Page 49 - Presbyterianism in Old Cape Breton
ISSUE : Issue 42
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1986/6/1
course, and there would be thus an interchange of views that drove home, in no uncertain way, the great religious thoughts uttered from the pulpit. Then on arriving home, and after partaking of the long postponed second meal of the day, the chil? dren are gathered together and there is related to them the substance of all that the parents had heard in church and on the journey homewards. This undoubtedly made a lasting impression on the forma? tive minds of the juvenile hearers: in this simple and unostentatious way great moral and religious truths were instilled into the minds of the youth of that day, that were bound to have some future influence on the public institutions and moral wel? fare of the country. The first of these remarkable pioneers to arrive, under the auspices of Mrs. MacKay and her associ? ates, was Rev. Alexander Farquharson, who made his headquarters at Middle River, in 1833. Shortly af? ter, he was followed by Rev. James Fraser in 1836; Rev. Peter McLean in 1837; Rev. John Gunn in 1838; Rev. Matthew Wilson in 1842; Rev. Murdoch Stewart (father of Dr. John Stewart of Halifax) in 1843; Rev. Dr. Hugh McLeod in 1850. The hardships en? dured by these sky-pilots, as narrated by them? selves in their reports to the home land, make painful reading. Compelled to go on long and dan? gerous journeys, especially in winter, and sub? jected to undue privation and discomfort in the destitute homes where, for a time, they were o- bliged to seek shelter and sustenance, they gave, in the performance of their work, indisputable evi? dence of Christian fortitude as well as of physi? cal endurance. Like some of our own missionaries of the present time, they were given instruction in the principles of Medicine before leaving home, and so were frequently called upon to render medi? cal advice to their parishioners on occasions when the services of medical doctors were not available. At the regular seasons of systematic visitation the physical condition of their flock was enquired into with almost as much eagerness and anxiety as the moral and spiritual. This was a decidedly wholesome practice, as it is a fact well known to scientists that the dependence on our lower physi? cal substratum for the full development and fruit? age of our higher powers--mental, moral, and spir? itual --is well worthy of wide and deep recognition. These clergymen were especially interested in the establishment of educational schools throughout their respective parishes, and were instrumental in having what was known as a Grammar School esta? blished on the island of Boulardarie, presided o- ver by Mr. Alexander Munro, M.A., grandfather of the late Rev. Kenneth Munro of Montreal. Mr. Munro arrived in Cape Breton in 1839, having been sent out from Scotland by Mrs. MacKay, already alluded to. To accommodate the students, who in the winter term numbered 100 to 125, small huts were built in the neighbourhood. From this school, where Latin, Greek, Algebra, Geometry, Navigation and other sub? jects were taught, teachers were sent out all over the island, so that within a dozen years the advan? tages of education were brought within the reach of most of the children. Not to the same extent, however, as later when the Free School Act of 1864 placed educational facilities at the disposal of all. Mrs. Munro, and her assistant. Miss Gordon, gave special attention to the girls and taught them sewing, cooking and so forth. At this junc? ture mention must also be made of the excellent school opened at St. Anns in 1825 by Rev. Norman McLeod, and conducted by him for a quarter of a century, up to the time of his departure for Aus? tralia in 1851. It will be noticed that I have not dealt, in this paper, with the work in Cape Breton of this extraordinary clergyman. I have not done so for two reasons: firstly, because I gave a some? what extensive resume of his activities, religious and otherwise, to the Nova Scotia Historical Soci? ety in 1925; secondly, because he refused, abso? lutely, to co-operate with the Presbyterian minis? ters who toiled in this portion of the Lord's vine? yard from 1830 onwards. It is worthy of historical record that during all the years of his residence in St. Anns he never dispensed, or took part in the dispensation of, the Lord's Supper, and yery rarely administered the Sacrament of Baptism to ei? ther child or adult. So he never participated in the religious services that we have described un? der the head of "the Open Air Sacrament," but rath? er denounced this in unmeasured terms. Moreover, he referred in the most vituperative language to his clerical brethren, as in the following extract from a communication he sent the Presbytery on Oc? tober 6, 1840: • "In consideration of your dangerous and wilful ex? travagance... together with your openly profane and indiscriminate administration of the most sol? emn and sacred ordinances, exclusive of many sim? ilar means of conviction in the obvious tenor and tendency of your conversation and conduct, I can? not but infer, without contradicting all scriptur- BretonToyota A Full Line of TOYOTA Products LEASING SERVICE PARTS "Our people make the difference!" New L'ation: GRAND LAKE ROAD 539-8930 INTRODUCING OUR NEW MOBILE SERVICE Good People Sea & Shore Services Inc. 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Cape Breton's Magazine