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Emigration on the SS Metagama

Emigration on the SS Metagama

The SS Metagama was a Canadian Pacific Railway steamship that plied a route between Scotland and Eastern Canada; on Saturday 21st April 1923, she sailed from Stornoway with 300 young Lewis emigrants on board, all but 20 of them young men, with an average age of 22.

The day began with medical examinations and the distribution of Gaelic Bibles provided by the Ladies' Highland Association; embarkation took the full day, amid speeches by town councillors and other leading citizens. Bouquets of flowers from Lews Castle gardens were taken on board with good wishes from Lord Leverhulme. The ship sailed in the evening, with the hundreds of Leodhasachs bound for Ontario farms, and a thousand other emigrants who had previously boarded at Glasgow. The Metagama was sailing for Montreal, but instead put in at St John, New Brunswick, because of ice.

Contrary to early waves of emigration, these young settlers were not driven from their homes by fear of starvation and landlessness, but many did feel that Lewis offered few prospects for the young. The loss to the island was palpable. Further emigration ensued, with ships sailing direct between Stornoway and Canada, but the Metagama caught the imagination of the press and pages of photographs and stories appeared in both British and Canadian newspapers.

In 2004 the Stornoway-based Theatre Hebrides produced a new play on the subject by Dermot Healy, entitled Metagama.

The passenger list for this sailing has been designated the catalogue refererence number BT 27/1037 by The National Archive.


Title: Emigration on the SS Metagama
Record Type: Historical Events
Type: Emigration
Date: 21-04-1923
Record Maintained By: HC
Subject Id: 27104