So, I haven’t really wanted to mention this. It’s unfortunate and a little embarrassing. But lately there have been some news articles drawing attention to the topic so I might as well face facts.
You know that wonderful little island in Scotland that I keep going back to in the summertime? The one my great-great-grandfather Murdo MacIver and all his ancestors before him so far as the records go came from? Well, it seems that Donald Trump’s ancestors are from there too. His mother Mary Ann MacLeod left the Isle of Lewis in 1929 as a teenager to seek her fortune in America (she found it).
I suppose it shouldn’t bother me, but it does, for a couple of reasons. One is that I have a selfish desire to keep my favorite places to myself and I worry that too many curious people will go there and change them. I’m sure you must be thinking, then why do I write about them in my blog? Best answer: because I am my own worst enemy, that’s why. But in any case I shudder at the thought of a plaque marking Mrs. Trump’s birth cottage, or Donald-Trump-in-a-kilt keychains on sale at the visitor center. I don’t actually think that would happen, but plenty of things have occurred recently that I never would have thought possible before this election.
The second troublesome aspect of this thing is Trump’s twisting of his mother’s immigration story. Who knows, maybe it was her version, but with all the resources at his disposal you would think Trump must have discovered the truth of it. For years, in interviews and biographies, he said that his mother met his father while she was on holiday in America. In reality, as first reported earlier this year by the Scottish newspaper The National, Mary Anne MacLeod came from a poor, Gaelic-speaking fishing family (one that could probably never have afforded a vacation at all, let alone one to America); she arrived in the US by herself, aged 17, with $50 in her pocketbook. On her papers she gave her occupation as domestic servant, and stated her intention of becoming a permanent resident. There’s nothing wrong with this – and it’s a pretty standard Scottish migrant story – but given his attitude toward poor, undereducated, non-English speaking arrivals, it’s kind of obvious why the candidate tells a different version. And I don’t like that. The Daily Mail is an awful rag of a paper, but here’s their exposé. A U.S. blogger expanded on the story a few days later, and the New Yorker news desk reported on it in June.
The Donald is not exactly a favorite on the island, either. His lavish lifestyle clashes with the quiet, hardworking, religious ethos of the outer Hebrides. And his relatives don’t enjoy being asked about their American cousin. From the rash of recent articles I get the impression that a lot of curious journalistic people have been nosing around Lewis lately in search of Trump backstory. I do wish he’d hurry up and lose this election so they can go home. Nothing to see here, folks.
I’ve got some MacLeods from Lewis in my family but not in my direct line. Trump’s other family names from Lewis are Smith and MacQueen; other than MacIver, mine are MacKenzie and Grant. So I can say with some confidence that we’re not related, at least not in recorded history. What a relief.