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McCord Museum launches a major new exhibition

The Scots — Dyed-in-the-Wool Montrealers
From October 3, 2003 to September 6, 2004

Were I not French, I would choose to be a Scot. 
Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 1893

Montreal, Thursday, October 2, 2003  Have you ever heard of Bonnie Prince Charlie? Can you tell the difference between Lowlands and Highlands bagpipes? And have you ever wondered who were the people behind "Montreal" names like McGill, McTavish, Ogilvie and Dawson?

Just a short walk through Montreal's downtown core proves that the Scots have left a tremendous imprint on the city. Historic institutions like McGill University, the Bank of Montreal and the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, not to mention the impressive homes and public buildings in Montreal's Golden Square Mile, are concrete evidence that here, the story of success has often been a Scottish one. Despite this fact, many people, even native Montrealers, are hard pressed to say why. The McCord Museum of Canadian History aims to change all of that with an exhibition that overturns old stereotypes, highlights fascinating individuals and showcases rarely-seen artifacts. The Scots — Dyed-in-the-Wool Montrealers invites visitors to discover the part played by Scottish immigrants and their descendants in the development of the metropolis, the province and the country. Theirs was an important role, one that involved a lot more than just bagpipes, whisky and kilts!

Visitors to the The Scots will be initiated into the intricacies of this cultural community's unique religious traditions and ethnic associations, their military service and business acumen, and of course, the ever-important rituals of curling and golf, both of which originated in Scotland. They'll meet face-to-face many important Montrealers of Scottish heritage, thanks in part to the McCord's extensive portrait collection. Some names will be familiar, like that of James McGill, whose name is now synonymous with education in Montreal, while some will be less familiar, like James Thompson, a soldier who witnessed many significant historical events in his adopted land, from the landing at Louisbourg to the battle of the Plains of Abraham — and lucky for us, paused to write down his memories. Listen to recordings of their histories, and if the Scottish brogue poses a challenge, let our display of a poem by Robbie Burns broaden your Scots vocabulary.

Some of the more unusual objects on display include a set of Lowlands bagpipes, a statue of St. Andrew, the Scots' patron saint, and a tobacco store statue of a 42nd Highlander, dressed in full military regalia and taking a pinch of snuff. This last artifact is a favorite with Exhibition Researcher Heather McNabb: "Before I met up with him I thought all tobacco store figurines depicted Aboriginal peoples. Now I know they took many forms, and this particular icon is richly symbolic of the Scottish presence in Quebec. He represents a soldier from a Scottish Highland regiment, a very common figure in the early 19th-century Canadian cityscape, and he also brings to mind the Scottish involvement in the Canadian tobacco industry."  For his part Pierre Wilson, Interpretive Planner of the exhibition, especially admires an evening dress worn by Sarah Ogilvie for the inaugural celebration of the Victoria Bridge in 1860. Made from silk satin woven in the Ogilvie hunting tartan, the dress is both an extraordinary artifact and likely expressive of Sarah Ogilvie's pride in her Scottish heritage. Not surprisingly, her husband, Alexander Walker Ogilvie, became president of the St. Andew's Society of Montreal in 1870.

The McCord has enjoyed the support of many individuals and organizations from Montreal's Scottish community throughout this exhibition's development. Partners and lenders of artifacts include the St. Andrew's Society of Montreal, the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul (whose bicentennial celebrations this year were one of the original catalysts for this exhibition), The Stewart  Museum at the Fort, Île Sainte-Hélène, the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, and many faculties and divisions of McGill University, as well as the British Consulate-General of Montreal, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal. Essential support has also been received from the Québec Government, the Canadian Pacific Railway, and BMO Bank of Montreal, a member of BMO Financial Group. "We are proud of the Scottish heritage of many of the founders of Canada's First Bank, the Bank of Montreal," said L. Jacques Ménard, President of BMO Financial Group in Quebec. "Prominent executives of Scottish origin include our First President John Gray and three other co-founders of the Bank in 1817, the Honorable John Richardson, Robert Armour and George Garden and subsequently Peter McGill and Donald Smith (Lord Strathcona), to name but a few.We are therefore very pleased to support this unique exhibit."

