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Pictou, Nova Scotia
Gaelic: Baile Phictou[1]
Pictou, Nova Scotia during the Lobster Carnival
Pictou, Nova Scotia during the Lobster Carnival
Coat of arms of Pictou, Nova Scotia
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Birthplace of New Scotland
Motto: "As constant as the northern star"
Pictou, Nova Scotia is located in Nova Scotia
Pictou, Nova Scotia
Pictou, Nova Scotia
Location of Pictou, Nova Scotia
Country  Canada
Province  Nova Scotia
Municipality Pictou County
Founded 1767[2]
Incorporated May 4, 1874
 • Mayor Joseph Hawes
 • Governing Body Pictou Town Council
 • MLA Karla MacFarlane (PC)
 • MP Peter MacKay (C)
 • Total 7.94 km2 (3.07 sq mi)
Highest elevation 54 m (177 ft)
Lowest elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 3,437
 • Density 432.9/km2 (1,121/sq mi)
Time zone AST (UTC-4)
Postal code B0K
Area code(s) 902
Telephone Exchange 485
Median Earnings* $41,905
NTS Map 011E10
  • Median household income, 2005 ($) (all households)

Pictou is a town in Pictou County, in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Located on the North shore of Pictou Harbour, the town is approximately 10 km north of the larger town of New Glasgow.

Once an active shipping port and the shire town of the county, today Pictou is primarily a local service centre for surrounding rural communities and being the primary tourist destination in this region of Nova Scotia.

The name Pictou derives from the Mi'kmaw name Piktuk, meaning "explosive place", a reference to the river of pitch that was found in the area.


  • History 1
  • Notable Pictonians 2
  • Education 3
  • Attractions 4
  • Vessels 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Pictou had been the location of an annual Mi'kmaq summer coastal community prior to European settlement.[3] Pictou was part of the Epekwitk aq Piktuk Mi'kmaq District, which included present-day Prince Edward Island and Pictou.

Pictou was a receiving point for many Scottish immigrants moving to a new home in northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island following the Highland Clearances of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. While there were a significant number of Scottish people settled in other parts of Nova Scotia at the time Pictou was settled, the town's tourism slogan is "The Birthplace of New Scotland", which is based on being the first primarily made up Scottish immigrants. The first wave of immigrants arrived on September 15, 1773, on the Hector. The town has an indirect connection to Scottish settlement in New Zealand; the Reverend Norman McLeod emigrated to Pictou from Scotland some years after the Hector but eventually re-settled with his parishioners at St. Ann's on Cape Breton Island. He later encouraged his parishioners to move to Waipu where there are still many descendants from Pictou and St. Ann's.

ICR cars at dockside in Pictou, ca 1912.

In 1812 Sir Hector Maclean (the 7th Baronet of Morvern and 23rd Chief of the Clan Maclean) emigrated to Pictou from Glensanda and Kingairloch in Scotland with almost the entire population of 500.[4][5][6] Sir Hector is buried in the cemetery at Pictou.[6]

During the latter part of the 19th century, Pictou's industrial sector gained strength. The Intercolonial Railway was built to the town on a spur from the Stellarton-Oxford Junction "Short Line". Shipbuilding increased through the 19th century, particularly with the increase in coal being shipped from Pictou Landing, Abercrombie and the East River of Pictou. A number of shipyards have been continuously established in the town since this period. A notable shipbuilding accomplishment was the speedy construction of 24 Park ship freighters by the newly created Pictou Shipyard in World War II. After the war the shipyard continued operation building many fishing trawlers and ferries. The port's cargo activity increased after the nearby Scott Maritimes pulp mill opened in Abercrombie in 1965. CN Rail abandoned its service to the town in the late 1980s but other transportation - including Highway 106 (the Trans-Canada Highway) - opened in the 1970s to provide alternatives.

