Copyright © 2015
NZ Charities Registration Number CC49305
NZ Charities Registration Number CC49305
Series 3 - Australia to New Zealand
The Margaret sailed into Port Adelaide in Australia late on Saturday 10 April, 1852. Rev. Norman insisted that the Sabbath be observed the following day precluding any work involved in disembarking from the vessel. On going ashore the following day they discovered that his son Donald had left a letter to inform them that he had moved to Melbourne following the gold rush. Their ship, the Margaret was sold shortly after their arrival and her passengers found rented accommodation and work around Adelaide. Unfortunately the Australian government was unwilling to set aside a block of land large enough to re-establish their Gaelic speaking community as they had hoped. Four months later a small group, including Rev. Norman and his family, travelled to Melbourne to meet up with Donald.
With the discovery of gold the population of Melbourne had exploded and the infrastructure and law enforcement was unable to keep up. Money and alcohol flowed freely creating an environment of crime, where rape and murder were commonplace. By all accounts it was a less than virtuous place, particularly through the eyes of the puritan Normanites. Unsanitary conditions led to the spread of typhoid and three of Rev. Norman’s sons succumbed to the disease within a few months. Good coastal land in the area was only available at exorbitant prices and, as in Adelaide it wasn’t possible to secure a block large for their needs.
The Highland Lassie arrived in Adelaide 6 October 1852 to find the migration floundering and that there were slim prospects of transplanting their Gaelic speaking Nova Scotian community to Australia. Hearing reports of good agricultural land available in New Zealand Rev. Norman wrote to Governor Grey who encouraged them to the country. By that time the McKenzie brothers had sold the Highland Lassie and Murdoch McKenzie had purchased another vessel, the Gazelle. It was on this ship that eleven months later, a group comprising mainly passengers of the Highland Lassie, but including some from the Margaret, sailed for New Zealand. Rev. Norman McLeod remained in Australia and leadership of the migration effectively passed to the people on this ship who reached Auckland on 17 September 1853.
The population of Europeans in New Zealand at the time was about 32,000 and Auckland was a young, very raw town that was just beginning to spread out from its genesis in Freemans, Commercial, Mechanics and Official Bays. The streets were muddy and unsealed, the houses unpainted and sanitation was limited with Queen Street being little more than an open sewer. A relatively large contingent of the population was in the employ of the British Army to quell any possible uprising by the Maori. Despite this much of the town’s food at the time was supplied by local Maori who lived in settlements dotted around the Hauraki Gulf. Pending the purchase of suitable land the Nova Scotian’s rented houses in what is now the CBD area of Auckland city, and found employment, as they had done in Australia.
In December 1853 the Gazelle returned to Australia collecting most, but not all, of those that remained in Australia. Some families chose to remain on that side of the Tasman permanently while others came later as it suited them. Rev. Norman McLeod and his remaining family were amongst those sailing to New Zealand on this voyage. These later arrivals also found rental accommodation and employment, usually carpentry or labouring work, in Auckland. Rev. Norman resumed preaching, giving a Gaelic service at a hall in Symonds Street and, at times, an English one in St. Andrews Church. With Presbyterian thrift and frugality the money saved at this time helped restore financial reserves and secure land once it became available.
It was Captain Duncan McKenzie and Donald McLeod (son of Rev. Norman) who negotiated with officials to secure land for a special settlement, with part of the block being set aside exclusively for later arrivals from Cape Bretton. The chosen land was at Waipu and the government purchased this unoccupied land from the Maori to sell to the Nova Scotian’s. As the settlers took up the land they had to pay ten shillings per acre. The first four families arrived in Waipu on 1 September 1854 and many others joined them taking up nearby land over the following few months. Although the Rev. Norman followed sometime later he played little part establishing the town. The last 13 years of his life were much less public and contentious; he did not teach or serve as a magistrate, but simply provided spiritual guidance within the community.
