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John MacLeod was born in about 1821, the eldest child of Murdo MacLeod and Catherine MacLeod of old Ruisgarry then 3 Meavaig South, Harris. John married Mary MacLeod of Siabaidh. They made their home as cottars in Baile, moving to Lamerick in 1875. John and Mary had four children together. The house at Lamerick later passed to their son Allan.
John worked as a fisherman, and was also a keen hunter. He often accompanied his good friend Malcolm MacAskill on fishing and hunting expeditions. Malcolm wrote of him:
Ian mac Mhurchaidh leis an tabh A' dol cho trath a dh' iasgach Bheir an cudaig air 's buntata At cho ard ri Fianna