Thursday, 28 February 2013

Autobiography: Chapter Two


The House that Hector Built


'Coll View', Caolas, Tiree, as it is today.

This chapter is being written in ‘Coll View’, my family home in Tiree, which stands on a north-south alignment by the road-side in Caolas, and looks across to the island of Coll.  It is not the average outsider’s concept of a ‘cottage’ in the Highlands.  It is a large, stone-built farm-house of Lowland type, consisting of a main building with storm windows, and a smaller extension in similar style with a skylight on its north gable.  To the west and east sides of this smaller extension have been added two more extensions, now accommodating a kitchen and a bathroom respectively.  At its southern gable, and separated from it by a track, stands another small house, felt-roofed and aligned east-west.  This is the ‘pump house’, where washing and other chores were undertaken.

As the name-board above the front door of the main house declares, it was built in 1891.  A surviving receipt indicates the date, 22 January 1891, when the house was completed. The mason, Donald McInnes, Uig, Island of Coll, was then paid for ‘the erection and the building of a dwelling house’.  The cost of the mason’s labours was £13.8/-, and he received another £1 in May of that year for ‘pointing’. Another receipt shows that the wood for roofing and flooring was obtained from the City Saw Mills in Glasgow in November 1890. It is likely that the project was in train for some time before then.  Most of  the house was probably built in the autumn of 1890, as soon as the harvest was finished.

Caolas, as seen from Croish, looking east to Coll, which is separated from Tiree by the Sound
of Gunna.  'Coll View' is the house with the black roof to the right (south) of the main road.  The
white house to the left (north) of the road is 'Caolas House', formerly owned by MacLeans who were
closely related to Hector MacDonald on his mother's side.

The new house, as it then was, replaced an earlier felt-roofed dwelling, ‘Coll View Cottage’, which stood close to the road now going south to Milton.   On the original stone name-plate, the new building was rather grandly called ‘Coll View House’.  It was a house, not a cottage, and its construction marked a significant point in the social improvement of the MacDonald family.  They had passed the boundary between ‘cottagers’ and ‘house-occupiers’.  They had moved up the ladder, and, in building ‘Coll View’, they evidently felt confident of a better future.   A new era had come.

The MacDonalds of ‘Coll View’ would not have been alone in thinking along these lines and in welcoming brighter prospects by building a new house.  The Crofters’ Holdings (Scotland) Act had been passed only four years previously in 1886. It granted security of tenure to crofters who paid their rent as required.  Such security was not guaranteed before 1886.  Indeed, the Highlands and Islands had witnessed much clearance and eviction of crofting tenants in the preceding century.  The Act was achieved only after a period of strong and effective agitation, which witnessed rent-strikes and riots by crofters in many parts of the region, including Tiree, and was at its height in the early 1880s.   Among the protestors was my great-grandfather, Hector MacDonald, who built ‘Coll View’.  His certificate of membership of the Highland Land Law Reform Association is one of my most treasured possessions.  It is the only one of its kind which I have yet seen, though many other crofters were in membership of this London-based society.

This is a particularly good portrait of my great-grandfather, Hector MacDonald,
Eachann Ban, showing his steady gaze, much needed in an age of great change and volatility.

For Hector MacDonald himself – known locally as Eachann Bàn (‘Fair-haired Hector’) – the completion of ‘Coll View’ must have represented the ultimate triumph of personal determination and hard labour over grim adversity.   Born in January 1835, he was the son of Donald MacDonald, ‘crofter at Caolis, and his wife, Annabella MacLean’ (b. 5 February 1809).  There were three other children in the family: Effie, born about 1830, who died in childhood; Neil, born in 1831; and Christina (Curstaidh or Kirsty), born in 1833.  Sadly, Annabella died when Hector was born.   Donald then married a second time, on 24 August 1836, his new wife being Mary MacDonald from Coll (b. 22 August 1813).  

