DOWN MEMORY LANE, March 1 2019

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A Canadian woman has said ‘a big thank you’ to Courier readers who helped trace her Kintyre relatives.

Ellen Sager, 70, from Tumbler Ridge, sent a letter to the Courier in August 2009, asking for information about her Campbeltown-born grandfather, Thomas Douglas.

Ellen said she knew very little except what her mother, Isabella, who emigrated to Canada in 1930, had written in her grandmother Bessie’s obituary.

It read that 94-year-old Bessie was the widow of Thomas Douglas, a lighthouse keeper who drowned at McArthur’s Head Lighthouse, Islay, in November 1919, just nine months after Isabella was born.

Ellen received two replies to her 2009 request, from relatives who gave her the name and address of Robert Douglas, Thomas’s nephew, who was born in Campbeltown in 1925 but moved to Australia in 1956.

Ellen said: ‘When I contacted Robert, he said he did not know that his uncle Thomas had a family.

‘I have been blessed to have many letters that Robert has written describing life in Campbeltown. He has shared so much, like the reason the family rented Knockbay Farm.’

Robert’s letter read: ‘Grandfather [Thomas’s father] decided he needed a farm to rent to house his large family, so he occupied Knockbay.

‘He had the choice of two farms at that time, and the other farm was much superior, but he chose Knockbay – his reason for doing so was that he would be able to see the lights of the herring fishing fleet in the early morning, harness his pony into the buggy and get to the pier first.’

In another letter, Robert described his grandfather’s escapades as a young man working on a farm near Grogport, and later at Smerby.

Ellen and her daughter Andrea visited Campbeltown in June 2015.

They were chauffeured throughout their trip by Ellen’s cousin Jean Douglas, from Ayr, and stayed at Redknowe Bed and Breakfast, which was once owned by the Douglas family.

Ellen said: ‘I was able to visit the relatives who had emailed me from the Courier printing my request those many years ago.

‘We visited the church at Carradale and Knockbay Farm. The highlight was going to Kilkerran Cemetery – I had a photograph of the gravestone of William Douglas that had my grandfather, Thomas, memorialised on it.

‘My cousin thought the grave was on the hill but the cemetery workers said that the yew trees in the photo meant it was on the flat area.

‘We started looking and came across a stone that was completely covered with yew trees and when we pulled them back, there, a miracle, was the monument!

‘The workers were so wonderful and got the chainsaws out and cleared the front.’

Ellen and her daughter also visited Islay and threw bouquets of flowers, in memory of Thomas, off the ferry as they passed McArthur’s Head Lighthouse.

Ellen said: ‘It is important for this newspaper and its readers to know that not only has my life been blessed, but those who follow me will be rewarded by knowing the information and stories that have resulted from your publishing my initial request.’

A composite photograph of Thomas Douglas, his wife Bessie (née Betsy McEachern) and their daughter, Isabella. NO_c09douglas01

Ellen Sager and her daughter Andrea throw flowers off the Islay ferry in memory of Thomas Douglas. NO_c09douglas02

Andrea Sager and Jean Douglas at the Douglas family’s monument in Kilkerran Cemetery. NO_c09douglas03