Monday, 31 March 2008
Murdo in America.
Murdo was in America for a spell,but when, and how he got there I do not know. Isn't it strange that I can give the dates of my great-great uncle,John Macleod in America(1830s-1905),yet I cannot state,for sure,when my uncle Murdo was in the USA,but,from the stories I was told by him and others,it was around 1930.The people of the isles were well acquainted with emigration,and in the 1920s and 1930s,there were sizable emigrations from Lewis to Canada,USA and to a lesser extent Australia.Most of these young men and women would arrive in Canada.The men would work mainly on the prairie farms,the women would work in service,as maids. Ontario was where many of them finally settled. Others made their way across the Canadian/US border and found employment in Detroit's car industry.Others stuck to what they knew best and found themselves jobs in the sheep farms of Montana. A family from Carloway went to Patagonia in Argentina where the father managed a large sheep farm.When they finally returned,the children could only speak Spanish,but in a short time they were fluent in English(and Gaelic).A lot more Welsh people settled in Patagonia. I know that a cousin of my mother,who was established in a Ford plant in Detroit,had a job lined up for Murdo,"but you couldn't shift the bugger from his bed".Murdo was taken with the boxing scene in the States and I remember him mentioning the heavyweight boxers of that era - Primo Carnera,Max Baer and Jack Sharkey.This places Murdo in the USA in the early 1930s,the beginning of the Great Depression. I believe he got around in the railway boxcars,and I believe he saw Primo Carnera fight.I know he stayed in a working man's boarding house,when he couldn't pay for his lodgings. But the lady who owned the house "had a soft spot for Murdo" and would invite him to dinner by stating in front of all the other men,"Would Mr.Maclennan please sit up at the table?" I believe Murdo initially wrote home to his parents in Dalmore,and then for seven years no one on this side of the Atlantic heard anymore about him. One day,a gaunt figure was seen passing the houses in Dalmore,and someone said "I think that man is Murchadh Shoudie",more in disbelief.One can only guess how his rap at the door would affect his old parents.I think this would be around 1936-38,because Murdo was back in Lewis before the outbreak of the Second World War. I would guess that Murdo entered the USA in 1927/28. My father and his brother John were in the Royal Navy during the war,while Murdo was exempt,looking after the croft and his old parents,who both passed away during these war years. It seems that Murdo was seeing a lady from Breasclete and they were planning to marry.The lady was even bringing a calf,in way of a dowry, In 1945/46 when John was returning home after the war,someone button- holed him in Stornoway,and informed John of the forthcoming nuptials in Breasclete. John made haste over to Dalmore and told his older brother Murdo that there would no wedding,and the calf would be returning whence it came. Murdo meekly accepted the advice of his brother,and the two brothers lived happily ever after.