G’day there!

Right, so I imagine you’ll be wanting an update (if not, you’re getting it anyway):

  • This past week has been a busy one. We’ve been putting in some long days trying to bring everything together at the deli, but progress is definitely being made. There seem to be about a million different things going on at any one time, but such is the nature of the beast. You just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.
  • You’ll be happy (?) to hear that Ricky is still with us (somewhere), although there was one night where not a peep was heard from him and we feared the worst; however, the next night our ceiling-dwelling, furry little freeloader was up to his typical antics, and, surprisingly, we both breathed a sigh of relief. It would seem he’s won us over.
  • The other evening, while out for  walk, we realized that we actually live a stone’s throw (pun intended) from the Liveras Cairn, an approximately 5500-year-old Neolithic burial site. To say that that was an unexpected discovery would be a bit of an understatement, and since then my brain has been all fired up over the very thought of it. Perhaps I should become the Isle of Skye History Guy…

Well, enough day dreaming. Let’s talk shop.

This past Saturday, I logged into the Twitterverse and was pleasantly surprised to see a post from a newly created account, @GlenaladalePEI:


While the tweet is recent, the shared article actually dates from November 2012, when the last of the Island’s grand estates, the 529-acre landholding in Tracadie Cross known as “Glenaladale”, was put up for sale. So what’s the deal with Glenaladale, and who is @GlenaladalePEI? And why are the two so important? Keep reading. Trust me.

“Glenaladale” takes its name from one Captain John MacDonald (1742-1810), the 8th Laird of Glenaladale (and 7th Laird of Glenfinnan) in Scotland. You can read much more about him by clicking on his name, but what you need to know is that he was an extremely influential figure in the latter half of 18th-century Prince Edward Island. The owner of Lot 36 (which he purchased from the original proprietor, James Montgomery, the lord advocate of Scotland), he was the impetus behind a major emigration movement, which saw him organize a party of about 210 Roman Catholic Scottish from South Uist and a few mainland locales and settle them on his 20,000-acre plot on the Island. It was in contravention to the terms and conditions of his proprietorship, which stipulated only Protestant settlers, but MacDonald went ahead and did it anyway. They arrived in 1772 and began to put down roots, and he followed shortly after, only to get caught up in the American Revolution as captain and company commander in the Royal Highland Emigrants (84th Foot).

After returning from the war, MacDonald found his way into Island politics, and passed away in 1810. His son, Donald, would inherit the family’s personal estate (529 acres), and his grandson, William Christopher Macdonald (1831-1917), wouldn’t do too shabby for himself either: a knighthood, and a fortune earned as a merchant and manufacturer of MacDonald Tobacco. And it’s Sir William that brings us to Glenaladale House.

Sir William was generous with his money, and gained a reputation as a noted philanthropist, donating large sums to a variety of organizations. He was so generous, in fact, that in 1883 he personally funded the construction of an enormous Georgian-style, three storey sprawling brick dwelling for his elder brother, John Archibald, who had taken over the estate from their father, Donald. Talk about a nice guy!

After three generations, the estate passed out of MacDonald hands upon John Archibald’s death, and was purchased by the MacKinnon family around 1905, who eventually ran a large-scale fox farming operation on the site (the Glenaladale Silver Black Fox Ranch) and owned the property until putting it up for sale in 2012. Here’s the estate as depicted in Meacham’s 1880 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Prince Edward Island, minus the brick mansion that is there today:


When the property (529 acres plus large house) was put up for sale, the original asking price was a hefty $2.6 million. It was big news in the heritage community, and I well remember wishing I had the means to buy it myself in order to prevent it from becoming a two-month summer home; as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one. Almost immediately, the PEI Scottish Settlers Historical Society Inc. formed the Glenaladale Heritage Trust (@GlenaladalePEI on Twitter) with an eye to drumming up enough support to take ownership of the property. The dedicated people within the trust have been hard at it, working tirelessly for the past three years to realize their goal, and have come up with a slew of great ideas for its future use, which you can read about over on their site, glenaladalepei.com. I encourage you to check it out, and if you feel so inclined, to make a contribution to a very worthy cause.

As of this post the property, though it has come down in price since it was first listed, has miraculously remained unsold. I like to think that’s the work of Captain John and Sir William, somewhere up there pulling strings and buying the Glenaladale Heritage Trust the time it needs to pull together the resources necessary to purchase the estate in its entirety and thus preserve it for future generations.

Here’s hoping that comes to pass!


PEI History Guy