Friday, 19 December 2014

From Canna to Canada

[For our O'Kennedy Irish history see 'Archives']

This is an historical outline of the Kennedys from Canna and more specifically the history pertaining to the forefathers of Dan Alex Kennedy. This history is fractured in the 1700s when both Catholic and Protestant clans took up arms against the Hanoverian government of London. At the time Catholics were especially compelled to join the uprisings due to oppressive anti-Catholic Penal laws. Our Catholic ancestors had been at ground zero during the Jacobite rebellions. Following the failed rebellion of 1745, the clan system was smashed once and for all. Our people were defeated and our ancient way of life was outlawed. 

None of this should be taken as a scholarly article and is necessarily subjective. Subjective accounts prove valuable when we are interested in intangibles like the Gaelic spirit. It is also difficult to get a reliable view of the people in the Highlands from several centuries ago because for the most part, the people were not literate. We must rely on accounts of literate people that generally viewed them in a dark light, often describing them as savage, dull, and useless. A more Gaelic friendly point of view might emphasize our independence; the last of the Europeans that didn't cow to Normanized feudal lords and kings.

After the migration to Canada, our grandfathers and grandmothers seem to have maintained their unique and ancient mindset. It was strikingly different than that of folks with generations of Norman feudalism influencing their thinking and behaviour. Ours was an attitude of cultural conservation and resistance. My father and his father held attitudes that were not likely born on Cape Breton Island. My father spoke fondly of Scotland as if he had migrated himself. If their attitudes about value, human life, and property did come from Scotland it is reasonable to attribute it to the mindset from the ancient duchchas. They certainly match.

To illuminate our past we need to look back into the Hebridean and Irish context our ancestors came from.

Paternal Lineage

Dan Kennedy was born in 1884 and was the last Kennedy in our family hold Gaelic as his first language. For this reason he is our focal point. Daniel Alexander Kennedy married Christina MacNeil of Glace Bay. They had ten children; Neil, Archie, Alex, Sally, Johnny, Margaret, Theresa, Cecelia, Snookie, and Anna.

(My own family are of Dan Kennedy's first child: Neil Kennedy of Inverness (b. 1911) and Sadie MacNeil of New Waterford (b. 1917); daughter of John MacNeil of Bay St. Lawrence and Elizabeth MacPherson of New Waterford.)

Dan Kennedy was son of Archibald Kennedy b.1849 and Sarah MacIsaac* of Inverness Co. b. 1859. Archie Kennedy was son of Alexander Kennedy b. 1804. Alexander was married to Elizabeth MacIntyre of PEI b. 1806. Alexander's father, Angus Kennedy was born in 1758 in Canna, Scotland. Angus had first arrived in Parrsboro with his brothers, all of whom migrated to Antigonish and Cape Breton due to anti-Catholic pressure in the Parrsboro area (according to my father, Neil Kennedy). They had a difficult trek to Antigonish as you may read below. Angus was the son of John Kenedy of Canna. Other information from Scotland indicates that the six brothers that crossed were sons of John's brother, Rory Kenedy. Information from Cape Breton however indicates that all six brothers were sons of John. They left Parrsboro in the early 1800s. Angus stayed in Antigonish and died there and his son, Alexander Kennedy (father of Archie), moved on to Cape Breton. 

John Kennedy, father of Angus, was born in 1728 in Canna, Scotland, and would have been 17 years old for the 45 uprising. (We have no direct rebellion information – Jacobites did not keep records due to risk of execution.)

* Sarah Macisaac, grandmother of Neil Kennedy was an educated woman and made frequent trips to Boston. She taught my father, Neil Kennedy, to read the English newspaper to Dan Kennedy, his Gaelic speaking father, when Neil was very young. He was precocious as a child and benefited from his grandmother's attention. She had been a teacher. Sarah MacIsaac was a daughter of Donald (the Miller) MacIsaac of Foot Cape and Mary Gillis. He was a successful mill operator that ran a farm of 200 acres. Donald the Miller was a son of Allan McIsaac who left Canna for Cape Breton in 1812 and settled a 400 acre farm. Neil Kennedy often told a story of two separate MacIsaacs leaving Canna and coincidentally landing in the same area of Cape Breton on the same day. 

The spellings of 'Rory Kenedy' and 'John Kenedy' on the Canna census is similar to at least one family lineage in Ireland. Our direct ancestor John Kenedy as well as Rory Kenedy along with our genetic profile are strong indicators that they came from Lower Ormond in northern County Tipperary in Ireland. It also seems likely they migrated following the time of Cromwell's dispossessions. It is not clear whether they came directly from County Tipperary or the Waterford area of Ireland. Researcher Brian Kennedy believes the latter is most likely due to Irish naming conventions connecting the names on the Canna census with those Kenedys as well as the likelihood that Kennedy fishermen of that area would have easy access to the Canna area, especially in light of the migrations to and from Newfoundland that passed near the cod banks off Canna Island. Further DNA research may help clarify exactly where they came from.

The Highland Kennedys

Tribe: Dal gCais
Clan: Ó Ceannéidigh

DNA analysis indicates that our Kennedy ancestors are not connected to either the large lowland Kennedy clan to the south or to the main branch of Highland Kennedys in the north. There are two separate genetic lineages of Kennedys in the Highlands of Scotland. One lineage are the Lochaber, Rannoch and Coll Kennedys. Our lineage is Irish and have a similar DNA profile to with Kennedys in the Kingussie and Kilmallie areas which appeared in Scotland in the 1600s. A cluster of records at Leanachan spring up in the mid 1600s and the register for Inverness shows that they took until about 1700 to get that far north. But in 1650 they were already numerous in Logierait and Aberfeldy. However, Canna Island is easily accessible by sea and although they have similar DNA profiles, it is possible they came to the Hebrides at a different time to the Leanachan migrants. In the early and mid-1600s Ireland and especially the O'Kennedys were in a state of upheaval due to Elizabethan inquisitions which began in 1601. Many O'Kennedys were executed as rebels during that period.

Our specific Kennedy ancestors lived on the Island of Canna in the 1700s. The island was a hotbed of resistance to British rule. Judging by the census in the mid 1700s there was likely only one family of Kenedys on the island. While the details are not clear, we can get a fair picture of what they were living through by piecing together the political and military pressures on Canna and the local surroundings.

The nature of the Small Isles was one of fierce independence. In 1490 Scotland would claim the Isles in an attempt to subdue the people. Within 50 years there were multiple bloody uprisings. While Edinburgh did eventually manage to subdue the people in terms of demanding payment of rents through the Duke of Argyle, the assuredness of whether he could depend on payments is another question. Aside from foreign impositions such as these, the culture itself seems to have been relatively unscathed.

In the 1600s and 1700s the British were frustrated at the resistance by the clans on the Small Isles. The people of Canna were nominally under crown ownership through the Duke of Argyle who in turn had control of Clan Ranald (these were all different levels of feudal ownership of Canna). Although they made titles and rules to suit their wishes, the people of the Small Isles were oblivious to their ways and continued with their Gaelic social customs. It was widely believed that those Gaelic customs were inconsistent with feudal, and especially Norman, rule. As a result, the British took on genocidal polices against our Gaelic people. The areas the British aimed to 'pacify' were exactly where our Kennedy ancestors lived at the time. Ours were people that were especially loathed by William of Orange, Oliver Cromwell and so many others. A lot of effort went into anti Gaelic propaganda as well as more tangible means of oppression.

Our ancestors were not about to roll over. One report states, “an early skirmish with the Camerons at Achdalieu resulted in an English Officer having his throat bitten out!”

"The Fort in Fort William was first built by Cromwell’s forces in 1654 to pacify the local Clans, especially the Camerons. It was first known as the Garrison of Inverlochy and was just a wooden stockade on an earth bank protecting 250 troops. Together with Fort Augustus and Fort George it was the lowest outpost of a chain of Government defenses intended to suppress the “savage clans and roving barbarians” as Dr.Johnson later called the locals!

