Iona Legion

4237 Highway 223, Iona, NS

In 1758, a soldier in the British Army, by the name of Donald “Og” MacNeil, took part in the Siege of Louisburg. For several years before that, while scouting in and about Cape Breton Island, Donald “Og” was extremely impressed by the beauty and advantages of the Bras d’Or Lake and its surroundings. On his trips to his home in Barra while serving in the British Army, he repeatedly impressed upon his relatives and associates, that if ever they were to migrate to Canada, they should settle in that part of the Lake’s northern bank which we know today as “Iona”. In 1759, Donald “Og” also took part in the Taking of Quebec. After the defeat of General Montcalm’s army on the Plains of Abraham, Donald “Og” was ordered to raise the British flag. In the attempt to do so, he was killed by a French sniper and buried in Quebec. The first Scots to carry out the instructions that Donald “Og” had detailed for them some forty years earlier were Donald (Rory) and his son Rory, as well as Eoin (Donald, John) and his son John who left Barra and arrived in Pictou in the fall of 1799. They made their way to Arisaig where they remained for the winter. In the spring of 1800, the 4 boarded a small boat and headed for the location which was so richly described for them by Donald “Og”. They staked their claim and began the task of clearing the land. That year would see large numbers of immigrants, all Roman Catholics, arriving from the Island of Barra. Many found their was to The Grand Narrows and still remembering their old home, they named the narrow passage which connects the two sections of the Bras d’Or Lake the Straits of Barra. The Iona Peninsula, which is located in the center of Cape Breton Island, is almost completely surrounded by the Bras d’Or Lake - Canada’s only Inland Sea. The Village of Iona (pop 135) which is located on the western side of the Barra Strait, is rich in Scottish heritage. Its name, which was Grand Narrows at one point, was changed by the Statute of Nova Scotia in 1891 to Iona. Today, the MacNeils and MacKenzies, the MacLeans and MacDonalds, and the Gillises and Campbells “All Call Iona Home.” Iona is home to the Highland Village Outdoor Pioneer Museum, which recreates Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage. Through numerous historic buildings with costumed staff, the Village gives testimony to the strength of character and love of home and family of the pioneers. The Village is set on a hillside overlooking the Bras d’Or Lakes. In 1925, the Dominion Veterans Aliance was formed to help returned servicemen in need. The Legion was founded in November of 1925 in Winnipeg Manitoba as The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League (BESL). The principal objectives of the Legion were to provide a strong voice for World War I veterans and advise the government on veterans’ issues. A Legion Branch was organized in the Iona area after World War I, but due to veterans living so far apart, it was a difficult task to attend meetings. Because of the distance and other difficulties, this Legion did not last long. World War II brought an influx of new demands and the Legion increased efforts to help veterans and returned service members. Upon being discharged from the Armed Forces, veterans were prevailed upon to join a branch of some Legion. This seemed easy enough, but Legion Branches which were already organized were a great distance away from the area and transportation was not readily available at the time. With the influx of veterans to the Iona area, numerous discussions were held among veterans at many locations, including the CN station. It was decided to make another attempt at forming a Branch of the Legion. The Grandona Branch No. 124 of The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League, held their first official meeting 23 March 1948 in the Parish Hall, Iona N.S. Enrolment of members numbered 27 plus 3 former members of the Victoria Branch Legion. The matter of a suitable name for the Branch was discussed. Names which were favored were “THISTLE”, “RALSTON” and “GRANDONA”. This was put to a vote and the winning name, as is obvious today, was “GRANDONA“. In February of 1960, discussions took place to look for a suitable site for a new building. In October of 1962, ground work was commenced for the construction of a new Legion building The Ladies Auxiliary was formed. In September of 1965.

Upcoming Events

Pub Night at Iona Legion

Saturday July 6th
9:00 PM - 12:00 AM

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