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Lord's descendant helps mark 200th anniversary of Selkirk Settlers' arrival

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Two hundred years after his ancestor arrived on the shores of what is now known as the Red River, one of Lord Selkirk's descendants made the trek to Winnipeg to help celebrate the bicentenary of the Selkirk Settlers' arrival in Canada.

James Alexander Douglas Hamilton, the 11th Earl of Selkirk, attended Sunday's closing day celebrations of the Barge Festival, which this year celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Red River Settlement.

The 1812 Scottish settlers were led by Hamilton's ancestor, Douglas Hamilton, the fifth Earl of Selkirk, who helped settle a portion of land along the Red River now known as The Forks.

"We in Scotland are enormously proud of these trailblazers. When they came to Red River, they suffered many intense hardships. During those extremely harsh winters, there was a desperate struggle for survival. It is because of the sacrifice, courage and heroism of those first settlers and others who arrived later that we are standing here today in one of the greatest cities in Canada, or for that matter, North America," Hamilton said during a ceremony at The Forks Sunday.

"I'm delighted that you are staging such a socially inclusive event at The Forks to celebrate the Selkirk bicentenary. It is entirely appropriate that it is being supported by the First Nation communities, by the Metis and by the franco-Manitoban community as well as by the Scottish community."

Hamilton made his speech surrounded by historical re-enactors and scores of pipers including members of the Lord Selkirk Boys Pipe Band and the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band. Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh, of Scottish descent himself, also spoke, welcoming Hamilton to Winnipeg.

Following the speeches, the annual Selkirk Settlers Parade commenced in a flurry of tartan and bagpipes, with paraders marching through The Forks's marketplace and down to the Scotiabank Stage.

A few rounds of traditional Scottish heavy games followed, including throwing the weight and the caber toss.

After heavy things were thrown and bagpipes played, live acts including Simpson's Folly and the Dust Rhinos took to a floating barge stage to play out the evening. The festival went out with the bang, with fireworks over the Red River.

The Scottish Heritage Council of Manitoba Inc., together with historians, city and provincial officials, and Selkirk descendants, planned the bicentenary and invited Hamilton to Canada.

The current Lord Selkirk assumed his title in 1994 but gave it up almost immediately, choosing to maintain his work as a Conservative MP in Edinburgh. He's since been given a new title,  Lord Selkirk of Douglas.

History

Updated on Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 9:49 PM CDT: Corrects reference to Gord Mackintosh.

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