With the formation of a new community underway word of the gentle climate and plentiful supply of fertile land filtered back to Cape Breton. This encouraged more people to join those already establishing farms and businesses around Waipu and over the course of the next five years four more ships left the shores of Cape Breton, setting sail for New Zealand. The Gertrude, owned by John Munro, which held mostly people related to the first two ships, left on left on25 June 1856 with 192 people aboard, the Spray, with mostly young families from St. Ann’s Glen, Big Harbour and Baddeck Bay departed on 11 January 1857 with 94 passengers, the Breadalbane with mostly people from Boularderie, on 8 December 1857 with 160 passengers and the Ellen Lewis weighted anchor and set sail on 1 December 1859 with 235 passengers on board.
These people migrated to NZ for a number of reasons, including greater opportunities and a milder climate. Not all of them were close followers of Rev Norman McLeod but were part of the wider Cape Breton community which was connected through blood relationships, marriage and friendships. Most of these people settled in Waipu or one of the other Nova Scotian settlements, one of which was Whangarei Heads.
Series 1 - Scotland
Historically it was Gaelic that was spoken in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It’s a warm and beautiful language, rich in imagery, with roots in the distant past. The clansmen who spoke it usually led simple lives with few material possessions. Essentially, they were subsistence farmers and fishermen. Their culture valued self-sufficiency, hospitality and generosity, loyalty and a pride of ones clan. These values, though intangible, helped them survive in a mountainous land with shallow soils and a cold, damp climate. They also helped them succeed in Nova Scotia and New Zealand when they left their ancestral home.
The Gaelic word ‘clan’ means children and refers to a kinship group among the Scottish people. The different family clans were led by chiefs, who may not necessarily have been related. Clansmen often took the chief’s surname as their own when anglicised surnames came into common usage during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Doing so demonstrated solidarity which in return afforded basic protection and sustenance in times of need. Clansmen, or followers of the chief, were given land to lease which was sublet to tenant farmers. The land holdings however were impermanent and could change to meet needs of the chief or other members of the clan. In return the lessee owed loyalty and service to the chief and took up arms for him if required.
The later 18th century was a time of change in Scotland. Following the battle of Culloden and defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746 the British government imposed restrictive laws that compromised the clan chiefs and the Gaelic culture that underpinned the clan system. It banned the carrying of arms, the wearing of tartan, the playing of bagpipes and allowed the confiscation of land belonging to any chief that did not adhere to the rule of the Crown. The government policies also cleared the way for outsiders to acquire much of the land in the Highlands.
At the same time improved agriculture systems in the south were beginning to penetrate the highlands. The industrial revolution taking place in England increased demand for food, pushed up wool prices and opened the door to both large scale sheep farming and the infamous Highland clearances.
The glens where people lived tended to be both the more sheltered and fertile areas of the landscape. Unfortunately, these were also the areas that grew the best grass and afforded the best shelter for sheep, so in order for landowners to cash in on the opportunities at hand, people needed to be removed from the land. As a way to clear the land chiefs ratcheted up rent and at times leases were simply not renewed. Consequently, the clan system broke down and large numbers of tenants were evicted, often brutally, from their ancestral lands.
The options were limited for most people once evicted off the land. Some moved south to look for work while young men often joined the armed forces. Many relocated to the newly established villages along the west coast where they could make a living fishing in the herring fleets for the British Fishing Company, building and repairing boats or collecting seaweed, which was gathered and burned to make kelp. Kelp is an ashy substance, rich in potash and soda, and was eagerly sought after by glass and soap industries of the time, but from 1811 demand and prices for it began falling.
This was also a time of unrest within the Church of Scotland. Christianity was introduced to Scotland around 500 AD by missionaries from Ireland but it was not until the late Middle Ages that the crown established influence over it. In 1707 church government within Scotland was ensured by the Acts of Union, when the kingdom of Great Britain was created. Scotland underwent a Protestant Reformation about this time also that created a predominately Calvinist national church, with a strongly Presbyterian outlook.
Presbyterian churches derive their name from the Presbyterian form of church government, in which churches are governed by a representative assembly of elders. A number of Reformed churches are organized in this way, but the word Presbyterian is usually applied to churches that trace their roots back to the Church of Scotland. Their theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of grace through faith in Christ.
