just an old-fashioned girl

Hello and welcome. I'm glad you dropped by. If you´re looking for something a little nostalgic of bygone eras with a timeless elegance and a little modern twist – in other words, something slightly “retro” – then you should feel right at home here in my shabby chic room. Month by month, there will always be something new to see so I hope you´ll enjoy your stay and come back again soon.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Missing Photos, Finding Relatives

There are two photos of my father which I treasure simply because they are the only ones I have of him as a young man. In the first one he´s 16 and in the second one, which isn´t dated, I think he´s probably about 18. I know that both were taken in Ireland where he sometimes spent the summer with relatives who had a farm there. Judging by the Border Collie in that photo I can only assume that they were sheep farmers though I can´t be sure about that. There are a lot of things about my father that are a mystery to me. In the first photo he´s carrying a camera and yet none of the photos he took have survived. Also, there isn´t a single photo of him as a baby. However, the greatest mystery has always been his mother, Helen Campbell, for whom I was named. My father himself knew only that she died very young and that on her deathbed she pleaded with her mother-in-law to look after her child and made her promise not give him up to her own mother. I find this horrifying as it would appear that my paternal great grandmother, must have been unpleasant to say the very least if her own daughter couldn´t entrust her child to her. Until very recently these were the only facts I knew about Helen Campbell until Linda, a cousin of our mutual cousin, Neville, did some research into my father´s antecedents. I now know that poor Helen was only 23 when she died and my father only 4 which explains why he had no recollection of her. Linda has traced Helen´s family tree back to my great great grandparents who came from Reay in Caithness. I wish my late father had known this because sometime during the 1960s he went north to work at the nuclear power station in Dounreay near the town of Thurso and only returned when he found it impossible to find a suitable house there for the family.
As the name Dounreay suggests, it´s very close to where his maternal great grandparents, Robert Campbell and Betsey Isabella MacDonald came from. Of course, considering how small a country Scotland is, this is no great coincidence but if he had known this he may have been able to find relatives still living there. However, one thing I find particularly interesting about Robert and Betsey is that they, perhaps unwittingly, joined two warring clans together. Throughout Scotland´s turbulent history the Highlanders didn´t just wage war on the English but also on each other and the clans MacDonald and Campbell have a particularly bloody history. I won´t go into that in detail but I have to say that I find it comforting that now that I can lay claim to both clans in my family tree I no longer have to defend my middle name to any of my countrymen named MacDonald! Yes, clan memories die hard in Scotland and the massacre of MacDonalds at Glencoe in 1692 has - unfairly - gone down in history as proof of the bloodthirsty nature of the clan Campbell. I say "unfairly" because, according to what I´ve read about this ancient family feud, the MacDonalds weren´t averse to slaughtering the Campbells either!
With all this recent knowledge I created this page in memory of my dear dad who passed away in 1995.
The tartan on the left is the clan Campbell, on the right the clan MacDonald and in the middle the clan Armstrong to which our family belongs. Thank you, Linda, for making this possible.


  1. That's really nice Helen. I didn't know anything about Linda's pursuit of your ancestry. You are a real clansman and have a great choice of tartan.

  2. Love all the family history. So glad that Linda was able to do the research that lead to at least some answers. I'm fortunate that a cousin did the same and gave me a copy of the book she had printed that covers my paternal side of the family. I have some history of my maternal side shared by my grandmother who lived to be a few weeks shy of 97 years old. May check out Ancestry.com and see what else I can find.

    Also love getting to see bits and pieces of your new kit...looking forward to the finished kit.

  3. What a sad but interesting story of your family history. I know almost nothing about my family any farther back than my grandparents. You make me want to dig deeper!

    I didn't mean it as insensitive as it came out, forgive me...., part of the story is sad because your dad didn't know, but aside from that, what great information to have about your roots, and possibly access family you were not aware of? I should know more about the clans than I do, but being able to claim 3, is quite extra ordinary, isn't it?

  5. I'm so pleased that Linda was able to find information for you! Just knowing can be a satisfaction and "joining" those clans together must be great. So many things we wish about dear departed ones though.