Even those acquainted with Scottish Montreal are sure to learn something new in an exhibition resplendent with art, artifacts and intriguing historical anecdotes. With more than 250 artifacts stretching over 4,000 square feet, The Scots — Dyed-in-the-Wool Montrealers is a veritable Scottish feast for the eyes, ears and mind.

Activities related to the exhibition
The Scots — Dyed-in-the-Wool Montrealers

Cultural Activities

A Walk Through Scottish Montreal
Sundays, October 5, 12, 19 and 26 at 11 am (bilingual)
Discover Montreal's Scottish heritage through an hour-long walking tour of the city's 19th-century "Golden Square Mile." Offered as part of CBC Montreal Matters.
Adults $12, includes Museum admission. Reservations necessary. 

Highland Dance and Music
Saturday, December 27 at 1:30 pm (bilingual)
Come discover (or rediscover) traditional Scottish dance and music with the Montreal Highland Dancing Association and bagpipe player Jeff McCarthy. Afterwards, try a few steps on your own! Adults $12, children $6.

Information and reservations: (514) 398-7100 ext. 234  

School Visits  

Here Come the Scots!
It was a beautiful spring day when John McMurray arrived in Quebec, carrying with him the ancient traditions of his homeland. Little did he know the impact he and his countrymen and women would have, weaving into the North American fabric their beliefs, values and myths, not to mention their very recognizable music and dance. At the McCord your Scottish experience will include listening to a legend and dancing to Scottish airs.
For primary (cycles 1 & 3) and secondary school classes. $5.50 per student, minimum 15 and maximum 100 students. One chaperone admitted free for every 15 students.  

Information and reservations: (514) 398-7100 ext. 222

Technical information for the exhibition
The Scots — Dyed-in-the-Wool Montrealers

Dates: at the McCord Museum from October 3, 2003 to September 6, 2004

Size: 4,000 square feet

Number of artifacts: 250+

Organizing Institution: McCord Museum of Canadian History

Partners and Lending Institutions: Québec Government; BMO Bank of Montreal, a member of BMO Financial Group; St. Andrew's Society of Montreal; The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul; British Consulate-General of Montreal; Canadian Pacific Railway; The Canadian Museum of Civilization; The Stewart Museum at the Fort, Île Sainte-Hélène; The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada; Old Port of Montréal Corporation; McGill University; Canada Science and Technology Museum; Knox Crescent Kensington & First Presbyterian Church; Redpath Museum; Montreal Highland Games Society; Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal

Spokespeople: Heather McNabb and Pierre Wilson

Key Artifacts:

Publication: Kingdom of the Mind: The Scottish Influence on the Development of Canada (forthcoming)


Exhibition team biographical information
The Scots — Dyed-in-the-Wool Montrealers

Heather McNabb, Exhibition Researcher, McCord Museum

Heather McNabb has been associated with the McCord's Notman Photographic Archives since 1981, first as a volunteer, then as a cataloguer and researcher for this exhibition. Her mixed ancestry includes Scottish great-great-grandparents on both her mother's and father's side; her curiosity about these Scottish roots led her to search out the Scottish images in the Notman Photographic Archives, which in turn inspired her to write a Master's thesis on Montreal's mid-19th-century Scottish community, completed at Concordia University in 2000. Ms McNabb's pastimes include teaching and competing in Highland Dance.

Pierre Wilson, Interpretive Planner

Pierre Wilson has been associated with the firm of Pinceau d'Arlequin for the past 11 years, as a director of production, project manager and evaluator. He has directed and participated in numerous exhibitions at the Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City, the Centre d'histoire de Montréal, the Cosmodôme, the Montreal Botanical Gardens and the Pointe-à-Callière Museum. Most recently, Mr Wilson wrote the audio guide to the Grosse-Île quarantine station for Parks Canada, created the scenario for the exhibition Water Delights at the Biosphere, and headed the team charged with refurbishing the permanent exhibition at the Musée d'art de Saint-Laurent, now known as the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec.

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Photographs available upon request

Source and Information:            

Tel: (514) 398-7100, ext. 251