The circumstances of the family appear to have been shaken yet again in 1847, perhaps as a result of the Potato Famine of 1846, when the crop failed throughout the Highlands.  Whatever the cause, Donald decided to emigrate, taking Neil with him, but leaving Hector and Christina in Tiree.  The children of the second marriage also accompanied him – Lachlan, Sarah, Flora, Ann and Joanna.  When Donald and Mary reached the other side, they succumbed to an illness which they had evidently contracted on board the ship. Donald was aged fifty, Mary thirty-four.  It was a tragic ending to their lives, but it was not an uncommon outcome among emigrants at the time.  Despite this set-back, Donald’s family appear to have put down their roots firmly in Canada, settling in Orillia, Ontario.  In 1863 Christina MacDonald married John MacLean of Urvaig, Caolas, and emigrated to Cadurcis, Manitoba, in 1878, thus leaving Hector as the sole representative in Tiree of their direct MacDonald line.

The gravestone of my great-great-grandfather, Donald MacDonald, and his second wife, Mary MacDonald, at Uptergrove, Orillia, Canada, records the tragic outcome of their emigration from Caolas, Tiree, in 1847
The effects of Donald’s uprooting from Caolas, Tiree, must have been considerable.  His family had been there for at least five generations before him, as his family tree makes clear.  Thanks to the painstaking genealogical research of Mary MacLean and the late Angus MacLean, 'The Coolins', Scarinish, Tiree, I am now able to outline Donald MacDonald's pedigree with a fair degree of accuracy, as follows: 

Donald (b. 28 Dec. 1798) son of Neil (b. about 1765; m. 2 March 1794, m. to Marion MacDonald) son of John (b. about 1739, m. to Mary MacConnel about 1747) son of Neil (b. about 1706) son of Donald son of 'Black John' (Iain Dubh).

This pedigree takes my great-grandfather's lineage back to the middle of the seventeenth century.  It also seems to show that the family was a collateral branch of the MacDonald kindred known as 'na Duibh' (pronounced 'Duich' in Tiree') or 'Duich a' Chaolais' ('the Black Ones of Caolas'), in reference to their hair - or perhaps other less commendable virtues!  Malcolm MacDonald, known as 'The Lancer' because of his ability to lance boils and other afflictions of that kind (a skill acquired in military service), was the uncle of Donald MacDonald, my great-great-grandfather. My family's connection to 'Na Duich' was not emphasised (or even mentioned!) in my time, though new relationships established through movement of family relatives to the west end of Tiree (notably Balephuil) were remembered and cultivated.

The houses are at Milton, Caolas, and were formerly occupied by MacDonald relatives.   The more distant house
 belonged to the family of  'The Contractor', whose last surviving member was Alasdair MacDonald, Ottawa.
   The house in the foreground belonged to Donald and Jessie Ann MacDonald, whose son Lachlan has been living
outside Toronto for many years.  The photograph was taken by Pete Craib, who inserted the cross to indicate
 the approximate location of Tobhtachan Mhurchaidh, and noted on the back, 'Part of the foundation is still there'.
  In fact, the site is closer to Port Ban than to Milton.
We do not know the occupations of Donald’s ancestors, but we can be fairly certain that his father Neil would have been the first to hold a croft, as crofting was not introduced to Caolas until after 1800 (though the possibility that he was not a crofter, but a landless cottar who fished off the local coastline, cannot be discounted).  We can also be sure that whatever land he may have possessed was not that held by Hector of ‘Coll View’. 

The red arrow shows the location of Tobhtachan Mhurchaidh.  The location of 'Coll View' is marked by the
telephone symbol.