At about 1690 a substantial Fort was raised with stone walls 20 feet high, a deep dry ditch and a bomb proof magazine. The Fort then became known as Fort William named after William of Orange – and the small village which grew up nearby was Maryburgh, named after his wife.

The reinforcements were well tested in 1746 when the 600 men in the Fort were sieged by the Jacobite Army – and despite several days bombardment from the Cow Hill behind the town, it survived largely intact. As the Highland Clans were pacified and the Jacobite threat diminished the Fort became less important, but was still manned by the regular army until the Crimean War in 1854. Latterly these soldiers were used to suppress the local smuggling trade rather than fight the clans!"

During the 45 rebellion, all 40 Canna men that fought at Colloden died in battle in April of 1746. Our direct ancestors, Rory and John Kennedy, were obviously not at Colloden and may have been part of either the siege at Fort William or Fort Augustus or possibly any of the numerous skirmishes with British forces that spring. Records were not kept of Jacobites and it is likely we will never know with absolute certainty whether or not they even fought in the rebellions.

Our ancestors were undoubtedly part of one of the most significant rebellions in Gaelic history several hundred years ago. Prior to that they were in the thick of rebellions and wars against Cromwell, Queen Elizabeth 1, as well as Anglo Norman planters that usurped O'Kennedy lands. Our DNA traces us back to the south of Ireland and we are descendants of the Dal gCais tribe associated with the famed High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. Brian Boru cleared the Danes from Ireland 1000 years ago. The genesis of the Kennedy name was here - due to Brian Boru's father being named Cennétig mac Lorcáin, King of Thomond, in the tenth century AD. Brian Boru's ability to drive the Vikings out elevated him to more then just a chief. He became a king under a system of Brehon Law which was substantially different than Euro or Norman feudalism. And from here our named Kennedy lineage was born. There are various lineages of Kennedys that are unrelated to this lineage but our L226 genetic marker is indicative of the Dal gCais tribe.

We may identify as Scottish because our ancestors came to Canada from Scotland. We are not related to proper Scottish Kennedys however. Additionally, we could argue that the general population of the Small Isles are ancient Irish due to the migration of Gaels in what was then, Dalraida. On the other hand, Dalraidans could argue that is is they that are true Scots (since 'Scot' was a term used by Romans to identify Irish tribes). Our Hebridean ancestors did everything within their power to resist domination by Edinburgh. Our particular pedigree however is not Dalraidan. While Dalraida was an energetic kingdom on its own, our Kennedys were busy at that time in the south of Ireland putting the Danes out of Ireland - along with Brian Boru. Our claim to being 'Scottish' Kennedys is a weak one indeed. But it is here in Scotland where we find ourselves in the throes of history in the midst of Jacobite rebellions and the Gaelic struggle against Britain.

We are now faced with a great historical puzzle. Why were we on Canna if we had been in the south of Ireland centuries before? We had apparently advanced to a position of great power within Ireland. So, what were we doing in the wilderness of revolutionary Canna in the 1700s? On the side links you may find a taped account from one Hector Kennedy of Tiree explaining a single Kennedy arriving there having fled Ireland. It may be that our Kennedys as well as the Kingussie and Kilmallie Kennedys are descendants of that man. As flimsy a theory as it is, it speaks to the myriad of possibilities when we consider Irish migration to the Gaelic Highlands.

Our DNA story goes well back into the mists of pre history. Our base genetic marker S116 is called Beaker Folk and had been labelled 'hunter gatherer' by Scotland's DNA and changed later to 'Beaker Folk'. The bulk of that DNA distribution is Spain, Ireland, and the Scottish Highlands. Our secondary generic marker is tightly concentrated on the Spanish French border. (See: Europeans drawn from three ancient 'tribes' - link on sidebar.)

Modern Europeans are generally pale but our primary markers indicate our ancestors were hunter gatherers. Researchers were surprised to find they had blue eyes and dark skin. While the incoming farmers from the east moved alongside hunter gatherer populations, they did not mix for at least one thousand years. Their eventual interbreeding would have awakened light skin genes due to the less vitamin D diet of farmers. We may appear more like the migrant farmers due to skin colour but our genes remain mainly hunter gatherer. Their later Beaker culture indicates they had been proficient as utilizing copper and making a primitive type of beer.

"We have established that the genetic foundations for modern Europe were only established in the Mid-Neolithic, after this major genetic transition around 4000 years ago," said co-author Dr Wolfgang Haak. (See: 'Making of Europe Unlocked by DNA' - link on sidebar.) 

Our DNA record below indicates that we have two out of three types of Irish gene and may have all three.

In ancient Gaelic myths there is the story of the Fir Bolg people of Spain that migrated to ancient Ireland, known to be the first people there. While the myth may be erroneous in detail, it seems the general thrust is correct. It seemed that population had disappeared or were more or less irrelevant to the modern Gaelic Ireland. It was assumed that Celtic Gaels displaced the indigenous people that had been in Ireland. In fact, there never was a Celtic displacement. The assumption was wrong. We are not the Celtic invaders we thought we were. We are the indigenous people – the so called Fir Bolg. In deep pre-history, we are from Spain.

Ancient Genetic Markers

Root Genetic Marker: S116 (Currently called Beaker Folk, previously known as hunter gatherer.)
Subtype is R1b-S21184: (Recently discovered - little known thus far) Distribution near the France/Spanish border. 

Ancient Genetic Markers newer than S21184:

S145 – aka L21: This is the generic DNA of the ancient people that populated the British Isles after the ice age. 
S28 – Approx 6,600 years old. Alpine Celt or Italio Celt

Newer Genetic Markers:

M222 – Ancient Irish 
S190 – Maetae 
M153 - Basque
S1136 – Irish (Type 2)
S168 – Irish (Type 3 - Dalcassian)
S169 - Irish (Type 3) 
SRY2627 – Iberian 
S68 – Norse/Viking
S182 – Norse/Viking
S530 – Pict (Both Scotland and Northern Ireland)
S388 – Scottish

"EthnoAncestry is pleased to announce the release of two exciting new Y
chromosome SNP markers, S168 and S169, each of which defines a new
subgroup of your group R1b-S145 (“Pretani”).

S168 defines a subgroup which originated in Ireland over 1000 years ago
and is particularly common in the southwest of the country, for example
in Counties Clare, Tipperary, Limerick and Cork. It has been seen in
Scotland and England, but much more rarely. It has been suggested that
this type marks descent from the DalCassian clans, the descendants of
Cormac Cas. Most prominent amongst these are the O’Briens, the
descendants of Brian Boru, the famous High King of Ireland.

S169 defines a different subgroup which is also over 1000 years old and
appears to originate in Ireland, but this time concentrated in Leinster
in the east of the country, particularly the neighbouring counties of
Wicklow, Kildare and Wexford. It is also found in Scotland and England
at lower frequencies, mostly around the Irish Sea. In some cases it may
indicate descent from the chieftains of the Lagin in Ireland."

It does not seem likely the Delcassians would have been at the onset of Dalraida - or rather, impossible. They were yet to be born in the south of Ireland. 

Historical knowledge can take us back to John and Rory Kennedy on Canna. What is missing is the linkage between Ireland and Canna. Meeting those two ends may prove to be a challenge since the people on the Small Isles didn't keep records. DNA may shine light on that gap.

The Island of Canna

Our people left Canna in 1791 following the last uprising known as 'the 45'. While Catholics were persecuted with little mercy prior to the rebellion, they were persecuted with no mercy in its wake. As you will see below, the island of Canna was singled out for punishment immediately following the disaster at Colloden where 40 Canna men were killed.

