GRANT, COLIN P., Roman Catholic priest; b. c. 1784 in Glen Moriston, Scotland, son of Duncan Grant and Helena Chisholm; d. 31 March 1839 at Malignant Cove, N.S.
Colin P. Grant was the son of a Presbyterian father and a Roman Catholic mother. An excellent horseman, he first intended to join the army but was persuaded by his mother’s side of the family to enter the priesthood. His theological studies were completed at the College of Killechiarain in Lismore, Scotland, where, along with Alexander MacDonell, who would also serve in Nova Scotia, he was ordained by his cousin, Bishop John Chisholm, on Easter Sunday, 17 April 1808. Following ordination he served as a missionary in the Highlands for a period of ten years. In 1818 he decided to leave for Upper Canada, perhaps in response to one of the many calls being made for more priests in British North America. He intended to serve there under another Highland Catholic cleric, the well-known Reverend Alexander McDonell, vicar general of Upper Canada.
Arriving in Nova Scotia in August 1818, Grant was asked by Bishop Edmund Burke* to serve temporarily at Arisaig and Antigonish, N.S. Burke’s request for Grant’s assistance came as the result of the death of the Reverend William Chisholm, who had been serving the Highlanders in the northeastern part of the province. In 1819 Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis* of Quebec and McDonell of Upper Canada gave permission for Grant to serve in Nova Scotia, and in that year he was incardinated into the new vicariate. He served in Antigonish and its vicinity for almost a year and then moved to Arisaig, about 20 miles north of Antigonish, where he worked for approximately 11 years as a missionary.
From Arisaig Grant covered the territory along the gulf shore, and for some time he served the Pictou region as well. Keenly interested in education, he established a number of elementary schools in his district during the years from 1819 to 1828, including ones at Arisaig, McCara’s (McArras) Brook, and Cape St George (Cape George). He enlarged the church at Arisaig and is believed to have been responsible for the building of a small chapel at North Side Cape George (Morar) on the gulf shore.
Though Grant was a man of splendid physique, the heavy labour of his large pastoral area affected his health and by 1828 he was seeking a replacement. He was praised by all as a missionary priest and had many friends among the Presbyterian Scots, who appreciated his kindness and compassion. Grant was especially friendly with the famous Gaelic bard Iain MacGhillEathain, a Presbyterian. It was stated that on one occasion Grant gave MacGhillEathain a snuff-box containing not only snuff but five pounds of gold. In February 1829 Grant resigned his charge because of poor health but agreed to attend to necessary calls until a replacement could be found. Bishop William Fraser* had many calls for pastors throughout eastern Nova Scotia, and so it was not until October 1830 that Grant was replaced by the Reverend William Bernard MacLeod, the first native-born priest of the present diocese of Antigonish.
Upon retirement Grant bought a small farm at Malignant Cove, near Arisaig. Although he was very poor his neighbours did not wish to offend his pride by offering help. Thus, his last years were sad ones; burdened with poor health and poverty, he endured further embarrassment when imprisoned briefly for debt in 1838. He died on 31 March 1839, on the 31st anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, and was buried in the old cemetery at Lower South River. His grave was covered by an unpolished slab of stone which bore no inscription. Years after his death a subscription was raised to erect a suitable monument over his grave, and by December 1887 this goal had been accomplished.
Grant was one of a significant number of Highland priests to work in Nova Scotia during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Through the efforts of those early missionaries, northeastern Nova Scotia became a bastion of Roman Catholicism in British North America.
AAQ, 312 CN, VI: 136a (copy at Arch. of the Diocese of Antigonish, N.S.). Arch. of Scots College (Pontifical) (Rome), Vicars Apostolic, William Fraser to Angus MacDonald, 8 Oct. 1828 (copy at Arch. of the Diocese of Antigonish). Arch. of the Diocese of Antigonish, Files of the diocesan historian, A. A. Johnston, manuscript sketches, no.105 (C. P. Grant). PANS, MG 100, 103, no34. Colonial Patriot, 28 March 1828. Filidh na coille: dain agus orain leis a bhaird Mac-Gillean, agus le Feadhainn Eile . . . , ed. A. MacL. Sinclair (Charlottetown, 1901), 12, 103. A. A. Johnston, A history of the Catholic Church in eastern Nova Scotia (2v., Antigonish, 1960–71). Ronald McDonald, The earliest Highland Catholic mission in Nova Scotia: a sermon preached at the dedication of the Church of St. Margaret’s, Arisaig, July 16th, 1878 (Pictou, N.S., 1878), 10. [Sagart Arisaig (Ronald MacGillivray)], History of Antigonish, ed. R. A. MacLean (2v., [Antigonish], 1976), 2: 64. Casket (Antigonish), 8 Dec. 1887: 2. C. S. MacDonald, “Early Highland emigration to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island from 1770–1853” and “West Highland emigrants in eastern Nova Scotia,” N.S. Hist. Soc., Coll., 23 (1936): 41–48 and 32 (1959): 1–30. Sagart Arisaig [Ronald MacGillivray], “History of Antigonish, ch.XIV,” Casket, 15 Oct. 1891: 2.