Donald's home was said to have been located in an area of Milton called Tobhtachan Mhurchaidh (‘Murdoch’s Ruins’), lying at the head of Loch an Air, to the north-east of the present-day community.  In fact, it was closer to Port Bàn than it was to Milton, lying less than a quarter of a mile to the south-west of the Port Bàn croft house, now owned by Tim and Alice Renton.  It was through a passing reference by Alice to the ruined home of one of my MacDonald relatives, Flora MacDonald ('An Nàbag' - see below), that, in early June 2013, I inspected the relevant field, containing the remains of a 'terrace' of three old cottages, with a fourth - 'An Nàbag's' - lying slightly to the north-east of the 'terrace'.  According to information given to Alice Renton by the late Angus MacLean, the three houses were occupied by MacFadyens (one family) and MacDonalds, with the fourth also in MacDonald hands.  The houses of Milton are relatively close to Tobhtachan Mhurchaidh, and most of Upper Caolas, including 'Coll View', can be seen from the site.

Here I am standing in the middle cottage of the three in the 'terrace' at Tobhtachan
Mhurchaidh.  The fourth ruin can be seen towards the top right, beside the rocky outcrop.

The ‘Coll View’ MacDonalds thus appear to have had their 'original' homes (or at least their first so-far identifiable homes!) on that surprisingly green, walled patch between Milton and Port Bàn, with its hauntingly conspicuous ruins, covered in turf.  Their connection with that part of Caolas is corroborated by another branch of the family, represented in Milton by Alasdair MacDonald and his sister Jean, whose father Donald, known locally as ‘The Contractor’, emigrated to Ottawa, Canada.   Their  former home in Milton was known latterly as 'Windrush', but it had previously been occupied by their relative, Effie MacDonald, who composed the elegy on Private John MacDonald (see Chapter 5).

This is one of the two MacLean 'aunties' who brought up my great-grandfather, Hector MacDonald,
after the death of his mother.  It may be Mary MacLean.
According to family tradition, this is a photograph of the two MacLean 'aunties', shown together
at the spinning-wheel and carding-combs.   If (IF!) this is an accurate identification, the photograph
predates 1876, when Ishbel, the older of the two aunts (on the left?) died.
Possibly around the time of Donald MacDonald's emigration, it seems that the remaining family moved from Tobhtachan Mhurchaidh to other parts of Caolas.  His sister Flora, 'An Nàbag', took up residence in a croft close to 'Seaview', above the road to Milton, and married another Donald MacDonald, who also appears to have had a croft in that area.    Eachann Bàn had already been 'fostered out' with relatives on his mother's side.   His mother, as already noted, was Annabella MacLean, the daughter of Hector MacLean, Eachann mac Eachainn (‘Hector son of Hector’), of the MacLeans of Caolas House, across the main road from ‘Coll View’.  Annabella had two sisters, Ishbel (who died in 1876, aged 86) and Mary (who died in 1902, also aged 86), and a brother James (who died in 1862, aged 43).  Eachann Bàn was put in the care of his MacLean aunts, Ishbel and Mary, when his mother died in 1835.  Kirsty, however, was placed with her father's sister, Flora MacDonald ('An Nàbag'), and thus reared near 'Seaview'.  One wonders what she thought of her aunt, who was something of a mystery to her later relatives.   'An Nàbag' was said to have had supernatural endowments which set her apart from others, and local tradition was a trifle ambivalent about her.  These  endowments included her alleged ability to inflict bad luck on anyone who chanced to leave his/her house at the same time as 'An Nàbag'.  Her nickname may mean 'the little female neighbour', perhaps with the implication that she was not quite 'one of the family'. 

Eachann Bàn ’s maternal aunts held the ‘Coll View’ croft after their father's death in 1856, and it was through them that he inherited it.  Mary lived in the new ‘Coll View’ house in her old age, and it was there that she died.  By building ‘Coll View’, Eachann Bàn showed very clearly that he had succeeded, against remarkable odds, in securing the MacDonald and MacLean inheritance.   He was remembered in the family as an immensely hard worker, undaunted by difficulty.

