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John, born 1821, was the son of Alexander Paterson and Margaret MacKillop of Borve. The site of their home was later known as Tobhta Alasdair 'ic Thormoid. By 1841 John was a farmer, living in Borve with his widowed mother and siblings.
John married Christina Munro of Ruisgarry, with whom he was to have six children. About this time, Borve crofts were cleared for Borve Farm. John, living as a cottar, worked variously as a farm labourer and shepherd. His home was named Taigh a' Chiobair.