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Rachel was born in about 1836, the daughter of Donald Morrison and Marion Shaw of Tarabhig in Ruisgarry. Her widowed mother continued to live there at a site now known as Tobhta Mòr ni' Chaluim, later moving to 14 Ruisgarry (Trealigarry) and some years later to 17 Ruisgarry (Brusda).
Rachel became a domestic servant, marrying widower John MacLeod of Quay in 1874, becoming stepmother to his young children. They were to have two daughters together, Ann and Marion.