Description of Historic Place
The Bard John MacLean Cemetery is located along Highway No. 4 in the Glen Bard District of Antigonish County, Nova Scotia. The cemetery was established in 1848 and is now inactive. It is enclosed along Highway No. 4 with post and chain fencing. The land, gravestones, and the post and chain fencing are included in the provincial designation.
The Bard John MacLean Cemetery is valued as the burial site for Bard John MacLean, the most representative Gaelic bard of the New World and the Reverend Alexander MacLean Sinclair, considered the greatest Gaelic scholar born on Canadian soil. The cemetery is also valued because it is considered to be an integral part of the adjacent property known as the Bard John MacLean House.
John MacLean was born in Caolas, on the Hebridean island of Tiree in Scotland in 1787. He arrived in Pictou in 1829 with his wife and three children. Already well known for his Gaelic songs and poetry, MacLean composed, his "A Choille Ghruamach" ("The Gloomy Forest") circa 1821- considered one of the most graphic descriptions of pioneer conditions in North America. MacLean was undoubtedly one of the greatest Gaelic bards who left Scotland. After living for some years at nearby Barney's River, MacLean moved his family to Glen Bard where he built a house about one hundred yards from where the MacLean House would later be built. This first house burned down in 1850, two years after his death.
Bard MacLean was the first person to be buried in the Bard John MacLean Cemetery. His grave, a stone rubble monument, has been the site of a number of commemorative occasions involving the descendants of Highland Scottish settlers in Nova Scotia.
MacLean's grandson, the Reverend Alexander MacLean Sinclair, was brought up in the MacLean House and became the most eminent North American Gaelic scholar of his day. Sinclair is also buried in the cemetery. Also buried in the cemetery is Major Colum Iain Nicholson MacLeod, a respected Gaelic scholar, poet and educator.
The cemetery adjoins the property on which the Bard John MacLean House is located. The MacLean House is typical of the houses built in the period 1830-1860 in eastern Nova Scotia. The wood frame construction, the floor plan, the exceptional foundation and central fireplace also suggest some New England influences. This style, however, was also very popular with Scottish immigrants to this area, who incorporated these influences into traditional building styles brought with them from Scotland.
The Bard John MacLean Cemetery is maintained by the Glen Bard Cemetery Trustees and is no longer active.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 45, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of the Bard John MacLean Cemetery include:
- post and chain fencing along Highway No. 4;
- mature trees located throughout the cemetery;
- original and historic grave stones and monuments, with their surviving inscriptions in both English and Scottish Gaelic;
- grass-covered interment areas;
- location adjacent to the Bard John MacLean House property.