The island holds a rich and brutal history. While its ownership passed hands from the Abbey at Iona to be taken over by the Norse, then to Clan Ranald, then to Scotland, the customs and ways of life for the people of the island were relatively immune to outside influences, religious or otherwise. While the Norse formally held the Small Isles as did the Franciscans of Iona before them, Gaelic clans, under Somerled, pushed the Norse out in the 1100s. During this period, Brian Boru pushed them out of Ireland. And at that time, our own Kennedy ancestors were in the south of Ireland where they established themselves as a powerful clan in Tipperary and Clare.

Prior to 1490 the Small islands were quite autonomous. In 1490 however, Edinburgh took control. The island lost its independence and the Scottish Crown was interested in actually subduing the free islanders due in part to accounts written by Martin Martin indicating attitudes and cultural ways that were considered problematic to both the Scottish and English monarchs. Following 1490, Edinburgh could now tame this hostile region - or so they thought.

"The ‘problem’ of the Isles and how to keep it under control troubled a whole dynasty of Scottish kings. James IV, having assumed the title of the Lordship of the Isles for himself after it had been declared forfeit in 1493. He was often in attendance during the sea raids on the area during his reign. Insurrection was rife: there were no less than six major risings in the Isles between 1494 and 1545, for which James V pursued a policy of ‘daunting of the isles’ and was prepared to resort to deception and treachery which he used against the clan chiefs in pursuit of his cause. James VI had still not resolved the problem by the end of the sixteenth century. His efforts to call the clan chiefs to order and require them to display their title to the land they claimed to possess in 1597, and to find sureties for good behaviour led only to a further prolonged spell of violence and disorder. In his private thoughts he could only express despair, regarding the chiefs ‘that dwelleth in the Isles’ as being ‘alluterlie barbares’."

As we can see from this report, the island was in the throes of revolution in the 1400s and prior to that, reports indicate that feuding within the 'Lordship of the Isles' and sea raids were common.

Historical Reports on Canna

To gain insight into the historical reality our ancestors lived on Canna and the customs and ways of the people, we must turn to reports from outsiders which are frequently tainted with prejudice and hostility toward Gaels.

One reporter from the 1700s (Pennant) provides some context and direct observations: “Pennant began with the customary account of an island covered with verdure, and with grazing black cattle (and horses) to behold the eye. He was not prepared for what he was to discover that the inhabitants were enduring great poverty, with the crops of corn and potatoes having failed in the previous year. The mills had gone, and grinding corn was now only possible with the laborious use of quern stones... Even the bounty of the sea was not available to them... This was ‘past the ability of these poor people’.” In 1764 Walker, in his Report on the Hebrides, had come to a similar conclusion, noting that “There are several Cod Banks within reach of the Island, but the Inhabitants never fish but to supply themselves.” One major impediment to fishing reported by Walker was the punitive and restrictive salt laws imposed by Edinburgh.

Pennant also noted the demand for kelp to furnish British/Napoleonic wars which resulted in island folk being essentially enslaved to gather kelp, which in turn ruined the little agricultural land that was available.

Reports on the islands indicate that the people lived in very harsh conditions and that the people would be found to be covered in black residue from leakage from their thatched straw roofs. Their custom was to let the peat smoke settle in the straw roof and rain would seep through, dropping soot rain water on the family. The people appeared to be dirty in appearance from the soot.

"The typical Highland village was a collection of bothies, which were smoky
one- or two-room huts made of mud and stones, with dirt floors and thatched
or turf-covered roofs. At the end of the eighteenth century Thomas Garnett
described cottages on the Isle of Mull as “extremely poor indeed, being little, if
at all, better than the cabins of the South Seas islands, or the wigwams of the
American Indians.” The Rev. Edward Clark went further: “The pig sties of
England are palaces [compared] to the huts of Mull,” he wrote. Highland homes
were likely to house animals, as well as humans. In this, they resembled the earth
lodges of the Mandans, Hidatsas, and other peoples on the banks of the Missouri
River, but in fact Highlanders were much poorer."
(From: White People, Indians, and Highlanders: Tribal People and Colonial Encounters in Scotland and America, Colin Calloway, Oxford University Press)

Between 1788 and 1789 a visit took place to Canna by Frenchman, Pierre Nicolas Chantreau. Here, he describes the island (excerpts): "The Cattle we saw were of the small kind [highland]. They are very skilful with the fishing and cloth making which are their main resources. They are the most industrious people of the Hebrides. The woman make the cloth without the help of a [weaver, loom]. The men make their own shoes without the help of a shoemaker. Everyman prepares the hide, and get the leather ready. They have to be strong in body and mind for there is not a doctor nor a priest. If they get sick a little milk and a rest is the only remedies they use. When their souls need consolation the head of the household or their neighbours give the courage that they need.
Most of them are Catholique, but there is not a Church not a Presvitery or a school. During the winter’s months they reduce their simple cult to nature. They work instead of Pray and it does not seem to bother Heaven, that accepts more a man working than praying.
These islanders have a very original tradition, on St. Michael’s day every house holder rides
his horse bare with a young girl, or the wife of his neighbour if she has not been married
for two years. They ride to the big Cross that is in the north of the island. There they pray a
Pater Noster? [Our Father]and they all go to the Inn where the women invites, then they go to the oldest person’s house. She will be the one that will make this year St. Michael’s bread.[Struan Michael] it is made of butter, milk eggs and oats flour. It is made a semi-circle of a big diameter. Marriage is very popular in this island and also In Rum , Muck and Eigg that are nearby. You can hardly find a spinster or a bachelor, the islanders believe that they will be cursed if they don't follow the duty to become parents and in order to avoid his anger and the misfourtains that sends to those that wants to live in celibacy, the men get married at 20 and the girls at 17. A married woman in this country is a estate of happiness; for they would not be expected to do any hard work, only to be a good mother to her children and a good housewife, dedicated to her house and that is believed to be so even with modest class."

Chantreau's report has merit in that the author was French and would not have similar prejudiced views of Gaelic people. It also precedes the migration of the six Kennedy brothers by only several years.

Modern academics have a more balanced and favourable view of our people's culture.

"The most common dwelling of the period, the byre dwelling or longhouse (tigh-dubh) or black-house in the Hebrides), provides an example of how human culture and nature were deeply intertwined. Although this building form has ingenious regional adaptations (Grant 1960), studies of the few excavated sites (Dalglish 2003:97–103) allow a description of the general character: long, low, rectangular structures of a single story with a central hearth set into a floor built of turf and stone. 

In reality byre dwellings represented a perfect understanding of the landscape and provided ideal homes for people who “spent their days largely out of doors, had few worldly possessions and were used to living in close association” (Grant 1960:141). The buildings were made of and clothed in the skin of the land—turf stripped from the earth nearby comprised the walls, peat provided the warmth, and a heather or thatch roof offered shelter. The people usually shared their dwelling with the cattle—a mutually beneficial arrangement that allowed often-underfed humans and cattle to share heat, and for the animals to be easily cared for during sickness or calving (Grant 1960:142). The thatching on the roof absorbed the peat smoke, providing excellent fertilizer and creating inky black drops of water that dripped on the inhabitants as they sheltered from the rains, an experience remembered in the Gaelic language as snighe(Grant 1960:151). With such a scarce archaeological record, an understanding of the relationship between people and their environment is one of the best ways of under-standing the blackhouse: an ingenious design in which Gaelic culture and society, and the flora and fauna of the landscape come together. An understanding of the relationship between people and nature gained through study of the oral tradition not only allows for an experiential and evocative glimpse into life in the byre dwelling, it also serves to undermine the biased, external views of the Gaelic way of life." 

The island was supported by a baillie who happened to be Gaelic Jacobite poet Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair who was employed by the landlords that were under the Earl of Argyle who was under Edinburgh. Canna had two landlords in the 1700s; one a Protestant MacLeod that lived on Skye. The other was Hector MacNeil of Kintyre.

