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John MacDermid was born in 1781 in Skye. He married Marion Nicholson and by 1811 they had moved to Ruisgarry on the isle of Berneray, where John was active in the kelp industry. John held a croft, paying annual rent of £13 5s for a double croft in 1818 and £6 in 1830. They still lived there in 1841.
With the failure of the kelp industry and the re-organisation of the crofts in Ruisgarry, the family emigrated to Loch Lomond, Cape Breton, where John passed away in 1876.