Forgotten tales

stories of my family

Scottish sisters

I was recently in Scotland with my friend Hamish. We spent some hours at the Scottish National Gallery. This painting, by the Scottish artist, William McTaggart, entitled Spring (1864), caught my attention. I thought about two sisters in our family, Helen and Katie (Catherine) Ross (born 1830 and 1831 respectively), who were only a year or two apart in age. They grew up in Gledfield, at the outflow of the Strathcarron, and though their life was probably not in any way as idealistic or romantic as this painting depicts, they were nevertheless two little girls, sisters together in the Scottish Highlands. I have no pictures from their childhood, but this makes me think of them. They were close in age and were likely good friends. It must have been a sad day in 1857 when the 27 year old Helen sailed away to Australia. The sisters would never meet again. Katie remained unmarried and lived with her mother all her life but was tragically drowned when she was just 47 years old. Helen married an Englishman, James Redstone, who had also migrated to Australia, and they made their home in the Bellinger Valley in northern NSW. Katie died in the beautiful valley of the Carron River in the Scottish Highlands. Helen died in another beautiful valley, in rural Australia, at the grand old age of 86, half a world away.

Spring, William Mctaggart, 1864. On display in the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

Spring, William Mctaggart, 1864. On display in the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh


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2 thoughts on “Scottish sisters

  1. And we were in the Bellingen valley just last week. It is indeed beautiful. In fact, we found a side valley early this year called ‘The Promised Land’.

  2. A promised land: I guess that’s the way Australia appeared to Highlanders struggling with the injustice of the day.

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