The Church of Scotland struggled to effectively penetrate the more remote parts of the country. In the Highlands religion played but a small in the lives of most people prior to the 18th century. Although they were ostensibly Christian there was still belief in witches, fairies and ghosts, with traditional ceilidhs playing a more central part in daily life than the church. Beltane was widely celebrated on 1 May with rituals performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth over the coming year. Christianity provided but another protection against ill fate.
The Church began a gradual process of conversion and consolidation in the Highlands, partly to counter the Catholic influences from Ireland and partly as a means of bringing the people more under control of the government. By the late 18th century it was achieving greater success, owing partly at least to efforts of the Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), which established numerous schools where religion could be taught. Despite this it wasn’t until the 19th century that the evangelical Free Churches gained traction and grew rapidly, mainly because they were more accepting of the Gaelic language and culture than the established church.
The Church of Scotland has a fractious history with several succession movements breaking away. Different factions had splintered from the established Church in 1733 and 1761. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries there was another philosophical battle going on, this time between evangelicals on one side and the "Moderates" and gentry on the other side. The evangelical element demanded the purification of the Church and was unhappy with the patronage system, that allowed wealthy landowners to select the local ministers. Eventually this led to a further succession from the church in 1843 when 450 of the 1,200 ministers broke away from the established church to form the Free Church of Scotland. This event became known as the Great Disruption.
It was into this world of upheaval and discontent that Norman McLeod and the pioneering families who participated in the Nova Scotia/Waipu migration were born. It is here that the history of the Whangarei Heads Church begins.
Norman McLeod was born about 1779 at Stoer Point, Assynt in Sutherlandshire, Scotland. His father was a fisherman and in due course Norman also became one. During his early 20s however, he underwent a religious conversion and subsequently enrolled at Aberdeen University in 1807. Following his graduation in 1812 he spent two years at Edinburgh studying for the ministry, which at that time was dominated by the moderate faction within the church. He did not complete his studies, instead withdrawing in protest over what he saw as the hypocrisy and worldliness of his teachers.
Precluded from the ministry he became a teacher at the SSPCK School in Ullapool, a position which required reading, and commenting on the scriptures to the villagers on Sundays. This school was under the jurisdiction of the local parish minister who was a member of the moderate party of the church. Norman, though successful as a teacher, antagonised the local ministers and landlords by criticising their conduct and theology. He was one of a number of evangelical lay preachers of the time, called the ‘Assynt Separatists’ or ‘The Men,’ forerunners of the roiling discontent that culminated in the Great Disruption. They repudiated the liberalism of the established church and encouraged a return to the rigorous principles of Knox and Calvin. They also despised the Church Ministers who often came from wealthy families and condoned and supported the Clearances. Normans’ zealous preaching drew crowds away from the churches and as a result he fell afoul of the conservative parish minister, eventually having to resign his teaching position in 1815. With the schools controlled by the church this inevitably ended his teaching career also.
He spent the following two season fishing from Wick in Caithness, then left for Pictou in Canada aboard the Francis Ann in July 1817. Norman was but one of many Highlanders leaving Scotland around this time in an exodus that began in 1773 when the Hector sailed from Lock Broom for Nova Scotia. He was joined on the voyage by two of the original Whangarei Heads settlers, the Squire’s son John D. Arichat McLeod, and John Munro. Most of the emigrants left in family groups and never set foot in the country of their birth again. Fortunately, it was also a time when vast areas of fertile agricultural land were becoming available through an expanding British Empire.
In the next instalment of this history we follow the exodus to Canada.
Series 2 - Nova Scotia
Pictou, situated on the northeast coast of Nova Scotia, was a frontier town in 1817. The county had a population of about 12,000 and its virgin forests were being felled with the timber exported to the lucrative British market. Money flowed freely and there were few restrictions. Hard drinking was the norm. Norman McLeod continued preaching there and attracting large crowds. His adherents became known as Normanists, and as in Scotland, he fell afoul of the established church and those who didn’t conform to his beliefs
With the best and most convenient land on the coast already taken up it wasn’t possible for Norman, his kinsfolk and followers to settle as a group.
