The MacDonalds of Aird and Vallay in Australia and New Zealand by A. Grahame MacDonald FSA Scot.

The progenitor of the MacDonalds of Aird and Vallay was William, third son of Sir Donald MacDonald, 3rd Baronet of Sleat whose wife was Lady Margaret Douglas. William was twice married, firstly to Catherine Cameron, daughter of Sir Ewen of Lochiel and secondly to Janet, daughter of Lachlan MacLean of Vallay.

He received a free grant for life of the farm of Aird in Trotternish, Skye, about two miles from Duntulm Castle, plus a perpetual lease of the Island of Vallay off the coast of North Uist at an annual rental of one shilling.

William, known as “The Tutor”, was succeeded by his son Captain James MacDonald of Aird, who commanded one of the companies of Prince Charles’ army in 1745. James married Catherine, daughter of Ranald MacDonald III of Kinlochmoidart.

Their only son, whose name is not known, emigrated to Australia where he and his wife were drowned whilst crossing a river.

James’ brother Ewen succeeded him. He was the first of the family to settle at Vallay. He was a noted piper and composer of pibrochs. His wife was Mary, daughter of Rev. Lauchlin MacLean, Minister of Coll.

William only son of Ewen became fourth representative of the Aird and Vallay family. He married Mary MacDonald, daughter of Alexander of Boisdale. Their son Alexander, who became a Major in the Fencibles, was appointed Factor for North Uist by Alexander, first Lord MacDonald. Alexander married his cousin Harriet, daughter of Colin MacDonald, second of Boisdale.

Alexander MacDonald’s son, also named Alexander, was born in 1788, the year in which Australia was first settled by colonists and convicts from Britain.

Following a period as a midshipman in the Royal Navy, he served for a short time in the Army. About 1825 he and his family left Vallay and moved to Trotternish where he became tacksman of Ardviceolan. His house was later destroyed by flood and he made a new home at Glendale where he died in 1845. He was buried in Kilmuir Churchyard alongside the grave of the famed Flora MacDonald. Alexander’s wife was Flora, daughter of Duncan MacRae, of the Inverinate family.

Their family consisted of Duncan, born 9 February 1827, Alexander Ewen, born 17 July 1828, William John, born 24 November 1829, Duncan Charles MacRae, born 11 November 1831, Cohn Hector, born 26 November 1836, Duncan born 17 January 1840 and daughters Christina Mary, Harriet Margaret and Mary Isabella.

The authors of “Clan Donald”, Revs. A. and A. MacDonald and others list Alexander Ewen as Alexander and Ewen. They also record Duncan Alexander MacRae as simply MacRae.

With the exception of William John, who became a Senator in British Columbia, Canada, all the surviving sons of Alexander, sixth of Aird and Vallay are on record as having emigrated to Australia. Duncan is recorded as having died young and the representation of the family vested in Alexander Ewen who was only seventeen at the time of his father’s death.

“Clan Donald” Vol.3, pages 546-547 lists Alexander Ewen thus:

“VI. Alexander Ewen. He went to Australia and married there, but his male descendants having become extinct, the representation of the family of the Tutor of MacDonald has devolved upon the third son of Alexander, 5th of Vallay, Senator for British Columbia.”

Alex. Ewen should have been shown as VII. Revs. A. and A. MacDonald in “Clan Donald” pages 542 and 543 show the succession passing from William to James and hence to William, chronologically bypassing Ewen, although adequate reference is made to him.

Alexander Ewen emigrated to Victoria, Australia about 1854. In 1855 he married Catheririe Grant. Several of their children were born in Camperdown or nearby Terang. Alex. Ewen was engaged in cattle raising at Mount Meningoort, a property owned then and still by the well-known MacArthur family. In 1881 most of the family moved to the Gisborne district of New Zealand where the youngest daughter was born. Alex. Ewen died at Matawhero, New Zealand on 20th July 1889, leaving seven sons and five daughters whose ages ranged from 31 to 5. However, in 1904 when Vol. 3 of “Clan Donald” was published, his male issue is said to have been extinct!

One son, Alexander James, is known to have died at Corowa, New South Wales on 1st October, 1889. His brother James was also living in Corowa at that time. One of the witnesses to Alex. James’ funeral was John MacDonald who may have been another brother. It is not known how many of Alex. Ewen’s children accompanied their parents to New Zealand. However one of them was William Donald Stuart who became the best known of the family in New Zealand. He was a Member of Parliament from 1908 until his death on 31st August 1920. He was Leader of the Opposition immediately prior to his death.

Therefore at least one of Alexander Ewen’s sons was well known and they knew well that they were of Aird and Vallay family, yet the succession devolved upon Hon. William John MacDonald, Alex. Ewen’s younger brother in Canada!

It is of interest to note that a record of the family in the possession of Captain Allan Perrins of South Africa, grandson of Harriet (sister of Alexander Ewen) states that Alex. Ewen “died without an heir”. Referring to Hon. William John’s second son, Captain William MacDonald of the Royal Navy, Captain Perrins informed the writer that in the early days of this century Captain MacDonald was serving on a ship based in Australia. He told Captain Perrins that he did all he could to get on the track of his uncles but was entirely unsuccessful. At that time Alex. Ewen would not have been living, but when he died he had several younger brothers in Australia.

Following his death the following obituary notice appeared in a New Zealand newspaper (unidentified). The clipping is pasted into a family bible owned by Rev. Peter Gordon of New Zealand, a great grandson of Alexander James MacDonald, son of Alex. Ewen.

