Reflections on September 2000
Boylston Guysborough Celebrations

From Roslin o Roslin Spring 2001 (Vol 3 No 23), Rory Sinclair, Editor

by Jack Sinclair

Three organizations combined their efforts on September 8th and 9th, 2000, to recognize and salute two intrepid mariners and the Mi'kmaq nations of Atlantic Canada at Boylston/Guysborough, Nova Scotia. The hosting trio was the Warden and Council of the Municipal District of Guysborough, The Prince Henry Sinclair Society of North America, and the Clan Sinclair of Nova Scotia and Canada.

The timing of these celebrations was sparked by the September arrival in Guysborough Harbour of Laura Zolo and her mariner colleague Captain Jack Lammiman, who, accompanied only by their two faithful dogs, accomplished a trans-Atlantic heroic feat in their self-constructed vessel entitled Seven Roses. Their objective - to retrace the historic voyage to the New World in 1398 by Prince Henry Sinclair of Orkney to Guysborough Harbour, N.S.

As most Clan Sinclair members are well aware, the Venetian "connection" derives from the fact that Antonio Zeno, of the famous twelfth century Zeno family of sea-farers, was Prince Henry Sinclair's navigator and colleague on his 1398 voyage. His ship's log, discovered in a Venetian attic in the mid-fifteen hundreds, details not only the route of the voyage, the geographic features of Guysborough Harbour, but also, and most importantly, the friendly welcome and positive reception they received from the members of the Mi'kmaq Nations of Atlantic Canada.

Departing from their native Venice in February, 2000, Laura Zola and Captain Jack visited various Mediterranean ports as well as Orkney, Shetland, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland en route to Nova Scotia. They were cheered and feted at each port of call and, interestingly, the spokesperson and chief host of the Welcoming Committee at Orkney was none other than one Mr. Jim Sinclair - Provost of Kirkwall! (The woods are full of us Sinclairs!)

The mariners arrived exactly on schedule at 2:30 p.m. on September 8, 2000, to be met at the mouth of Guysborough Harbour by a small flotilla of local vessels who escorted the Seven Roses to dockside at Guysborough Village. Dockside welcoming festivities were organized by the Prince Henry Sinclair Society of North America. President D'Layne Coleman was ably assisted by a local committee. Fanfare, balloons, musical groups, official government welcomes, and food and beverages were all part of the Welcome at the dockside. Again, under the aegis of the P.H.S.S.

A supplementary welcoming event took place on Friday evening at the local Masonic Lodge, comprising a cocktail party, refreshments, welcoming speeches and additional fanfare. On hand for these proceedings were: County Warden Lloyd Hines; local MLA Ron Chisholm; Hereditary Clan Sinclair Chief The Right Honourable Malcolm Sinclair; Mr. Niven Sinclair; U.K. historical researchers Dr. Tim Wallace Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins; Honorary Canadian Clan Sinclair President Mac Sinclair and his wife, Eileen; current Canadian Clan Sinclair President Bill Sinclair; Secretary-Treasurer and Newsletter Editor Rory Sinclair; as well as Gunn Clan Past President Dr. Redge Gunn and Mrs. Gunn, and many others.

The Municipal District of Guysborough official welcome comprised a noon hour civic luncheon on Saturday, hosted by Warden Lloyd Hines and was held in the beautiful dining facilities of the DesBarres Manor in Guysborough Village. Some sixty invited guests were on hand to salute our intrepid mariners. The guest list included Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council and Mrs. Sylliboy, renowned Mi'kmaq poet Rita Joe, Executive Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaqs Donald Julian, and Dr. and Mrs. Peter Christmas of Cape Breton's Membertou reserve. The luncheon featured greetings and congratulations, as well as gift presentations to Laura and Captain Jack by various donors.

The Clan Sinclair's celebration took place, also on Saturday, from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m. at Boylston Upper Park, site of our Interpretation Memorial to the Prince Henry Saga, dedicated in the summer of 1998. Its purpose is two fold; to salute the remarkable feat of the Venetian mariners and to recognize and express appreciation to the Mi'kmaq nations for their historically friendly welcome reception of all immigrants to Atlantic Canada.

Some hundred and fifty persons rose in tribute as Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy and the Rt. Hon. Malcolm Sinclair were paraded to their seats led by Clan Piper Rory Sinclair and escorted by Provincial and National Clan Presidents Barbara Sinclair Barnard and Bill Sinclair, as well as by a flag party of young Scouts bearing the flags of the nations that figure in the Sinclair Saga. They included, of course, the Mi'kmaq Nation's flag. A thrilling sight indeed in the beautiful afternoon sunshine featuring the panoramic vista of Guysborough Harbour against which in the foreground was silhouetted our striking nautical memorial. Clan Presidents extended welcome greetings.

The entertainment menu for this event aimed at a blend of the Celtic and Mi'kmaq cultures. The Celtic presentations included the music and dance of the vibrant and talented Young Guysborough Fiddlers. Terri MacDonald and Lisa Hallett presented their original choral tribute to Henry Sinclair entitled "Written Down On Pages" that was presented at our 1998 Celebration. The superb musical talents of the Ludlow family including daughter Anna a violin virtuoso of great promise and mother Dorothy, whose choral offerings included her moving renditions of "Come By The Hills" and "Scotland Forever". Husband and father Basil accompanied both on guitar.

The Mi'kmaq artists included a dance troupe from Eskasoni, Cape Breton under the direction of their leader Beverly Jeddore. They performed three separate dance routines the interpretations of which were interestingly explained by Mrs. Jeddore. She invited her audience to join her troupe for her final "Friendship Dance" to which several - in the spirit of the occasion - responded.

