How Now Black and White Cow. Isle of Lewis Obsessions.

This book above, The Genealogy of the Macaulays of Uig and this plaque, below,  in Hudson, Quebec, are related.

The other week, while strolling with our two dogs by the water in Hudson, Quebec, my husband and I passed another  couple walking their enormous pooch, a Newfoundlander-like dog, but one with large black and white patches.

I remarked on the unusual colouring of said canine and one of the owner’s replied, “Yes,  he’s our Jersey dog.”

I asked my husband,  “Aren’t Jersey cows brown? Those black and white cows you see everywhere are called something else. Aren’t I right?”

“Yes,” replied my husband, who grew up in the country so he knows a lot about such things. “Those black and white cows were developed by a guy from here in Hudson. There’s a plaque up on Mount Victoria? Do you want to do see?” It seems he couldn’t remember the name of the breed of cow, either.

So my husband took me to see this plaque, installed to honour the memory of a local man,Thomas Basset Macaulay, who developed a new breed of cow, the Holstein, on his experimental farm on the shores of the Ottawa River.

T.B. Macaulay, as it happens, was also the long-time President of Sun Life Insurance.

OK. So, what’s all this got to do with two-legged genealogy?

Well, the name T.B. Macaulay rang a bell with me.  I have a self-published book, The Genealogy of the Macaulays of Uig, in my house.

The book once belonged to Edith Nicholson, 1884-1977, my husband’s great aunt,a proud descendant of the Isle of Lewis Scots, those penniless crofters who were cleared from the land in the 1800’s and forced to emigrate to Canada and beyond.

My husband’s great aunt Dede, a teacher, left behind a slew of letters (from 1906 to 1936) and a few other personal possessions, including an 1888 two volume edition of Middlemarch; a yearbook from The Hostel from 1928 (that was McGill’s women’s Phys Ed residence);some yellowed newspaper clippings about the militant suffragettes; and this little genealogy volume, given to her in 1931.

The inscription reads: To Edith Nicholson, in appreciation of her connection with the Nicholson Institute of Stornoway. T.B. Macaulay.

There’s even a picture of Mr. Macaulay inside the book.

And here’s that inscription.

How well Mr. Macaulay knew my husband’s great aunt Dede, I don’t know. Edith had worked at Sun Life between 1917 and 1920, but only as a lowly stenographer in the accounting department.

After that she worked in the Registrar’s office at McGill and as a Tutor-in-Residence at the Hostel and as Assistant Warden at Royal Victoria College. In the 1930’s, Edith stepped out with Carrie Derick, the suffragist and first female full professor at McGill.

Edith’s family, from Richmond, Quebec was cash-poor but well-connected.  J.C. Sutherland, the long-time Superintendent of Protestant Education in Quebec, was a close friend. Edith’s father, Norman, had stumped for Sir Wilfrid Laurier back in the day.

But no Macaulay figures in any of the family’s 1,000 letters, although there are many mentions of Morrison’s and McLeod’s and other Isle of Lewis surnames. As far as I know from the same stash of correspondence, Edith got her job at Sun Life because the head of the Accounting Department lived beside her sister, Marion, on York Avenue in Westmount.

No, these two people didn’t have much in common, except that they were both of Isle of Lewis, Scotland, origin and they both were into genealogy big time. Somewhere along the line T.B. Macaulay learned of Miss Edith’s obsession.

Edith would visit the Hebrides homeland, herself, in 1933. She would bring back loads of information about the Nicolson Education Institute of Stornoway, a school. She was clearly proud of the connection she felt she had with this particular place. And for a few years in the 1930’s she would sign her name Edith Nicolson, without the H.

Now, that’s taking genealogy seriously!

Isle of Lewis genealogy is very well-documented on the Internet. This page leads to a story about how the Nicolsons and the Macaulays of Uig liked to feud over grazing privileges. But, of course.

Edith, second from right, in Navy League uniform, in front of Sun Life Building, 1917, during WWI.

Macaulay’s Secretary wrote the letter to Edith. It was slipped inside the book as was a genealogy of the Nicolson clan from Medieval times and later.

About Dorothy Nixon

I am a Montreal based writer with a new book about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13 Furies Cross the Mersey on Amazon Kindle.

Posted on July 8, 2015, in England, Genealogy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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