Roamin in the gloamin

Roamin in the gloamin (1928)


Page 274


Capt Murdoch McDonald is remembered by the celebrated Scottish entertainer Sir Harry Lauder in his book "Roamin in the gloamin", although it should be noted that Sir Harry did keep referring to him as MacGreggor (which I have corrected).

Sir Harry writes:

From Port Swetenham we sailed along the coast to Singapore on a lovely little steamer named the Klang, The Captain of this ship was a splendid Highlander of the name of McDonald, who courteously welcomed every individual passenger as he stepped off the gangway on to the deck.  He had such a pronounced accent that I asked him what part of the Rob Roy-territory he hailed from. "Alas, an" alack, Sir Harry he answered. "I have never seen the dear land of my fathers and my dreams. I was born in New Zealand.  All my life has been spent in these tropical seas. But soon I hope to retire and the first thing I shall do will be to go 'home' to Scotland and see the hills and the streams and the villages my father and mother loved so devotedly'.

These words were spoken in the soft, warm accents of the true Highlander and I could scarcely believe that the speaker had not been brought up in Callender or Balquidder. He astonished me still further by telling me that "he had the full Gaelic" and though my knowledge of this language is small he was overjoyed when I said a few Gaelic words to him and volubly answered me in the same tongue. In his cabin he, like Ling Sing, had a set of bagpipes and he and I played many a tune on them during the passage. Some months afterwards I was shocked beyond measure to read in a New Zealand paper that Captain McDonald had been brutally murdered by one of his own crew* who had suddenly gone mad. I tell you this story as another example of the extraordinary way love of country is embedded strong in the hearts of people of Scottish descent even in cases where they have never set eyes on the "land of brown heath and shaggy wood." There is a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye as I write this little story of Captain McDonald of the SS. Klang. I cannot help it. I am not ashamed of it. The emotion springs from that ineffable, intangible, but tremendously real thing called Scottish sentiment.

* It was not a member of the crew that committed the murder, it was a passenger.


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