Lights, camera, action!

Hector play goes to film

PICTOU — A one-person play authored by local resident John Meir is being transformed into a film he hopes to premiere in late August at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre.

Stewart Cresswell with Simple Films in River John is directing the film as a joint effort between his film company and the Ship Hector Society.

It’s a short film on its own tracing the lives of Alexander Cameron and Alex Fraser, who were among passengers on the original Ship Hector in 1773. The voyage was arranged by Scots who felt they needed to leave their homeland for a safer part of the world due to the persecution that followed the English victory over a Scottish force at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

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Discussions have proceeded in an attempt to secure footage of a 20-year-old re-enactment of the battle to include with the film.

“It’s the story of two families who came over on the Hector — Alexander Cameron and his wife and children and Alex Fraser and his wife and children,” said Meir, Ship Hector Society vice-chairman. “Its basis is the story I wrote 25 years ago called Highland Dreams. We’ve done it six or seven times at the deCoste during the summer as a one-person play (about Cameron) and decided four months ago to turn a script into a movie.”

The working title is Highland Dreams: The Lost Diary of Alexander Cameron.

Meir noted how Cameron and Fraser met when they were 16 as spectators — not participants — in the battle.

“They were too young to fight, so they just watched the battle,” Meir said. “They lived on opposition sides of Scotland. Twenty-seven years later, when everyone was getting on the Ship Hector, they met again.”

Cameron’s family eventually settled in Loch Broom, while Fraser’s family settled about a mile away farther down the East River.

John Spyder Macdonald, who played Cameron, has been cast as Alex Fraser, while Scotsburn native Craig Gunn — a professional actor based in Halifax — plays Cameron. Other cast members include Don Hill as the Hector’s captain.

Sunday was the final day of shooting before the work is edited for viewing. Meir envisions the film as an education tool in schools.

“Primarily it will be an education tool to be distributed across Atlantic Canada to stress the importance of the Ship Hector coming here and starting the whole immigration (of Scots) to North America,” Meir said. “Americans know about the Mayflower, but the Hector is as important to the settling of North America as the Mayflower is.”

Rob MacInnis has an interesting role as a piper named John Mackay, who was among passengers on the Hector.

Meir said the story goes that Mackay had no money for passage but came aboard when someone convinced the ship’s captain that they needed a piper to help keep the spirits up for the voyage.

Mackay is said to have piped the passengers onto their landing spot at Loch Broom.


From left, Craig Gunn as Alexander Cameron, John Spyder Macdonald as Alex Fraser and Don Hill as captain of the Ship Hector take a break from shooting the film featuring Fraser and Cameron on board the Ship Hector in Pictou. (Goodwin photo)

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Steve Goodwin was born in Amherst, N.S. and has been a journalist for more than 40 years. He has been a resident of Pictou County for nearly 40 years.