During this period, Catholics were disenfranchised and the people of the small islands and other Catholic areas of the Highlands were utterly powerless. By now the clan itself was a military alliance and the old legal framework of the duthchas had perished. The old way was democratic and free. The people didn't live under a chief as much as with a chief and that role was caretaker, not owner. While the duthchas system was buried under the greed of clan chiefs that were all too willing to become wealthy owners under Norman feudalism, the spirit and the attitudes of that ancient way had enough resilience to make its way to Cape Breton island.

In some sense, we have been the last of the people of Europe to become civilized in that we had no proper European civil or religious authority over us until rather late. In many ways, until the clearances that followed the uprising of 45, the values and beliefs of the common people of the Highlands were rooted in their ancient Gaelic culture. Following the disaster at Colloden, our people were cleared. While Scotland then became modernized, our own Cape Breton forefathers again preserved their ways in the highlands and glens of Cape Breton. One interesting fact can be gleaned from all this and it is that our people had been the last tribal/warrior culture in Europe. For more on this element a book is linked on the sidebar of this blog called "White People, Indians, and Highlanders".

Canna history is filled with religion, war, invasions. For an excellent and comprehensive study of this history, I would recommend "Canna: The Story of a Hebridean Island" by Dr. John Lorne Campbell who writes an excellent an rather unbiased view of this remarkable centre of the archaic Gaelic world.

For a comprehensive history of Canna: Canna: The Story of a Hebridean Island by J.L. Campbell

Catholicism on the Small Isles

The fact that our ancestors remained Catholic after the Reformation in 1560 and subsequent Penal laws didn't move them is evidence of their remote contact with and influence by the governments of London or Edinburgh. That remoteness undoubtedly played a huge role in preserving not only Catholicism but their general way of life while the rest of Scotland felt enormous pressure by anti-Gaelic and anti-Catholic laws.

Interestingly, the people of Canna appear to have almost no religion at all. They were not served by either Catholics or Protestants although both denominations worked to win them over. The Irish Franciscans had more influence due to proximity to as well as common language and culture with the Gaelic Scots. Many of the inhabitants of the Catholic Hebridean Islands had no church service at all. Moreover, attempts to win them over to Protestantism were resisted. Clan Ranald and the MacNeils of Barra appear to have been most obstinate.

“For more than 150 years after 1600 the Highlands and Islands were to be regarded as a mission field by both Catholics and Protestants alike, the one seeking to revive an old tradition and the other to overthrow it.”

Absence of the restraint of religion during the two generations that followed the Reformation has no doubt a great deal to do with the barbarity with which clan feuds were conducted in the Highlands and Islands in the second half of the sixteenth century, and with the moral laxity that led to bitter struggles between legitimate and illegitimate offspring of certain chiefs such as the MacLeods of Lewis and the MacNeils of Barra.”

“Community with Ireland in language and traditions fostered the survival of Catholicism in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. From a statement made by Bingham to Burghley in 1593 it appears that the Hebrideans, particularly the Barramen, were in the habit of going by sea on pilgrimages to Croagh Patrick in Mayo. The Scottish Government was well aware of the proclivities of many of the Hebridean chiefs, and in 1609 most of these were coerced into accepting—with the example of the downfall of Ulster before their eyes—the Statutes of Iona which embodied, amongst other conditions, formal acceptance of the established. Protestant religion and the obligation to have their children educated as English-speaking Protestants outside the Highlands and Islands and in places where they could easily serve as hostages for their parents' political behaviour.”

"It is possible to find very many places there, in which neither priest not heretic minister has been seen since the overthrow of religion in Scotland. And so some have vivid memory of Catholic worship not depraved by the error of heresy," - Father Cornelius Ward, 1624.

"Resistance to protestantism was strong among the chiefs and even those that complied, retracted their allegiance or were subversive. “the MacLeods of Dunvegan and Harris and the MacDonalds of Sleat, although conforming to Protestantism 'outwardly, remained secret sympathizers and did nothing to assist the enforcement of the penal laws. Clanranald was connected with the MacLeods of Dunvegan by marriage and with the MacDonalds of Sleat by feudal and clan ties. Neither of these chiefs had any interest in enforcing the edicts of the Synod of Argyll or advancing the interests of the Earls of Argyll against their Catholic relatives and neighbours. Under the influence of Clanranald, the MacNeils of Barra also remained constant. It is therefore not surprising that by 1755, 5,979, or 36 per cent, of the 16,490 Catholics then in Scotland were living on the Clanranald and MacNeil of Barra estates.”

It isn't plausible to assume the people viewed either Protestant or Catholic teachings as either superior or inferior. Their connection to religious teachings were sparse and likely not well understood. However, the people in this part of Scotland appear to have been highly resistant to Protestantism. The real politik motivations here are not about Martin Luther or the Pope.

The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge

The SPCK in Scotland was created and designed to Anglicize the Gaels of Scotland through a system indoctrination and oppression. The people of Canna however were highly resistant to both Protestantism and the feudal subserviance foisted upon them from Edinburgh, London, and Argyll. In the end, our courageous ancestors held their ground and SPCK schemes had no effect on our culture.

In his efforts to wipe out the Gaelic people and culture, on January 16, 1691 William of Orange (Dutch William) signed off on the massacre of Glencoe to punish the MacDonalds for not signing loyalty to him. The MacDonalds were murdered in their sleep.

Following that atrocity in 1691, William "granted the rents of the suppressed bishopric of Argyll and the Isles to the synod of Argyll for the purpose of 'erecting of English schools for rooting out the Irish language, and other pious uses' . - Campbell Tenants that refused to pay rents had soldiers "quartered upon them until payment was made". As Campbell points out, "the attack on Highland language and Highland traditions was to be financed out of Highland rents". In 1709 the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge incorporated. The policy of the SCCK is summed up as: "Nothing could be more effectual for reducing these countries (ie. the Highlands and Islands) to order and making them useful to the Commonwealth than teaching them their duty to God, their King and Countrey , and rooting out the Irish language, and this has been the care of the Society so far as they could, for all the schollars are taught in English, and none are allowed to be masters of the Societies' Charitie Schools, but such as produce sufficient certificats of their piety knowledge and loyalty." - Campbell

Gaelic was banned in these schools even though the prospective students were unable to speak English. Rooting out the so called 'Irish language' as well as Catholicism was the goal of the society. Resistance on the island of Canna was too strong for the scheme to work however. On April 1st, 1731 the Committee (for the Society) reported: "Produced a letter from a privat hand giving a full account of the state of the Isle of Rum, Much, Egg and Cana with respect to religion, particularily that the inhabitants of Egg and Cana being much addicted to popery and under the management of Priests and the awful power of Popish chiefs, there was not any probability of the means of instruction being entertained by them, and threfore the author is of the opinion that the continuing a school in Egg can be of no benefit to the Protestant cause, but rather promote the direct opposite interest, and as to Rum and Muck enhabited by mostly protestants he proposes that one schoolmater might serve both..." - Campbell

The Jacobites

Mo choin a dheanadh leat eirigh,
Do Chaiptin fhein Mac-Mhic-Ailein. 

Gun Theann e roimh chach riut,
S ni e – fas e, ach thig tharis. 

Gach duine tha 'n Uidhists am Muideart,
'S an Arasaig dhubh ghorm a' bharraich. 

An Canaidh, an Eige, 's am Moror,
Reisimeid choir ud Shiol-Ailein!

An am Alasdair is Mhontrois,
Gum bu bhocazin iad air Ghallaibh!

- Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair (Jacobite poet and ballie of Canna) 

My friend would rise with you,
Your own Captain of Clan Ranald.

He adhered to you before all others,
And will do so yet, but come over.

Every man in Uist and Moidart, 
And in dark green Airsaig of birch woods.

In Canna, in Eigg, in Morar,
The true regiment of the MacDonalds!