This remarkable family photograph of Hector and Effie (nee MacLeod) MacDonald appears to have been taken about 1905, as it shows Effie Meek as a little girl (born 1901) standing between her grandparents.  On the left of the front row is my Uncle Donald.  In the back row, from the left, are: possibly Marion (Donald's wife), probably John (Iain, then in his late teens), and Maggie.  The photograph was taken at the western gable of the Pump House.

Hector MacDonald married in 1865.  His wife was Effie, daughter of Alexander MacLeod and Ann MacFadyen in Ruaig, who was born in 1842.  The ceremony was performed by the Rev. John Gregorson Campbell, then parish minister of Tiree.  

My great-grandmother, Euphemia MacLeod, commonly wore a dark dress with
mutch etc. when being photographed formally.  It was not a sign of mourning, though
the influence of Queen Victoria's 'widow's weeds' is probably detectable.

Their first child was Alexander, born in 1866.  Four more boys (Hector [1871], Charles [1874], Donald [1884] and John [1887]) and five girls (Mary Flora [1868], Ann [Nancy, 1870],  Isabella [1876], Annabella [Annabel, 1878] and Margaret Catherine [Maggie, 1881]) were to follow over the next twenty years.

My great-grandfather, Hector MacDonald, and his wife, Effie MacLeod, photographed beside the garden wall, probably by their son John, shortly before he went to France, where he was killed in 1917.  My great-
grandparents celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1916, and this may have been their special photograph.

It was a large family.  This explains why ‘Coll View’ was required, and why it was built on such ample proportions.  It also explains how ‘Coll View’ was built.  Hector was able to draw on his own family as labourers.  Annabel, who was alive until 1969, described to me vividly how the stone for the house was obtained by blasting, under her father’s direction, from a small quarry some distance to the south-east of the site, close to where the shelter-dyke stands.  The girls were responsible for leading the horses which pulled the stone from the quarry on a wooden sledge, while the boys undertook the heavy lifting to and from the sledge. 

The quarry which supplied the stone for 'Coll View' is to the immediate left of this photograph, beside the animal-feeder.  Dun Mor a' Chaolais rises above the shelter-dyke, which is still in use.

When the stones were unloaded, they were dressed, and then heaved on to the scaffolding as each course of the house was added.  This was no mean feat, given that the southern gable of the house is about forty feet in height.  Annabel often recalled how her hands were bitterly cold as she led the horses.  She was then thirteen years of age, and undertook her chores in the early morning before going to school.  Such practical involvement of children in a major building operation might be regarded as abuse in our time, but in those days youngsters were expected to play their part, from a very early age, in the survival of the family.  In that way, the children were trained in hardihood, and prepared for lives which made little concession to leisure or luxury.  It often occurred to me as significant that, although Annabel often spoke of her cold, chafed hands, she never complained about how she and her brothers and sisters were employed in the erection of ‘Coll View’.  A new house was needed, and the family as a whole took a pride in its building.

Far from being seen as a tyrant of some kind, Hector MacDonald was held in the highest esteem by his children.  He was a stocky, bearded man of medium height, known for his immense strength and feared for his fiery temperament, which would show itself when he was seriously provoked. Such an instance of provocation occurred when he was building ‘Coll View’.  One of his near neighbours, who was evidently less than thrilled by the elevation in social status which the new erection signified for the MacDonald family, especially as he himself had ‘toadied in’ with the estate and its agents at the time of the crofters’ agitation, turned up when Hector was hard at work on the roof of the house.  Looking at the beams, he told him that he would knock the roof off the house.  Hector jumped down from the wall, and confronted him in Gaelic with the words, ‘Just do it, and I can assure you that you will not do anything like it ever again.’  The neighbour backed off quickly.


