The Story behind the Stone – the families, estates and stories of Kirkmichael, Cullicudden, the Black Isle and beyond

The Resolis Origins of Wilson Pugsley MacDonald (1880–1967), “Canada’s Poet Laureate”

text by Dr Jim Mackay; photography as given below each image

with thanks to Avril Perman for information on her ancestors, the McDonald family of Resolis, without which this story could not have been written

Albert Einstein described him as “the best thing about my trip to Canada”. Magician, artist, pacifist, entertainer, actor, advertising copywriter, vegetarian, playwright … and, above all, poet. His family, of course, came from the Black Isle, with his father growing up in Jemimaville. He was Wilson Pugsley MacDonald, “Canada’s Poet Laureate”.


His Life and Career

Wilson MacDonald’s life is well set out on other websites, and indeed is the subject of an informative short film viewable on the practicapoetica website.

I can do no better than quote what Wikipedia says of him – the only correction I think is that he did not graduate; he dropped out.

Wilson Pugsley MacDonald (May 5, 1880 – April 8, 1967) was a popular Canadian poet who “was known mainly in his own time for his considerable platform abilities” as a reader of his poetry. By reading fees, and by selling his books at readings, he was able to make a living from his poetry alone. In the 1920s he was so popular “that his fame eclipsed that of Robert Service and Pauline Johnson”. Wilson MacDonald was born in Cheapside, now part of the municipality of Haldimand, Ontario. He attended McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and graduated in 1902. He began publishing poetry in the Toronto Globe in 1899, while still a student. Canadian poet Albert E. S. Smythe described MacDonald as a “slight, lithe, graceful Italian figure, the same dark eyes and olive complexion, the same inscrutable smile of the shy but friendly soul”. After graduating, MacDonald worked at a number of jobs. As he later wrote: “I have been, in my varied career, a view agent, seaman, cabin-boy, bartender (one night), school-teacher, actor, inventor, producer, playwright, composer, advertisement writer, newspaper reporter, editorial writer, columnist, banker, and poet. When my poetry would not sell, circumstances forced these other tasks upon me.” His first collection of poetry, Song of the Prairie Land, was published in 1918. In 1921 MacDonald self-published a book of Christian poetry called The Miracle Songs of Jesus. Because he refused to be anything but a fully committed poet, now that he had been published, in the early 1920s “MacDonald managed to” find a way to “supplement his income by engaging in lengthy and rather successful tours of readings and lectures”. He became what Doug Fetherling in the Canadian Encyclopedia called “a barnstorming versifier with an unbending faith in his own greatness”. MacDonald travelled both Canada and the northern United States reciting his poetry in large city and small town alike. “His personal shyness disappeared on stage, where he became dynamic; humming, chanting, and singing, he synchronized his whole performance to make poems come alive for his audience.”

MacDonald’s father Alexander had first married Anna Maria Pugsley, of a successful business family. The death of Anna Maria in 1887 was a terrible blow to the family. And it was a double-shock the following year, when Wilson’s father re-married following a preaching tour – how could anyone replace his adored mother?

Wilson (on left), the oldest child, and two of his brothers

Wilson looking every inch the artist

A clever but contrary pupil and student, Wilson dropped out of college, and became a salesman. The Pugsleys wanted Wilson to engage in their business, but he had no interest in that area of work.

He had a disastrous working voyage on a horse-boat to London, on which he nearly died from hunger and sea-sickness, and he was appalled by the coarseness of manners he experienced. Once in London he managed to sell a short story and on the proceeds returned to Canada. He made a small fortune coming up with an advertising strategy for pies, but the money was stolen by an old friend, a Baptist minister, who decamped to South America with it. It must have seemed as if life was against him, but you have to wonder if he didn’t contribute to his own calamities.

His poetry was undoubtedly well-received by the public, though the critics hated him. Wikipedia states that MacDonald’s most popular book, Out of the Wilderness (1926), went into ten editions.