At the time of Alasdair [Mac Colla] and Montrose,
They were terrors to the Lowlands!

It would be foolhardy for Catholics to not support the Jacobite cause. Freedom was the prize should Charlie defeat the Hanoverans. The promise was Catholicism would be lifted out of the muck of British oppression. Although we may not find direct evidence of our own people fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie, it would be puzzling if they didn't.

John Kenedy would be 17 years of age at the time and his brother Rory, would be about 20. The fact that our Kennedy ancestors survived strongly suggests they had not been at Colloden when English forces defeated the clans. They had likely been involved in the siege at Fort William or Fort Augustus.

Here is a glimpse of the events that led to our final defeat against the British. On November 8, 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie, “with an escort of Lochiel's Camerons and the Hussars,” entered England. Within a few days they captured the city of Carslile. By the 26th they overran Manchester and Preston. By the time they reached Derby, information was filtering through indicating defeat is certain if they continue. Prince Charles pleaded to continue but the Highlanders turned around in the face of certain defeat. One factor was information that the French were not going to invade England from the south as they had expected. While some clans and clansmen agreed with Charles, others didn't, including Cameron of Locheil. Eventually all the clans went against Charles and they retreated back to Scotland. It was in a field at Colloden Moor where the main army of Jacobites faced the superior artillery of the British miltary. Enhanced armaments rendered the highland charge useless and our Gaelic ancestors were slaughtered in that field, crushing Jacobite ambitions.

Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped Colloden and was on the run, escaping, eventually, back to the European mainland.

That winter and spring prior to Colloden, the Jacobites were keen to capture government military centres. The government successfully held Fort William but lost Fort Augustus at the beginning of March. Thinly stretched, they gradually began to struggle to keep their own lines of supply open. Following the Colloden defeat, the army was now dispersed across the Highlands.

As Colloden was unfolding, the British had set out to capture and punish Jacobites and sympathizers. A Royal navy ship arrived on the island on or near the same day. They set upon the people of Canna, the people were abused and their cattle slaughtered.

A Jacobite Episcopalian Minister made a point of collecting as many Jacobite accounts as he could and gathered information on the Canna attack. He gathered it from a letter to him by Alexander MacDonald (Ballie for Canna) of Clan Ranald. The following excerpts are include in Campbell's work and several pertinent excerpts are included here. (For a more complete account, see: The Lyon in Mourning from the Scottish History Society.)

“He (Lieutennant Thomas Brown) had 60 armed men at his heels; the flower of the islanders was with the Prince; soe, the baillie judged it safer both for himself and the inhabitants to grant his request...”

"Captain Duff and Captain Ferguson aboard the Commodore came again a little, or about the 15th of April (Collodon occurred on the 17th of April), harrassed all the Isle, and at a certain night when they became acquaint through all the country, they combined to make ane attack on all the young women and girls in the Isle, marryed or otherwise.” (A conscientious sailor warned them to run and hide.) - J.L. Campbell

The sailors attacked the home of a man named Evan MacIsaac and his daughters fled. His pregnant wife stayed but had to flee as well when they turned to rape her. She hid in a bog all night and died soon afterward. 

“After the battle of Colloden was hard fought, Captain Dove and Captain Fergusone went to Canna successfully and committed several branches of cruelty upon the poor people, wanting them to inform them of the Prince or any of his officers. After General Campbell (later to become fouth Duke of Argyll) turned back from his search (Prince Charlie)...” he retuned to arrest the baillie (James MacDonald) as a suspected Jacobite and the baillie spent a year in a London dungeon.
“James was born before 1687. He is the son of John MacDonald. James was bailie of Canna in 1746. A bailie was like a justice or magistrate. He spent a year, a prisoner in London, being a suspected Jacobite sympathiser.”

We had come a long, long way through history and even after the granting of Royal deeds to Chiefs and Lords for our land, a land we identified with intimately to this time of April in 1746, the Gaelic sense of community persisted. Colloden would see the forced annihilation of a way of thinking; a way that could not square with dominance and submissiveness.

Following that our culture was outlawed and we were cleared. It is striking the way the old descriptions of our people from Britain lowered us to the level of primitive and savage animal. Intellectual defenders of the underdog of that time, Marx and Engels, wrote of Highlanders as being too primitive to be of any historical significance or use and even a drag on progress. They later revised their evaluation.

Our history was tough but our expulsion would preserve in us some of the spirit of the ancient Gael for some time to come. Our culture on Cape Breton Island has been preserved in some ways better than in Scotland. The thread of lineage that took on the British Empire for hundreds of years had never made a pledge of allegiance to any King, including Charlie. While we were defeated at Colloden, we were not. In my own family, I see the spirit is still alive.

Cultural Genocide

Prior to the 45 our ancestors had suffered tremendous oppression and hostility from the governments of Britain and Scotland. Anti-Catholic Penal Laws were implemented in 1698 with the aim to force all residents of the United Kingdom to turn Protestant. In 1560 Catholicism was outlawed in Scotland. In 1680 there were 14,000 Catholics in Scotland of whom 12,000 were either in the Highlands or the Western Isles.

Intolerance toward Catholicism was magnified with brutal aggression toward Gaels following the 45 uprising. Oppression followed the uprising, some direct and violent and some of it pernicious and subtle. British victory does not end at the battlefield. They have ways of rubbing their victory in the faces of those defeated. For instance, when they outlawed the wearing of the kilt only British officers were permitted to do so. Today, when we see Prince Charles wearing the kilt, we may accept that for the insult it is. The implication is that they have owned us. The term "owned" isn't to be taken lightly. Military regiments such as the "Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders" was established in 1793 and has obvious implications. Colloden didn't simply mean we lost a battle or a war. It meant the end of an ancient way of life and the unfettered persecution of the Gaelic people. The culture was formally outlawed and rubbing our defeat into our faces is residual violence against the culture. Moreover, many Gaels and descendants learned to identify with the British following our defeat. That identification as well as continuing attempts to humiliate proud Gaels has its limits. A recent attempt to name the Colaisde na Gàidhlig in Cape Breton the “Royal” Gaelic College was dropped following local opposition from savvy Gaels.

Willful destruction of our culture goes back hundreds of years. Clan chiefs were compelled to cooperate with Anglicization in numerous ways and cooperate they did. Doing so would shape shift them. They could benefit through pragmatic benefits associated with acceptance of British ways. They could enhance their status and wealth by dropping allegiance to the clan and accepting allegiance to the Crown; instead of a Gaelic Chief, they could be a British Lord, or Earl, or Duke by following directives from Edinburgh or London. Religious affiliation was a key part of that shift and they were compelled to drop Catholicism and later the Presbyterian religion and become proper Protestants.

Another strategy to kill the Gael was to fracture the powerful heart of the Gaelic world in the north of Ireland. The plantation of lowland Scots in Ulster was a strategy to insert Protestant people, loyal to the King, in the heart of Gaeldom where they would receive privileged status over Catholics. British industrialists would hire Protestants and not Catholics. This, with the implementation of anti-Catholic laws, would weaken the Gaelic culture and hopefully end it. The resulting sectarianism has been extremely violent and although the Good Friday agreement has brought peace to a troubled land since the 1990s, residual tension remains.

Glorification of some of our most brutal enemies continues. Men that have committed unspeakable atrocities against our people are not only honoured by the British establishment, they are saluted by innocent Gaelic descendants that unwittingly continue the pernicious task of utterly wiping out Gaelic attitudes. Ongoing anti-Gaelic sentiments are now difficult to notice except by Gaels still aware of our brutal history. Fort William was named thus after William of Orange, a direct and intentional insult to the Gaelic clans they aimed to 'pacify'. Miffed by the MacDonald clan's refusal to sign allegiance to him, the murderous wretch ordered the infamous massacre at Glencoe. The town (Fort William) remains named so to this day. Fort Augustus was built after the 1715 Jacobite uprising and was named after one of King George II sons, William Augustus, better known as the Duke of Cumberland or 'the Butcher'. He earned the name through his brutal slaughter of Gaelic people. Again, the name remains. Fort George was built after the 45 and named after King George II, the German/English King responsible for crushing the Jacobites. He outlawed the Highland culture with laws and commenced clearances; detestable acts of cultural genocide against our Gaelic people. The name stands.

