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Shenac's Work at Home   By: (1821-1897)

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Shenac's Work at Home

By Margaret Murray Robertson




A long time ago, something very sad happened in one of the districts of Scotland. I cannot tell you how it all came about, but a great many people were obliged to leave their homes where they and their forefathers had lived for many generations. A few scattered themselves through other parts of the country; a few went to the great towns to seek for a livelihood; but by far the greater number made up their minds to leave for ever the land of their birth, and rose in the new, strange world beyond the sea a home for themselves and their children.

I could never make you understand what a sorrowful time that was to these poor people, or how much they suffered in going away. For some of the old left children behind them, and some of the young left their parents, or brothers, or sisters; and all left the homes where they had lived through happy years, the kirks where they had worshipped God together, and the kirkyards where lay the dust of the dear ones they had lost.

And, besides all this, they knew little of the land to which they were going, and between them and it lay the great ocean, with all its terrors. For then they did not count by days, as we do now, the time that it took to cross the sea, but by weeks, or even by months; and many a timid mother shrank from the thought of all her children might have to suffer ere the sea was passed. Even more than the knowledge of the many difficulties and discouragements which might await them beyond it, did the thought of the dangers of the sea appal them. And to all their other sorrows was added the bitter pain of saying farewell for ever and for ever to Scotland, their native land. It is true that not among all her hills or valleys, or in all her great and prosperous towns, could be found room for them and theirs; it is true that a home in the beloved land was denied them: but it was their native land all the same, and eyes that had refused to weep at the last look of dear faces left behind, grew dim with tears as the broken outline of Scotland's hills faded away in the darkness.

But out of very sorrowful events God oftentimes causes much happiness to spring; and it was so to these poor people in their banishment. Into the wide Canadian forests they came, and soon the wilderness and the solitary place were glad for them; soon the wild woods were made to rejoice with the sound of joyful voices ringing out from many a happy though humble home. And though there were those among the aged or the discontented who never ceased to pine for the heather hills of the old land, the young grew up strong and content, troubled by no fear that, for many and many a year to come, the place would become too strait for them or for their children.

They did not speak English these people, but a language called Gaelic, not at all agreeable to English ears, but very dear to the heart of the Scottish Highlander. It is passing somewhat out of use now; but even at this day I have heard of old people who will go many miles to hear a sermon preached in that language the precious gospel itself seeming clearer and richer and more full of comfort coming to them in the language which they learned at their mother's knee.

"It was surely the language first spoken on earth, before the beguiling serpent came to our mother," once said an old man to me; "and maybe afterwards too, till the foolish men on the plain of Shinar brought Babel on the earth. And indeed it may be the language spoken in heaven to day, so sweet and grand and fit for the expression of high and holy thoughts is it."

It is passing out of use now, however, even among the Highlanders themselves. Gaelic is the household language still, where the father and mother are old, or where the grand parents live with the rising generation; but English is the language of business, of the newspapers, and of all the new books that find their way among the people... Continue reading book >>

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