Rather surprisingly, he married for the first time at the mature age of 55 in 1935. His bride was Dorothy Ann (Dorrie) Colomy, then only 25. She was a teacher, and her family disapproved of Wilson – so they eloped. They had one child, Ann. In the film of his life, both his wife and daughter speak of him with affection.

Dorothy and Ann

In 1957, during the Cold War, he accepted an invitation to visit Russia, where his work was much admired. He met Nikita Khruschev during this trip. MacDonald enjoyed the enthusiasm of the Russians for his poetry and the friendliness of his reception. “I am not a communist,” he wrote to Bertrand Russell following his return to Canada, “but I prefer that brand of government to American capitalism”.

As a pacifist and humanitarian, he became friendly with Albert Einstein and George Bernard Shaw and corresponded much with them. The Russell-Einstein Manifesto, released July 9, 1955, signed by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, sought to bring thinkers together to achieve nuclear disarmament, and the first conference was held at Pugwash, Nova Scotia in 1957. Wilson MacDonald visited the conference, entertained the guests, and published a poem in small booklet form about his experience.

Nikita Khrushchev (with John F. Kennedy)

Bertrand Russell

Albert Einstein

George Bernard Shaw

In his prime, there were several Wilson MacDonald appreciation societies. He is now largely forgotten, but his memory is kept alive by one museum housed in the local community school where he was once a pupil. It was closed like hundreds of others as pupils were transported to larger schools, but was successfully transformed into a museum of Canadian one-room school-life – and as a memorial to MacDonald.

The Wilson P. MacDonald Memorial School Museum near Selkirk in Haldimand, a designated National Historic Site of Canada, is dedicated “to preserving the history of rural education, the heritage of the surrounding community, and the memory of poet Wilson Pugsley MacDonald.”


His origins

The earliest-identified member of the family, William McDonald, was a tenant on the Newhall estate in the parish of Resolis. Old McDonald had a farm, or perhaps more accurately a croft, at Wester Cullicudden. He married Christina Junor, daughter of farmer Alexander Junor and his spouse Catherine, on 20 December 1805. She was from the farm of Ardival, and they married in Cromarty on 20 December 1805 (“William McDonald in the Parish of Risolis & Christian Joyner in Ardevall”).

I note that in the 1814 militia rolls, William Macdonald was recorded as farmer at Cullicudden, above 30 years of age, and excused from being balloted to serve as he was a “Constable”. The police force did not exist at this time, but responsible local men were appointed rather like the special constables of more recent times. The Newhall rentals of this period show him to be a sizeable tenant. Typical for the period, they had many children, all while William was farming at Cullicudden: William (1807), Alexander (grandfather of the poet Wilson Pugsley MacDonald) (1812), Kathrine (1813), John (1816), Donald (1817), Ann (1819), Mary (1821) and Thomas (1823).

Some time between 1823 and 1830 the family moved the short distance to Springfield. William appears on the 1830 and 1842 Newhall estate rentals there. His rental was smaller than when at Wester Cullicudden but still reasonable.

By the 1841 census, all his children had flown the coop save for daughter Janet and youngest son Thomas. Janet’s age (which will prove to be important) in this census is given as 32, although in subsequent census returns she ages very slowly!

1841 Census, Springfield
William McDonald 65 Farmer
Cursty Junor 60
Thomas McDonald 15
Jennet McDonald 32

I have a reason for seeking the correct age of Janet. From her age, although her baptism is not recorded, she must have been born around 1809, making her (providing there are no other unrecorded baptisms) the first-born daughter. Following Scottish naming patterns, then, Cursty Junor’s parents would have been Alexander and Catherine (which we know was in fact the case) and William McDonald’s parents would have been William and Janet. Now, a William was baptised on 23 September 1774 to William MacDonald “tennent in Cullicuden & Jannat Munro”. A tentative conclusion would be that these were the parents of William in Wester Cullicudden and then Springfield. The social status is right, the location is right, and the names are right. And further, there is a slab in Cullicudden graveyard, recorded first by Mrs Penny Poole, and later by me, that bears the inscription: 177? WILLIAM McDONALD / JANET [remainder illegible]. Mrs Poole recorded the date as 1777. I must apply some modern techniques for inscription recovery to see if the lady’s second name was Munro. All this is mere conjecture. Further research would be needed to confirm the relationship. Note 30 May 2019: following night-time extreme oblique photography, this stone was confirmed as reading 1777 / WILLIAM McDONALD / JANET MUNRO so the slab does indeed commemorate the couple whose William might have been Wilson Pugsley Macdonald’s forebears – but we still have to confirm the connection!