“The death is recorded today of one of our well known settlers Alexander E. McDonald, of Matawhero, which took place yesterday at noon. Mr. McDonald had been ailing for some time but on Tuesday morning severe coughing brought on internal haemorrhage, to which he ultimately succumbed. The deceased was a native of Skye, and was the son of Captain McDonald of the Royal Navy. His grandfather was Major Ewen McDonald of Vallay, and he was related to the Lord of the Isles. Mr. McDonald had several brothers in Australia, where he himself was a settler, until he came to New Zealand some six years ago. The Hon. W. J. McDonald, of Canada, is a brother. The deceased leaves a widow and a family of seven sons and five daughters. He was much respected and his widow and family will receive the sympathy of a large circle of friends”.

“McDonald – On July 20, at Matawhero, A. E. McDonald aged 59 years. Australian and home papers please copy.”

Hon. W.D.S. MacDonald MP, who was a sheep farmer, married Hannah Gower in New Zealand. They had two sons Douglas Gordon Stuart and William David Lindsay. The latter predeceased his father leaving two daughters. D.G.S. MacDonald had four children. The eldest and only son Douglas William Ewen died on 13th May 1929 aged 17. Therefore Hon. W.D.S. MacDonald has no male descendants living today. However, just as Alexander Ewen left sons to represent the Aird and Vallay family, there must surely be male descendants of either Alexander Ewen’s sons or his brothers living today in Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere who are perhaps totally unaware of their heritage.

Any member of the Aird and Vallay family should be proud of the achievements of Hon. William Donald Stuart MacDonald as the following tribute will illustrate. This tribute was paid by Hon. William Ferguson Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand in Parliament House on 1st September 1920:

“Mr. Speaker, I desire to move presently, that this House records its high sense of the distinguished services rendered to New Zealand by the late Hon. William Donald Stuart MacDonald, a member of the House of Representatives, and for some years a Minister of the Crown, and respectfully tenders to his widow and family the assurance of its sincere sympathy with them in their bereavement.

“Mr. Speaker, the late Mr. MacDonald was born in Victoria on the 18th January 1862. He came to New Zealand when nineteen years of age, and settled on the east coast of the North Island, following farming pursuits; and later he managed estates for the Bank of New Zealand, subsequently engaging in business for himself. He entered Parliament as member for the Bay of Plenty at the general election in November, 1908, and represented the electorate continuously to the date of his death. He held the portfolios of Native Minister and Minister of Public Works in the MacKenzie Government from the 28th March to the 10th July, 1912, and on the formation of the National Government in August, 1915, he was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Mines, which offices he retained until the dissolution of the National Government in August last year. During the absence from New Zealand of the Prime Minister and Sir Joseph Ward at the Imperial Conferences in London in 1917 and 1918, and at the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919, the late Mr. MacDonald acted as President of the Board of Trade. He was elected leader of the Opposition in 1920, aged fifty-eight years, leaving a widow and two sons and three daughters.

“Mr. Speaker, I feel confident that I am right in saying that I have never seen members of the New Zealand Parliament so shocked as when the news came to the House last night -or rather, early this morning – that Mr. MacDonald had passed away. We could hardly realize then – we can hardly realize now – that the man who was in place in the House yesterday, whom we had seen only two or three hours previously, who took part in the business of the sitting, had made his last speech and has spoken his last word on earth. But the news was true, and members went to their respective homes with sad hearts and sorrowful countenances. Sir, in losing Mr. MacDonald we have lost one of the most popular and highly respected members of Parliament, one of the most highly respected citizens of this country, and deservedly so I am quite certain that his name will be remembered with respect and honour for many a long year to come. Sir, one of the best phases of parliamentary life is that when death comes into the buildings party politics and party feelings go out or are laid to one side, and men of both sides of the House and of all shades of political opinion join in remembering only the best qualities of the man who has gone. But, apart from that aspect of the question I want to say that I can never forget the manner in which Mr. MacDonald played the man and played the game during the long, weary years of the war period, when the destinies of the Empire were trembling in the balance, when citizens were fighting for the Empire’s very existence and when the best blood of its manhood were being poured out like water. I can never forget – I shall always remember with gratitude – how Mr. MacDonald rose to the occasion, and first as a private member and afterwards as a member of the National Government, assisted his colleagues in every possible way to enable New Zealand to carry on its share of the war. It is in such a crisis that the fibre of men carrying serious responsibilities is tested and I am glad to be able to say today, I say it sincerely, that Mr. MacDonald was one of the many who came through the test triumphantly. In connection with the ordinary business of Parliament the late Mr. MacDonald was thorough, straightforward, earnest, and sincere, and his practical common-sense was often of great value when difficult questions which were submitted to Parliament and especially to the House of Representatives, were being dealt with. It is somewhat pathetic to remember that his last speech in this House was a tribute to the memory of another public man who recently passed away.

“Mr. MacDonald and I were not on the same sides of politics. We were on opposite sides of the House. There were many political matters which we did not look at from the same point of view; but I am glad to say that the fact that we were on opposite sides of the House made no difference to our friendship. From the day when I first met him, many years ago – how many I am not able to say – our friendship lasted to the very end. As I indicated, Mr. MacDonald has left a widow and family and our sympathy goes out to them – the sympathy of every member of’ Parliament. I can only hope that He who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb will be with them in their bereavement.”

Continued in CDM No 9.