||THE ULSTER SCOTS COME TO CANADA
By Brian McConnell
beginning of the colonial period and the end of the twentieth century it is
estimated that more than 500,000 people arrived in Canada from Ulster (1).
Ulster refers to that old province of Ireland now containing 3 counties of the
Republic of Ireland, being Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan, and 6 counties in
Northern Ireland, being Antrim, Armagh, Down, Londonderry, Tyrone, and
Fermanagh. The 3 Maritime Provinces of Canada, which include Prince Edward
Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, was where many of the Ulster immigrants
first came and holds the record for a number of firsts because of this
In 1760 the first large group of
settlers from Ulster to come to Canada settled the Townships of Onslow and
Truro, Nova Scotia and founded the town of Londonderry. Many had come from
Londonderry, New Hampshire where they had settled approximately 40 years earlier
after departing Londonderry, Ireland (3).
The founders of Londonderry, Nova Scotia were so-called
Ulster-Scots, persons of northern Irish background whose forebears had
previously lived in Scotland. Many had arrived in Ireland during the Plantation
period of the seventeenth century although Scots had been coming to the north of
Ireland for several hundred years prior to that. Two hundred and twenty-nine
families with surnames such as McNutt, Kennedy, Taylor, Blair, McLellan,
McCurdy, Morrison, and Wilson settled Londonderry, Onslow, and Truro Townships
of Colchester County, Nova Scotia (4).
One of the most famous Nova Scotian political families was also included in this
group of Ulster Scots who originally came from Londonderry, Ireland. This was
the Archibald family and perhaps the most noteworthy descendant was Sir Adams
George Archibald who was born in Truro, Nova Scotia in 1814 and was a delegate
to the Charlottetown, Quebec and London conferences that created Canada in 1867.
Later he was Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Manitoba and then succeeded
Joseph Howe as Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Other well known members of the
Archibald family included Samuel George William Archibald, who later became
chief justice of the Province of Prince Edward Island and Charles Archibald who
became President of the Bank of Nova Scotia in 1918. In recent years the family
has been represented by Gordon Archibald, retired President of Maritime
Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, and his son, George Archibald, Progressive
Conservative member for Kings North in the Nova Scotia legislature.
In the 1840's the first large number of
immigrants arrived in Prince Edward Island from County Monaghan departing by the
port of Belfast. By 1850 one quarter of the Island's population was Irish and in
the capital of Charlottetown more than 40% were from Ulster (5).
Many of the Ulster immigrants to Canada
continued to experience close involvement with Ireland. This link was
demonstrated during the debate over Home Rule for Ireland early in the twentieth
century, which had been largely opposed in Ulster. The beginning of World War I
suspended the issue but after the war ended the debate continued in Canada and
it was encouraged by the establishment in 1924 of the Self-determination League
of Canada and Newfoundland in Toronto.
An immigrant of Ulster Scot ancestry, Lindsay Crawford, was elected President of
the League at its first national convention. Crawford toured the Maritimes but
received a rough reception. In Sydney, Nova Scotia supporters of the union of
Ireland and Great Britain filled the hall he was to speak in and made it
difficult for him to deliver his speech. In Fredericton, New Brunswick town
officials simply barred him from speaking. The partition of Ireland into
Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State (predecessor of the Republic of
Ireland) caused the self-determination league to lose its relevance and fold.
Lindsay Crawford followed in the
tradition of many Ulster Scot immigrants to Canada who became active
politically. Robert Baldwin (1804-1858) who led the movement for responsible
government in Upper Canada (now Ontario) was the son of Ulster-Scot settlers.
James Boyle Uniacke, Nova Scotia's first Premier was the son of Ulster Scots.
The early Ulster immigrants were active
in forming cultural associations and in supporting education. Once such
association which still meets today is the Saint Patrick's Society of Saint
John, New Brunswick which was formed in 1819. The earliest of the Maritime Irish
groups was the Charitable Irish Society of Halifax founded in 1786.(6)
In the field of education, Ulster Scots
immigrants also played a significant part in promoting and founding the
establishment of educational facilities. One example was Charles Allison, a
prominent merchant of Ulster-Scot descent who had left the Church of England to
become a Methodist bought land at his own expense and opened a school in
Sackville, New Brunswick in 1843 (7). In 1858 Mount Allison's degrees received
official recognition and in 1875 it granted the first degree ever to be received
by a woman anywhere in the British Empire.
The history and traditions of the Ulster Scots immigrants to the
Maritimes and other parts of Canada are promoted by the Ulster Scottish Society
of Canada which was established in Halifax in 1995. This non-profit society
which is also non-political and non-religious has members throughout Canada.
Further information about the Society can be obtained by contacting its
Secretary, Robert Fisher, at 2346 Agricola Street, Halifax, N.S. B3K 4B6 or its
President, Brian McConnell, at P.O. Box 1239, Digby, N.S., BOV 1AO, email: