The McGhie side
My thoughts, William Richard McGhie.
Adding to as I have time.
I had little
interest in where
my ancestors were from until of recent times. I made a small attempt to
ask my father many decades ago, and his response to the question,
"where did we come from" was
"Oh a Captain McGhie jumped ship in
Well this proved
wrong in terms
of how the McGhie's came to Australia, but did have an element of truth
well after the McGhie's had come to Australia, way back in 1853, when
George McGhie arrived in Melbourne.
The name McGhie most probably was Scottish or Irish. I always thought
Scottish but for no reason. I pictured the ancestors living in a
country farm house on the side of a small hill with trees in the back
ground. Idle thoughts. It would be good to know, but researching, I
believed, would have required time I was not prepared to find. All the
many visits to all sorts of librarys and places of documents. Just too
hard and not interested enough.
I knew the man that could have known the
man who immigrated to Australia.
Jumping ahead a bit,
but it is interesting how close we can be to our ancestors. My grand
father William McGhie I knew up until 1959. He died when I was
10, could have known his grand father George McGhie who immigrated to
Australia. Even though my grand father moved, as a small child from
Victoria, where his grand father lived, and came to Western Australia,
he could have had many a long conversation with him, as his grand
father died when my grand father was 16. There could have been first
hand accounts of life in Orkney, but of course at my young age, when I
knew my grand father, you have no interest or even know the questions
to ask. So close but so far.
Along came the Internet and primarily Ancestry.com. It took only a
couple of hours to indicate that Orkney looked like the source of my
ancestors. I was amazed at how easy it was to track down an ancestry
path. It required many hours of cross checking, but yes the McGhie's
had come from one of the main Islands in the Orkney, South Ronaldsay.
At least that was as far back as I could go, the early 1800's.
How far back...?
The question is how
far back do
you try to go when doing ancestry research? Going back beyond the
1800's becomes more difficult, unless you have a famous ancestor. For
me the fairly recent ancestors were more important, because with every
generation back you are in a sense less connected. We all know we have
ancestors going back thousands of years, but they are far removed in
your DNA, diluted by generations.
I would never have
visited Orkney without the encouragement of my partner Jill. A born
traveler, it all made sense to her to go to Orkney, so we did, twice so
far, first in 2010 and then in 2013. The first visit was for only 3
days, not long enough to discover much, but amazing in its importance,
of being the first time I had set foot on where my ancestors, on the
McGhie side, had lived. Perhaps I'm the only McGhie, an ancestor of
George McGhie, who immigrated to Australia in 1853, to have done so.
Very special if that is true.
All too late
I have often wondered how my father
would have reacted to what I no know. He did not know of the
Orkney connection, and probably as I have said, knew nothing of his
ancestors. His past was from a broken marriage between his parents and
the past was not what he cared about, ancestors or not. However that
said, I believe he would have been astounded to be told what I have
discovered. Sadly he died before my interest led me to the "where did
we come from" was answered,
first visit in 2010, despite being brief, was eerie. We had researched
as much as we could about the McGhie's and knew where they had lived
from the early 1800's to the early 1900's. The name has largely died
out and later generations diluted down other genealogical paths, still
related, but at a distance. Standing in a country I hardly knew
existed, right where my ancestors walked and talked is a strange
experience, at least I found it that way. From research we
knew all the houses they had lived in had gone. More about this
First impressions of Orkney
Orkney, even in
summer, at least while we were there, was cool to cold and windy. There
are few trees, just green rolling hills with many farm houses. The main
town is Kirkwall, where you fly into from Scotland. A small prop driven
20 seater plane. It is an open country side due to the lack of trees.
You are never far from the sea, with a mixture of sandy bays and tall
cliffs. Medium size wind turbines are all over the island, on farm
land, where the owner gets free electricity and a cash return. The
roads are easy to drive on, all be it a bit narrow in places. It is the
wind that can get to you. At least on our first trip it never seemed to
First morning, Parkhouse was somewhere in
the square...Not the small building.
First visit to Parkhouse
our first visit we stayed in the bay, Houton Bay Orphir, where the
McGhie's lived from about 1840 onwards. Unfortunately we had not
calculated exactly where Parkhouse was and were about 300 metres from
the exact location. The area is a peninsular of farm land. The thick
grass was wet even in mid summer when we were there. To know your
ancestors lived, farmed and fished right where you were was amazing.
There are many words to describe it, but for me it was unbelievable.
Never ever thought this would have been possible. Living in a remote
isolated location is something I would enjoy. I'm not really a city
person. But the hardship of living in a stone cottage with none of the
modern conveniences we enjoy was easy to imagine. Every task many times
harder than the way we live today. No hot showers at the turn of a tap
or light at the flick of a switch. We walked over Parkhouse and took
video and photographs, but did not know it. Discovering Parkhouse had
to wait until our next visit.
We did not know when this
photograph was taken that Parkhouse was in the area marked.
Trying to locate Purgatory
We knew from Google
Earth and old maps of the area that Purgatory was much harder to get
to. It was on private farm land but a fair way from any roads. Even
though Parkhouse is on private farm land, it was close to a road.
Access is taken as a right, as long as you close any gates. However
Purgatory was just too far but we did drive down a gravel road that
took us to within a kilometre of the hill on which Purgatory had once
Finding George McGhie
We knew that George
McGhie (My GGG Grand father) who lived the latter part of his life in
Parkhouse then Sorpool, and The Old School House, where he died,
were all in the same location, Orphir (pronounced orfa). Stopping at a
local tavern in Orphir for food and drink we asked the owner if there
was a nearby cemetery. "Yes a kilometer down the road". We dove there
and the second grave stone we looked at was George's, all a bit eerie
George McGhie and his son John, Orphir Orkney.