The Legend of Donald Òg MacNìll & The Settling of Iona



Dòmhall Òg MacNìll meaning Donald “The Younger” MacNeil, was a young man from the Isle of Barra, Scotland. Like many men his age he was enlisted into the British Army during the 1700’s.

At this time England and France were at war again. Donald Og was sent to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia during the siege of Louisbourg in 1758.

While patrolling on the British war ship through the Bras d’ Or Lake, he came upon the area that is today known as the Barra Strait.

He noted the areas natural beauty, fresh water with abundance of fish, fertile soil, and countless trees that could be used for fire wood and building shelters.

When he returned to Barra on leave from the army, he told his family stories of this wondrous place.

Years later, when many Gaels immigrated from Scotland to North America, the descendants of Donald Og remembered the stories he had told them. They remembered the place he described where they could farm and fish and be free to own their own land.

MacNeils and other Gaelic families chose to make Cape Breton their home during this time and their culture and traditions lives on through the generations to this day.

Donald Og returned to fight for the British on the Plains of Abraham. Sadly, he would not live to see his home, or Cape Breton again.

However, 200 years later the Barra traditions are evident throughout the Cape Breton community.


Join us while we commemorate the Donald Og legend and the early days of Cape Breton’s European history here at The Highland Village on Thursday, July 31st.

Meet with a direct descendent of Donald Og, Rod C. MacNeil, who will share the story.

Traditional food, natural dye, barvas ware and other demonstrations will take place throughout the day. Also visiting animators from Fortress of Louisbourg and Eskasoni Cultural Journeys will be on site.

A Céilidh and Milling Frolic will be held, along with a special running of Cash’s Carding Mill.

The day runs from 10:00am- 3:00pm. Regular admission applies.