Old William died sometime between the 1841 and 1851 census dates, but Cursty lived on with her youngest son Thomas at Springfield until her death in 1867.

Those with photographic memories might recall that another descendant from this couple is celebrated in our Story behind the Stone series, Donald McDonald, schoolmaster at Cullicudden and Resolis Registrar.

Why it was Thomas, the youngest son, who continued with the tenancy at Springfield I do not know, but Thomas lived there until his own death in 1888, never having married. His death certificate was signed by the Registrar Donald McDonald – his own brother.

Their brother Alexander (1812–1875) became a tailor, a trade which his own son Alexander was to take up. Initially he was based in Springfield, but following his first marriage set up on the High Street in Rosemarkie. The relocation occurred not long after his marriage to Mary Finlay in 1839.

Rosemarkie High Street; image courtesy of Groam House Museum

Marriage Register, Parish of Rosemarkie, 1839
Alexander Macdonald, Tailor at Springfield, parish of Resolis, and Mary Finlay of this parish, were married, after regular proclamation, on the ninth day of August…

Census return, High Street Rosemarkie, 1841
Alexr McDonald 28 Tailor [if born in county] yes
Mary Finlay 28 wife [if born in county] no
William McDonald 1 yes

Note that Mary Finlay is recorded as not born in the county; on her son Alexander’s Canadian death certificate, as well as confirming her surname as Finlay it states she was born in the Orkney Islands. And when her daughter Annie married William Whigham in 1879, Annie stated her mother was ”Mary McDonald previously Fleet m.s. Finlay“. I note a John Flett married a Mary Finlay in Orphir, a few miles south of Kirkwall in Orkney, in 1828, and he died in 1830 or 1831 (when Mary’s second child was baptised in 1831 the register states “Mary Finlay in Hanton had by her late husband John Flett a child…”), so that is suggestive but further research would be needed to confirm this as the correct family.

To return to Mary’s second marriage with Alexander McDonald, the tailor. Following the creation of the Free Church in Scotland in 1843, the McDonalds clearly moved with the majority into the new church, and the Fortrose Free Church records include Alexander (the father in due course of poet Wilson MacDonald), born 28 October 1844 and baptised 3 December 1844, parents Alexander MacDonald, Tailor, Fortrose & Mary Finlay. Others were to follow, including Ann, born 30 October 1848, baptised 28 January 1849.

When George Gun Munro of Poyntzfield and his wife Charlotte Jamima Graham established Jamima Ville (now Jemimaville) in 1822, they encouraged tradespeople to settle there. Alexander McDonald in late 1849 or 1850 moved from the south side of the Black Isle to the young village, and they can be seen there in 1851, Alexander now described as a master tailor:

Census return, 1851
Alexr McDonald head w[idower] 38 master tailor emp 1 apprentice R&C Resolis
William McDonald son u 11 apprentice (at home) R Rosemarkie
John McDonald son u 7 scholar R Rosemarkie
Alexr McDonald son u 6 R Rosemarkie
Dond McDonald son 4 R Rosemarkie
Mary McDonald daur u 9 R Rosemarkie
Ann McDonald daur 2 R Rosemarkie

Note the two year old daughter Ann – she was the great grandmother of my correspondent, Avril Perman. Annie died when Avril’s mother was 12, and stories of her have been passed down. She would often talk of the Black Isle and of her father and tales of phantom funeral processions (presumably to Kirkmichael!) and she was convinced she had seen a mermaid! Avril’s grandmother and mother often spoke about her. Annie married William Whigham in Glasgow in 1879, and one descendant was the distinguished Scottish biologist William Whigham Fletcher (Bill Fletcher) – his biography may be found on this Wikipedia page.