The fight for crofters’ rights left its mark on Hector, but it also contributed to the steely determination of other members of the family.  Both Annabel and Maggie well remembered how, in 1886, marines had been sent to Tiree to quell supposedly riotous crofters and cottars who had taken control of Greenhill Farm at the west end of the island.  Detachments were sent throughout the island to assess the disposition of the ‘natives’.  Annabel had particularly vivid recollections of the troop of soldiers who came to Caolas, equipped with bayonets and red jackets.  As they patrolled the township, they pitched camp at a small well by the side of the road south to Milton.  The event was frequently recalled when I went with Maggie to draw water from the well for the poultry. Annabel too recounted the story until the end of her days.  It was Maggie who preserved her father’s certificate of membership of the Highland Land Law Reform Association.  It was kept in a small box, which included papers attacking the Tiree landlord, the Duke of Argyll, which were written by the veteran land reformer, John Murdoch.  Along with these papers was a copy of the Gaelic translation of the Crofters’ Holdings (Scotland) Act of 1886, which had brought a considerable measure of security to the MacDonald family, as to many others, and encouraged the building of ‘Coll View’. 

My great-grandfather's copy of the Gaelic version of the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886 carries his name at the top, evidently written by the donor, who appears to have been a 'MacLaine'.
His early experiences and hardships may have made Hector somewhat sensitive to any disparagement of his or his family’s status.  He was certainly prepared to take direct and drastic action against any person who dared to indulge in mockery of himself or his family.  According to family tradition, he provided a fitting punishment for a fellow islander who made fun of him on one unforgettable occasion.  The islander had improved his lot in the Lowland cities, and, while visiting the island, he chanced to see Eachann Bàn as he was cleaning the byre.   For unknown reasons, he began to make fun of his lowly status and untidy dress.  Eachann Bàn strode up to the pompous gentleman, lifted him off the ground, threw him across his shoulder and strode off with him to the dunghill.  In those days, dunghills were particularly unpleasant places, with a pool of stale urine and moist dung which oozed out and imparted a sharp, rich odour to the environment.  This was known in Gaelic as lub an dùnain (‘the dunghill puddle’).  Eachann Bàn hurled his unfortunate mocker into the middle of the pool, and left him to extricate himself as best he could.  His derider’s fine attire was no doubt less suited to the experience of the dunghill than Hector’s humble garb.  This may have been rough justice, but it was well merited, and it says much about how crofters of that era protected their hard-won privileges, such as they were.  Some of us may feel a little sorry that such punishment is not readily available for those who would malign and rough-handle crofters and Gaels in our own time, since there are certain worthy candidates who might benefit from such treatment.

My great-aunts Annabel (spinning) and Maggie (carding) pose for what was evidently
a 'staged' photograph, presumably taken in Tiree.
Hector MacDonald had a strong arm which he used as required, but he was no less strong in his kindness to others.  From time to time, the island experienced epidemics of various types, ranging from cholera to diphtheria.   A family in Caolas lost three of its members through diphtheria in a particularly harrowing tragedy.  Because of the fear of infection, there was nobody in the family or in the township who would take the risk of  preparing their bodies for burial.  Hector heard of this, and immediately offered his services.   He ensured that the young people who had been cruelly snatched from life were treated with dignity in death.   He did not fear for his own health or for his own life.  Concern for the community was above such selfish considerations.

Hector’s actions on that occasion were probably influenced by another of his attributes, namely his deeply evangelical Christian faith.  He was a devout believer, but in his beliefs he was as independent as he was in matters pertaining to crofting.  He was a pillar of Ruaig Congregational Church, and served as a Trustee for many years, regularly paying its feu duty.