Another infamous British enemy of the Gaels was Edward Cornwallis whose name appeared and appears on roads, towns, and schools. He slaughtered Gaelic people as his forces ran them down after Colloden. “The professional British soldiers quickly routed the rebel Scots and killed 2,000 Highland warriors before pursuing them off the battlefield. The slaughter that followed was called the Pacification.”

It became illegal to wear a kilt or tartan and an offender could be summarily executed. The ancient clan system was to be dismantled by force.
Cornwallis was in the thick of it. Michael Hughes fought with him and wrote a tract called A Plain Narrative and Authentic Journal of the Late Rebellion. It tells how Cornwallis led 320 men to destroy the house and lands belonging to a rebel leader.

Hughes notes Cornwallis's "great humanity and honour" during the systematic hunting down of any man, woman or child displaying any Jacobite sympathies. Such "traitors" were shot dead or burned alive in their homes. Properties were looted and claimed for King George. Patrols were sent "rebel hunting."

Storytellers: The Oral Tradition

The Gaelic view is often mis-represented or not represented at all in historical accounts of Scotland. Many historians and commentaries on the Highlanders portray them as feudal in their own right where the comments focus on the historical edge of British dominance in this part of the world where, at some point, the inhabitants had to pay rent on their ancient land. Most historical accounts focus on the lives of kings, lords, and military conquest. Notwithstanding the latter, our ancestors had little to do with ruling classes. Many historians seem to be unable to see beyond the lives and concerns of kings, as if the people on the ground matter little. As a result, the details and lifestyles of our ancestors has been ignored, more or less.

Our own people were not literate and our stories had been locked within a system of storytelling, a system that is lost to us today. Our records were held within the minds of the people. We must rely to a lerge degree on anthropological and not historical research to understand what Gaelic life was like. This work is being carried out through examination of the recorded poems that still exist.

The people were part of what anthropologist Christopher Tilley described as "the skin of the land". The skin of the land is the life that covers the ground and the people saw themselves as part of that skin, they enveloped themselves within it.

"The ubiquity and, in a sense, the democracy of Gaelic oral culture and tradition mean that the views of a wide variety of people survive within it. The historical documents of the period are often written by and for the landowning classes and in English, a language that the majority population did not understand. The oral tradition allows access to the lives and concerns of ordinary people in their own words and hints at the surprising and unexpected ways in which Gaels actively engaged with turbulent social processes."

While the views of their way of life is seen as a people that could barely survive in primitive conditions, a more Gaelic informed view shows their methods were an intelligent response to survival in what has been described as a 'wet desert'. Although the environment in this part of the world was harsh and unforgiving, the people lived eco-friendly and communal lives. Their ways as well as the ways of all aboriginal peoples may inform us of the way ahead as our own modern world reaches the point it cannot sustain itself. As opposed to ignorant brutes, the people were savvy to the various political pressures around them but the most salient reality they lived in was direct and tangible. Story telling reflects both their awareness of the increasing hostility around them and their connection to the land itself. While their dwellings may be seen as evidence of their backward ignorance, a better focus opens a view to a sensitive and intelligent people.

"Recovering the legacy of the Scottish Highlanders requires listening to the voices of the people themselves, often lost and crowded out by their English-speaking neighbors. When we do, a very different picture emerges. Alasdair MacLean Sinclair, an outstanding Gaelic scholar born in Nova Scotia, argued in 1889 that only by recourse to Gaelic materials can we overcome the stereotypes and prejudices emanating from outside Highland culture:
Where are we to learn what the manners and customs of the old Highlanders were? We are a thousand times more dependent upon old Gaelic poems than the Irish. The true history of the Highlanders is to be found in their poems and nowhere else. The world at large may not care very much how our forefathers looked at things and how they lived; but surely men with Highland blood in their veins should take some interest in these things. The Scottish Highlanders were not savages but noble-hearted and intelligent men."

Our grandfather, Dan Alex Kennedy, was a story teller. He could recite our paternal lineage back many generations and with that, he held many stories of Scottish and Kennedy history. Interestingly, he believed that in the distant past the Gaels migrated from the Iberian peninsula. Modern investigations into DNA indicate the prevalence of the RB1 gene to be most prevalent in Western Ireland followed closely in Basque country in northern Spain. Those rates of that marker are highest in Ireland, Spain, Scotland and Wales and as we move eastward, it falls off rapidly. We had migrated from Spain thousands of years ago. Our own DNA carries a Basque marker and another separate Iberian marker. These markers indicate that the old Gaelic myth about our ancient history has merit.

He has told many other stories of Kennedys and through modern technology we can see that his were accurate. For example, he told of our paternal lineage back to Canna and that was verified through other sources. His reliability is credible and as a result, we should take his subjective views on our history at least as a guide. This practice of story telling, the oral tradition, was widespread among the Gaelic people but out own family seems to have been known for it.

When Highlanders migrated to Cape Breton they preserved many of the ancient traditions. For instance, the telling of Fenian tales was a tradition in both cultures. “The stories that took pride of place were the "long tales,"as the renowned Cape Breton storyteller, Joe Neil MacNeil refers to them, i.e., Fenian and hero tales.” 

The analysis in this work “Celts in the Americas” (The Ceudach Tale) by Natasha Sumner indicates very similar stories in both Gaelic Scotland and Gaelic Ireland. These were stories that were passed along using the oral storyteller tradition. While the author celebrates the variations of the Ceudach Tale in Cape Breton, similarities with ancient tales from the south of Ireland and oral tales told in Cape Breton in the 20th century by Scottish story tellers indicates the depth of Scottish and Irish Gaelic cultures. Dan Alex Kennedy, our grandfather, also told Gaelic stories, some of them ancient. Generally though, they were related to the trials and tribulations of our own Kennedy clan. 

This is to say our traditions are very old. They were set in a world where Gaelic people in Ireland and Scotland as well as England, Wales and Cornwall dominated the landscape. As much of the British Isles were absorbed into the Anglo culture and Norman laws, the people of Western Scotland were rather immune. That immunity was further preserved after the clearances and the Scottish people of Cape Breton were more isolated than whomever was left behind in Scotland. The migration helped preserve very old ways of fiddle playing, speaking Gaelic, and most interestingly, ancient attitudes. 

A well known Fenian story teller in Cape Breton named Archie Kennedy has some of his stories documented. He is likely of our people from Canna but these Kennedys settled in Middle Cape. “It is possible that this family may be related to the Kennedys of Inverness County, although to this date it is still uncertain.”

“Of all the Kennedys I was best acquainted with Archie and it was from him that I got the most tales. He was an outstanding reciter of Fenian tales and everything that had to do with them.” 

It isn't known why the Kennedys were great story tellers but it is speculated that the stories may have come from old stories that were transcribed to manuscripts and brought to them by eitheteenth century Jacobite poet, Alexander MacDonald. 

Archie Kennedy's as well as Joe MacNeil's and other Fenian Tales are contained in the book 'Tales Until Dawn'.

Gaelic Dalraidan Scots share much culture and heritage with the Irish. Both my father and grandfather identified in some ways with the Irish. For instance, my grandfather belonged to the Ancient Order of Hibernians and my father's knowledge of the Battle of the Boyne (from his father) suggests a very strong connection to that part of history. My father told me there will be no Kennedy child named William (he was wrong of course) due to the odious nature of that name (William of Orange) to our family. 

