When old sea dogs regaled King James I with tales of the New World, Sir William Alexander listened. He noted New England, New France and New Spain. There was NO New Scotland!
In Victoria Park (Halifax, Nova Scotia), a cairn succinctly states Sir William's accomplishments:
Sir William Alexander Writer Statesman, Colonizer His efforts to create a New Scotland in the New World led to the Royal Charter of Nova Scotia, 1621 Attempts at settlement 1622-3 The creating of the Order of Knight Baronets of Nova Scotia 1624-5 The Coat-of-Arms of Nova Scotia, 1626 and the occupation of Port Royal by Scottish settlers, 1629-32
In 1621, King James granted Sir William territory between New England and Newfoundland as New Scotland (Nova Scotia). The Baronets of Nova Scotia were created, as a settlement scheme.
Nova Scotia (approximately the Maritimes today) was divided into provinces, each sub-divided into dioceses. Each diocese was divided into three counties, then each county into ten Baronies of 16,000 acres each.
Each Baronet paid 1000 merks for his Barony and 2000 merks to maintain six soldiers in the colony for two years.
Under Scots Law, Baronets "take sasine" by receiving symbolic "earth and stone" on the actual land. Part of Edinburgh Castle was deemed granted to Sir William as part of Nova Scotia. The Baronets were installed with "earth and stone" there while standing in Nova Scotia. Each received a badge on an orange ribbon, worn about the neck.
In 1629, Sir William Alexander's son brought 70 settlers to Port Royal and built Charles Fort. When the land was returned to France (1632), the Scots left.
Baronet of Nova Scotia is a hereditary title. They enjoy the privilege of wearing the arms of Nova Scotia as a badge, are addressed as Sir, and place Bt. or Bart. after their names.
Three years after Hon. Angus L. Macdonald, then Premier of Nova Scotia, unveiled a plague at Edinburgh Castle (1953) commemorating Sir William Alexander and Baronets of Nova Scotia, Menstrie Castle (Sir William's birthplace) was scheduled for demolition. Attempts to bring Menstrie Castle to Halifax failed when Scots pleaded that it remain in Scotland.
Scots, many in Nova Scotia, financed restoration of Menstrie Castle and established the Nova Scotia Commemoration Room there.
23 stones from a staircase, of which the Victoria Park cairn is constructed, are all Halifax obtained of the Castle.
Today the Nova Scotia Commemoration Room requires repair and refurbishing. The National Trust for Scotland seeks help from Nova Scotians for renovations.
Boy Scouts to the rescue? Gavin Hay and Gordon Sponagle, both Venture Scouts in Menstrie, came to Nova Scotia in August 1993 to fulfill two requirements of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award: a hiking, canoe and biking expedition over 50 miles with other Scouts, and research of historical links between Menstrie and Nova Scotia.
Hon. T. G. D. Galbraith, Parliamentary Secretary of State for Scotland, noted: "If Menstrie castle had to go, it could not have gone to a more beautiful or appropriate place, but I am glad that it has been left standing where it has stood, impregnable, for four centuries."
Copyright (1993) Janet MacKay
Published: "Fifty Plus" November, 1993