entered into a gentleman's pact with a fond comrade in
arms named "Aodh" MacAridh of Sutherlandshire, to the effect that if
either of them fell in the pending battle and the other survived, the
survivor should name his first male child, if such he should have, after
his fallen comrade. The Sutherlandshire hero fell, the Uist man survived
and fulfilled in due time the letter of his pact, hence the name "Aodh" so
unusual and unknown previously in South Uist.
Of the emigrants aboard the
"Northumberland" one only. Alexander Curry, spoke in the English tongue.
He settled at St. Peter's, and is the progenitor, we understand, of the
Curries of East Bay and other eastern portions of Cape Breton.
The passengers of the
"Northumberland" were blissfully ignorant of Geography, Enough for them to
know that their destination was, as promised by the Captain, the Island of
Cape Breton. But, on arriving at St. Andrews, New Brunswick, the Captain
dumped his human freight ashore to make room for his return cargo of
timber. An Arichat schooner happened along, and these poor emigrants had
money enough among them to charter this schooner for bringing them to Cape
Breton, though they had already paid the "Northumberland" for bringing
them thither. The French captain brought them to Arichat. Here these
Gaelic speaking strangers were up against a new difficulty. Neither their
English interlocutor nor any one else among them could speak one word of
French. But the charity of human nature will laugh at languages. With the
usual courtesy and kindness of the French Acadians they, les pauvres
ecossais, were most kindly treated. In a few days happy succor was at
hand. Captain Donald MacNeil — Domhnall MacRaori bhan — came with his
vessel into Arichat with a cargo of cord wood. The stranded strangers
found a friend indeed, — one who could talk to them in their own dear
mother tongue. He took them aboard and landed them at Long Point, within a
few miles of their relatives, the MacMillans, MacEachens, MacDon-alds and
O'Handleys of Judique who had come to America many years in advance.
This Eugene MacDonald, or "Aodh",
took up 200 acres of land on River Dennis Mountain hereinbefore described.
He was married to Catherine Gillis,daughter of Donald Gillis(Domhnull
MacAonghais) a native of Goadal, Arisaig, who took up lands five miles to
the rear of Judique shore. The family of this "Aodh" by his said wife
Catherine Gillis were: John, Donald, Angus G., Daniel B., Patrick, Michael
B., Catherine, Jane, Christy and Jessie.
The daughter Catherine was
married to Angus MacDonald,Christy to Patrick O'Handley, and Jessie to
John MacDonald (Tulloch). The sons were married thus: John to Matilda
MacDougall; Angus G., to Margaret Mary Fuller of Arichat; Daniel B., to
Kate MacDonald of of Bornish, and Michael B., to Mary Ann MacMillan, Rear
Judique. The daughter Jane, and the sons Donald and Patrick remained
The issue of Catherine's
marriage was four daughters and five sons: ofChristy's three daughters and
two sons; of Jessie's one daughter; of John's two daughters and a son; of
Angus G.'s six daughters and five sons; of Michael B.'s three daughters
and four sons.
Two of the sons of "Aodh",
Angus G., and Michael B., developed in early life a fondness and an
aptitude for educational work. Both were school teachers for many years,
the former in the County of Richmond, chiefly in the Arichat Academy, the
latter in various districts of his native county of Inverness. For several
terms Michael B., was the representative of River Dennis district in the
Municipal council of Inverness. Subsequently he was appointed Station
master at River Dennis, on the Intercolonial Railway after the extension
from Mulgrave to Sydney. In that position Michael B., died at a
comparatively early age.
Angus G., was noted as a
successful teacher even in his young years. After a period of very
satisfactory service in the Arichat Academy, he went to Montreal with a
view of studying civil Engineering at McGill. He studied for a term in
this great Canadian institution, after which he was persuaded to become a
Professor and remain four years as Mathematical Instructor in L'ecole
Polytechnique de Montreal. From Montreal he returned to his native
province and became for successive years Professor of Mathematics in St.
F. X. College in Antigonish and the Normal School of Truro. Finding that
too much indoor work was telling on his health, he accepted the position
of School Inspector for the counties of Antigonish and Guysborough, a
position which he still fills with credit. In the early nineties he
received his M. A., from the University of St. F. X., and in 1921 received
from the same institution the honorary degree of LL. D.