Returning to the family in Jemimaville in 1851, you can see that Alexander by now had been widowed. I do wonder, given she had recently delivered a seventh child, if Mary Finlay died from a post-natal infection. To lose his wife when she was still young was a tragedy, and Alexander must have been at his wits end wondering how he could look after his seven children. In desperation he applied to the parochial board for poor relief. The minutes show his plight:

The Parochial Board of Resolis Minutes (Volume 1), Meeting 26 February 1851
[Death reported of] Alexr. MacDonald, Tailor, Jamima Ville's wife, and the helpless state of his Family consisting of seven children, all under 10 years, and his own extreme poverty … provide a wet nurse … diet for the Family …

Wet nurse? Well, you will note that the minutes refer to seven children, whilst the census return shows only six. The youngest child can be seen in the family of William and Janet McKenzie in the Bog of Cullicudden; I presume that Janet was the wet nurse:

Christina McDonald visitor u 2ms C Resolis

Christina’s birth date (16 December 1850, although curiously not her baptism date) can be found in the Free Church baptism register rather than that of the Established Church as Alexander, like most ordinary folk in Resolis, was now worshipping with the congregation under the Reverend Donald Sage in the new church in Jemimaville. The parents are given as “Alexander Macdonald, Shoemaker Jemima Ville and Mary Findlay”.

The original Free Church, Jemimaville; photographed by Donald Fraser

The sad state of the Free Church nowadays; photographed by Jim Mackay

William re-married in July 1853. His new wife, Anne Mackenzie, would have had her hands full with the four boys and three girls. There were to be no further children. I calculate that she must have been about 44 when she married although in subsequent census returns she is recorded (as was often the case) as being considerably younger than she was. Baptised in 1809, Anne was the daughter of Culbokie weaver Alexander Mackenzie and wife Flora Morrison, who had married in 1801.

The MacDonald family can be seen in the 1861 census at a “Tailors Shop” in “JamimaVille”, Alexander recorded as a journeyman tailor and his 15-year old son Alexander, the father of poet Wilson Pugsley MacDonald, as an apprentice tailor. The parishes of origin are greatly confused. Their accommodation had only two rooms with one or more windows, so it was a rather small affair.

Alexander McDonald head m 48 journeyman tailor Ross shire Ferrintosh
Anne McDonald wife m 46 tailor’s wife Ross shire Fortrose
Mary McDonald daur u 18 Ross shire Fortrose
Alexander McDonald son u 15 ap. tailor Ross shire Fortrose
Anne McDonald daur u 11 Ross shire Fortrose

Fortunately, the details were, at least for the parents, corrected in the 1871 census. The house is given as containing two rooms with one or more windows so presumably was the same as in 1861.

Front Street, Jemimaville
Alexander McDonald head m 58 tailor R Resolis
Anne McDonald wife m 57 R Urquhart
Mary McDonald daur u 27 R Resolis

Note that the birth parish of Resolis attributed to Mary was incorrect and in the previous census return had been given as Fortrose, and in the one before that as Rosemarkie. Never trust individual census returns!

From the Valuation Rolls, it should be possible to identify which house in Jemimaville was occupied by the MacDonald family. A cursory examination would suggest it was a few houses west of the Free Church Manse, occupied at the time by the Reverend Donald Sage.

Looking east along the west end of Jemimaville about 1920; the Free Church Manse is the last house before the trees.

By now Alexander junior had left home as a tailor in his own right and arrived in Canada in 1873 or 1874 (two dates provided in different census returns).

