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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 2 (May 1, 1940.)

Back to Culloden

Back to Culloden.

What brought this great band to this land on which it has so left its mark? To get to the reason it is necessary to go back to the days of the Battle of Culloden, to some perhap little more than an event in a history book. There was then the feudal clan system in the Highlands; the clans fought each other, but were as one family when trouble threatened from without. After Culloden there began the subjugation of the Highlands with great severity and restriction. This did not cease when the objective of depopulating the land was reached. The persecution continued and even in the early 1800's the northern clans which had not participated in the uprising were not spared. These notorious “Highland clearances.” uprooted great families from their ancient holdings and impelled them to endeavour to regain past freedom in overseas land.

Here enters the central figure of this story. the Reverend Norman McLeod. who, like a Moses of latter times, led his people out of the house of bondage.

He was born in 1780 in the parish of Assynt, Sutherlandshire, the territorial home of his clan. He was at variance with the Established Church of Scotland in some matters and preferred to follow his own conclusion in theology. He disagreed with the minister at his parish church at Loch Irver and conducted his own service. Many people were attracted. In his dissent he was a prophet, for 100 years after there followed a cleavage in the church. His father was of the Church of Scotland; his mother an Independent who was formerly an Episcoalian. In his own book McLeod described himself as being ecclesiastically of “mongrel breed.”

Nova Scotia was the first place to which he led his people—in 1817. It was then as much a virgin land as the New Zealand of 100 years ago. After a brief settlement at Pictou they went to the more suitable St. Ann's. Nearly all McLeod's followers and other Highlanders came there in time. The winters tried even these hardy folk. After 30 years they had comfortable homes and a living from the soil.