The Ancient Duthchas Sytem

“Dùthchas is the gaelic word for entitlement which reflects the view that “all the members of a tribe, a clan or a community were entitled, simply by virtue of their belonging to such entities, permanently to occupy the land on which they lived”.”

"The Gaels of the Highlands held a very ancient tradition and belief stretching back into pre-history, it is what lay behind the origins of the Highland Clan. This tradition is known in Gaelic as 'duthchas' and in Welsh as 'cynefin'. It is impossible to accurately translate the meaning of those words into English, but it expresses a sense of belonging to a certain area of land, of being rooted by ancient lineage to a particular place that was communally held by all the people of the clan. This idea of holding the land communally was never written down as was the custom of the time, it was simply an idea that was accepted by all as being the natural order of things.

Under the system of duthchas, a clan chief was there to ensure the general well-being of the clan. The chief had no legal right to evict, no legal right to appropriate rents, no legal right to do anything but govern in the best interests of the Clan. He was elected to his position by the whole clan via a system known as 'tanestry' and not by familial descent. Literally, the clan chose the best man for the job. 
A chief who proved to be inadequate once elected could also be removed. This system ensured that the clan was always strongly led and ensured that the chief acted in the best interests of those whose support he depended upon."

When we consider what the land they lived on meant to them, the idea of taking ownership must have resulted in tremendous opposition. History bears that out. In the face of brutality and atrocities, they knew submission meant slavery. 

The effect of this continued resistance was to halt the spread of feudalism beyond the 'Highland line' where knightly armies on horseback could hope for no success." 

"So harsh was the repression meted out by the feudal usurpers that we learn, "in Galloway the tongues of the children were torn out so that the accursed clan legends of freedom should not be told to afresh generation. 

Prior to the Normanization of the British Isles, traditional life in duthchas society was free and the people were far less inclined to the rigidity of feudal authoritarianism. Those of us that were Catholic, especially on the small Isles, were certainly the most independent from Anglo governance and as a result, we were intentionally disenfranchised. 

One important characteristic of old Highland attitudes was their sense of autonomy and resistance any to authority they could not legitimize within the framework of their own ideological traditions. They would be quick to counter something they would not agree with. As we read accounts from the uprising of 45, we can see that Gaelic cultural dissonance from British traditions disadvantaged the Jacobite forces militarily. While British armies moved as one, Gaelic armies moved as they pleased. The more archaic ways of thinking are necessarily disadvantaged in relation to the highly disciplined British armies. Those feudal societies were brutal and ambitious. For British soldiers disobedience could and often did mean death. Individuals learned to behave and follow orders and to march in step as state commanders issue them. It is no accident the empires of the world are also nations that demand strict obedience to directives from above. That structure makes for great armies and Highland culture could not possibly structure the kind of obedience British commanders enjoyed. There are many examples during the 45 and elsewhere of clans or individual clansmen refusing to abide by the wishes of commanders. For instance, as the clans marched toward London during the 45 uprising, clans and individuals dropped off with news of formidable English armies facing them and that France would not attack from the south. There was nothing Prince Charlie could do to make them push on. Undisciplined, they fell away as individuals or groups. They saw the writing on the wall and discipline was not their forte. 

Mi'Kmaq Saviours

My brother, Alex Kennedy, spoke to me about Dan Kennedy's gentle side. He told me of the old man's way in nature. He was known by many to be like 'an Indian' in the woods. He often took Alex with him. Alex said that Dan would make snares for rabbits from birchbark and rather than let old snares sit to kill rabbits for nothing, he would go back and undo snares he would not be using. My mother, Sadie Kennedy (MacNeil) also speaks of his kindness and gentle ways. Dan Kennedy's skill at hunting and trapping was well known to us through stories and direct experience, especially with Alex.

My father and his parents had a great affinity to Aboriginal people. As small children, my father would take myself and my brother Joe to a place in the forest to what he called 'the smoking rock'. There, he would teach us to make bows and arrows and we would smoke tobacco while he told us tales of two characters; one, a Gaelic hero named Chaulkin Gaun and a native hero called Chief Joseph. His admiration for Native ways was consistent. (Otherwise, my father would never encourage us to smoke tobacco – on the contrary.)

My father and grandparents spoke in positive terms regarding native people and related well with them. When Native people would be in the area to sell clothes props and baskets, they would visit at our grandparent's home to have tea and bonnach and they would use the home as a base to work from. 

My father spoke about the need for the Kennedys to leave Pictou County due to anti-Catholic sentiments in the area. They left for Antigonish and Cape Breton in 1808 and experienced life threatening hardships. According to the following, Native people didn't just feed them, they taught them how to survive in the Canadian wilderness. As this report indicates, we are indebted to the Mi Kmaq:

"In 1791 six Kennedy brothers came from Canna, Scotland, and landed at Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, with other Scottish immigrants. They remained at Parrsboro and vicinity about seventeen years. In 1808 two of these brothers, Donald and John, came to Broad Cove, Inverness County, the other four coming into the County of Antigonish.
“Most of them sat down in the forest and wept bitterly; hardly any provisions were possessed by the few who were before them, and what there was among them was soon devoured, making all — old and new comers — almost destitute. It was now too late to raise any crops that year. …
Many of them left. Others, fathers, mothers, and children, bound themselves away as virtual slaves in other settlements for a mere subsistence. Those who remained lived in small huts, covered only with the bark or branches of trees to shelter them from the bitter winter cold, the severity of which they had no previous conception. They had to walk some eighty miles, through a trackless forest in deep snow to Truro, to obtain a few bushels of potatoes, or a little flower in exchange for their labour, dragging them back all the way on their backs. …
In the following spring they set to work, and soon improved their position. They cleared some of the forest, and planted a crop. They learned to hunt the moose … They began to cut timber...
The Natives of Nova Scotia give the Kennedys some meat and fish for the winter and taught the Kennedys to hunt and cut down the huge trees, the Kennedys were crofters in Scotland and didn’t know how to be lumberjacks so without the help and the spirit of the Natives of Nova Scotia my ancestors would of died and I wouldn’t be here to bug ICBC." 

It may be here where our family gained their great respect for Aboriginal people and perhaps those skills in nature were passed along from father to son for generations. 


(1) This information pertains to the Kennedy line we are genetically connected to in Scotland. (From the Kennedy DNA Project)

“Kennedys continued to multiply in the area at both Brackletter and Inveroy, and many of them worshipped in what became the Catholic parish church of Roy Bridge.
Overall, the register is not that useful as it covers only a few decades and one of the three main churches. Effectively it starts later even than that of Fortingall in Perthshire next door where Kennedy baptisms in the 1750s abound. It is shown from other records that the Kennedys had been at Leanachan for a good two centuries before they first appear in the register; and they are known to have been respected in the community as they were appointed elders to the Kirk session around the time their records start up. There is still some way to go to show that this was their first home in the Highlands, never mind that they had time to spread out into Rannoch, StrathTay, Lewis, Skye, Coll and Tiree before they are first shown to be there (for example they were on Coll in 1710). A cluster of records at Leanachan spring up in the mid 1600s and the register for Inverness shows that they took until about 1700 to get that far north. But in 1650 they were already numerous in Logierait and Aberfeldy.

In the following table Lianachan and Inveroy would come joint top with 8 if the Beg and Mor farms are combined. Some entries just say Lianachan. As it is, Glengarry trumps Lochaber. Predictably the Laggan Glengarry Kennedies have their own origin story.”

