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Isabella was born c 1845, the fourth child of John "'an Domhnallach" and Catherine, nee Stewart. She was brought up in Tigh a Chaolais, Croir with her nine siblings. She married Dr Rhoderick Ross in 1878 and had two of a family.
The Victorian novelist William Black (1841-1898) was a friend of the Macdonald family and Bernera forms the setting of the major part of his novel A Princess of Thule. The heroine of the book, Sheila Mackenzie, was drawn from Isabella.