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Issue 37 - Donald Trump

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 37
March 2008


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Donald Trump

The American tycoon is currently and somewhat controversially re-establishing a link with Scotland. And he is from Scottish family.

It’s hardto image the brash loud and very American businessman Donald Trump being rocked to sleep while listening to a soothing Gaelic lullaby – but it might well have happened.

Aglance back through the entrepreneur’s harsh, uncompromising and at times tragic ancestry might in part explain his gritty determination to make a success of his life.

For Trump, presently in the centre of a controversial project to build a luxury golf complex in an area of north east Scotland in close proximity to a noted bird sanctuary, is not only the son of a Scotswoman, he’s the offspring of a woman who was brought up on the Hebridean island of Lewis where life historically has been harsh and where Gaelic would have been widely spoken.

His mother Mary Anne MacLeod emigrated from Lewis to America and met and married Frederick Trump, of German origin. At that time, MacLeod was the most common surname in the west coast island of Lewis and is well represented there to this day.

Both her parents were Gaelic speakers and it is highly likely that Mary Anne would have spoken it, and taken it with her to America.

It’s not inconceivable, therefore, that she passed on song and story to Donald as a boy.

Mary Anne was born in the village of Tong, in the parish of Stornoway on 10th May 1912, to a fisherman named Malcolm MacLeod and his wife, Mary Smith, married in 1891.

Mary Smith MacLeod lived to the age of 96, dying in 1963. At that time her address was No. 5, Tong; she had been born, married and died in the village which is on a promontory four miles north-north east of Stornoway.The birth of her daughter, Mary Anne, had taken place at No. 3 Tong and it seems to have been a close-knit community of crofters and fishermen, many of the menfolk following both these traditional occupations in the appropriate seasons of the year. Certainly, Malcolm MacLeod, Mary’s husband was variously described as crofter and fisherman; he also lived to a respectable age and died (also at No. 5 Tong) in 1954 aged 87.

Malcolm MacLeod was born in 1866 in Aird of Tong and his parents were an illustration of the prevalence of the surname, both being MacLeods. His mother had been Ann MacLeod before her marriage in 1853 to Alexander MacLeod. At that time, the spelling of names and placenames was erratic. Frequently it was the preference of the clerk which prevailed as the earlier generations were not always literate and many of the documents were signed with “X – his mark.” Malcolm had evidently learned to write but on registering his 1866 birth, his father, Alexander had simply added his mark.

These families, invariably with numerous children (Malcolm was one of 10) lived in fairly primitive conditions in a harsh environment, and examples of the famous ‘blackhouses’ of the area survive today.These consisted of low, thick, stone walls and sturdy roof coverings of thatch (well seasoned with generations of soot) which kept out the worst of the winter weather.

Both men and women worked on the land, with women generally bearing the brunt of the hard labour of cutting and carrying home the peats which fuelled the household fires.

Children were also pressed into service at this task.

No official record was made of the birth or baptism of Alexander MacLeod (the grandfather of Mary Anne MacLeod Trump) but, according to the ages shown for him in various sources, i.e. census returns, his marrage and death certificates, he would have been born in Stornoway around 1830.

This was before the advent in Scotland of compulsory registration of these events in 1855. His death record reveals that both he and his father had been crofters and that each of his parents was also named MacLeod – William and Catherine.

Mary MacLeod Trump’s maternal line was also well established in Tong, her mother, Mary, being born there in 1867 to Donald Smith and Mary Macaulay Smith. They had been married in Garrabost, also in the parish of Stornoway, in 1858.

At that time Donald was said to have been a fisherman and the son of Duncan Smith and Henrietta MacQueen Smith. Anote of tragedy creeps into the family tree here as Donald was lost in Broadbay, off Vatisher Point, Stornoway when a squall of wind overturned his boat in 1868. He was aged 34 and left his widow to carry on the family croft after his death and to bring up their four children, the youngest of whom, Mary, was only a year old.

Donald’s father was the only man in the family not to have the dual occupations of crofter and fisherman, he was described as a woollen weaver and cottar. His widow, Henrietta, worked the croft after his death.

Given the harsh economic realities of life in such isolated communities of subsistence farming and fishing, it is little wonder that numerous Lewis men (and women) emigrated as the land simply could not sustain the growing population.

Clearly there was a better life for them in the new world.