The Scotch Colony and Burns Night 1919

Published in the Presque Isle, Maine newspaper, Star Herald, Feb. 13, 1919 and is signed at the end of the article by W. L. Duncan

Many years ago, to be exact, in 1873, a Scotch sea captain whose ship plied between Scotland and St. John, on occasion of a voyage when he had some time on his hands in St. John, took a run up the river. Noting the big domain of government wild land he saw on the trip, he conceived the idea of bringing a colony of his neighbors in Old Kincardine across, and settling them in New Brunswick.

Going back home he succeeded in recruiting a colony, secured a grant of land for a settlement, and the movement resulted in transplanting about 400 hardy Scotch people, and their settlement in what is known as the Scotch Colony, a place about 30 miles due east of Presque Isle.

Had these people been located in Aroostook in some good township, it might have resulted in the development of a community equal in size and prosperity to the famous Swedish colony, brought over by Mr. Thomas. As it was the land proved so hilly and rough, and the conditions generally so unfavorable, that the settlement, instead of growing, stood still, and then dwindled until today, there are but a handful—probably not more than a hundred in number.

Mr. Wm. L. Duncan of Washburn was in the original colony, and he many years ago immigrated to Aroostook, and bought land in Washburn, which, with hard work and careful, frugal management, has made Mr. Duncan and his family prosperous.

Almost every year, however, he makes a trip across to the Scotch Colony, to a reunion and celebration there on Burns’ Birthday, which is observed regularly by a Burns Society on each anniversary of the poet’s birthday.

Following is an account of his trip across on Jan. 24th last:

On invitation from the chairman of Burns Association, Kincardine, friend Tom Patterson and myself found ourselves on the night of Jan. 24 in the Hall at Lower Kincardine, ready to do our part in celebrating the birth of our immortal poet Burns. The 25th is the real night but as that date was Saturday, it was unthinkable even for the great poet, to use that night so near to the Sabbath for that purpose.

The usual program of Burns songs, readings, etc., was gone into with hearty good will. Our minister Rev. Gordon Pringle, is always chairman at these celebrations and his pawky Scottish humor shone out when he called us all “Jock Tamson’s bairns for the nicht.” He was especially praiseworthy in doing his part.

Friend Tom had to respond to a good many encores for the happy way he has in giving Harry Lauder’s “Breakfast in My Bed on Sunday Morning.” Incidentally the minister took him to task in a humorous way for singing such an enticing song to his good people, tempting them to stay in bed, to hear the church bells ring. After the program came the “Doch and Doris” parting cup, in this case a cup of tea, made as they know how to do it down there. Then oh! Those glorious baskets filled with good things, including, of course, oat cakes, and the invitation for Tom and myself to “Coe awa’ in by and sit don and just help yerself.”

Finally the seats were cleared off the floor, and the young folks took charge and for some time the Highland Scottich and Scotch Reels and Contra Dances had full swing.

I am afraid the saut tear dimmed my ee as I watched them and thought of the merry times we had long ago when the Colony was full of happy boys and girls, now scattered all over this broad country of ours, making homes for themselves. The fathers and mothers quietly sleeping in the little churchyard, the old homes deserted, the farms growing up in maples and birches again. Still there are some cozy homes left and be sure of a kindly welcome if you ever happen that way.

I am sure we all enjoyed the thoroughly Scotch evening very much and never gave a thought to the storm raging out doors until in the wee sma’ oors the gathering broke up and then—the horses had to do their bit. Next morning I went off alone, leaving Tom in bed. (Poor chap, he can not stand the air on these hilltops.)

The little active horses of the mail carrier surely proved their mettle before we reached the Cabrach. The storm had blotted out all trace of road.

I visited a number of the old folks, some of them eagerly waiting the long wished for return of the boy from France. Others with a quiet welcome hand clasp and a reverent “The Lord’s will be done. Glad the war is over.” But! The boy will never come back. The true value of these sacrifices appealed to me as never before. Not for country alone did they die, but to make a better world for us all.

On Sabbath morning, bright and early the minister and I set out for Church. I took notice we had a shovel under the pung seat, but luckily we did not have to use it. That morning the service was held in Upper Kintore, eight miles or more from the Manse. We found the little church well filled with the people of the district, and it goes without saying that we enjoyed the service. The quiet, masterly, kindly way the minister led us in green pastures and by the still water, and the old Psalms and hymns led off by the clear young voices, the older people chiming in with their bass and tenor—“I to the hills will lift mine eyes,” with that setting was very real to us.

W. L. Duncan

View the original newspaper story here.

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