46325: Visit to Patagonia III

Margaret Smith, along with her siblings, Donna and Iain decided to visit Patagonia in 1994 in order to retrace their father’ Malcolm Smith’s footsteps and those of the many scores of Lewis and Harris people who had made this distant land their destination at the beginning of the Century. Below is an account of their visit in 1994 and another visit made in 1996.

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We shared yet another very happy and unique occasion in Punta Arenas on our second visit, this time with the Mackay family mentioned earlier. Allan and Chrissie Mackay had arrived to visit their relatives there at the same time as we did. We were invited to join them for the celebration dinner marking the first time that they were together as a family in their native land in the space of 65 years. During the course of the evening, we reflected on the fact that many decades have passed since such a gathering of Gaelic speaking Lochies sat around a table in Punta Arenas.

North of Punta Arenas on a windward shore of Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Sound), is the fishing and former wool port of Puerto Natales where Kenneth Morrison of Scalpay farmed successfully on his estancia ‘Sofia Maria’. Some of his family still reside there.

Kenneth Maclean, son of Peter William Maclean, Crowlista, helped by his wife Mayo, run their farm on nearby Riesco Island in the Pitzroy Challel and their son Roderick owns a neighbouring farm. Their daughter, Gillian lives in Punta Arenas and is the secretary in the British School there. Kenneth Maclean is an internationally renowned breeder and judge in the sheep farming community of Patagonia.

Adjacent to the border of Argentina and Chile, near the Straits, is the estancia ‘Monte Aymond’, owned by Lochs descendant, Alejandro Mackenzie, son of Hector and Dolina Mackenzie of Airidhbhruaich. We did meet Alejandro and his wife Jessie and we understand that several members of their family live in Rio Gallegos and in Buenos Aires.

Rio Gallegos is the capital city of Santa Cruz province on the coast of Argentina and during our very brief visit there, we had the pleasure of meeting Mayo Mackenzie. Mayo is the grand-daughter of William Samuel Mackenzie of Portgower, Helmsdale who sold his croft there before the turn of the century and headed for Patagonia. Starting as a shepherd, he eventually acquired some land and he was able to establish his own estancia near Rio Gallegos. It is quite possible that many Lewis and Harris people were employed on this farm,

After the publication of "Why Patagonia?", I sent a copy to Mayo Mackenzie in Rio Galllegos and by return of post, I received her reply and offer of help in identifying two unnamed gentlemen in the picture of page 49 of the book. The two men referred to as ‘German workers’ were none other than Mayo’s uncle Alexander Mackenzie and her father, John Hugh Mackenzie. They are pictured with Lochs men Peter Maclennan, Seaforth Head; Donald Macleod, 21 Balallan and John Nicolson, 47 Balallan.

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