The tiny acorn has grown into a great oak. Once a small dedicated group endeavouring to honour their ancestors, the Pipers Picnic is now a worldwide homecoming of their descendants and friends. The friendships made and renewed among cousins now span miles, often continents and oceans, nurturing the "extended family ties" as a fitting tribute to their common forebears.
Alex Sutherland of Earltown, a renown piper in Nova Scotia, instigated and organized the efforts. Pipers welcome the gathering as a time to share tunes and demonstrate their skills on the bagpipes. In later years they are joined by the Nova Scotia Legion Pipe Band of Truro and Heather Girls Pipe Band of Pictou County.
The picnic is held in a remote field on the Matheson farm, where a circular sloping hill faces the Earltown forest to form a natural amphitheatre for the day's activities. The panoramic view of rolling hills and distant forest against the sky is much the same as is found in Scotland but seldom in this country. The scenery is highland in character. The network of winding and narrow lanes leading past the MacKenzie Pioneer Cemetery is reminiscent of the single track roads in Sutherland, Scotland, but without designated "passing places". These narrow roads have a different beauty than their Highland counterparts -- provided by the rich canopy of foliage overhead and the changing shades of green as one drives by the variety of trees in the Earltown forest.
Without the kindness and generosity of Laurie and Isobel Matheson in providing the use of their private property, the Pipers Picnic could not take place. The Mathesons also hosted the executive meetings in their home, and served as treasurer. Helen Sutherland served as the secretary. Many other citizens of Earltown and beyond shouldered the work. It is their tireless and dedicated efforts which enabled the Pipers Picnic to grow far beyond the expectations of all the founding members.
The "quiet spirit of clan fellowship" at the Pipers Picnic offers a refreshing reprieve from the fierce competitions and commercial endeavours of Highland Festivals and Games in Nova Scotia. The occasional friendly Tug-o-War "for the fun of it" between clan groups provides the only competition.
The picnic has been rained out only once in the 25 years. On two other years, heavy rain passed all around the area but the picnic did not get any.
The Pipers Picnic takes place on the first Saturday in August. There is no admission fee. Originally organized to reclaim the MacKenzie Pioneer Cemetery from the advancing forest, proceeds (from the sale of home-cooked suppers and donations) are now sufficient to maintain the Knox Presbyterian and the Earltown Village cemeteries where other pioneers rest.
Alex Sutherland and the dedicated group of volunteers "have done a great thing", epitomizing in the community of Earltown the well known words of Joseph Howe: "A wise nation preserves its record, decorates the graves of its illustrious dead, repairs the great public structures, and fosters national pride and love of country by perpetual references to the sacrifices and glories of the past."
A more personal tribute to the brave pioneers, who defied hardship to make a home for themselves and their children in the Earltown forest, is suggested by Thornton Wilder: "All that we can know about those we have loved and lost is that they would wish us to remember them with a more intensified realization of their reality. What is essential does not die but clarifies. The highest tribute to the dead is not grief, but gratitude."
Appreciation for information and verification of details, to: Alex Sutherland