Norman McLeod of Assynt, St. Ann’s, and Waipu

Norman McLeod Picture
Picture from Clan MacLeod Magazine, number 22, 1957, p. 90.
Norman McLeod History Bibliography, Transcriptions, and Links

Norman McLeod History
Norman McLeod History Bibliography, Transcriptions, and Links

Norman McLeod Monument, St. Ann’s
Norman McLeod Monument, St. Ann’s, Cape Breton Island

The following is a list of books containing descriptions of the Rev. Norman McLeod and his people. I have exerpted the relevant content from the last three books in this list.


MacDonald, Robert Gordon, The Highlanders of Waipu or Echoes of 1745: a Scottish Odyssey; [Dunedin: Privately Published, 1928 First Edition.]; 192pp. Illustrated. This is the story of the people of Waipu, New Zealand, who were Gaelic speaking Scots who had originally emigrated during the time of the Highland Clearances from Scotland to Nova Scotia and after some years there to New Zealand with their leader Norman MacLeod. Limited to 500 copies.

McKenzie, Norman Roderick, 1867-, The Gael fares forth; the romantic story of Waipu and sister settlements; [Auckland, London [etc.] Whitcombe & Tombs, limited, 1935.], 268, [1] p. front., plates, ports., maps. 22 cm.; LC – DU420 .M18

McKenzie, Norman Roderick, 1867-, The Gael fares forth; the romantic story of Waipu and sister settlements; [Wellington, N.Z., Whitcombe & Tombs ltd, 1942.], xi p., 2 l., 320 p. plates, ports., maps. 23 cm.; LC – DU420 .M18 1942

Molloy, Maureen P., 1854-1931, Those who speak to the heart : the Nova Scotian Scots at Waipu, 1854-1920; [Palmerston North, N.Z. : Dunmore Press, 1991.] 171 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.; LC – DU424.5.S3 M65 1991

McPherson, Flora, Watchman Against the World : The Remarkable Journey of Norman McLeod and his People; [London : R. Hale, 1962.], 189 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 23 cm.; LC – BX9225.M258 M32

McPherson, Flora, Watchman Against the World : The Remarkable Journey of Norman McLeod and his People; [Breton Books , Wreck Cove, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, B0C 1H0.];

Robinson, Neil, To the Ends of the Earth : Norman McLeod and the Highlanders' Migration to Nova Scotia and New Zealand, [Auckland: HarperCollins Publishers (New Zealand) Limited, 1997.], ISBN: 1-86950-265-5;

I own this Robinson, Neil, Lion of Scotland, [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1952.], ;
Norman McLeod and the Highlanders' Migration to Nova Scotia and New Zealand. This book consists mostly of interviews and reminisces of those who participated in the epic journey and settlement of Waipu, New Zealand.

I own this Stanley, Laurie, The Well-Watered Garden: The Presbyterian Church in Cape Breton, 1798-1860, [Sydney, Nova Scotia: University College of Cape Breton Press, 1983.], 239 p; [Available from Breton Books , Wreck Cove, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, B0C 1H0, 1992, ISBN: 0-920336-16-7.];
There is a whole chapter devoted to Rev. Norman McLeod. Good background on the social and economic conditions in the Scottish Highlands and Nova Scotia as well as the religous history of Cape Breton.


A Tint of Normanism in Scotland an article appearing in the Clan MacLeod Magazine Vol. 8, No. 51, Autumn 1980 on pages 219-222.
A Tint of Normanism in Nova Scotia an article appearing in the Clan MacLeod Magazine Vol. 8, No. 52, Spring 1981 on pages 249-252.
A Tint of Normanism in New Zealand an article appearing in the Clan MacLeod Magazine Vol. 8, No. 53, Autumn 1981 on pages 299-302.

I own this From A History of the County of Pictou, Nova Scotia by Rev. George Patterson, D.D. [Mika Studio Belleville, Ontario, 1972] reprinted from edition published in 1877 by Dawson Brothers, Montreal.

Page 318-319:

But a person who at this time made more disturbance and excitement was Norman McLeod, who arrived in Pictou about the year 1818. He was not only not connected with any religious body, but denounced them all, even going so far as to say there was not a minister of Christ in the whole establishment. Those who have heard him at this time, describe his preaching as consisting of torrents of abuse against all religious bodies, and even against individuals, the like of which they had never heard, and which were perfectly indescribable. He had never been licensed or ordained, but regarded himself as under higher influences than the ministers of any church. “I am so full of the Holy Ghost, that my coat will not button on me,” he said once in a sermon, as he made the attempt to bring the two sides together in front.*

*He did not seem to be always so favored. A gentleman told me that on one occasion he went to where he was preaching in a barn. As he passed the open barn door, McLeod stopped and said, “as soon as I saw that man, the Spirit refused me utterance.”