1819 saw Norman organising the construction of a vessel, named the Ark, which was used to search for a more suitable area to live. It was in this ship that they reconnoitred the St Ann’s area of Cape Bretton. Being mariners they were impressed with the large deep harbour that was perfect for maritime activities and, additionally, there was good farmland around the coast. The area was largely uninhabited and there was room enough to begin a new settlement.
In 1820 Norman McLeod, Squire Donald McLeod, Hugh Matheson, Ronald Ross, the Munro brothers Alexander, Donald and John Munro, Norman MacDonald, and Roderick McKenzie and their families left Pictou in 6 small boats, for St. Ann’s Bay, taking up land along the coast. In addition to their faith these people shared a past in Scotland and together they formed the backbone of the new community
The next year kinsmen from Pictou and Assynt joined them and over the following few years more people arrived from Ross-shire in Scotland. These people settled in the St. Ann’s Glen, Big Harbour and Baddeck Bay areas. Collectively these people became part of Norman’s church, some travelling 20 or 30 miles by foot or boat to his weekly services.
The new settlers were able to take advantage of land grants that the government was giving to new immigrants. 200 acres was given to married men and 100 to a single man. Through the land grants the largely landless and evicted tenants became land owners and gained greater security and control of their economic destiny. The land however was covered in virgin forest, the infrastructure non-existent, the growing season short and the brutal winters long.
A church was erected in 1822 on Norman McLeod’s property. It was a log structure near the water’s edge at Black Cove, capable of seating 100 worshipers. For the district this provided more than simply a place of worship, observing the Sabbath enabled the meeting of friends, neighbours and kinsfolk.
Two schools were established in the area. Initially Norman McLeod taught 18 students in his own house but later built a school on his property. By 1831 he had 110 pupils. Alex Munro established another school on the north side of the harbour which had a role of 37 children in 1829.
At that time shipping was the main means of transportation and the earliest settlers secured plots of land fronting on to the sea or rivers. Once some land was cleared and a log house erected small scale farming developed. Farming and fishing formed the basis of most people’s lives but a very successful ship building industry was established, timber was exported and trading with other parts of the world undertaken. Many of the families, including the McGregor’s and Stuarts who would later settle at Whangarei Heads, were involved with shipbuilding in some way and either owned or worked on sailing ships.
The skills mix at the core of the community together with the sense of clannishness and community helped give St Ann’s a competitive advantage relative to many other establishing communities of the time. It was a sober, industrious and by the 1830’s a reasonably prosperous settlement. Both schools and churches were often lacking in many new world settlements and they helped make St. Ann’s a desirable community in which to bring up families. By 1828 the good land around St Ann’s harbour and St. Ann’s Glen was all occupied and later Presbyterian arrivals from Harris and Lewis were taking up poor lands further inland.
In addition to being teacher Norman McLeod was appointed magistrate in 1823. This entitled him to perform civil ceremonies but because he left the Church in Scotland unlicensed and unordained he still could not perform religious ceremonies or give sacraments of the church. To rectify the situation he travelled to Genesee, New York State in America, where the church was not linked to the secular State as the Church of Scotland was. He was ordained there in 1828 by the Presbytery of New York.
Rev. Norman was an exceptionally charismatic and powerful preacher and he led many people to God. In a lot of ways he demonstrated compassion and kindness to his flock. He aspired to a purified form of Presbyterianism though and expected followers to live life adhering to his principles and instruction for daily living. The price of any transgression within the congregation was vilification and shaming from the alter, even for very minor offences such as a perceived extravagance in dress. While this practice was certainly not unheard within other churches of the time, McLeod seems to have been over zealous compared to most contemporary clergymen. Along with his refusal to provide the sacraments of baptism or communion to his unworthy flock, it was one of the practices that set him apart. He created controversy by feuding with many of his relations and supporters as well as other Ministers. Not everyone liked the man but he drew large crowds every week and the original church proved too small.
As a result a larger building, capable of seating 1200 people, was erected in 1845 close to the original church at Black Cove. The new one had four entrances but lacked a tower or spire. Its walls were six metres high and the windows were long and peaked at the top. Inside there were galleries running around three walls. On the fourth wall, at the front there, was a high pulpit that had stairs leading up either side of it. The long pews were capable of seating twelve to fifteen people, and there was a special cushioned one for visitors. Such was the charisma of Rev. McLeod’s preaching that this new church was also filled every week with many parishioners travelling long distances to attend.