Misfortune continued to dog the life of Alexander McDonald senior as he was struck down by paralysis in 1875 and could not make a living. By this time he had moved a couple of miles from Jemimaville to Drumcudden. This lies close to Cullicudden school where his brother Donald McDonald had been the long-established schoolteacher.

Once more the family had to turn to poor relief, and the Parochial Board records tell a sad tale, but also provide useful information as to where all the family were at this time. The Board was always interested in family connections, as they were keen to reclaim relief money from relatives who were earning. This is the record of “Alex. McDonald pauper”:

residence: Drumcudden / age: 61 years / date of minute of Parochial Board admitting Liability etc.: 28th Sept 1875 / amount: 16/- qrly / place of birth: Resolis Parish / religion: Protestant / … Married / … Tailor / wholly or partially disabled: Wholly / description of disablement: lately struck down by Paralysis / earnings etc.: none / nature of settlement: birth & residence / name and age of wife, child or children living in family: Wife Ann Mackenzie 60 / name age and weekly earnings of husband wife child or children not living in family and their circumstances:
1. Mary 28 Glasgow Scot.
2. John 26 America labourer single
3. Alex 24 do. tailor single
4. Dond 22 do labourer
5. Ann 20 Glasgow servant
1875 Sept 29 Admitted @ 16/- quarterly Nov 30 Died

See how useful parochial relief records can be? Two of the sons were now in America, including Alexander junior, now a tailor in his own right. Two daughters were in service in Glasgow. And one son was still labouring in the area.

Poor Alexander McDonald soon departed this life. His widow, despite being unable to write, provided information for the registrar in exemplary fashion:

Alexander McDonald pauper formerly tailor (married 1st. to Mary Finlay (d), & 2nd to Ann McKenzie) 28 Nov 1875 Cullicudden 63 William McDonald farmer (d) Christian McDonald ms Joyner (d) informant Ann McDonald her x mark widow (present)

She herself departed much later, in 1893. In 1876 she had been entered onto the parochial relief, and a note in the records states that in 1889 she was moved to the poor house. And it was there, in the Black Isle Combination Poor House in Rosemarkie, that she died.

Ann MacDonald pauper (widow of Alexander Macdonald woollen weaver) 19 June 1893 Black Isle Poorhouse Rosemarkie 81 Alexander MacKenzie weaver (d) Flora MacKenzie ms Morrison (d) [informant] Robt. Lumsden Governor of Poor House (present)

It seems very hard for Ann to have passed the last years of her life without the comfort of any family around her.


Alexander MacDonald, tailor and Baptist minister (1844–1923)

Meanwhile, Alexander the tailor had crossed the Atlantic. The Resolis parochial records of 1875 state he was in America, which would usually mean the States, but in fact it is in Canada that we pick him up, in 1881. Obviously there were hundreds of Alexander McDonalds in Canada, but subsequent marriage and death records demonstrate that this family was the correct one. The process of identifying him was initially complicated by his making himself younger in all census returns, not unusual, of course, but he was very consistent about it, even down to his providing a fictitious birthday (2 December 1850). However, there can be no question about his parents or real date of birth, although it is as well that we have his marriage and death documentation or there would be lingering doubts. I have set out all this rather dense information in an appendix.

Canadian census returns are available for more recent times than those in the UK, so that we have a complete record for the life of Alexander MacDonald. I see from these entries that Alexander, who at times officiated as a Baptist minister (he is recorded as a clergyman on the occasion of his second marriage), actually became an adherent of the Church of Latter-Day Saints between 1891 and 1901 and continued such thereafter. There must be a good story behind this change!

Baptist Church, Selkirk, Ontario; typical of many in which Alexander Macdonald preached

Alexander MacDonald moved around the province following various unsuccessful business ventures, and this can be picked up from the various locations in which he is recorded. We see him in 1881 in the district of Haldimand. His first wife, Anna Maria Pugsley, is with him on this occasion, and their first baby, Wilson. Alexander and Anna Maria had married in 1879, but tragically she died in 1887. He married Hannah Belle Holmes, seen in subsequent census entries, of an English family, in 1888. His young son, the future poet Wilson Pugsley Macdonald, was unhappy with this second marriage.

