46326: Visit to Patagonia IV

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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Across the Straits of Magellan, is the Island of Tierra del Fuego, once the destination of many islefolk. We had the pleasure of spending a week on the estancia ‘La Frontera’, owned by the parents of Mary Morrison Fuentes, who grandfather was Kenneth Morrison, Boghlas, Harris. Kenneth was married to a Cornish lady and they farmed on Dawson Island in the Straits. Their only daughter, Mary Morrison married Gaston Fuentes, owner of ‘La Frontera’, a large farm on the Chilean sector if the island. They had two of a family, Mary and Siergio. Mary Morrison died in a hospital in Punta Arenas in January, 1994.

On our second visit to Punta Arenas in 1996, we again met the Fuentes family who happened to be on holiday in the city at that time. Mary and her husband Waldo Venegas, are both professors working in the University of Conception and they have a family of two daughters, Veronica and Isabel and a son Pablo. Veronica is a dentist in Santiago where she is married and has a baby daughter; her sister Isabel is a student and their brother Pablo is an agronomical engineer.

On hearing from us that we intended to cross over to Tierra del Fuego, Gaston Fuentes handed us the key for his house on ‘La Frontera’ and told us that we were welcome to have the use of it, a gesture that was very much appreciated indeed. Along with the key, he gave us a letter of introduction to Santiago, his foreman back on the farm, asking him to show us where the best fishing could be found.

This he certainly did for us and more, becoming our very good friend during the pleasant week which we spent there, sampling estancia life in this very remote and beautiful area of Tierra del Fuego.

The pampa, golden brown in the summer sunshine, stretched endlessly around us, its thousands of grazing sheep so widely scattered over its expanse that they were hardly discernable. Wild horses and herds of guanaco, startled by our intrusion, raced across the plains while enormous flocks of geese, ibis and ducks, untroubled by our presence, continued to feed by the riverside. The fishing on the Rio Chico was much enjoyed with an excellent catch in the bag by mid-day each day.

Our friend and guild Santiago, helped us to local the farm on which Angus and Annabella Macdonald of Habost, Lochs spent several years until Angus’s untimely death in 1948. It is now owned by emigrants from Ross-shire.

Leaving ‘La Frontera’ and heading eastwards towards the Argentinean sector, we travelled some 150 miles to the town of Rio Grande, where we met Angus Smith, manager of ‘Estancia Jose Menendez’. Angus worked on this farm for the past 40 years until his retirement in 1997. He is the only surviving member of the family of William Smith, 5 Achmore and Christina Macdonald, 20 Doune, Carloway who spent their working lives in Patagonia and did not return to their native soil.

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