USA and NZ. Builder. Bachelor.
Frank, his brother, says he was a real rolling stone. He had a fine training in joinery from his father. Spent some time in New Zealand as well as in Australia.
Once he met a chap who did cattle driving in New South Wales. He became interested in the job and thought he would like to try it. Chummed up with the fellow and they set out together with cattle to drive some 500 miles. On the way, his companion who was in poor health died in the saddle, possibly in the desert. Bill real worried. He strapped the body to the horse's saddle with rope and leathers and brought it safely to the police station, worried lest he be charged with murder.
Another job Bill had was poisoning rabbits in Australia. He did his work on horseback. Don't known how.
About 1901 Bill, who worked as an apprentice joiner to our father, joined him in Denver, Colorado. Incidentally many years later Bill maintained that "his old man was the best craftsman he had ever met". Denver was then just a small place mainly of wood-built houses with duck boards as pavements (or side-walks).
Soon he and father were building properties for sale or on contract and made a lot of money. They had bought up several plots which they thought would become valuable sites. Things went so well that father tried to persuade mother to take the family out to join him. For some reason or other she said "No".
The time came when father decided to return home, whether or not because of mother's "No" I don't know.
For some reason unknown Bill never set up in business on his own account. He preferred to be employed on big undertakings like new railroads. He was some years on tunnelling work, and for a time worked on the Panama Canal project. He told me when he was at home for a short time before leaving for New Zealand and subsequently crossing to Australia that on one tunnelling job he had worked not less than 12 hours every day for 3 years except for three Independence Days.
Bill seems to have been very much a "Loner". For 9 years we at home never received the scrape of a pen. Then one day we received a telegram. It simply said, "Arriving Airdrie 3.10 p.m. Bill". It was from Glasgow to an address we had left years before. I reached us between 1 and 2 o'clock when only mother and I were at home. I got the afternoon off from my office and met him at the Railway Station. Only the unusual cut of his suit identified him. I can still see myself going forward to him, raising my cap and saying "Excuse me, but are you Bill Macdonald?". He: "I sure am. Who are you?". Me: "I'm Frank". He: "How do?", and shook hands.
He stayed at home for a year or so. Then on a Saturday he announced he was sailing from Tilbury Docks on the following Wednesday for New Zealand. It was at least another 6 years before we heard from him again. That was in 1917. I was in hospital at Rochester Kent when I received a letter from him. It was addressed to an office where I had worked, and after being to three or four other addresses finally reached me. The letter had been posted at Hendon. He was with the Graham White Aviation Company, repairing planes. After repairs he was one of the crew flying to France and Italy. Having telegraphed my address to him, he said he would be down the following Sunday. As it happened Dan was at Devonport and Alec at Portsmouth. Each of them in turn duly crashed into the ward and with some difficulty persuaded the surgeon in charge to allow them to take me out on a wheeled stretcher. We landed in an up-stairs restaurant, stretcher included. Then back to hospital and each on their separate ways.
Bill returned to Australia in 1919, and we heard nothing from him until 1947. Then another cablegram followed me from Sandbank to Aberfeldy. He would be in London on a certain day and would telegraph me. This he did, and I duly collected him by car at Perth. He looked a sick man. On the drive home he asked if I could put him up for a few weeks and would I introduce him to my doctor. It transpired he had cancer. Not that he ever said so, but it is certain his main purpose in coming home was to take advantage of the National Health Insurance. He would be with us at least a year when he was in and out of hospital in Edinburgh and the local hospital. Then off to Australia again, and more silence.
Not a penny had he offered for Jean's care, his board, and my ferrying him to Edinburgh, Airdrie, Bonar Bridge, etc. I did not hear of him again until a lady friend of his sent me a press cutting intimating his death on 4th June 1953. I do not know what estate he left but he did have some property in Sydney. I presume whatever he had would go to his friend, Mrs. Siely, a widow of whom he had spoken most kindly. A strange and unusual lad Bill was!
Later. Frank Macdonald on his brother Bill:
In the last year of Bill's life when he was a fading man, Frank took him up by car to Bonar Bridge at Bill's request to see Lonachuan. When they got up the hill, Bill (who had never been there before) was overcome by emotion and by the loneliness and said he could not go on. So they turned back.
As a youth Bill was a very good footballer.
While young he had a job at a distance of five miles from his home at Airdrie, and had to rise at 4.30 a.m. to walk the distance for work at 6 a.m. His mother Bella always got his breakfast ready then. So it was a long day.
Although they never got letters from Bill throughout his long life, he was the one of the family Bella seemed most concerned about.