Alexander MacDonald and Hannah Belle Holmes

Whilst his father can be picked up easily from the census returns, Wilson has proven elusive! However, here he is allegedly earning 600 dollars per annum in his stated occupation of the time of a traveller i.e. a travelling salesman.

1901 province Ontario District No. 81 South Lanark … Town Carleton Place
McDonald Wilson m w[hite] lodger s[ingle] [date of birth] May 5 1880 20 O Scotch Baptist [occupation] traveller [months employed in other occupation than trade in factory or home] 10 [earnings from occupation or trade] 600

According to sources associated with Wilson MacDonald, his father Alexander was rather a dreamer and did not make a success of the various business attempts he made throughout his life in Canada. The film on Wilson’s life recounts his movements in the area. It would be good to obtain more information such as letters from himself, as our views of the man are coloured by those researching the life of Wilson and hence he is seen from a one-sided perspective.

Hannah died in 1917, whilst Alexander survived his second wife and died in 1923. It is sad to relate that he died in a work-house, the Elgin House of Industry. Alexander and Hannah are both buried in Saint Lukes Anglican Cemetery, St. Thomas, Elgin County in Ontario.


Wilson Pugsley MacDonald, his poetry

The readers of the poetry of Wilson Pugsley MacDonald fall into several camps.

Everybody is agreed that at his best he could be very good indeed.

The poem “Exit” is generally recognised as a masterpiece – listen to it in a reflective moment here on Youtube as wonderfully delivered by the equally wonderfully-named Tom O’Bedlam.

Easily to the old / Opens the hard ground: / But when youth grows cold, / And red lips have no sound, / Bitterly does the earth / Open to receive / And bitterly do the grasses / In the churchyard grieve.

Some deeply appreciate his religious or perhaps more accurately his spiritual verse.

He wrote some humorous verse in a French-tinged English dialect which one reviewer called embarrassing, but which I see one website praising to the hilt.

And I note that one critic admired his lyrical poetry but suggested his “Caw-Caw Ballads” (1930) were infantile. I have to say I am not so sure about the lyrical poetry but very much enjoy the satirical Caw-Caw ballads. Appreciation of MacDonald is obviously in the ear of the listener!

Here is the opener in that small volume of poetry, illustrated brilliantly by artist Rutter:

The Caw-Caw Ballads can be read as a forerunner of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

For someone so dedicated to tolerance and understanding, some of his poems show some intolerance in themselves. And occasionally he himself slips into racial or gender stereotyping. Curiously, I have found virtually nothing about Scotland in his poetry. England, Germany, Ireland, China – anywhere but Scotland. And yet Canada and Scotland are intimately associated. His mother, his step-mother, his Pugsley grand-parents, were all of English origin and he seems to have turned his back on his father’s Black Isle origins.

In turn, Scots will not be familiar with Wilson MacDonald. Even now some Black Islers can recite Robert Service’s “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” (“A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon…”) or “The Cremation of Sam McGee” (“There are strange things done in the midnight sun, by the men who moil for gold…”). And yet Wilson MacDonald, despite having been so popular in Canada, was (and is) largely unknown in Scotland.

At his best, he was a remarkable poet.


Kirkmichael, Cullicudden and the ancestors of Wilson Pugsley MacDonald

It is safe to assume that many of the family were buried in one or the other of the two old kirkyards in Resolis, Kirkmichael and Cullicudden. William Macdonald and Christian Junor, who lived in Wester Cullicudden and Springfield, are most likely buried in Cullicudden. Alexander Macdonald and Ann Mackenzie, who lived for so long in Jemimaville, may well be buried in Kirkmichael. Ann, of course, died in the Combination Poor House, but if there was a family lair in Kirkmichael or Cullicudden then it is likely that she would have been buried there.

Donald MacDonald, schoolmaster son of William Macdonald and Christian Junor, of course is buried in Kirkmichael.

