Pioneer returns to tell history of East Lake Ainslie
At the old Glenmore School at the MacDonald House Museum property, Barrie Fraser was scheduled to give a talk on the history of East Lake Ainslie.
The school was full and all were excited and waited for the great speaker to arrive when they were informed that Fraser could not be located.
But there was someone willing to step in, and that person was Fraserís great-grandfather, Red Lauchie MacKinnon.
MacKinnon greeted everyone in Gaelic, telling them that he was born and raised in East Lake Ainslie. His father, Archie, came to the New World from the Isle of Muck in Scotland, where most of the East Lakers came from.
MacKinnon was a Catholic, but married a protestant girl, Catherine MacQuarrie, and they took turns attending each otherís churches on Sunday.
One Sunday one of the priests chastised MacKinnon for going to the other church, and as penance he told him to crawl around the church seven times. On his third turn around the church, he had enough and took his wife and children out of the church, and he never returned again.
MacKinnon told the audience, some of whom are his ancestors, that times were tough on the Isle of Muck in the late 1700s because the peat they collected, sold and burned was not as plentiful. The times got better when they discovered there was a need for kelp to make potash for gunpowder, and the English were battling Napoleon and needed as much gunpowder as they could produce.
The Campbells came to Muck around that time.
But then came Waterloo, the defeat of Napoleon and peace.
The landlord realized he would make more money raising sheep on the island, so the sheep trumped the people, and they set sail for Ė Lake Ainslie. There were MacKays, Campbells, MacKinnons and MacMillans.
Archie MacKinnon and his wife came over in 1828 and arrived after surviving a storm at sea and settled in a log cabin next to the lake.
Their next-door neighbours, the MacMillans, didnít like them and often tried to drive them away.
Once the MacMillans butchered a cow, and one of the men put the head and hide on and headed for the MacKinnons, pretending he was the devil.
Archie MacKinnon almost killed him, only halting when the devil yelled, ďLet me go.Ē
MacKinnon told stories about his relatives, most of them humourous, which brought these people, long dead, to life by humanizing them. Most of the time we hear of our ancestors only in terms of when they were born and died, but MacKinnon brought them to life so we could appreciate them as real people who lived at the lake once upon a time.
Lauchie MacKinnonís son, Alexander, went to Boston to work and witnessed the assassination of President McKinley.
The stories passed down the generations and we all realized what a wonderful way it is to learn the history of an area through storytelling.
Red Lauchie MacKinnon should keep those stories close to his memory, expand them and bring them to new generations each summer.
As I left the old school, those left inside sang a Gaelic song that echoed through the East Lake Ainslie hills.
I started to drive down the lane, and who drove up in a hurry, but Barrie Fraser.
What had I witnessed at the Glenmore School?
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