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New Ross castle leads author to Holy Grail
New Ross castle leads author to Holy Grail

New Ross castle leads author to Holy Grail

Mark Roberts
Lighthouse staff

 NEW ROSS - A simple outline of what may be an ancient castle in New Ross led a Lunenburg County author on a voyage back in time to early Christianity, a wealthy Scottish Nobleman and the legend of the Holy Grail.

 Mark Finnan, author of Oak Island Secrets and The First Nova Scotian, has completed his new book, The Sinclair Saga. The Sinclair Saga completes his trilogy on three of Nova Scotia's more compelling historical mysteries, an effort that took him six years. All three were published by Formac Publishing Company Limited. The official book launching is 7:30 p.m. July 22 at The Globe Trotter Cafe and Books in Chester.

 The Sinclair Saga discusses Scotland's Prince Henry Sinclair and his alleged voyage to Nova Scotia and New England in 1398. Sinclair was Admiral of the Seas, Lord Chief Justice of Scotland and the Norwegian-appointed Earl of Orkney during the latter half of the 14th century. He was also a member of the powerful Knights Templar order, which later evolved into the Masonic order. Followers of the Templar movement, who believed in democracy and equality, were later persecuted. Many were murdered and tortured.

 It is historical fact that Sinclair sailed to Iceland and Greenland and there is reason to believe he led an expedition to North America almost 100 years before John Cabot and Christopher Columbus. Mr. Finnan, for his part, also travelled extensively to research the book. He went to the Orkney Islands north of mainland Scotland, London, Scotland and many places in Nova Scotia, including New Ross and Guysborough County, where Sinclair may have landed.

 His research led him to the legend of the Holy Grail and some interesting theories on the centuries-old search.

 The "catalyst" for the book, however, he says, was the "castle at the cross" in New Ross, which many believe was settled by Sinclair. The site was purchased by Toronto archaeologist Glenn Penoyer, who is slowly, but thoroughly, excavating the site.

 Mr. Finnan says for the first time an etching of one of Sinclair's ships has been published. He says an Edinburgh, Scotland man originally from Halifax, found the etching, which clearly states the vessel is a Sinclair ship. The cover of the book is an artist's rendition of the ship. The vessel's bowsprit resembles the sea dragon on Sinclair's coat of arms and the eight-pointed Knight Templar cross is displayed on the ship's foresail. The find, he says, connects Sinclair as a mariner and the Knights Templar, which helped him argue in the book that Sinclair made the voyage.

 Mr. Finnan says the book became much more than he expected. "There are actually three stories here. What fascinates me is there is secular history but there is also sacred history that has been handed down through the centuries. We find it sometimes in legends. We find it sometimes in cryptic writings. It was kept pretty secret."

 He explains the Roman church was powerful and militant at the time and attempted to suppress contrary or even complementary belief systems.

 "We're reconnecting with history through legends such as the legend of the Holy Grail. In medieval times, it had to be written in such a way that the church could not suppress it. It was dangerous to divulge this stuff so what we have here is a sacred history contained in symbolism. It's very understandable once you break the code and the meaning of certain symbols. I try to explain that too so, hopefully, the average person does also. That's what excited me about this story because it was one journey, this journey across the Atlantic, and then there's this other journey, which is the quest for the meaning of the Grail, which has been going on for centuries."

 He explains his belief in the legend. "It's very likely there is a physical Grail but it came to symbolize something more than a simple object. It's more like a search for meaning, a search for self, a search for the higher meaning of life. That then becomes the quest. The Knights of the Grail are really those on that quest, whoever they may be. It could be you, it could be me, it could be anyone so there's nothing mysterious about this really. You just have to understand the symbolic language."

 Despite attempts by the early Roman church, he says, many Knights Templar beliefs came out, including democracy and equality. There are Masonic symbols on the American dollar bill, for example.

 He doesn't know for certain that Sinclair constructed a castle in New Ross but says he is happy a professional archaeological dig is under way. "I think in due course enough evidence will come from the site to demonstrate there was human activity on the site prior to the founding of New Ross."

 He says there is no reason why Sinclair couldn't have visited Nova Scotia. His ancestors were Vikings and visited the Maritimes.

 New Ross, he says, was a perfect site for a settlement because it was defensible. Early explorers, including the Vikings, would anchor in a harbour and travel up rivers in hopes of finding a strategic location to establish a settlement. Gold on what is now the Gold River was another probable attraction, he says. Tests on samples taken from sands on the New Ross site show high quantities of gold dust. Evidence of aboriginal activity has also been found, he says, and different materials discovered on the site will soon be carbon dated.

 Mr. Sinclair is already planning another book but won't divulge the topic. He enjoyed writing the trilogy, however. "It was an absolutely fascinating six years. When I came to Nova Scotia, I had no idea what I was walking into. There's so much of our early history that still needs to be discovered. There's probably as much we don't know about the history of Nova Scotia as we do know."'


 Lunenburg County author Mark Finnan was inspired to write a book about the alleged voyage of Scotland's Prince Henry Sinclair to Nova Scotia and New England in 1398 by the "castle at the cross" in New Ross. The book is titled The Sinclair Saga. An archaeologist is currently excavating the site, where Prince Sinclair may have established a settlement. The book launching is 7:30 p.m. July 22 at Globe Trotter Cafe and Books.

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