Scottish Gaelic Settlers in Québec
Oatmeal and the Catechism – Scottish Gaelic Settlers in Québec – Margaret Bennett
QFHS # HG-153.99 B65
Oatmeal and the Catechism is the story of emigrants from the Outer Hebrides to Québec in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Most were crofting families from Lewis who had suffered the severe effects of the potato famine of 1846-51. As a solution to the increase pressure on landlords and government relief bodies, they were offered free passage to Lower Canada and given land grants in the Eastern Townships and more precisely within Compton County. To this day place-names such as Stornoway, Tosta, Ness and Dell in Canada testify to the strong links these communities kept with their homeland.
An article in The Clansmen News of 1970, based on local interviews and entitled ‘The Scottish Highlands of Quebec: Gaidhealatachd Chuibeic’, states:
At the time of the first Great War there were approximately two thousand five hundred Gaels in Marsboro (Marston) alone. We were talking with a man who was born in Milan, who told us that he did not know that there was any other language in the world but Gaelic until he was seven years old.
In Compton county, in the Eastern Townships of Québec in the years of 1851 to 1891, the language distribution in the following towns and villages could convincingly be reconstructed as follows:
> Marsboro – Gaelic (c. 75%), French (c. 20%), English (c. 5%)
> Milan – Gaelic (c. 95%), French (c. 5%), English (c. 0%)
> Scotstown – Gaelic (c. 50%), French (c. 25%), English (c. 25%)
> Springhill – Gaelic (c. 50%), French (c. 25%), English (c. 25%)
> Stornoway – Gaelic (c. 95%), French (c. 3%), English (c. 2%)
> Red Mountain – Gaelic (c. 75%), French (20%), English (c. 5%)
…. a grasp of the history and folk culture of Gaels from the Outer Hebrides who settled this comparatively small area of Canada will contribute to a better understanding of the Eastern Townships and of Québec.
Winner of the 1999 CLIO Award of the Canadian Historical Association
Posted by Jacques Gagné for Genealogy Ensemble