Hugh Macdonald IV of Boisdale

Hugh Macdonald's gravestone

Gravestone of Hugh Macdonald IV of Boisdale

Mary Macdonald 1857- Liverpool

Mary (Hender) Macdonald, wife of Hugh Macdonald IV of Boisdale circa 1877


So here we go. Hugh Macdonald IV of Boisdale was born on South Uist, in Scotland on February 2nd, 1785. His father was Alexander Macdonald III of Boisdale and his mother was Marion Maclean of Coll. His parents had married circa 1783. Hugh was born during a time when the Jacobite Rebellion was still fairly fresh on people’s minds. He would have been told all the stories about his great grandfather and Prince Charles. His father had served as a Captain in the 71st regiment and served in the American War of 1776. He retired as a Colonel.

His first son was Hugh. Hugh was 33 years old when his father died. There are documents held by the National Archives of Scotland which show him signing petitions as late as 1820. By 1830 he is in Knackers Knowle, Plymouth. His first son born there was named Colin John after his grandfather. By 1841 he is in Swansea, Wales and on the 1841 Census he is living with his spouse Mary, and 6 children. Interestingly, there is a “son” called Hector, born in 1826 in Scotland, living with them but he could not have been the son of Mary as she was never in Scotland. By this time they had also lost 2 other children. By 1844 they had moved to Liverpool.   Here’s the interesting part…..Hugh and Mary (Hender) married in July 1843 at Gretna Hall, in Gretna Green which is famous for “irregular” marriages.  They had had 8 children together prior but had never married. The other amazing thing is that Hugh married this woman who was also illiterate as she signed her marriage record with an X. So here we have this heir to the Boisdale lands in Scotland who was living on the money from the estate after it was all sold. He meets a 16 year old at 39 years old and moves in with her. They have 9 children together and then marry. In 1847 they had twins making the grand total of children together as 11. One of the twins died at 5 months old.

The 1851 England census shows the family living with 3 servants and a nursemaid. They were doing well it seemed. He is listed as a “fund holder” which means he lived off his own money. Sometime after this, things started going bad for them. It seems that they lived too high as Hugh was sent to debtors prison in 1856. He doesn’t appear in the 1861 census with his wife and children, so I gather he was away. Mary ran a boarding house for awhile to support herself. Two of their daughters married well. Both marriages were recorded in the Liverpool Mercury newspapers. But things were not well for the family as a whole. Hugh’s wife Mary turned out to be quite a character. She wanted to be known as Lady Boisdale. She was charged with theft on 2 separate occasions and also had been roughed up for not paying her rent for 6 months. There were other incidents recorded in the paper as well. The judge knew her well and “wished he’d never heard of her”

By the 1871 census, 3 of his sons had emigrated to Tasmania, one had died in British Guyana, a daughter had died after having 2 children, another daughter had been widowed and lost her 2 children. His one daughter, Mary, married Robert Moffatt in 1865. He was Irish and worked as a policeman. This wedding was NOT mentioned in any newspaper and it seems Hugh was not impressed. By 1872, Mary too was a widow with 4 sons. Hugh and his wife Mary ended up living with his sole surviving son Charles Edward Stuart Macdonald (named after Bonnie Prince Charlie). Charles was a fruit porter and they did not live in a very nice neighbourhood. By now, the family fortune was gone. Hugh died in 1875 and Mary in 1881.  They outlived most of their children, but they did leave a son who should have been the next heir to the Boisdale lands. Instead he lived a quiet life in Liverpool. He married and had 4 children which included 1 son as well.

This son was born in 1870 and didn’t marry until 1910 at 40 years old. He still managed to produce a son born in 1910. This son married and had a son born in 1950 (also 40 years old at the time). THIS SON, if the law of primogeniture is to stand should now be the current clan chief. Instead, there is someone else, because in 1956 he was awarded the position of Chief of Clanranald because someone did not find that the line still existed. They had declared that it went extinct in 1944 which it did NOT.

So here I am, after 35 years, with this information. I’m both amazed and perplexed as there is now a responsibility to make things right.

Gretna Green- Macdonald & Hender 1843 Marriage

Gretna Hall, Gretna

About tiesthatbindsite

I'm a genealogist with a passion for Scottish and English ancestry. I'm trilingual so I can also do research in French Canadian records and Italian records. My love for family history began 35 years ago and continues to grow every day. My family is very important to me and I hope to instill in them a love for "where they came from" so that they can better understand who they are. I also want to share my love of family history with anyone who understands how important it is to not lose site of their ancestors. They all have a story to tell.
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