Scottish, Religious roots explored

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2001

(Note: The following is an excerpt from the memoirs of the columnist's father. It outlines the vital part home and church played in the formative years of his upbringing, circa the 1890s and early 1900s.)

The common background of the Mira Protestants of Cape Breton Island, N.S., tended to bring them close to the church.

Some of their ancestors no doubt had given their lives in the struggles that went on in Scotland for liberty and conscience: the right of private judgment in all matters.

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As the conflict with the Roman Catholic church went on there, the church, the school and the home emerged as the citadels of the New Faith.

The English Bible was the living center of the church and the home. Only a few of the houses in our area were without a family altar.

Those altarless homes were suspect among the good people, and many an earnest prayer was offered daily that light would shine on the way of the benighted mescreant who did not read the Bible daily with his family.

Bobby Burns in his "Cotter's Saturday Night" has left an imperishable picture of the Scottish Presbyterian home in his description of the father who after the evening meal took down the family Bible to read a portion of Scripture, and knelt in prayer.

"From scenes like these auld

Scotia's grandeur springs

That makes her loved at home,

Revered abroad."

Into such a home I was born. And, if I speak the truth, many a time this sacred interlude became irksome.

Why should I have to kneel on a hard wooden floor til my knees were a vast ache, while a fresh morning breeze was blowing over the inviting fields, and my dog was waiting to go romping and sniffing through the woods?