Generation: C

Donald 'Dan' MacDonald

Born: 1860 Died: 1911

Isabella Mackay

Born: 1856 Died: 1946
Father: William Mackay
Mother: Janet Murray


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Isabella born at Aisdale. Died Aberfeldy.

Dan was a builder and joiner in Strontian, Argyll. Airdrie district of Glasgow. Married 1880 at 106, Claythorn St. Glasgow, but both gave addresses at Shotts (Hillend).

RLM 25/3/71

Isabella Mackay, Mrs. Donald Macdonald (Of Coatbridge and Airdrie) 1856-1946

Frank G. Macdonald, her fifth son, wrote as follows, in 1967:

"Mother Macdonald was a somewhat shy person, and while not perhaps handsome, she was very attractive. Her smile was winsome and she had lovely brown hair. She was fond of listening to singing and to the piano. Often she would sing quietly to herself in Gaelic while busy with her housework.

Although a very placid person who could when necessary apply severe punishment for misbehaviour, and there could be no doubt that we would deserve it. An old sewing machine belt applied vigorously to our buttocks was her usual award, and not one readily forgotten. Her first concern was her family and her home. Many a time she would personally do without so that one or other of the family might receive. She was kindness personified.

She very rarely went visiting, but she gladly welcomed visitors, especially friends of any one of her family. In later years when, because of legacies received, she was in less indigent circumstances, part of her daily routine was to lay out her sideboard with whisky (but not rum or gin), port, sherry, soft drinks, biscuits, shortbread and fruit. When a visitor refused to partake of some refreshment she was much disappointed.

A clergyman who had just come to the district and making his first visitation, having refused refreshment of any kind, went on to express in strong terms his abhorrence of strong drink. He got the surprise of his life when the old lady quietly but firmly said the fault was not with the liquor but with the person. "The man who gets drunk is not a man at all. He is just a weakling and the man who is afraid of spirits is also a weakling." This minister never called again.

When I was in the hotel at Aberfeldy I made a point of calling upon Mother about 11 o'clock after the rush of breakfast and of departing overnight guests was over. I liked the break and she liked to know if business was good, etc. After her usual chat one day she got up from her chair to go to the sideboard. When I protested she stopped, turned round, caught me firmly by the ear while I was still seated. "Come to the window where I can see you", she said. Of course I had to do as she wished. At the window she turned me to the light, and had a long look at my face, then said "You look alright, Frank. Are you well enough?". "Of course, I am" I replied. "Then why won't you take a little whisky?". That was enough for me. I never hurt her again.

Early every New Year morning (about 1 a.m.) Jean and I with a few friends 'first-footed' her. Her sideboard would be laid out as for a banquet. This gave her a great deal of pleasure.

I cannot remember Mother ever going to Church, but she encouraged us to go. But as long as she was able she never missed an evening without reading her Bible, and, I have no doubt, saying a prayer for her off-spring, especially her wandering boys. With the foregoing and my references to her in my notes on the rest of the family I hope I have given some likeness of a 'gem of a mother'. To do her justice is beyond my ability."


The census of 1871 shows she had already left her home at Easdale for Glasgow, that is at age 15, doubtless to become a domestic servant there, the only type of post really open to her, for it gave her board and lodging, and some degree of protection or discipline from her mistress employer.

At 24, she married Donald Macdonald, age 20. He was a young, ambitious, carpenter-joiner-builder with doubtless the euphoria of a latent tubercular lesion. A colourful, attractive character. For him she produced seven sons and one daughter. Six went to the Great War I. One was killed at the crater of Messines, near Ypres, after surviving the Dardanelles, two were badly wounded, three were unscathed, one of whom was with submarines and later with "Q" boats - dangerous jobs. The youngest son never met his oldest brothers. Any connection between them was loose. They were 'loners'.

Isabella's husband died early, so back in her home we can remember the somewhat lonely figure, often wondering where her boys were, for they were not good correspondents. Her grand-children are in Scotland, England, Africa and America.

My father, George, must have been pleased to visit her, in her successive residences, at Caldercruix, Airdrie, Sandbank and Aberfeldy. These meetings between my father and his sisters and brothers seemed to consist of a very few sentences, long pauses, cake and milk (or whisky) and then "We must be getting off now".

Frank MacDonald:

Frank, today 26th January 1969, was describing how his mother, Isabella, usually put down a whole lamb into a tub of brine, for family use during the winter. She also had a steel fender in front of her kitchen fire, which she kept highly polished.

One morning she put the fender aside, and Dan took advantage of the heat near it to stand in his nightgown just in front of the fire. Suddenly the tail of the nightgown took fire, and at that moment Alan, the oldest, happened to enter the kitchen and observed what was happening. Without any hesitation he at once picked up Dan and dropped him into the brine tub, in time to prevent damage to Dan.

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