Scotland gifts Canada sculpture to honour early emigrants

A hand-carved stone sculpture featuring the ship that carried some of the first Scottish emigrants to Canada is to be presented to the Canadian Government.

A replica of The Hector which is moored in the harbour at Pictou. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr.

The gift, created by craftsmen Historic Environment Scotland, marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the start of the creation of modern day Canada.

The sculpture features The Hector which set sail from Loch Broom in late June 1773 with 189 people, mostly Highlanders.

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How the Scots built: Canada
Loch Broom in Ross and Cromarty from where The Hector set sail. PIC: Creative Commons.

A stone taken from the shores of the loch is crafted into the design with the Gaelic inscription reading “forever friends.”

The timber base is made from a piece of recovered elm felled in the garden of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The sculpture will be presented by Economy Secretary Keith Brown at a Scottish Government reception in Ottawa to mark the links between Scotland and Canada.

Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown, said: “The 150th anniversary is an incredibly special year for Canadians. It is an event that symbolises what it means to be Canadian today and celebrates the proud diversity of the country.

The sculpture has been partly crafted using a stone taken from the shores of Loch Broom. PIC: Contribued.

“Scotland’s links with Canada endure for 150 years and more. It is a relationship marked by family links, a shared culture and collaboration across education and trade.

“This gift commemorates that historic friendship and celebrates the millions of people who share, and have shared, that special connection throughout the ages.

Talks are underway with the Canadian Museum of History to acquire the piece.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, described the finished stone as “both beautiful and truly unique” – and a tangible piece of Scotland.

Loch Broom in Ross and Cromarty from where The Hector set sail. PIC: Creative Commons.

Today almost 5m Canadians claim full or partial Scottish heritage – around 15% of the country’s total population.

The sailing of The Hector signalled a new wave in Scottish emigration to Canada with Scots taking on key roles in public and commercial life during the 19th Century.

They included Sir John A Macdonald, born in Glasgow’s Merchant City in 1815, who became Canadian prime minister for two spells in the late 1800s.

Among Scots on The Hector were farmers, herdsmen, war veterans, a weaver, a laird’s son, and a blacksmith who had just escaped from jail, according to Donald Mackay’s book, Scotland Farewell, the People of the Hector.

The sculpture has been partly crafted using a stone taken from the shores of Loch Broom. PIC: Contribued.

Most of them came from the estates forfeited by the government following the 1745 Jacobite uprising, including those of the Mackenzies, Macleods and the Lovat Frasers.

Free passage and land had been offered to many with some paying a fare of £3 and 5 shillings for the crossing.

Mackay adds: “They came for many reasons: the famine of the previous spring, the pressures of recent population increases due to a higher birth rate, intolerable rent increases, trouble with the law, the hunger of landless men.”

A total of 18 people died on the 11-week crossing with the Hector docking at Brown’s Point on September 15 1773.

The landing to lead to further hardships for the passengers who endured the arduous passage crammed into a space no bigger than a tennis court.

The promises of a year’s worth of provisions did not materialise and no homes or shelters had been built for their arrival. Land had also been offered - but none cleared with much of the territory offered to be found in a forest.

Those on board the ship were far more used to fishing than forestry given the largely treeless lands they came from.

Many of the Scottish settlers scattered and only 78 passengers of the Hector were counted in Pictou the following year.

Despite the problems, more than 120 ships brought 20,000 more Scots to Pictou, Nova Scotia, over the next century.

By 1879, more than 93 per cent of rural property owners in this part of Nova Scotia had Scottish heritage, according to accounts.