But though so wildly fanatical, he was a man of great power, and gained an influence over a large portion of the Highlanders, such as no man in the county possessed. As Dr. McGregor said, “he will get three hearers to Mr. Fraser’s one, and the people will go much further to hear him, than any minister in Pictou.” He took up his residence at Middle River, and the people of the upper part of the river, Lairg and neighborhood, who had hitherto been under the ministry of Mr. Ross, generally followed him, so that the latter relinquished to him his church at Middle River, which we may remark stood at McKerr’s intervale. But his influence extended to many in almost every part of the county, and by his followers he was regarded with unbounded devotion.

After a time, however, a number became dissatisfied, when they found that he would not give them baptism for their children. Indeed during his lifetime, he found very few whom he considered qualified to receive the ordinance, and we are not certain if he found any to whom he would administer the Lord’s Supper. He then induced a number of those over whom he retained his influence, to emigrate, and for this purpose to build a vessel at Middle River Point, which he called the Ark. In this they left, and afterwards formed the settlement of St. Anns, in Cape Breton.** Many in the county still remained his attached adherents, and were usually known as Normanites, and almost as long as he remained in the Province, when he visited Pictou they attended him wherever he went. It is but just to say, that these were regarded as among the most moral and religious of our Highland population.

**At St. Anns he labored for many years, maintaining an unbounded sway over his adherents, which was used in favor of temperance and sound morality, but also we must say in nurturing a fanatical Pharisaism. He published a volume of some size, styled Normanism, besides minor publications. When an old man, he induced a number of his people again to emigrate, and for this purpose to build a vessel. In this they proceeded to Australia, and thence to New Zealand, where he died.


I own this From Cape Breton Ships and Men by John P. Parker, M.B.E. Master Mariner [Hazell Watson & Viney, Ltd. Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, 1967]

page 55:

The [Barque] Ellen Lewis of 336 tones was launched in 1855 [in North Sydney] and had involved transactions owing to the death of the owner, George Lewis of North Sydney. The barque was in the usual trades and Mr. Lewis was authorized by his creditors and co-owners to sell the vessel abroad in 1857 for not less than 3,000. He died in 1858 and English agents were given authority to sell. This was not done and the barque was brought back. The administrators of the estate were Robert Boak and Bernard O'Neill and they sold the barque to William Ross, John Munro and Donald McKenzie, all Cape Bretoners, who sold space to the remaining followers of the Rev. Norman McLeod. The vessel sailed from St. Ann’s on the 17th of December, 1859, and arrived at Auckland on May 14th, 1860, with 188 passengers. The master on this voyage appears to have been Donald McKenzie and he was given authority to sell the vessel in New Zealand. This was not done at this time and other people became involved until August, 1861, when the barque was sold and registered at Sydney, Australia.

page 61:

In 1829 John Munro of St. Ann’s, where the followers of the Rev. Norman McLeod were now well established, had the small schooner Isabella of 43 tons built at Baddeck.

page 66:

The Bradelbane of 224 tons was the largest and best vessel ever built at Baddeck. In 1854 this barque was launched by John Moffatt for C. J. Campbell. She was so-called because the owner was descended from the clan Campbell of Bradelbane, Scotland. The barque was much more elaborate than others of her period. She was launched with considerable ceremony with Mrs. Campbell breaking a bottle of wine on her bow and in the evening a reception was held to celebrate the event. The vessel had a long poop deck, quarter galleries and is said to have been constructed off a block model obtained from the celebrated Napier who was a leading marine architect in the United Kingdom. She was a very superior little barque with many of her fittings imported from Glasgow. The first three years of her life, under Captain Charles Florian, are not clear but it is reported that Mr. Campbell went on the maiden voyage to Scotland where it is quite possible that many of the refinements were carried out. She probably carried a timber cargo from Baddeck. The painting of this vessel shown here was kindly provided by the Alexander Turnbull Library of Wellington, N.Z., and shows she was complete with top-gallants and royals. The decoration at the bow is not clear but she probably had a scroll and not any figurehead. In the Cape Breton News of March 4th, 1854, an advertisement appeared offering passage from Scotland to Canada but the cost of the fare is not included. This undoubtedly was for the benefit of well-to-do Cape Bretoners who could bring out less fortunate relatives or friends who still lived in Scotland.

