My Dear Son: Letters from John McDougall (weaver), Isle of Lismore, Scotland, to his son, John, in America

My Dear Son: Letters from John McDougall (weaver), Isle of Lismore, Scotland, to his son, John, in America

by Margaret A. Miller


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John McDougall, the last weaver on the Isle of Lismore in the West Highlands of Scotland, was not wealthy but his life as superintendent of the small island's Sabbath school was far from simple. As his eight children passed away or left Lismore for other parts of Scotland and America to live more prosperous lives, McDougall began writing letters to his adult son, John, who emigrated to Minnesota. The letters, which reflect his sadness after the children's departure, provide rare insight into the daily routine and thoughts of a landless cottar who was an engaged and valued member of the Lismore community.

Edited by his great-great-granddaughter, Margaret Miller, the compilation includes images of McDougall's original handwritten letters from 1870 to 1888, related photographs and maps, a timeline of events, and family trees. The letters reveal a thoughtful man who cared deeply about his family and community, and include poignant reminders of the ways in which medicine, communications, and transportation have changed throughout the centuries. As McDougall shares his thoughts and wishes, his enduring human values are brought to the forefront as this devout, principled man managed to influence the development of communities in the United States through his descendants.

My Dear Son shares a compelling collection of letters from a nineteenth century Scottish island weaver to his son, letting us hear his thoughts as he continues his life in Scotland while his son emigrates to America and begins anew.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781458218063
Publisher: Abbott Press
Publication date: 08/14/2015
Pages: 306
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.64(d)

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My Dear Son

Letters from John McDougall (Weaver), Isle of Lismore, Scotland, to His Son, John, in America

By Margaret A. Miller

Abbott Press

Copyright © 2015 Margaret A. Miller
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4582-1806-3


John McDougall (labeled weaver throughout this book) was born on the Isle of Lismore in the West Highlands of Scotland in 1803. He was the oldest of John McDugald and Mary Carmichael's three children, all born in the hamlet of Ballimackillichan. (See Notes about Names, Language and Spelling in this book, below.) His father had served in the 91st Regiment and settled on Lismore as a young man. John McDougall (weaver) married Catherine McCallum, born in 1809 to John McCallum and Anne Carmichael in the Lismore hamlet of Balure. John (weaver) and Catherine raised their eight children at Ballimackillichan, and lived there until Catherine's death in 1886.

John McDougall (weaver) lived the life of a cottar as a landless resident of Ballimackillichan where he provided weaving services to the island. He was the last weaver on the Isle of Lismore and superintendent of the island's Sabbath School from 1844 to 1874.

Although he was not wealthy, his life was far from simple. He had not only lived to see the birth of his own children, but their departure from Lismore, as well. Letters he wrote to his son, John (born 1837), who migrated to the United States in 1872, reveal a devout man, living a principled life, who was active in his community and in frequent contact with friends and family throughout Scotland and North America. By 1879, his son had settled in Redwood County, Minnesota. By then, John (weaver) was extending compliments and local news through his son to a person he called McCorquodale, a former member of the Lismore community who had also migrated to Redwood County. He was also in contact through letters to his son, with members of Catherine McCallum's family, including her sister-in-law, Ann McCallum and Ann's children, who had migrated to Minnesota from Lismore. John (weaver) shared family news through his letters and inquired about the health and well-being of family and friends in the United States. Although Lismore was his home for all but the last two of his 85 years, he influenced the development of families and communities in Scotland and the United States through simple, direct and consistent guidance to his children, recorded in the following letters.

Ruth McCartin, born in the United States, was a grandchild of the younger John McDougall (born 1837) who had migrated to the United States. She saved the letters and gave them to the Lismore Historical Society in 2011. (Ruth, herself, passed away November 4, 2012.) The letters allow John McDougall, the weaver's, own words to express his perspective on life, religion and family relationships. The collection, reproduced here, includes his letters as well as transcripts, photographs, maps, family trees and a chronology of events for enrichment.

The book provides a view of Scotland at a time of emigration through the eyes of a local cottar and community member. It is relevant to descendants of John McDougall (weaver), his wife's extended family (McCallums, Carmichaels, and McColls), other members of the Lismore community, historians of Highland churches, and scholars of Scottish land reform, migration patterns, and the Highland's impact on communities in the New World.


Excerpted from My Dear Son by Margaret A. Miller. Copyright © 2015 Margaret A. Miller. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgements, vii,
Permissions, ix,
Introduction, xi,
- Additional Information, xiii,
- Additional Acknowledgements, xv,
- Family Tree #1 – John McDougall (weaver), Catherine McCallum and their Children, xvii,
- Notes about Names, Languages and Spelling Used in the Letters and this Book, xviii,
- Places Mentioned in the Book – Scotland, xxi,
The Letters, 1,
Appendix 1 The Letters – A List, 197,
Appendix 2 Timeline of Family Events, 209,
Appendix 3 Christmas Letter, 1966, 219,
Appendix 4 Index of Names Mentioned in the Letters, 223,
Appendix 5 Places Mentioned in the Letters, 229,
Appendix 6 Certificates of Births and Deaths, 231,
Appendix 7 Maps, 237,
Appendix 8 Family Trees for John McDougall (weaver), Catherine McCallum and their Children, 245,
Appendix 9 McCallum Families, Lismore: John McCallum (Balure), Duncan McCallum (Killean), 265,
Appendix 10 Plates, Figures, Tables and Family Trees, 269,
Photo Credits, 275,
References, 277,

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