In little over a week’s time, members of our team will be on the ground in Canada to tackle one of the best known destinations for migrant Scots and a hotbed of Diaspora influence and activity. Ahead of their travels they have been making contact with a wide range of people and collecting a great deal of information. Here’s one of the story’s which they’ve been sent to whet their appetite, sent in by Mary Gallant:
Prince Edward Island and the “Maple Hill MacDonalds”
My ancestors came from Scotland in 1772 on the brig Alexander under Captain John MacDonald of Glenaladale. My Ronald MacDonald was a cousin of Captain John and was married to Christy, daughter of Ronald Borrodale (granddaughter of Angus Borrodale). Ronald, Christy, their two year old son Allan, and Ronald’s two brothers, Donald and Fr James MacDonald were all passengers on the Alexander.
Ronald was the son of another Ronald MacDonald (brother of John VI of Glenaladale) and Margaret (sister of the bard Alastair MacMhaighstir). Ronald the younger was a teacher. It was always understood that they had come from South Uist, however research has shown that Allan stated he was born in Moidart: perhaps Ronald was teaching in South Uist. Ronald’s mother’s two brothers were tacksmen on South Uist.
Ronald settled on Maple Hill in Prince Edward Island and thus his descendents were known as the “Maple Hill MacDonalds”. In 1792 he purchased 200 acres and in 1798 another 200 acres was purchased by his two sons. Ronald & Christy ran a school and Captain John’s children attended it.
In addition to Allan, Ronald & Christy had four more sons and one daughter born in Prince Edward Island. One son moved to Cape Breton and his descendents are still there, living in the Bras d’Or Lake area. The remainder of the children settled on PEI.
Ronald and Christy’s son Ronald married Margaret MacDonald. They had five children. Unfortunately Ronald died young. He had returned on a ship and was sick so stayed on board. It is believed he had a fever, was delirious and fell overboard and drowned. He died in 1825 at age 36.
Ronald and Margaret’s son Ronald married Jane MacDonald. Ronald worked in his cousin’s shipyard on Maple Hill. He laid the keels on the ships and often went to other local shipyards to lay the keel. Ronald and Jane had nine children.
Ronald and Jane’s son Donald married Sarah MacIntyre. Donald & Sarah had three children, one daughter and two sons. Sarah died in her forties of tuberculosis. Donald was a farmer and a good carpenter. His sister Madge (Margaret) lived with him and helped raise the children after their mother died (they were age 8,10 and 12 at the time).
Donald and Sarah’s youngest son Clarence married Mary McAskill and they had seven children, five boys and two girls. Clarence was a farmer and he also fished smelts in the winter through the ice in the river.
Clarence and Mary’s youngest daughter Mary (that’s me) married Paul Gallant (descendent of the French Acadians) and we have four children and one granddaughter. I was known as Mary, Clarence, Donald, Ronald Peggy’s daughter. Because the second Ronald died young his wife Margaret’s name (Peggy) was used.
There were many MacDonalds who came out in 1772 and they had large families. Names such as Ronald, Donald, John, Mary, Margaret, Flora etc were used. In order to separate which Ronald (for example) you were talking about, the families became known by where they lived. We were the Maple Hill MacDonalds. There were also Apple Valley, Allissary, Lake, Forkie, Garrahellie, Bornish, Doctor, Second Crick, North Poles, Bans, Glencoe, Rhetland and more MacDonalds. This along with the tag names of their ancestors helped identify the proper individual. This can create much confusion when researching for an ancestor—say a John MacDonald—if you are not familiar with the families.
Part of our heritage was the knowledge that we need to keep the land. I would assume that is from not having land in Scotland and being beholden to others. The original four hundred acres of Maple Hill are still in the hands of direct descendents of the first Ronald. Amazingly that is a story all across this Island. A number of years ago the government gave awards to family farms that could trace their land back more then 100 years.. I think even they were surprised as to how many there were and how many went back to original ancestors. Religion was also very important. This group that came on the Alexander were Roman Catholic and this is still the faith of many of us today..
As a family of seven children on a small family farm, everyone was expected to help out. I have brothers who can bake biscuits and knit, some better than I. We were not rich in $ but we never went hungry or lacked for love. My dad was 52 when I was born and I recall him crawling around the floor chasing me. Later at the age of 74 he was doing the same with his grandson. He had a twinkle in his eye. Card games with neighbours or house parties were our entertainment. A wee dram on occasion was enjoyed and sometimes homemade!
Seeing visitors come trying to track their genealogy and listening to my dad pour out the names of their ancestors gave me an appreciation for the past and of course some was absorbed. I cannot claim to have the ability of my dad though. I have to refer to my papers where he carried it in his head.
Family is important to us and I have three siblings who live on Maple Hill. One of the others is in Toronto and two have passed away. Community is also important–everyone knows everyone –and their past.
Gaelic died out with my great grand mother-Jane. My dad knew a few phrases, but not all one would use in good company! My grand uncle Dr Roddie MacDonald at the age of 80 decided that he was going to learn the language. I have his dictionary. He lived to 103 and did pretty well at it. My brother Kermit and I went to a Gaelic immersion course that was being offered here. My brother was able to pick up the pronunciation quite fast and the instructor commented on that.
We were taught to be proud of our Scots ancestry and hopefully we can pass that on to future generations. This project will certainly bring it to the forefront and get them thinking about their roots.
Mary J. Gallant
We are extremely grateful to Mary for sharing her story with us… It is exactly this kind of personal story that will help this project to become a worthy tribute to the influence of Scots people and culture across the globe and across generations.