The Family History of Mary Anne MacLeod, the Mother of Donald J. Trump
by Tony Reid
Mary Anne was born on 10th May 1912 at 5 Tong, Stornoway to Malcolm MacLeod and his wife Mary Smith. The family lived at Tong, a small fishing/crofting township lying 3-4 miles from Stornoway, the only town on the Isle of Lewis. The parents married in 1891 within the Free Church of Scotland, Tong. Malcolm was a local fisherman/crofter, the son of Alexander MacLeod and Annie MacLeod. At the time of the 1901 Census, Malcolm and Mary already had six children.
Alexander, also a crofter/fisherman, would have been born in about 1832. He married Ann MacLeod, also a Tong resident, in 1853 and died in Tong in 1900. According to his son Malcolm, who was the informant of his father’s death, Alexander was the son of William MacLeod, a crofter, and Catherine MacLeod. William died at nearby Vatisker in 1869 and, according to his son Alexander; he was the son of Kenneth MacLeod and Catherine McIver.
No trace could be found of wills or testaments in respect of Alexander or William MacLeod. The book “Tong: The Story of a Lewis village”, (Tong Historical Society, 1984) provides some family trees and photographs of several MacLeod’s. Further research would be required to clarify the relationships of these people to Mary Anne
Lewis and Harris make up the largest and northern-most island of the Outer Hebrides (or Western Isles). It is separated from the Scottish mainland by the Minch. It comprises a northern part, Lewis and a smaller but more mountainous southern part, Harris. The only town is Stornoway. Administratively, Lewis formed part of Ross-shire whilst Harris belonged to Inverness-shire.
The Parish of Stornoway comprises about 100 square miles. It is generally flat countryside with a coastline which, in places, is extremely rocky. The principal bay is Broad Bay on which Aird of Tong and Tong lie. These are two coastal “settlements” lying about a mile apart. Tong is often still referred to by its Gaelic name Druim-beag. Broad Bay was considered to be unsafe for non-local vessels because of a sunken reef projecting from Aird of Tong.
The village now comprises a mix of local authority and modern private housing, a primary school and community centre. There is a post office, a small church (the former post office) used by the Scottish Episcopal Church, but no shops. Many residents commute to Stornoway but crofting is still the principal local activity.
The following notes are based, for the most part, on the Old (1791-1799) and the New (1834-1845) Statistical Accounts of Scotland, and on the book “Tong: The Story of a Lewis Village” published by the Stornoway Gazette for Tong Historical Society (1984).
Although the first Manse (Presbyterian Minister’s house) for Stornoway Parish was situated in Tong, in 1758, it wasn’t really until the 1820s that Tong, Aird Tong, and other areas around Broad Bay became the focus for settlers from other Hebridean localities. The impetus came from local landlords who recognised the potential of the Bay as a source of fish including cod, ling, flounder, herring and shellfish. The catches were sold to the landlords or tacksmen who owned the curing facilities.
The landlords also divided up some farms into small lots which they let to the fishermen thus enabling them to grow potatoes and keep a cow for example. Because of the arduous nature of fishing, it was often the case that work on the crofts had to be done by the wives and children. The boats themselves were usually part-owned by several men. Many residents also engaged in “kelping” which involved collecting seaweed from the shore to be used as a fertilizer.
Housing in the 19th Century was basic in the extreme, partly because of a lack of indigenous raw materials especially timber. One observer described the properties as “sordid huts – in general indescribably filthy with doors so low it is necessary to crawl in and out”. The so-called “black houses” were made from turf, they had no windows or chimneys and housed the livestock as well as the people.
The staple diet of the inhabitants comprised gruel (a form of liquid porridge) and potatoes, plus some beef and, of course, fish. According to the 1891 Census Returns, Alexander and his extended family, all spoke Gaelic. With the exception of his wife Ann, they also spoke English. The fact that Alexander used an X mark when acting as informant of his children’s births suggests that he was illiterate, as was Malcolm’s wife Mary Smith.
Because the only church in the Parish was in Stornoway Burgh, the local people living in and around Tong had no “seat” and according to the Minister, the Rev John Cameron, were “destitute of any place of worship” in the mid 19th Century. This probably explains why no records of baptisms of Mary Anne MacLeod’s ancestors have been found.
The first school in Tong was opened in 1879 with 85 children enrolled. The common spoken language was Gaelic although all official documents were in English. This explains the many forename variants for the same person e.g. Kirsty, Christina, Christian.
In terms of public health, the Rev John Cameron makes the following statement “there is one peculiar distemper prevalent in this island, which seizes infants about the fifth night after their birth, and carries them off in convulsive fits”. The local surgeon believed that this was due to the excessive humidity of the region. This may be an explanation why so many Stornoway births in the 1855 registers do not give a forename. Perhaps the children died before they were baptized.
For centuries the Isle of Lewis was owned by the landed MacKenzie (Seaforths) family. When they became bankrupt it was purchased in 1844 by James Matheson, a partner in the firm of Jardine Matheson of Hong Kong. Matheson was a rich and generous benefactor who did much to protect the crofting communities on the Island. This did not prevent subsequent unrest among the local crofting community on such heated topics as rights of tenure. This led to an ever-increasing level of emigration from Lewis, especially to North America. The disproportionate level of Highland casualties in the First World War added to the shortage of able-bodied males on the Island. Lord Leverhulme, the founder of the Lever soap business bought Lewis in 1918 with the philanthropic objective of using modern business practices to solve the Islands’ problems. His grandiose plans failed which resulted in the continuation of emigration over subsequent decades.
The MacLeod Clan
Crest: A bull’s head cabossed Sable, horned Or, between two flags Gales, staved of the First Mott Hold fast
The origins of the MacLeod Clan are shrouded in mystery but it is fairly certain that its Chiefs are of Norse origin and that Leod was the younger son of Olaf the Black, one of the last Norse Kings. He is believed to have inherited the Islands of Lewis, Harris and part of Skye. Dunvegan, on Skye, was and still is, the seat of the MacLeod Chief. It was to become the virtual cultural centre of the Isles.
Later the Clan split into two branches, the principal one being on Skye and the other on the Isle of Lewis where, to this day, MacLeod/McLeod is still the most prevalent surname.
As with all clans, they were more-or-less continuously at war with one another and, from time to time, they fought further afield. In 1651 for example the Macleod’s joined the English Royalist side at the Battle of Worcester where they were beaten by Cromwell’s army and lost over 500 clansmen. They were highly skeptical of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s chances in the 1745 uprising and adopted a fairly neutral position. This enabled them to keep their estates after the Hanoverian victory at Culloden.
The Clan continues to thrive and societies throughout the world (see the Associated Clan MacLeod Societies website at www.clanmacleod.org). Like many clan societies, the MacLeod’s are actively involved in a DNA research project aimed at identifying a typical MacLeod DNA “fingerprint”.
N.B Tony Reid is a Partner of Scottish Roots Ancestral Research Service - Scottishroots.com