It seems appropriate to open a page on Australia as it has been a major destination for emigration from the Western Isles as elaborated by Professor Eric Richards in the forthcoming book, ‘New Celts from Old Horizons’.
April 1, 2013 at 6:08 pm
‘The Sea is Wide – New Celts from Old Horizons’
500 Copies of ‘The Sea is Wide’ have already been downloaded from this site free of charge, proving its appeal to family researchers. From now on in (as of April 1, 2013), the volume can be downloaded (PDF format is the best option) at a cost of £6 (US$9) from
Alternatively it can be downloaded at the much cheaper cost of £2 (US$3) on giving a donation to the Derry charity, Children in Crossfire, at
To secure the cheaper purchase, please post the request on this page under your pseudonym if preferred, with perhaps any genealogy query for good measure. Upon receipt by Waxwings (my pseudonym) of any such request, and confirmation to Waxwings from Justgiving of a donation to Children in Crossfire, Waxwings will temporarily unblock the Smashwords site to enable the free download.
Although Smashwords favours the ePub format, for downloads the PDF version seems to work better, fully preserves the formatting and more closely resembles the appearance of a normal book. All that is lost in the PDF version is the technicolour but it reads just like a Kindle.
December 10, 2011 at 5:59 pm
Hebridean Pioneers who made good in Australia
Hugh Boyd Laing (1889-1974), headmaster and Gaelic scholar, was born at Stoneybridge on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Laing was an outstanding teacher with a quizzical sense of humour. His nickname, ‘Whizz-Bang’ stemmed from his Gaelic Christian name, Uisdean. His rather craggy appearance and unusual accent made him a butt of student humour which he took in good part. Laing’s greatest strengths were his knowledge of language and appreciation of English literature. In 1964, Laing published a book of poetry and prose, written predominantly in Gaelic: it was entitled Gu Tir Mo Luaidh (‘To the land of my praise’). He won the poetry section of the Gaelic Mod for’The Fever That Will Never Die’ and he was appointed National Bard of Scotland.
Sir Alexander MacCormick (1856-1947), surgeon, was born on 31 July 1856 at North Knapdale, Argyleshire. Reputedly the first man in Sydney to wear a white coat while operating, he was dubbed by his colleagues ‘The Hokey Pokey Man’. He was president of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association in 1905, and between 1884 and 1915 published over thirty articles in the Australasian Medical Gazette. Sailing was MacCormick’s great pleasure and he bought the yacht, Thelma, which he successfully raced in the 1890s. He was made a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes and became the only yachtsman on Sydney Harbour privileged to fly the white ensign. Rugged and sunburned, with a bristling moustache, MacCormick had a Scot’s ‘canny sense of humour and he smiled more with his eyes than his mouth’. MacCormick retired to the Channel Islands in England and he dramatically escaped from Jersey in his yacht crammed with refugees only hours before the Nazis arrived.
Lauchlan Mackinnon (1817-1888), pastoralist and newspaper proprietor, was born on 26 February 1817 at Kilbride, Isle of Skye, Scotland. He recognized the importance of squatting but he opposed the long leases and pre-emptive rights of purchase which squatters demanded under the 1847 Order in Council. Mackinnon was persuaded to temper his immoderate speech-making by friends who feared the ‘straightforward honesty’ of the ‘vigorous Highlander … who could never take a subject of deep interest to himself quietly’.
Lachlan Macquarie (1762-1824), Governor, was born on the island of Ulva. As the strongest inducement to reform, Macquarie decided that when ex-convicts had shown that they deserved the favour, they should be readmitted to the rank in society they had forfeited. This policy aroused immediate indignation among immigrant settlers and military officers and alienated the upper classes. Macquarie organized a school for Aboriginal children, a village at Elizabeth Bay for the Sydney tribe, an Aboriginal farm at George’s Head and a sort of annual durbar for them at Parramatta. Orders of merit and even an old general’s uniform were bestowed on deserving chiefs. Macquarie was ahead of his time and one can still wonder that an Indian army veteran, pillar of the established Church and an orthodox Tory in politics, ever came to father this extraordinary experiment. Certainly no other governor was so popular with both emancipist and convict.
Alexander Cameron (1810-1881), overlander and pastoralist, was born on 18 August 1810 at Lochaber. He continued to overland his sheep westwards to new pastures in South Australia where he applied for the forty-eight square-mile (18.53-km²) occupation licence surrounding the future site of Penola. Having built the original Royal Oak Hotel, Cameron encouraged his station tradesmen to establish their own businesses by purchasing eighty acres which he subdivided for them to found the private township of Penola. In 1852 he initiated the Penola races and would drive through the township to the racecourse ‘with a piper in full blast and ribbons flying’ to the great excitement of his nostalgic kinsmen. Full-bearded, handsome and commanding in stature, he was remembered as ‘a sterling fellow . . . like a Highland chief in person and hospitality’.
Donald Cameron (1838-1916) was born at Portree, Isle of Skye. In 1874 the Royal Commission on Education in Queensland requested him to visit Victoria to report on the working of the 1872 Education Act there. His report convinced the commissioners that Queensland should set up a system of free, compulsory and secular education but it also strongly criticized Victoria’s system of payment by results. In 1891 Cameron was appointed a member of the Royal Commission which later recommended the establishment of the University of Queensland.
Alexander Campbell (1805-1890) was born at Sunipol in Mull, the son of a farming tenant of the Duke of Argyll. In charge of a whaling base at Portland Bay, in 1838 when the Children was wrecked thirty miles (48 km) east of Port Fairy, Campbell was largely responsible for saving eighteen lives. Appointed the first harbourmaster in the port of Melbourne, he became a legend among whalers and seafarers as ‘Port Fairy Campbell’ and ‘bore rule over all the land and on those who disliked him, he laid a strong hand’.
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