Donald was born circa 1811 in Experiment Farm, Kilmartin parish, in Argyll. His parents were Donald Dewar and Margaret Dewar. The farm is believed to be named after some experimental farming methods they carried out there. [Allan Begg]
Janet, his future wife, was a farmer’s daughter who grew up in close-by Glassary parish. Her parents were Peter McCallum and Janet Campbell and she was born circa 1815.
Donald and Janet married on 21 January 1837 in Kilmartin. They had their first child Margaret baptised in December 1837 then went on to have 10 more, working hard to do the best for them in some pretty unforgiving places.
In 1841 Donald was working as a labourer like his father before him, but by 1851 he was working as a gamekeeper at Strath Mill, Glassary parish in Argyll.
By 1851 they’d had 7 children, and in the 1851 census they had five of them living with them: Peter, Duncan, Janet, Jane and Christina. No sign of Margaret and third child Jane so I fear I’m still to discover their deaths recorded in the parish records. Baby Christina was only a year old. Elizabeth arrived c1853, but by May 1855 when Joan arrived they had moved on.
By c1854, the family were working in a different area of Kilmichael Glassary entirely: Island Mackaskin – in Gaelic Eilean MhicAsgain – in Loch Craignish. I’ve looked at the island, found in the Inner Hebrides (west coast of Scotland) on Google Earth and it must have been a really isolated place in which to live and work. In the present day it is no longer inhabited.
Baby Donald followed in November 1857 also on the island, although two days after his birth his proud dad registered his birth on the mainland. I suspect Barbra was also born on the island; she was certainly living on it in April 1861. By that April only Christina, Elizabeth, Joan, Donald and Barbara were still on the island with their parents.
It must have been some place to grow up! I’ve read suggestions that some families sent their children to board on the mainland for them to go to school, while other hardy souls would row across daily. But Donald and Janet’s children were too young for school, so she’d have had them round her feet in the house or trailing after their father as he looked after the boss’ game. Sheep? Cows? Deer, perhaps?
By 1871 they were back on the mainland. They lived in a village called Dunamuck; by 1881 they were living in the gamekeeper’s cottage there – a house which had six rooms with windows which seems a huge number for that time!
Two years later Janet died of heart disease, from which she had been suffering from around-about the time of Donald’s death. She was then living at Timister Cottage, Sandbank, in Cowal. She was 76 years old.
I would like to find out about who owned the land, his employer. And I sort of want to visit Island Macaskin but sort of don’t – definitely one only for a fine day – as I’m a townie and would find it grim to think of all those years the family had to live out there, especially for Janet, in labour out there in November.
© Text copyright Lynne Black 23 August 2014
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/donald-dewar/