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Joan was born at Dunvegan in 1811. She worked as a servant at Dunvegan Castle. She was living in Kilmuir when she married Donald MacDonald of Pabbay, with whom she was to have six children. They seem to have lived on Pabbay for a while before moving to Berneray. During the 1850s the family moved to a newly built home in Ardmaree.
She assisted Ian Òg Campbell when he was gathering folklore for Popular Tales of the West Highlands.