The cairn at Dalmore is dedicated to Sir John A Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada. Although he was not born in Rogart, the parish has always maintained a close affiliation with his role in the establishment of Canada as a nation. His Macdonald ancestry being regarded as being “of the parish.” The cairn was built on the site of his grandparents’ house at Dalmore, using the nearby local stone, and built by Golspie tradesmen. Sir John’s father, Hugh was said to have been born at nearby Rovie Craig to where the family had gone prior to moving to Fourpenny in Dornoch and hence to Glasgow and eventually Canada. The site of the cairn at Dalmore was where Sir John A’s grandfather lived.
There is no indication that Sir John A Macdonald ever recognised his connection to the parish, but perhaps someone can contradict this opinion. If so we would be pleased to hear from you.
The erection of a commemorative cairn was often talked about: Col Gilbert Gunn of Inscape advocated for one in 1922 and wrote a very interesting article on the Macdonald connection to the parish, using information from local historian Andrew Mackay of Dalmore. Further impetus came from the efforts from another Rogart man who had gone to Canada in the 1920s and had “done well.” He was Hugh Macpherson, whose people were in Blairmore. Hugh had influence in Canada and in the world of pipe music. He had a famous tartan shop in Haymarket, Edinburgh, and served on the City Council. Hugh got the Sutherland County Council on board: the counsellor being George Murray of Morvich. Also supportive was Joyce Rawstorne, the then landowner of where the cairn was to be built. Support also came from another influential Rogart figure of his day, Capt John Mackay of Corry. John Mackay was a distant relative, his mother being a daughter of Macdonald, the last Tacksman of Dalmore. She could remember hear of Hugh Macdonald being in Rovie.
In 1968, the opening ceremony was a grand affair, with Bonar and Ardgay Pipe band on parade and the 13th Canadian Prime Minister (1957-63), John Diefenbaker, whose people were cleared from Kildonan, unveiled the cairn.
There was a small pot of money set aside to look after the cairn, but when this ran out, Brian Gibson of Kinauld Farm carried on looking after the cairn on his own initiative. When the Heritage Society got going, it helped Brian in looking after the cairn. By now it had evolved into being a bi-annual ceremony. A flagpole was acquired and the Canadian flag raised in May and taken down for the winter come fall. Of course each ceremony required that a toast to the flag be made.
In the last number of years the Clan Donald Society have been represented by its office bearers, usually accompanied by the clan bard. Other great supporters have been Canadian born Canon Mel Langille and also local piper Alasdair Mearns, born in Canada.
How long the ceremony will continue depends on the will and energy of the Heritage Society and the support of locals.