An historic voyage began from Loch Broom on the west coast of Scotland in July 1773, when 189 Highland Scots set sail for Pictou – a province of today’s Nova Scotia in Canada. Their ship was the “The Hector”, a Dutch “fluyt” that was a trading vessel well over twenty years old and only barely up to the voyage. The journey was the first significant migration of Scots over to Canada and was the forerunner of a mass movement that would transform the history of Canada.
They were escaping what they believed to be English oppression and sought to settle in a free land where they “were free to speak their own language, Gaelic, to play the music of their ancestors and to wear their beloved tartan without fear of repercussions”.
The Scots had set sail under an unusual set of circumstances. In return for settling the land around their destination, they were promised free passage, ownership of land on arrival and a year of free provisions to get them started.
The voyage was a tough one – not unusual for the time – with bad weather and disease taking a toll. In fact 18 passengers died en route, but the Scots were hardy and tough, and were far from disillusioned by these events. Just before arrival a baby was born on board and this was seen as a good omen for the new settlement.
On 15th September 1773, after 11 weeks at sea, “The Hector” made landfall at Pictou Harbour, and the new settlers went to work. The promised supply of free provisions was never delivered and the Scots were forced to construct houses and shelters as a matter of urgency before the cold weather set in later in the year.
History records that they were successful and the area was accordingly named “Nova Scotia” (New Scotland). In the century that followed it is estimated that some 50,000 Scots emigrated to Nova Scotia and nearby Cape Breton Island, producing a profound change in the social fabric of the area.
Image: A replica of “The Hector” built in the 1990’s through volunteer contributions. It is a museum ship anchored in Pictou Harbour and is a major cultural tourist attraction, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.