Notable Pictonians

Hector Pioneer by renowned sculptor John Wilson, Pictou, Nova Scotia


Pictou Academy is the town's high school and was founded in 1803 by Dr. Thomas McCulloch, who was travelling to his new clergy posting on Prince Edward Island. He was convinced to stay the winter and ended up remaining in Pictou for much longer. Disappointed by the lack of education among Pictonians, Dr. McCulloch decided to start a "college". There was considerable argument between Dr. Thomas McCulloch and Nova Scotia's provincial government for funding however it finally became a reality in 1816 when the Pictou Academy was incorporated. The province of Nova Scotia would not let it be named a "college," as such, but it was a school of higher education (senior matriculation) which was open to people of every race and denomination.

Between 1816 and the present, Pictou Academy has been in four separate buildings. The school was moved from its original building to a new site, while the second and third buildings both burned down. There were Academy graduates from every year since it was incorporated, excluding the years between several of its different buildings.

At the start of the school year of 2003–2004, all high schools in Pictou County were closed, and their students began to go the two new "superschools", Northumberland Regional High School, and North Nova Education Centre, for their education. The only exception to this is Pictou Academy, which continues to operate.

The town operates a small library and C@P site.


The former train station in Pictou is now a museum.
The primary tourist attraction in Pictou is the waterfront along Pictou Harbour. During the 1990s-2000s, industrial land on the Pictou waterfront was redeveloped with the centrepiece being construction of the replica tall ship Hector. Now completed, the ship is docked each summer at the Hector Heritage Quay, an interpretive centre that includes a gift store, a carpentry shop, a blacksmith shop and an artist's studio...

The Hector Festival, celebrating the arrival of settlers to Nova Scotia on the Hector takes place in August. In July, the Lobster Carnival takes place, and an amusement park is set up. The Lobster Carnival is a yearly event celebrating the end of the fishing season and has been a town festival since 1934.

The waterfront redevelopment also features a marina and small boardwalk that connects to the Trans-Canada Trail. The historic Intercolonial Railway station on the waterfront has been restored, and a new fisheries museum is under construction nearby.

Grohmann Knives Ltd, the only knife manufacturing factory in Canada, are the sole producers of the historic D.H. Russell Belt Knives and Grohmann Kitchen Knives for over 50 years. Free factory tours of the plant are offered to the public.

The war cenotaph was sculpted by the renowned George Hill.

Water taxis and boat tours of the harbour are available, which also connect to the town of New Glasgow.

Pictou is 5 kilometres south of the port of Caribou where Northumberland Ferries Limited operates a seasonal vehicle-pedestrian ferry service to Prince Edward Island; there is also a pedestrian-only ferry that operates seasonally to Pictou Island. Several beaches are located near the town of Pictou, most notably Caribou Provincial Park and Waterside Beach Provincial Park.


Three naval vessels have been named for Pictou, two Royal Navy schooners during the War of 1812 (see: HMS Pictou), and HMCS Pictou, a Flower-class corvette that served in the Atlantic during World War II.


  1. ^ "is thàinig iad gu tìr `s an àite `s a bheil Baile Phictou an diugh", An Drochaid Eadarainn - The Bridge Between Us
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Cambridge University, Manuscripts - MacLean Sinclair 1899: p282
  5. ^ The Independent, 7 November 1998, County and Garden, Duff Hart-Davis, Saturday, Secrets of a mountain of wealth
  6. ^ a b A History of the Clan Maclean from its first settlement at Duard Castle, in the Isle of Mull, to the present period including a genealogical account of some of the principal Families together with their Heraldry, Legends, Superstitions etc". by J. P. MacLean, 1889, p. 263.
  7. ^
  8. ^ [1], Censuses 1871-1931
  9. ^ [2], Census 1941-1951
  10. ^ [3], Census 1961
  11. ^ [4], Censuses 1981-2001
  12. ^ I:\ecstats\Agency\BRIAN\census2

External links

  • Official website of the Town of Pictou

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