Kennedy Baptism location rankings

Old Ground, Glengarry 7
Laggan, Glengarry 6
Unachan 6
Lianachan 5 (+3)
Inveroy 5 (+3)
Shentalich Fachim 5
Brackletter 4
Glenlee, Glengarry 4
Kilmanivaig (farm) 3
Mucomir 3

Overall surname rankings (baptisms)

Cameron (458)
MacDonald (316)
Kennedy (85)
Campbell (81)
MacKinnon (60)
MacPherson (54)
MacIntyre (47)
Stewart (44)
Grant (38)
MacMaster (37)

(2) Appendix XIX Neill MacNeill's Canna Census, 1764-65 (From J.L. Campbell's 'Canna: The Story of a Hebridean Island')

Excerpt 1: Hector MacNeill who came to Canna as MacDonald of Clanranald's tenant in 1761, came from Kintyre in Argyleshire. There is a possibility that Neill MacNiell, who was born in 1706, was connected in some way with Murdoch MacNeil whom Martin Martin described as the only Protestant living in Barra, and in disfavour with his Chief on account of his religion; this could account for Neill's anti Catholic zael. 

Excerpt 2: The Bounty was the sum of 1,000 (pounds) a year first paid by the Hanoverian King George I in 1725 at the earnest behest of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which, when applying for it, painted the Highlanders in the blackest colours as sunk in ignorance, superstition, immorality and popery – propaganda which coloured the attitude of lowland historians and writers fort generations and against which Alexander Carmichael, the renowned collector of Carmina Gadelica, protested. 

Neil McNeill's Canna Census, 1764-65 

Excerpt 3: Canna is an island inhabited by papists, the year 1758 there were no Protestants at Canna but the [SSPCK] scoolmaster and his famalie and three more, before that time the factor of the island was papist. 
Here folows the names of all those who have their and from Mr. McLeod in Canna. 

Only those with the surname Kenedy included for our purposes. It appears the list was compiled for the purpose of clearing the land of Catholics. - Archie Kennedy, 2015 

1. John Kenedy 37 (years)
Catherine McLean, his wife 32
Angus Kenedy, his son 7
Archibald Kenedy, his son 6
Murdow Kenedy, his son 4 

10. Duncan Kenedy 52
Mary Kenedy, his daughter 22
John McDugall, grand childe 7
Kett Ross, widow 60

11. Rorry Kenedy 40
Marion Gilles, his wife 37
Donald Kenedy, his son 11
Alexr Kenedy, his son 9
John Kenedy, his son 7
Marion Kenedy, his daughter 5

13. Laughlan McKinnon 47
Margaret Kenedy, his wife 32
Hector McKinnon, his son 12
Janet McKinnon, his daughter 10 
Neill McKInnon, his son 2

17. Donald Gilles 50
Kett McDonald, his wife 50
Anna McEdam, servant 12
Donald Kenedy, grand childe 13

At Canna 20 March 1765. This list this day is at an end. It's so carefully set down that I went throw every every house in the four Isles to understand their age properly, as to their Religion I had a tryall of that befor this time, there is not one Small or Great but is set down in this book by Naill McNeill Catechist. 


  1. Archie: I found your "The Kennedys of Canna" while researching the ancestry of John 'Red' Kennedy, Inverness co. My wife is related by John Kennedy=Elizabeth Fraser > Mary Kennedy=Ronald MacDonald > Elizabeth MacDonald=Joseph MacLellan > Florence MacLellan=Daniel MacPherson etc. Thank you for the article. I helps us understand this branch of her tree. She has had her DNA tested through Ancestry and now we are trying to figure out what it means!. Your article helps explain why it shows her with a high Irish linage.

    1. She must have another source of Irish because Ydna is male from the father to the father to the father etc. I believe her DNA would show her maternal side. Having said that, all those names, Fraser, MacDonald, MacLellan and so on are Dalraidan and would be rooted in Ireland from over 1500 years ago when tribes crossed into Argyll and the Hebrides. Dal gCais however is not Dalraidian. The marker comes from southern Ireland.

  2. Your blog recently came up in discussion at

    Actually, more specifically your S21184 snp, thought you would be interested.

  3. We are looking for Archibald Kennedy b.abt.1843 who lived in Cape Elizabeth ME in 1870 married to Eunice Ellen Pettengill, children were John Franklin, Lizzie J, Fred H, and William. We think we are related to these Kennedy's from Canna but need proof. We have found a downline of John Franklin Kennedy who could run his DNA but won't respond to my request. We think our Archibald's father was John (og)Kennedy who married Margaret McKinnon and we think his father was Archibald. Our Archibald came to the USA with a cousin John McVane (as per a written history by Phyllis Kennedy, deceased daughter of John Franklin Kennedy) who we think also married a McKinnon. Can you respond to I in the right Kennedy line?

  4. I can't answer the question. I'd suggest however that if they were Catholic you're probably onto something since many Gaelic Scot Kennedys are Presbyterian. This is not to suggest some of our folks didn't become protestant. They may have - so what I say is to be taken with a grain of salt.

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  6. The birthdates of these John Kennedy's just don't seem to match up with my Archie Kennedy. I think I am on to something and then I find that particular Archie died or lived somewhere else in 1870. It has been such a long frustrating search... If I could link the MacVane's with this family perhaps I have something. Supposedly John McVain/MacVane's parents were Charles McVean and Mary McKinnon, daughter of Malcolm McKinnon which makes my Archie his cousin since Mary and Margaret (wife of John Kennedy) were sisters?

  7. Have you considered my last question about the MacVane's? A granddaughter of Archie Kennedy wrote: "A certain Archibald Kennedy was among the first settlers of Cape Breton Nova Scotia. These settlers came from Scotland. Archibald Kennedy was a descendant of that first Archibald Kennedy." She goes on to say that when Archibald became a young man he came to USA with his cousin John MacVane settling on Long Island ME. There John MacVane married a Long Island girl and Archie married Eunice Ellen Pettengill.. thought this might ring a bell in your history....

  8. The granddaughter also said "they were of the Catholic faith"...

  9. A great article and a lot of work. Seems funny saying hello to Archie Kennedy. Here is some oral hx. My grandfather Archibald Kennedy and his wife Jessie Macfarlane came from Margaree, Cape Breton, to Boston then to New Bedford Mass. clearly Catholic. It appears that Archies father was Donald. My DNA (Ancestry) is 77% Irish with no indication of Scot. Maternal side is Flanagan from Enniskillen, Ireland. Is Canna the connection of Kennedy Irish gaels and are we related. By the way there are hundreds of us. Thank you. Joseph Kennedy

    1. It seems from your Irish dna that we must be related. What was Archie's father's name?
      The Kennedys on Canna were Irish so I suspect your people are Canna Kennedys. The original Kennedys on Cape Breton settled at Sight Point. It's likely your ancestors left Sight Point and went to Margaree. I'm confident we are of the same amazing people. Are you living in the States?

  10. Hi Archie ...Joe Kennedy here...Im interested in your family tree..have been in contact with the Kennedy onename study...He would be interested in this .through Dna research..i think i may have a connection ...would love to chat with you...Joe

  11. Archie, I'm the 5th great grandson of John Kennedy (born in 1728, Isle of Canna, Scotland).
    We branch at Angus Kennedy (1758). My lineage extends from Donald Kennedy (1796), the brother of Alexander Kennedy (1804).
    Would love to share my information!

  12. Hello Dan - I am enjoying your blog! I (and several other Kennedy cousins)show a DNA connection to the NS Canna Kennedy branch. My 2X great grandfather Daniel John Kennedy (1819-1887) from Portree and settled in the Kincardine, ON area. I do think he likely made his way to NS where he likely married Mary Gollan (1836-1917)from Middle River, NS. The whole lot of them left for Ontario around 1850. It is likely that my Kennedy ancestor went to PEI first to visit with his older brother (I show DNA connections to PEI Kennedys as well). I do not think Daniel John was Catholic, but I am not certain of that. I went to the Isle of Skye (stayed on Raasay), almost two years ago. Sorry that I did not know about the Canna connection, but maybe another time. In any event I am really keen to see if I can connect up our two branches. Alice Giddy

  13. I am not getting any Replies to my Archibald Kennedy requests.