There was no choir in the church services, instead the singing was led by precentors who sat at the foot of the pulpit, slightly higher than the congregation. The precentor would chant the lines to a traditional Celtic tune, giving the pitch, and the people would follow using their own rhythms and cadences allowing them to express deep emotions often repressed in daily life. This traditional style of singing, often spine chillingly beautiful, developed in bygone days when people didn’t have Bibles and the congregation wasn’t sufficiently literate to read the books. All the singing was in Gaelic and only psalms were sung, no hymns.
By the 1840’s Cape Bretton was inhabited by over 30,000 Gaelic speaking Scots and all available land was occupied. With large families coming of age people were beginning to voice concern about the availability of land for the next generation. In 1847 the timber trade was in severe decline as a result of various new trade agreements and the area had been fished out by American schooners. This was also the time that the potato and wheat blights struck the Island. Potato, wheat, oats and barley crops in the field were devastated for three consecutive years and, as in Ireland and Scotland, the loss of these basic food sources caused famine. Many families were reduced to near starvation and people began to leave the area as a result.
In 1849 Rev. Norman received a letter from his son Donald, who was living in Adelaide at the time. It described Australia and its climate in glowing terms and encouraged his family to join him there. This letter was shared with family and friends and added a new dimension to discussions about another migration. The economic case for migration was strong and ultimately the decision to migrate to South Australia was made.
Rev. Norman was the chief promoter of the emigration and initiated the building of a barque, the Margaret, in a shipyard below the church in Black Cove. She was built with timber from his property by a team of about twenty local men under the direction of experienced ship builders Neil and Roderick McGregor. Some of the men provided their labour in lieu of paying their passage to Australia. The Margaret set sail in October 1851 with 140 passengers on board, many of them inter-related family groups from the St Ann’s area.
The same year the McGregor’s also built the Highland Lassie for Captains Duncan and Murdoch McKenzie, also for the purpose of the migration. This brig was built at the mouth of the Baddeck River and it was envisaged that it would leave the shores of Cape Breton with the Margaret. The McKenzie’s sailed it over to Big Harbour, which lay across from their land and within five miles of where most of the passengers lived. The passengers had sold their houses and stowed their luggage on board when a huge and unusually cold front brought snow and freezing weather. The water around the ship began icing up and froze, two months earlier than normal, trapping the ship. Unable to sail, the ship spent the winter in Big Harbour while her passengers stayed with family or friends during the five months it took for the ice to melt. Eventually the ship departed on 17 May, 1852 with 155 passengers on board. Again it was predominately extended family groupings on the passenger list, three quarters living within 10 miles of the ship, the largest group of 36, related to the MacKenzies, were from Big Harbour who were related to people from areas of Baddeck and Middle River. A few were from Boularderie, and outlying areas. Many of these people were not members of Rev. Norman’s church.
It was not in the church itself but at Englishtown, across the harbour from Black Cove at ‘The Rock’ that Rev. Norman preached his last sermon in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Standing on the lower part of a hillside with a large crowd spread out in the open before him, the Margaret at anchor in the bay, he preached an emotional service, taking his text from Acts 20:38 …… “being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” The sermon represented the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Families were torn apart and the remaining community mourned the loss of their people and their leaders.
On leaving Cape Breton Rev. Norman ceded his church to the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Itinerant preachers served the St Ann’s congregation following his departure until Rev. Abraham McIntosh was appointed minister in 1856. He retained that position until his death in 1889. Following his death the church split into smaller congregations, Rev. Norman’s church at Black Bay was dismantled and new churches were built at Englishtown in 1893 and at South Gut, St Ann’s in 1893.
A monument was erected on the site of Rev. Norman McLeod’s church to commemorate the arrival of the Scottish pioneers at the time of the 150th anniversary celebrations on 28 July, 1970. One of the windows from his church is at the Gaelic College, which is sited on the original McLeod farm in St Ann’s and another has been used in the house opposite the new Presbyterian Church at South Gut.