Two of his sons and a
daughter a nurse, volunteered for service in the Canadian army at the
beginning of the recent world war. One of these boys, Angus Allan, was
killed on September 7th, 1917, near Lens in France. The other, Gladstone,
was wounded at Vimy Ridge, but made a complete recovery after four months
treatment in English hospital, and in due course rejoined his regiment,-
the 85th. Shortly afterwards he received his commission as Lieutenant, and
for his service and bravery at Valencienns and Cambrai he was recommended
for the Military Cross which he received in Buckingham Palace at the hands
of King George, the Fifth. Angus G.'s daughter, Louise, the nurse above
referred to, gave splendid service, all through the war in France and
Belgium, and was awarded the royal medal.
Eugene MacDonald or "Aodh",
had two brothers, Allan and Patrick, who came here, with him. Patrick died
young and shortly after coming to this country. Allan made his home at
River Dennis Mountain and raised a quite respectable family. He had four
sons whom we knew, namely: William, Michael, John and Daniel.
William was in his younger
days a school teacher in both Inverness and Cape Breton Counties. Later on
he entered into commercial business on a modest scale at Glace Bay. His
business prospered and expanded for three reasons, inter alia, namely:
1st. He attended to it personally; 2nd, He attended to it all the time;
3rd, He was an honest, shrewd, prudent man of fine decision of character.
Seeing his early success in business, and his excellant reputation as a
man, the people of Cape Breton county sent him into the House of Commons
where he laboured well and faithfully for many years, after which he was
appointed by the federal Government to the Canadian Senate, a position
which he held until his death a few years ago. He was a Catholic in
religion, and in politics a Conservative.
His brother Michael also
commenced life as a teacher in the early common schools of Inverness.
Later on he studied medicine, and, after his graduation, practised his
profession in Sydney, C. B., with a generous degree of success. He was not
as well balanced as his brother William, but was a cannie Scot whose
middle name was Thrift.
The son John remained and
worked on the farm for many years. Later on he was appointed Light Keeper
on the mainland at Port Hood, in which position he died not many years
since. He was a quiet man of few words and deep thoughts. The emoluments
of his Light House were not large, but he had the gift of saving what he
got. He was always at work, but never neglected the responsibilities of a
good parent and citizen. Dying a few years back, he left money in the Bank
and his family in comfort.
The brother Daniel spent
some years of his young manhood in the city of Halifax as a Commission
Coal Merchant. In his way he was, also, a hustler with a penchant for
number one. We knew him well in Halifax in the years 1878 and 1879. He had
an office near a wharf on lower Water St., and we distinctly remember the
cordiality with which he invited his Cape Breton friends to "drop down".
He subsequently married and left the city of Halifax and this Province. Be
sure he is not idle wherever he may be.
It is seldom one finds four
such brothers as the above described reared on the peak of a vast mountain
in the rearlands of a rural region. Much of the explanation is found in
the strong faith and good works of their pioneer ancestors.
Quite a number of the old
immigrants settled in that space extending from Dennistown to Melford, a
distance of eight miles, in the district of River.Dennis. Many of these
came from South Uist, but there were some from Eigg and other Islands of
the Hebrides. The names of the most of them were: Donald Gillis, Alexander
Mac-Eachern, Donald MacLellar, Donald MacDonald (falher of the sturdy
priest Rev. Duncan MacDonald), Alexander Cameron, Angus MacDonald (Retland),
Donald MacDonald and his sons, Aodah ana Allan, above noted, John
Morrison, Angus MacDougall, Angus MacDonald (Mor), Samuel Cameron, Angu
MacDonald (Og) Kenneth MacAskill John MacMillan (Iain MacRuari), Ronald
MacDonald (Mor), and Hugh MacLeod.
On the second concession of
lots extending from River Dennis Road were: Angus MacDonald, Donald
MacDonald, John MacLeod and Neil Walker, on the Northern side of the Road;
and Angus MacDonald, (Mor) and Allan Morrison on the Southern side.
We noted above that Donald
MacDonald, the father of Aodh and Allan, also lived on the River Dennis
Road between Dennistown and Melford. Like the most of the pioneer Scottish
immigrants to Cape Breton, he lacked all opportunities for early
education, and knew no language but Gaelic. Despite these disadvantages,
Donald MacDonald was a man of superior personal parts, full of fine
natural force. He was married in the home land to Catherine MacLellan (Catrion
Ruari Bhan). Elsewhere in this sketch we made allusion to some of her
sisters who were married to certain of the pioneer settlers of Judique.
The issue of Donald MacDonald's marriage to Catherine MacLellan was
Eugene, or "Aodh", Allan, Patrick, Sarah, Christina, Lucy and Effie. All
of this MacLellan family had a high rating in the native land. One of the
two sons in that family obtained a commission as Major in the British
Army, and died unmarried of fever in the Island of Martinique, W. I. His
regiment and another Scottish regiment were sent to Martinique to retake
that Island from the French. Their objective was won triumphantly.