The details of this barque are not clear. In 1857 she was purchased by parties who sold space to those people who wished to follow the Rev. Norman McLeod to New Zealand. In any case the Bredalbane sailed from Big Bras d'Or on December 26th, 1857, with 129 passengers for Auckland, N.Z., and arrived there on May 23rd, 1858. I assume that the barque was sold there but no further transactions are carried on her register.

Note: there is a picture of this vessel in Neil Robinson’s book, Lion of Scotland page 65. Also this from the same book on page 80:

The Bredalbane was a cheerful ship. Archie Bishop remembers his mother telling him about the sea shanty that the sailors sang as the ship started on the long voyage on December 24, 1857:

“Our ship’s a blue-nose clipper; our skipper’s a blue-nose too.
Our cook’s a blue-nose nigger, and we're a blue-nose crew!
Heave hearty to the chorus, heave hearty as you can!
For we are outward bound, with Nova Scotia men!”

page 69:

The brigantine Spray of 107 tons was the smallest of the vessels and fourth to sail with the followers of the Rev. Norman McLeod on their voyage to New Zealand. She had been built at Guysborough in 1851 and following some misadventure was purchased by John Ormiston of Gabarous in 1853. On March 7th, 1856, he sold the brigantine to Angus Matheson of Baddeck who held half the shares, the remainder being owned by C. Stewart, Alex Stewart and Archibald Stewart, all of Big Harbour. Captain John Duncan was master and he had 66 passengers, but one, a child, died en route and four were born. A list of the people who made the passage in these vessels is contained in a small book named Idyall of the Shipbuilders by G. McLeod. The Spray sailed from Big Bras d'Or on January 13th, 1857, and arrived at Adelaide on Jun 25th. Again it is remarkable about the consistency of the voyages made by the six vessels from Cape Breton. All took about five or six months and all were quite different in size and rig. Only very few people died on the voyages, not more than would have died among a group of people of the same size had they remained at home. This indicates they were well provisioned, well organized and the ships well handled.

Of the six vessels used by these people in their great adventure, four were built in Cape Breton and one, the Gertrude, was a new Prince Edward Island brig that had been stranded at St. Ann’s and bought by local people. The sketch shown here of the sixth, the Spray, was done by John Alexander Munro. As he was not born until 1872 and died in 1947 the sketches were done from descriptions given by the older people. The Bradelbane photograph is from a painting.

[Note: I can not find the pictures referred to in the text. They do not appear to be in this edition of Parker’s book.]

page 120

In 1820 a party arrived [at St. Ann’s] in the small vessel Ark. They were led by the Rev. Norman McLeod and at the time were attempting to sail from Pictou, N.S., to Ohio via the New England coast. This may sound roundabout to our ears but it was quite feasible and included a journey from the Atlantic coast across the mountains to the recently opened central parts of the United States.

The Ark had sailed from Pictou but had encountered a storm and blown far off course. when the weather moderated they found that they could make into St. Ann’s, so they came past the bar and anchored. It was a beautiful clear day after the storm and the rugged scenery was somewhat reminiscent of their old home in Scotland. The dense forest came down to the water’s edge and there was every indication that fishing prospects were very good. Land grants were obtained and the new settler s took possession of their land and went to work.

The story of these people does not concern us here except in the ships they built and the use they made of them. Soon after their arrival when the houses had been built, some land cleared and the crops sown, they began to construct small boats and vessels for fishing and trading.

The Rev. Norman McLeod was the leader of most but not all of the people at St. Ann’s and the neighbouring communities. He had tremendous influence over many of them and they looked upon him as their spiritual adviser and also as an instructor in their daily life and problems.

page 122:

As many of the sons of the settlers became seamen it was their custom to sail in the ships on foreign voyages. In this case Donald McLeod sailed in the small schooner Maria which had been completed at Big Bras d'Or in 1840. This schooner was delivered in the United Kingdom and Donald then shipped out on another ship and eventually arrived in Australia. From there he wrote a glowing account of the country to his father, Rev. Norman McLeod, and suggested that a better life might be had by the people of St. Ann’s and

Although Norman McLeod was at this time approaching seventy years of age and his wife was not well, great thought and prayers were given to the idea of building a vessel and sailing around to the other side of the world. The thought of another potato blight and the hard winters of Cape Breton swayed the settlers and it was decided to emigrate.

