Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 64 > Page 68 - Availible now from Breton Books" Flora McPherson's Cape Breton Classic: Watchman Against the World The Remarkable Journey of Norman MacLeod & His People From Scotland to Cape Breton Island to New Zealand

Page 68 - Availible now from Breton Books" Flora McPherson's Cape Breton Classic: Watchman Against the World The Remarkable Journey of Norman MacLeod & His People From Scotland to Cape Breton Island to New Zealand

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1993/8/1 (143 reads)

Available now from Breton Books... Flora McPherson's Cape Breton Classic: BRETON BOOKS IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE the publication of Watchman Against the World, Flora McPherson's story of Rev. Norman McLeod and his people. At bottom, it is an adventure story. Hundreds of people • focused on a leader with an abso? lute sense of his responsibility to them, based strictly on God's words • face the challenge of breaking pioneer ground, developing a community, and then in the face of heartbreaking famine, tearing the community apart and half-circling the globe to break pioneer ground together once again. More than the story of one man, Watchman is the story of the desperation, vigour, devotion and overcoming of extraordinary odds of which the Scottish exiles were capable. Moreover, it is a story that gives us an idea of what kind of supports it took to mold people so potentially demoralized into an early Cape Breton success. And it all emerges from St. Ann's Bay, Cape Breton. This is excellent writing about life in early Cape Breton. Nor? man McLeod is clearly placed in his context. Many of us know bits and pieces of the legends and the facts: We know that on the shores of St. Ann's Bay arose a community of people that outsiders called "Normanites," led by Rev. Norman McLeod. We know that he was their teacher, judge, and political and re? ligious defender. We all know about the children'is skates he cast through the ice because they had been used to violate the Sabbath Day, and of his calling down his own wife for wearing a happy bonnet to church; we know, perhaps, the "story of the ear" and that, when he left for New Zealand, go? ing through the community saying his goodbyes, at least one door through which Norman passed was nailed shut and a new one cut • because no finer man could ever pass through that doorway. But what we need to know, and what Flora McPherson has given us, is a detailed picture of the world in which Norman lived, how he rose to power, and what he offered his people that was more valuable than his errors or their indepen? dence • 'what combination of tyranny and tenderness Norman McLeod delivered, which won and held and developed a com? munity. He gave them strength to pioneer. He held them to? gether when famine pulled the rug out from under what had been declared one of the most successful of the pioneer com? munities • and he was able to help them find the strength to imagine a new destiny 20,000 miles away, build and stock the ships, and travel in six separate groups to gather and begin again the arduous task of pioneering in New Zealand. In Watchman Against the World, early St. Ann's Bay comes alive with a combination of strengths and pettiness and loves, relig? ious passions and mercantile activities, that no other Cape Bre? ton book provides. St. Ann's is a real place where people break ground, build homes, care about the future both practically and religiously • never actually making that distinction. In the end, we come to recognize the ground for independence Norman McLeod prepared for his followers. We can read it as Watchman Aeainst tRe World The Remarkable Journey of Norman McLeod' & his People from Scotland to Cape Breton Island to New Zealand by Flora McPherson tenderness and we can read it as tyranny. There is a point where, in his sense of absolute Tightness of mission, they are one thing. And Flora McPherson very neatly shows us how the people developed personal independence, describing ship after ship that followed in Norman's wake until, finally established in New Zealand, he was primarily the religious elder for a people who had moved into a life that included politics, commerce, and education for the wider world. On his deathbed, Norman leaves them with one final, passionate warning • "Children, children, look to yourselves, the world is mad" • but by now, as Flora McPherson tells us, his people belonged to the world. Here is Chapter 9 from Watchman Against the World: • The Master's Household AS THE FAMILY OF THE COMMUNITY'S HEAD, Nor? man's children were necessarily in the limelight, but without the security of position enjoyed by the children of the old Scottish chieftains. When the chiefs position was hereditary, his sons were automatically in training for future rule. The sons of a self- made chief had no such rights or expectations. Yet it was inevi? table that in the shadow of their father's position they should act like heirs to his throne. It was equally inevitable that his people would not happily accept the transference to his family of the power which Norman had won only in his own right. There would be many years, however, before the life of the McLeod family disturbed the community, years when the house at Black Cove enclosed all the doings of the ten children. The eldest was John Grant, the baby whose baptism had been so troublesome in Scotland. Then Donald, and Bunyan who had just been bom when his father left Lochbroom for America. Perhaps it was the hard winter when Mary cared for the three little boys alone in Scotland, the long Atlantic crossing in the stifling fetid air of the ship, or the change from the climate of Scotland to Pictou which permanently injured his health. Bun-
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