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"In the thistle's shadow, violets grow stronger."

NBSCA History

The New Brunswick Scottish Cultural Association (NBSCA), founded in 1980, proactively encourages public interest in the history, traditions, arts and crafts, and culture of Scotland and of those of Scottish descent and the languages of Scotland within the Province of New Brunswick. The NBSCA has acted as the advocate of New Brunswick's Scottish associations and communities. In fact, the NBSCA works on behalf of the 142,560 New Brunswickers of a total population of 729,997 - about one in six - who claim direct Scottish ancestry. (Government of Canada Census, 2006)


Twenty eight years ago a group of men and women came together with one goal in mind � the creation of a body that would encompass and represent the disparate Scottish cultural groups in the Province of New Brunswick. Twenty eight years ago, from very modest beginnings, was born the New Brunswick Scottish-Cultural Association. Since that time, the NBSCA has evolved into a proactive organization; a focal point for the Scotophiles of New Brunswick, and one that aggressively promotes and protects the interests of Scottish culture in the province.

The history of the NBSCA actually goes back to 1976. Just as the United States was celebrating the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, the province of New Brunswick was looking forward to 1984, the bicentennial of its own creation. In the wake of the Loyalist and armed forces exodus from New York City in 1783, the Colonial Office in London carved New Brunswick out of what was then northwestern Nova Scotia in 1784. Despite the popular misconception that the Loyalists were the upper echelons of colonial American society, the Loyalists were actually a cross-section of anglophone North American society, with many classes, occupations and cultural groups represented amongst them � English, Welsh, Irish, German, and of relevance to us, Scot. Scots were well represented in the rolls of refugees from the American Revolution, and indeed, the 42nd Black Watch Regiment was disbanded and settled at Nashwaak. Indeed, Scots played a crucial role in the founding of New Brunswick and have contributed to its development since the beginnings of the province.

In the late 1970's, however, the Scots of New Brunswick found themselves in a cultural vacuum. Although New Brunswick was home to many Scottish societies and associations (some quite venerable) and although the province could boast Highland dance troupes and Highland pipe bands, there was no venue in the province in which to showcase Scottish culture. In the words of Ellen MacGillivray, one founders of the NBSCA, "here we were in New Brunswick, a province with many Scots and descendants of Scots, sitting idly by � accepting or believing that Nova Scotia had a monopoly on all things Scottish in the Maritimes." Over the years there had been several valiant but unsustainable attempts at staging annual Highland Games in Rothesay, outside of Saint John. Public support and interest in this event was limited. The prime force behind the Rothesay Highland Games was Ellen's husband, Hugh George MacGillivray.

By 1979, Ellen was the President of the Fredericton Society of Saint Andrew, and she was fortunate to have as members of that Society vibrant personalities such as John Allan Duff, Dugald Richford, Herbert Sewell, and Ernest Grant. These enthusiastic individuals strongly felt the need for New Brunswick Scots to gather; to show pride in their heritage and culture. It was in 1980 that discussion and planning for a provincial association and provincial Highland games turned to actions.

In early April 1980, at John Allan Duff's behest, a weekend meeting took place between the Fredericton Society of Saint Andrew and the Caledonian Society of Restigouche. Encouraged by the success of these discussions with the purpose to create a provincial body, letters were sent to fifteen New Brunswick Scottish societies inviting them to an organization picnic, a tradition of the Fredericton Society. Among the charter associations were the Caledonian Society of Restigouche, the Highland Society of New Brunswick at Miramichi, the Saint Andrew's Society of Saint John, the Upper St. John Valley Society of Saint Andrew, the Black's Harbour Saint Andrew's Society, the Fredericton Scottish Country Dancers, the Moncton Scottish Association, the Moncton Albion Dancers, the Fredericton Society of Saint Andrew Pipe Band, the Black Watch Association (New Brunswick Chapter), the Moncton Bend Pipe Band and all from Saint John, the Kiwanis Junior Pipe Band, the Heather Legion Pipe Band, and the Caledonia Pipe Band. A special invitation was issued to Hon. Leland McGaw, former Minister of Tourism. Mr. Duff noted that "an endeavour is being made to unite all the various societies under a parental organization."

On April 26, a meeting was held at Perth-Andover for the purpose of forming a Provincial Society. In attendance were members of the Caledonia Society of Restigouche, The Fredericton Society of Saint Andrew and interested persons from the Perth -Andover area. Ellen MacGillivray was appointed Chairman of the meeting and John Allan Duff, Secretary. Discussions were held and it was determined that there was enough interest in the area to attempt to reactivate the Upper St. John River Valley Scottish Society and to proceed with the formation of a Provincial Scottish Society. Some of the members offered to contact former members of the Upper Valley Society to ascertain if a charter existed and the whereabouts of regalia, badges, ribbons, etc. Also seven persons were appointed from the Valley group to assemble as many persons as possible on May 3 for the consideration of the formation and election of officers to an Upper St. John Valley Association. It was resolved that a further meeting should take place between the members of the Caledonia Society of Restigouche, the Fredericton Society of Saint Andrew, the Highland Society of New Brunswick at Miramichi, the Upper St. John River Scottish Society and other interested Scottish organizations. During the meeting a temporary slate of officers would be elected and a temporary set of by-laws adopted to avoid any delay in the formation of the Society. This was to be subject to a full election at a later date. It was resolved that time be set aside at the picnic on June 21 for further discussion on the Provincial Scottish Society.