Wilson’s parents are buried in Canada. However, there is no record of where Wilson’s grandparents or great grandparents are buried, although likely to be Kirkmichael or Cullicudden. Curiously, there is a slab in Cullicudden which just might be the memorial to the generation before. Otherwise, this Story behind the Stone would be a Story without a Stone!

The slab commemorating William and Janet McDonald of Cullicudden, perhaps the parents of William McDonald and Christian Junor

We shall see if more information will appear under oblique light…

As noted above, analysis of extreme oblique night-time photography, taken from many angles, with each letter examined on multiple photographs, confirms that the stone is dated 1777 and commemorates the Cullicudden couple William McDonald and Janet Munro.

The oblique night-time lighting first confirms the date as 1777, on left, and then, on right, the surname of William McDonald’s spouse as Munro. Some interesting ligatures on McDonald, including the upright of the final D being placed on the upright of the L!

photos by Jim Mackay


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Genealogical Appendix

I have cobbled together all the Canadian census returns in which Alexander MacDonald appears. From the top these are: 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 and 1921.

Some of those details are difficult to make out, so here are summaries of those census returns.

1881 province Ontario district Haldimand Sub district S Division No 1 Walpole
McDonald Alexander m[ale] 30 Scotland [religion] Bapt Scotch Tailor m
" Anna F[emale] 25 [province of birth] O[ntario] English
" Wilson May [i.e. born in May 1880] O[ntario]

1891 province Ontario District No. 97 Norfolk South S. District (a) Charlotteville East
McDonald Alexander 40 m [place of birth] Scot [place of birth father] Scot [place of birth mother] Scot Bapt Tailor
McDonald Hannah 27 m Eng Eng Bap
" Wilson 10 O / " Clare m[ale] 8 / " John 1 / " Robert 0

1901 province Ontario District No. 93 North Norfolk S. District No. C … Middleton
McDonald Alexander head 2 Dec 1851 49 Scotland Latter D. Saints Tailor [months employed in other occupation than trade in factory or home] 6 [earnings from occupation or trade] 180
Hannah B. wife 5 May 1863 37 O [can read and write]
John A. son 16 July 1889 11 O / Robert G. son 8 Mar 1891 10 O / Jennie I daughter 31 Dec 1892 8 / Flora D daughter 23 Jan 1895 6 / William H son 27 Oct 1896 4 / Donald F son 15 Mar 1899 2

1911 province Ontario District No. 65 East Elgin … Village of Vienna
McDonald Alex. Pt 14 Con 3 male head married [born] Dec 1851 59 Scotland [year of immigration to Canada] 1873 Scotch Canadian Latter Day Saints
" Hannah wife May 1863 48 O English Canadian Latter Day Saints
" William son Oct 1896 14 O … / " Findlay son March 1899 12 / " Charles son May 1901 10 / " Ralph son March 1905 6

1921 province Ontario … Village of Vienna
McDonald Alexander Pt 14 Con 3 [place of abode] Vienna head w[idower] 68 Scotland [father”s country of birth] Scotland [mother’s] Scotland [year of immigration to Canada] 1874 Canada Scotch Yes L.D.S. Tailor R[etired]
Flora daut single 23 O Scotland O Meth. / Ralph son single 16 O Scotland O Meth.

I also set out below extracts from the forms for his first and second marriages and his death certificate. Each contributes some information. Note that his age is most accurately (albeit a year out) reflected in his death certificate; his son, the informant, being more candid than his father!

The marriage of Alexander MacDonald and Anna Maria Pugsley in 1879, the marriage of Alexander MacDonald and Hannah Belle Holmes in 1888, and the death of Alexander MacDonald in 1923.



I was very pleased to meet Avril Perman, with husband Jimmy, at Kirkmichael in May 2019. And Avril had brought along the signed volume of Wilson’s poems which had been in the family. It was the presence of this small book that had started her thinking just what was her family’s connection with the Candadian poet!


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