Gathering in Earltown supports historic cemeteries

Published on August 5, 2014
James, Neil, Ian and Scott get ready for the Gathering in Earltown.
Submitted photo

Event honours the Pipers Picnic, which once attracted thousands from across the world

In 1824 John Sutherland of Earltown, Nova Scotia searched for a spot on his land to lay his young son to rest. On the hilltop overlooking the present village of Earltown, he dug the sorrowful grave.

The Earltown Village Cemetery, as it became known, went on to become the final resting place for many of the early settlers in the area. As the years passed and families moved away, it became overgrown, as did many of the surrounding graveyards.

In 1965 the descendants of the Clan Mackenzie Highlanders gathered to reclaim the graves of their ancestors from the advancing Earltown forest as seven-year-old Bernie Leblanc from Clan Sutherland played a lament on his pipes. People travelled great distances to the call of this one small 'pied piper'. It became the annual homecoming for descendants of those first settlers who arrived from Scotland in the early 1800s and the Pipers Picnic was born.

From as far away as New Zealand they came. Blue tent canopies rising against the forest until more than 3,000 gathered on Laurie and Isobel Matheson's farmland. The tradition continued for more than 40 years until the land was sold and the Pipers Picnic was no more, laid to rest like the clans people before it.

This yearly event was sadly mourned until 2009, when Scott Whitelaw and Quita Grey of Sugar Moon Farm in Earltown, at the request of Clan Sutherland, hosted a Gathering in Earltown, not only to commemorate the Pipers Picnic, but to welcome a new generation and tradition that would continue to support the upkeep of the historic cemeteries.

August 3 and 4 2014 marked the fifth annual Gathering on the grounds of Sugar Moon Farm on Alex MacDonald Road in Earltown. Guided walks and a storytelling tour of one of the local cemeteries marked the occasion, along with the opening ceremony.

Entertainment continued throughout the two days and included pipe bands, clan tents, sword fighting, music, a craft fair, costume displays and a picnic dinner of barbecued pork tenderloin.

Other celebrations included a contra dance in the Earltown Community Hall, a hiker's breakfast in the rustic log surroundings of Sugar Moon Restaurant and a guided hike of the historic Rogart Mountain Trail.

Planning is already underway for next year’s event. For information, contact Sugar Moon Farm by visiting, email or call 902-657-3348. Admission to many of the events is by donation and interested craft vendors can email or telephone 902-897-4712.