Is­land hon­our for He­bridean ex­pats

● Widow who left in search of a new life founded Aus­tralian ‘dy­nasty’

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By MOIRA KERR

A Scot­tish widow who left the He­brides in search of a new life with her ten chil­dren has been hon­oured in her home­land for her fam­ily’s legacy in Aus­tralia.

The de­scen­dants of Cather­ine Mcdon­ald, who left the poverty-stricken isle of Gome­tra and set sail from Liver­pool 164 years ago to­day, went on to be­come pillars of the Aus­tralian work­force.

A plaque has been un­veiled at a cer­e­mony on Gome­tra to com­mem­o­rate the fam­ily, as Mrs Mcdon­ald’s de­scen­dants of more than 2,000 have in­cluded gen­er­a­tions of farm­ers, teach­ers, nurses, bank and gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees and com­puter ex­perts.

Her great grand­son, Don­ald Kelso Mckel­lar, who died in 1986, served the Aus­tralian state of Vic­to­ria as an MP.

The plaque matches one erected at an ear­lier re­union of 200 de­scen­dants at the farm al­lo­cated to the fam­ily af­ter they em­i­grated to Vic­to­ria.

Mrs Mcdon­ald’s great great grand­son Jim Gough, 78, who lives in a house named Gome­tra in Branx­holme Vic­to­ria, two miles south of where the widow once lived, told how his an­ces­tor had ap­plied to the High­lands and Is­lands Em­i­gra­tion So­ci­ety to win pas­sage to Aus­tralia.

He said: “Her hus­band Don­ald Mcdon­ald had died and Cather­ine and her two sons and eight daugh­ters left Scot­land un­der the aus­pices of the High­lands and Is­lands Em­i­gra­tion.”

He said his an­ces­tor was so des­per­ate to be ac­cepted that she lied about her age and added: “The so­ci­ety was set up by Sir Charles Trevelyan in 1852, to re­lieve the suf­fer­ing in the High­lands, but it had a rule of not tak­ing peo­ple over 45, and she must have been more like 49, while the list shows 44.”

How­ever, the so­ci­ety recorded them as “one of the best fam­i­lies for em­i­gra­tion to meet with”. Mr Gough said: “Pre­sum­ably this was be­cause there was a short­age of women in the colony.”

He added: “Bonds formed be­tween fam­i­lies on the voy­age were strength­ened when both boys, and one of the girls, mar­ried peo­ple they met on board, and an­other four also found Scot­tish-born spouses.”

Roc Sand­ford, the present day owner of Gome­tra, and post­mistress Rhoda Munro, who run the only two per­ma­nent house­holds on the is­land, un­veiled the plaque.

Mr Sand­ford met Mr Gough when he vis­ited Gome­tra last year and added: “I am so pleased that, thanks to the gen­eros­ity of Cather­ine’s de­scen­dants in send­ing us a plaque in her mem­ory, we have been able to com­mem­o­rate Cather­ine and her chil­dren here on Gome­tra, in Baile­claidh, the village which was once their home.”

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