That same afternoon a meeting hosted by the Highland Society of New Brunswick was taking place at Miramichi, attended by like-minded individuals. The Scots of northern New Brunswick had also recognized the need for a provincial organization.

On May 3, a further planned meeting was held in the Elks Lodge at Perth-Andover. Represented were the Upper St. John Valley Society of Saint Andrew, the Caledonia Society of Restigouche, the Fredericton Society of Saint Andrew, the Highland Society of New Brunswick at Miramichi, the Fredericton Scottish Country Dancers, and the Caledonia Society of Restigouche Lassies. Ellen MacGillivray and John Allan Duff were appointed by acclamation to act as Chair and Secretary respectively. Mr. Cormier, Director of Cultural Resources and Recreation Branch of the provincial Department of Youth spoke to the group on the kinds of assistance available to volunteer groups and suggested that financial assistance might be available for the styled "1st Annual Picnic of a Provincial Scottish Society." (The new organization had not yet been named.) Delegates were advised to contact Mr. Rudy Chaisson of Fredericton and provide him with copies of minutes. During the meeting a recess was called so that the Perth-Andover Group could elect a slate of Officers for its Society. Furthermore, Lou Bursey of the Highland Society of New Brunswick gave a report on the April 26 meeting at Miramichi. His Society endorsed the plans, and they were pleased to dispatch a delegation from the Highland Society of New Brunswick at Miramichi.

A poll of the societies present indicated that all were in agreement that a Provincial Society should be formed. This was verified by motion. It also was moved that the Fredericton representatives be appointed to act as a temporary committee for the Provincial Society until a permanent slate of officers could be elected at a provincial gathering. Before disbanding, each society was presented a draft copy of by-laws for the proposed association. These were to be studied and desired changes were to be made at the next meeting � following the Fredericton picnic.

On June 21, the "picnic" was held at York Centennial Park, near Fredericton. It was a great success. Many representatives brought their travel trailers to provide shelter. In John Allan Duff's words, " the original concept was for a very informal picnic, but one which would include Scottish games and competitions for pipers, drummers and highland dancers." As the event grew in scale during the course of the day, it became evident that more financial assistance was required. The Organizing Committee was required to abide by competition rules, to have present qualified judges, and so on. This had not been the intent of the picnic and there were many minor problems and disputes. Regardless, the whole event came through with a deficit of only $315.00. Trophies had been provided, meals had been served, judges were paid. Much valuable experience was gained and most important, the Scots of New Brunswick became acquainted.

In summary, the Acting Chairman and Acting Secretary had met with Mr. Johnson, Provincial Co-ordinator from the Department of Youth, Recreation and Cultural Resources. He outlined to the part his branch could play in providing support in leadership development, financial and administrative assistance � upon reviewing the draft by-laws. Unfortunately he became ill soon after the meeting. On June 10, Mr. Johnson's office was contacted and the situation was discussed with a Mr. Wagstaff. At a meeting at his office on June 16, the tentative bylaws were approved and it was noted that they met the requirements of the Department for funding. Ellen MacGillivray contacted Clifford Kennedy of the Fredericton Regional Office on June 13 and requested financial assistance for the picnic.

On June 22nd, 1980, the delegates "got down to business." The organizational meeting of "a New Brunswick Society for the Promotion of Scottish Culture" was held in G-12 of the Centennial Building, Fredericton. At that meeting, Chair Ellen MacGillivray reported on the events that had occurred between May 3 and June 22. Following the picnic, the first provincial executive was elected. This was the first executive of the newly formed "New Brunswick Scottish-Cultural Association":

President John Allan Duff, Fredericton 1st Vice President Everett McKinnon, Atholville 2nd Vice President William Libby, Moncton Secretary-Treasurer Dugald Richford, Fredericton

The new executive met often during the summer months and on August 3, 1980 the New Brunswick Scottish Cultural Association was incorporated. A constitutional meeting was held on September 27, 1980 at Tide Head, New Brunswick, where a constitution was presented and ratified by delegates.

Until recently, the primary focus of the Association has been placed on the development and evolution of the Highland games. In 1981 the first New Brunswick Highland Games were held in Fredericton at the Exhibition Grounds. There was a grand parade of automobiles, bands, and representatives from over the province. In 1984 it was a great disappointment to John Allan when there was no provincial assistance for a traveling display for the Bicentennial Celebrations. However, the Games went forward and a great celebration took place on the Nashwaak by the newly formed 1784-1984 Nashwaak Bicentennial Association

The history of the New Brunswick Highland Games & Scottish Festival is a story unto itself. Here, as well, the persistence of John Allan Duff and others assured the evolution of a glorious event that is the pride of New Brunswick Scots. If you examine the original constitution you will realize that you are fulfilling the original concept for an Association. Today, there are 25 affiliate associations; membership has increased 60%, the New Brunswick Scottish Journal is distributed across the province; a scholarship has been established.

In the twenty eight years since John Allan Duff called the Scots of New Brunswick to gather, the New Brunswick Scottish Cultural Association has exceeded its founder's most lofty goals.

Finally, the Scots of New Brunswick proudly recognize themselves as a founding culture of this province.

(History of the founding of the NBSCA, based on primary documents provided by and the recollections of Dr. Ellen MacGillivray, issued by the NBSCA 20th Anniversary Committee)