Mi'kmaq poet Rita Joe speaking while CSAC president Bill Sinclair listens

The Honourable Rita Joe, a member of the Privy Council of Canada is, in effect, the poet laureate of the Mi'kmaq Nations. She lives at Eskasoni, Cape Breton and, for a woman of her age suffering from Parkinson's disease, was graciously responsive to our invitation to share with us her internationally recognized talents. Her poetic tribute on this occasion captured the genuine spirit of our ceremonial occasion and left all in attendance inspired by her gracious, moving and generous poetic tribute to the saga of Antonio Zeno and Prince Henry Sinclair, and their reception by the Mi'kmaq people. [This remarkable poem is reproduced in the Autumn 2000 issue of Roslin O Rosslyn. Ed.]

Mr. Niven Sinclair, to whom our Clans owe so much, presented an update on ongoing research to add to the information about the Henry Sinclair legacy in which we all share. Niven's efforts are truly untiring and impressive.

Past President of the Nova Scotia Clan Sinclair, Dr. Alasdair Sinclair paid tribute to the Venetian mariners saluting their very incredible example of purpose, dedication, skill and bravery. Similar tributes were expressed by Peter MacKay, M.P. for Pictou, Antigonish and Guysbourough counties, as did local MLA, Ron Chisolm and Warden Hines. Greetings and congratulations were expressed by Ms. Elo Kai Ojamaa, Consul General of the United States, and Mr. Rodolfo Meloni, Honorary Vice Council of Italy.

The "Sword of Peace" presentation came from the mind, heart and pocketbook of Niven Sinclair. This concept embodied the notion of making an important symbolic gesture of recognition and gratitude to the ancestors of the Atlantic Mi'kmaq people for the friendship, aid and support historically proffered not only to our Scottish and Venetian ancestors, but indeed to all immigrants to our shores, irrespective of their lands of origin.

When the Mi'kmaq leadership was approached with the idea of the public act of gratitude, their immediate response was one of delight and surprise. When viewed against the contemporary dialogue of anger, angst and controversy, as aboriginal people struggle for recognition of their treaty rights in the context of today's circumstances, this act of heart and mind constituted a beacon of light and hope in an otherwise often dark and gloomy scenario.

The "Sword of Peace" is an ornately and beautifully crafted work of art bearing both Celtic and aboriginal symbols and inscribed with the word "Peace" in two hundred and thirty five languages, including the Mi'kmaq tongue. The presentation by Hereditary Sinclair Clan Chief Malcolm Sinclair to Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy of this symbol of thanks and recognition was indeed a poignantly moving and significant moment.

Malcolm Sinclair, in making the presentation stressed the commonality of historical experience by our two cultures. We (the Scots) were also a tribal society governed by tribal chieftains. Both societies experienced oppression by dominate societies as minority sub-cultures. Our language, dress and cultural values were banned and depreciated. Both know the experience of being cultural and linguistic minorities.

Mi'kmaq Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy receiving the Sword of Peace from the Sinclair Clan Chief at the Prince Henry memorial in Boylston Park, Guysborough, Nova Scotia

Grand Chief Sylliboy's response was gracious, moving and appreciative. After receiving the sword he, in turn, presented it to Donald Julian, whose mainland based confederacy are in the process of constructing a facility to house Atlantic Mi'kmaq artifacts. The Sword of Peace will occupy a place of honour in their new museum facility. All in all it was a proud and mutual act of giving and receiving.

Our Honorary Canadian Clan President Mac Sinclair and his wife Eileen presented gifts to Laura Zolo and Captain Jack - as well as to Rita Joe and others. The Grand Chief also presented gifts to Laura Zolo on behalf of the Mi'kmaq community.

Following the formal ceremonies, all present enjoyed light "finger food" refreshments while being entertained with the piping by Rory Sinclair of selections from his new and exciting CD Rosslyn Chapel Suite.

There is a postscript to these reflections on our Clan Sinclair sponsored celebrations. I was told by these most helpful and cordial hosts of Carritt House Bed and Breakfast of an occurrence which, with my preoccupation as emcee of these events I had not observed. Sharon and Buster Jarvis asked me following the afternoon ceremonies if I had observed the visit of a bald eagle. I had not. They and others noticed that immediately following the Mi'kmaq friendship dance, in which several of our audience participated, a bald eagle had swooped down over the dance area. On hearing this something in what is left of my mystical Celtic bones twitched. This had to be an omen of some sort.

I consulted an expert. Captain of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council Noel Knockwood is the pre-eminent spiritual leader/teacher of the Mi'kmaq Nation. I asked him if this occurrence and circumstance had, in his view, any meaning. His answer was as follows:

"Our ancestors taught us that whenever our creator witnessed an occurrence with which he was pleased he always sent a messenger as a signal and sign of his pleasure. Most frequently the messenger is an eagle!"

Noel Knockwood is an internationally respected student of aboriginal spiritual values and customs, and author of several publications.

I like to think that, embodied in the symbolic gesture of the Sword of Peace, in the moving words of Rita Joe's poem, and in the dance by two cultural groups, happily celebrating together, that our creator, however we may envision him, was indeed, pleased.

I have never been accused of a lack of pride in my Clan Sinclair origins. I was never more proud than I was on September 9th, 2000. Our Mi'kmaq friends were, I hope and expect, equally proud. So too was Laura Zolo who expressed her satisfaction in achieving her long cherished ambition and her great and evident joy at meeting Mi'kmaq people - and perhaps, and most especially - Rita Joe.


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