For this purpose the small barque Margaret of 236 tons was constructed under the direction of Neil McGregor. She was fitted with a female figurehead resembling the daughter of the Rev. Norman McLeod and the barque was named a fter her. It would appear that the timber for this barque was cut of the McLeod property, a great deal of the labour was supplied free by the men of the community so until the time came to buy sails, cordage and fittings the cash outlay was not great. At about this time a buyer was found for the McLeod property and the necessary cash was forthcoming. On October 14th, 1851, all shares in the barque were registered in the name of Norman McLeod. On the same day he transferred all 64 shares to Mr. T. D. Archibald for a loan of 200 sterling. To finish up the business details the vessel was sold in Australia and the sale was handled by a representative of Mr. Archibald who thus regained his loan. Mr. George Elder of Adelaide, Australia, then advanced the sum of 1,250 19s. 3d. with interest at the rate of 10 percent per annum with the vessel as security for this and also for any further sums that Mr. Elder might advance. As vessels like the Margaret regularly cost about 12 per ton it seen [sic] that her value was about 3,000 less depreciation for one year. Norman McLeod was thus assured of a large sum of money to pay the expenses of his people for a considerable period.

To go back, the Margaret sailed from St. Ann’s on October 28th, 1851, with 130 passengers and arrived at Auckland on April 10th, 1852, having called at Cape Verde and Cape Town. It is understood that Norman McLeod and his band, together with the additions brought out by the Highland Lassie later that year, remained in Australia for about two years before going on to New Zealand. But that is another story. The Margaret was sold to Australian owners and disappeared from our knowledge. In all six vessels took the Canadian contingent away and we will deal with them as they occur in the records.


I own this From Wooden Ships and Iron Men by Frederick William Wallace [Mika Publishing Company, Belleville, Ontario, 1976] reprint of edition published by Charles E. Lauriat Co. Boston, 1937.

pages 80-81:

During the ’fifties a number of Nova Scotians of Scottish birth or ancestry emigrated to New Zealand in vessels which they built themselves. The district of Waipu on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, and about 75 miles north of Auckland, was settled by emigrants from Nova Scotia. The vessels which brought the settlers from Canada to the South Pacific colony were as follows: barque Margaret, 236 tons, sailed in 1851 via Adelaide and arrived New Zealand in 1852; brig Highland Lassie, 179 tons, arrived New Zealand in 1852; brig Gertrude, 217 tons, arrived 1856; brigantine Spray, 99 tons, arrived 1857; barque Breadlbane, 250 tons, arrived 1858; barque Ellen Lewis, 336 tons, arrived in 1860.

The Rev. Norman McLeod, formerly of Pictou, N.S., built the Margaret at St. Ann’s, Victoria County, Cape Breton, and sail in her for Australia and New Zealand back in the 'fifties.

The Carleton (St. John, N.B.) Sentinel, of Jun, 1856, ran the following advertisement regarding sailings for New Zealand: “For New Zealand, should sufficient inducement offer, a vessel will be laid on berth for the above islands to sail in August next. For terms of freight and passage apply to Stewart and McLean, Ship-brokers, St. John.”

The brig Gertrude, mentioned above, sailed from Cape Breton on June 25th, 1856, via the Cape of Good Hope and Sydney, and arrived at Auckland on December 17th. She had 190 passengers, a woman and child dying on the voyage. There was some scurvy among the emigrants, who were met by relatives who had arrived in New Zealand previously. The Gertrude’s owner and family were on board.

The Wellington Independent of December 10th, 1868, published the following item:

“We are informed by Capt. Scott, the inward pilot, that the brigantine which has been for the last three or four days anchored off the Heads has proceeded to Otago. Her name is the Emulous, Capt. Cumminger, from Halifax, N.S. There are 53 passengers on board, and the vessel is owned by the captain and 11 others. All on board, with their wives and families, came out to settle in New Zealand. They had very fair passage of 103 days to Auckland Heads.”

