Ship Hec­tor’s story put to mu­sic

Voy­age: A Jour­ney of Hope cen­tres on the love of two pas­sen­gers des­tined for Nova Sco­tia


Four years into three days. That is what Sandy Mackay and Ron Mac­Don­ald’s work will come down to in Septem­ber when their orig­i­nal mu­si­cal, Voy­age: A Jour­ney of Hope, will be staged at the deCoste Cen­tre in Pic­tou from Sept. 7 to 9.

Four years to write two acts, 14 orig­i­nal songs as well as count­less hours of edit­ing and pro­duc­tion. Four years to cre­ate some­thing that has never been done be­fore — mu­si­cal about the his­toric 1773 voy­age that ended up the first sig­nif­i­cant mi­gra­tion of Scot­tish set­tlers to Nova Sco­tia.

It is a story that has been told many times, but never like this, says Mackay.

“It is a play about three young peo­ple who are be­ing op­pressed in their home­land by an in­vad­ing govern­ment,” he said. “Two younger men de­cide to leave and one ap­proaches his sweet­heart and makes the pitch for her to come with them. Of course, the fam­i­lies get in the way, but in the end, they all end up on the

Ship Hec­tor, leav­ing Scot­land in 1773.”

Mackay said the Hec­tor’s story sets the back­ground and foun­da­tion for the mu­si­cal, but he added in a few fic­tional el­e­ments, in­clud­ing the love story be­tween Mary and Rory.

“The sim­plest sto­ries are the eas­i­est ones to like and fol­low and these are love sto­ries so I cre­ated the two char­ac­ters. When in­spi­ra­tion struck I wrote the first act in a day. I hardly made any changes and then it took me another cou­ple of years to get back to it. I had to fig­ure how the sec­ond act would play out.”

He said the sec­ond act was more dif­fi­cult be­cause af­ter pas­sen­gers set sail on the Hec­tor, things turn very dark when a storm pushes the ship in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, forc­ing the 189 pas­sen­gers on board to lose valu­able sail­ing time, as well as face mul­ti­ple deaths dur­ing their jour­ney.

“Most sail­ings (from Scot­land) took four or five weeks and there would only be one or two deaths, mostly the el­derly or frail. This is a very dark story and we have to ad­dress the deaths of 18 peo­ple, 17 of them be­ing chil­dren.”

Mackay said work­ing with Mac­Don­ald was a good fit for the project be­cause there were times some­thing couldn’t be ex­plained

in words, but it was done beau­ti­fully in mu­sic.

“He has two or three own orig­i­nal tunes that are stun­ning and of high qual­ity,” he said. “All of the mu­sic is orig­i­nal ex­cept one song per­formed dur­ing a ceilidh on the ship that is Lord of the Dance. For both of us, it is the most ex­cit­ing thing we have ever done, but Ron re­ally rose to the oc­ca­sion. I would write the lyrics for seven or eight songs and he would read it and set it to tunes.”

Mackay said peo­ple will laugh and cry dur­ing the two-hour per­for­mance.


Luke MacIsaac and Leah McPher­son are the main char­ac­ters in the new mu­si­cal, Voy­age: A Jour­ney of Hope, which tells the story of the Ship Hec­tor’s voy­age from Scot­land in 1773, but not just in words, but with mu­sic.

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