Unquestionably Hector MacDonald was the patriarch and dominant figure of the family, but it is very evident that his wife Effie was also a strong character, both physically and emotionally.   She produced ten children over a twenty-year period, and all of these reached adulthood – a truly remarkable record for that time.   As the years passed, she was ably helped in the governing of the family by her eldest daughter, Mary Flora, who had a special gift in what would be called ‘managerial skills’ nowadays.  She licked the younger children into shape, and even went as far as to chide her mother strongly when she was expecting John (known as Iain) in 1887.  When Iain arrived, he was very dearly loved.  His death at the Battle of Vimy Ridge (part of the action associated with the second Battle of Arras) in France in 1917 was too great for his mother to bear.  She passed away in 1919.  Hector himself lived until 1924.  Defying emigration and the forces of economic collapse which had taken his father and brother to Canada and had almost destroyed his family on the Tiree side, he had  re-established his immediate MacDonald kin in greatly improved circumstances.  ‘Coll View’ symbolised the apex of his achievement.

‘Coll View’ became the focal point of the MacDonald family, acting as the main house of the croft and offering a sense of identity and stability in a changing world.  It has maintained this role for successive generations, over more than a century.  It witnessed the dispersal of several members of the family throughout Scotland and across the globe. It provided shelter for those who returned, and an open door for their descendants when they visited ‘the old home’ many years later.


Christina (Curstaidh) MacDonald, sister of my great-grandfather, Hector MacDonald,
married John MacLean, Urvaig, and emigrated to Cadurcis, Manitoba, in 1878. In the
photograph below, she is seen working at her spinning-wheel.
(I owe both photographs to the kindness of Dr Margaret A. Mackay, University of Edinburgh.)

One of the most interesting dimensions of the ‘Coll View’ family was, indeed, the network of relatives which it had in Canada, as a consequence of the emigration of Hector’s father, Donald, and his second family to Ontario in 1847, and of his sister, Christina, to Manitoba in 1878.  I became particularly aware of this wider network when representatives of Donald’s second family appeared in ‘Coll View’ at different times in the early 1960s, virtually out of the blue.  I was astonished when a couple called Theodore and Alice Stainton stood on our doorstep around 1961, and claimed kinship with my father.  Alice and Theo lived in Markham, Ontario, and they had crossed the Atlantic without any prior contact with my parents.   They had taken the Claymore from Oban to Tiree, and it just so happened that, on board the ship, they spoke to another passenger called Morag MacDonald, who was a complete stranger to them but who was a close acquaintance of the ‘Coll View’ MacDonalds.  As Morag was travelling to ‘Coll View’, she was able to direct the Staintons to the very house and to the very people whom they wished to meet.  This remarkable ‘coincidence’ caused me to reflect closely on the ways of Providence, and I still ponder it in quiet moments.  It turned out that Alice was descended from Donald MacDonald’s daughter, Sarah.  I was greatly impressed by both Alice and Theo.  They were lovely people. The beauty of their Christian character shone through their radiant faces, as did their warm enthusiasm for their Scottish relatives.  It seemed to me that I was witnessing a reworking of the parable of the Prodigal Son, as my parents showed hospitality to our long-lost cousin and her husband.   More than twenty years later my mother was able to visit Alice Stainton in her home in Ontario, and to meet her daughters.

Theo and Alice Stainton, photographed in 1970, look just as I remember them!
A couple of years after the Staintons’ visit, and as a consequence of it, another ‘unknown relative’ arrived in Tiree in 1963, having first introduced himself by means of a very interesting letter (reproduced below).  He was Peter Craib, who telephoned shortly thereafter to inform us that he was staying in one of the local hotels.  He was a descendant of Hector MacDonald's half-sister Flora, his mother Mary being Flora's daughter.  Pete, as he called himself, soon became part of the family.  He too was from Ontario, and had his own business as a builder of wooden fences.  He was a keen amateur farmer, and owned a Highland cow.  His attachment to Scottish culture was more marked than that of the Staintons, and his desire to meet various distant relatives throughout the island, and to enjoy a convivial dram, was more than evident.  He visited Tiree on at least one further occasion, as I was able to meet him in Oban about 1967 when I was at Oban High School.   My mother visited Pete and his wife Marion in their Ontario home in 1985, and we have maintained contact with his daughter and her family to the present.