It appears that when the emigrants sailed from Nova Scotia they had no definite idea as to what part of New Zealand they would settle in, and only decided on Otago when laying wind-bound off the Heads.

pages 334-336:

In 1817 there came to Pictou, N.S., the Rev. Norman McLeod with a following of coreligionists from Assynt, Scotland. McLeod was a man of pronounced views regarding religion, an exacting Presbyterian, and to his followers he was preacher, teacher, leader and patriarch. In 1819, he received a call from a settlement of Highlanders in Ohio to come and be their minister. He accepted the invitation, but being loath to abandon his attached followers in Pictou, he decided to take them with him. The problem of making the journey to Ohio was debated, and it was finally decided to there by water via the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. Accordingly, and with characteristic energy, McLeod began the construction of a vessel large enough to carry the emigrants and their effects, and the keel of this craft was laid at Middle River Point, Pictou, in the summer of 1819. The people of Pictou regarded the project with derision, and nick-named the vessel the “Ark.” The Ark was launched in the spring of 1820, and in May she took her passenger s aboard and set sail for the Gulf of Mexico. After passing through the Straits of Canso, the Ark met a heavy S.W. gale, which drove her up the Cape Breton coast. A shift of wind sent the vessel into St. Ann’s harbour, Cape Breton, and they dropped anchor there. Their experiences during the gale sickened the emigrants of the Ohio idea, and they decided to settle in St. Ann’s. Land was granted to Mr. McLeod, and a community sprang up around the minister’s residence at Black Cove.

McLeod remained ministering to his flock amidst the Cape Breton hills, working with them in their daily labours and ruling them with a rod of iron. In 1847, the minister received a letter from his son Donald, who had settled in Adelaide, Australia. Donald McLeod was a ship-master who had left St. Ann’s eight years before in charge of a vessel built there. He took the craft to Glasgow, sold her there, and after remitting the proceeds, dropped out of sight until news of him came in his letter. In this epistle, Donald told of the mild climate of Australia, the natural resources and wonderful opportunities awaiting settlers.

A failure of the potato crop inspired McLeod and his flock with the idea of making a shift to Australia. Though 70 years of age at the time, the minister caused the keel of a barque to be laid, and the work of building her was undertaken by the congregation. In 1851, the barque Margaret, 236 tons, was launched and rigged, and on October 28th, 1851, she sailed out of St. Ann’s Harbour bound for Adelaide, with the Rev. Mr. McLeod and 135 emigrants on board. A call was made at St. Jajo, Cape Verde Islands, and also at Cape Town, for the replenishing of supplies. On April 10th, 1852, the Margaret arrived at Adelaide, after a voyage of 164 days.

South Australia proved a disappointment to the emigrants. It was not suitable for farming owing to the severe droughts, so in 1854, McLeod and his people migrated to New Zealand, and finally settled in the district of Waipu, where they found all that their hearts desired. Urgent calls to come out to New Zealand were sent to those who had remained in St. Ann’s, and in response to these invitations some 750 persons left Cape Breton and joined the Waipu colony, making the voyage to New Zealand in vessels built by themselves.

Norman McLeod passed away in the midst of his followers in March, 1866, aged 86 years. He was a man of great physical strength, strong mentally and spriritually, and he wielded a tremendous influence over his people. His name is greatly honoured in the Waipu settlement, and a splendid monument was erected in 1914 at Waipu to the memory of McLeod and those who followed him.

Many in New Zealand the seafaring instinct that entered their blood through their sojourn in Nova Scotia inspired them to build sailing ships and boats and to engage in fishing and ocean trading, causing it to be said in after years “that Waipu sent out, for its size, more sea-captains than any other community in New Zealand.”

The other vessels which participated in the migration were the Highland Lassie, Gertrude, Spray, Breadalbane and Ellen Lewis.


Waipu Pioneer Memorial Settler’s Museum: History
The St. Ann’s-Baddeck/Waipu Twinning Society
Rev.Mac Leod’s Starting Point in Stoer, Assynt Parish
Waipu150 – FAQ
Waipu150 – History
Nova Scotian Settlers in N.Z
Maritime Provinces to New Zealand
The History of the Presbyterian Church in St Ann’s
WAIPU Pioneer Collection (A484)
Immigrant Ships to New Zealand 1835-1910
The Story of the Waipu Settlement, North Auckland
The Gaelic College of Cape Breton
Stories of Waipu Pioneers
The Outlook September 23, 1929
Asainteach bound for Waipu anniversary games
The History of the Presbyterian Church in St. Ann’s
Photos of The Archaeological Dig at St. Ann’s Gaelic College – June 2002
The History of the Presbyterian Church in St Ann’s
McLeod to McWilliam
Presbytery of Cape Breton, Baddeck
Margaret 1851-52, Highland Lass 1852, Gertrude 1856, Spray 1857, Breadalbane 1857-58, Ellen Lewis 1859-60
Buried Romance at St. Ann’s- Cape Breton Island
Waipu House of Memories
The story of Mary McLeod
The Foundation of Waipu, New Zealand
Waipu Heritage Centre -- Genealogy interest here
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