The MacDonald gravestone at Uptergrove, Orillia, was replaced by Peter (Pete) Craib,
whose infectious, warm-hearted interest in his MacDonald ancestors took him back to
Tiree.  Here, characteristically attired in his working clothes, he sits between the new
gravestone and his beloved jeep!
It is evident from the existence of photographs of Neil MacDonald in the family album that the ‘Coll View’ MacDonalds maintained a link with Neil and his wife into the later nineteenth century.  However, contact with the children of Donald’s second marriage appears to have been lost at an early stage, presumably as a consequence of their parents’ tragic deaths so soon after the voyage from Tiree in 1847.  It was for this reason that the visits of Alice and Theo Stainton, and of Pete Craib, had an element of surprise.

This remarkable photograph shows a family get-together in the home of the MacLeans in Minnedosa
on July 23 1939.   Donald ('Dan') MacLean is on the extreme left, and his wife Isabella (nee MacDonald,
formerly of 'Coll View') is on the extreme right.  In the middle, the second lady from the left, is Aunt Annabel,
and to the immediate right of Isabella is my grandmother, Nancy Meek.   In other words, this picture shows
three 'Coll View' sisters then resident in Canada, who are also related twice-over to the MacLeans of Urvaig, Caolas, Tiree, through marriage into their MacDonalds   Hector MacLean, father of Lachlan and Marjorie MacLean who visited Tiree when I was a boy, is the third man from the left.

The descendants of Christina MacDonald, by contrast, maintained close contact with Tiree throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They were firmly connected to Caolas through Christina’s marriage to John MacLean of Urvaig, and their relationship to the MacDonalds of ‘Coll View’ was further reinforced when Christina’s son, Donald (Dan), married Isabella, daughter of Hector MacDonald, and thus his own first cousin.  The main MacLean visitors to ‘Coll View’ in the second half of the twentieth century were Marjorie and Lachlan MacLean, the children of Hector, another of Christina’s sons.  The most recent member of the family to visit Tiree, around 1977, was Dr David MacLean, son of Ian Arthur MacLean, brother of Marjorie and Lachlan.  Contact with the MacLean family, in its various branches, has been preserved to the present.

Neil MacDonald, Orillia, Canada, in his striped trousers and velvet jacket about 1870! 

The evidence suggests that the MacDonalds who emigrated to Canada prospered there, even if their circumstances on arrival were less than comfortable. A photograph of Neil MacDonald around 1870 shows him as something of a dandy, in striped trousers and a dark velvet jacket, whereas an early twentieth-century photograph of his brother, Hector of ‘Coll View’, presents him in a heavy tweed suit.  By this time Hector was an old man, worn out with toil, whereas in every photograph Neil – even in later years – had a lively gleam in his eye, as if life had served him well.  An air of well-being was conveyed even more strongly  by those who visited Tiree in the twentieth century.  Whenever I met our Canadian relatives, I was aware of their higher standard of living, as they had cameras and other gadgets to which we in Tiree, even in the 1960s, could not easily aspire.  In Canada opportunities were much greater than in Scotland, and those who were prepared to work hard gained their reward in proportion.  Canada continued to attract members of the MacDonald family into the earlier twentieth century, and history repeated itself when the Meek family emigrated to Vancouver about 1913, leaving my father behind in ‘Coll View House’, just as his grandfather had been left behind in ‘Coll View Cottage’ in 1847.

Hector MacDonald's brother Neil, pictured with his wife, in 1904.  This photograph was sent
as a Christmas gift by Neil in Orillia to Hector in Tiree.  The sparkle in Neil's eyes is very evident.
Neil's daughters are pictured below: left to right, Kate, Bella, and (far right) Annabel.   The lady with
the fancy hat is Mary Craib, Pete's mother.  'Cousin Annabel in Orillia' corresponded with John MacDonald
 when he was in France.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful reading about the families and history of Caolas and Tiree!