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 Post subject: Cluny Macpherson
 Post Posted: Tue May 19, 2009 8:45 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:29 pm
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Here is a story I found told by my ancestor Cluny Macpherson. Cluny's father married Emma Duder (my second cousin twice remove). Although this story relates to his grandfather from his fathers side , not his mother's I still found it interesting. What is even more interesting is who told it to him. It can be found on the following site


My great-grandfather, Peter Macpherson, came to Newfoundland from Greenock in 1804 at the age of seventeen as a clerk in the employ of a Glasgow firm with branches in Newfoundland. He went to the Port-de-Grave branch and in time took over the branch as a separate business, Peter Macpherson & Co., with the Glasgow firm as partners.
He married the daughter of Joseph Furneaux, another merchant of Port-de-Grave in 1811 and had three daughters and one son, Peter, my grandfather. He died in 1868.

I have to tell you of one of the most amazing coincidences I have ever known outside fiction books: in fact it is so amazing that a novelist would hesitate to use it, for here indeed "truth is stranger than fiction."

As a young man my grandfather went with a maternal aunt on a trip to England. Returning, their vessel was in The Narrows, as the entrance to St John's Harbour is called -- they could see their home and their ship was recognised from shore -- when a sudden off-shore wind sprang up and blew them to sea. There were no steam tugs in those days to take them in tow. The wind freshened to a gale and during the night they were dismasted. But they kept the ship afloat and when the storm subsided after a couple of days the crew managed to rig jury-masts. But westerly winds prevailed and as they could not beat to windward with jury-rig, they were blown clear across the Atlantic and made port on the west coast of Ireland. There was no Transatlantic cable then to carry the message of their safety to Newfoundland, where they were long since mourned as lost.

Peter was of a jolly, social disposition and during the weeks that their ship was being refitted he visited many cottages in his walks ashore. One day in a cottage he saw a portrait which struck him as strangely familiar though he could not say why. But it impressed him so much that he brought his aunt ashore to see if she recognised the subject of the portrait. She gasped and nearly fainted when she saw it. " Why, Peter, it is your father !" There were no photos in those days and Peter was but eight years old when his father died, hence his not knowing of whom it was a portrait.

Inquiry as to how the family came into possession of the portrait brought the answer, " Oh! that was washed up on the beach packed in a bale of goods in such and such a year. We liked it and hung it up! " Peter acquired the portrait and brought it with him to St John's, their return this time being uneventful and they were greeted in St John's as ones returned from the dead. Inquiry showed that his father had visited England that year, had had his portrait painted and shipped, packed in a bale of goods, in a vessel bound for Newfoundland and that the vessel had never been heard of again -- lost at sea with all hands.

Possibly mathematicians or the new electronic brain could work out the odds against the above happening. Two vessels storm-tossed in different years on the same voyage, one lost, the other lucky enough to make harbour -- one bearing the portrait of the father, the other the son in person.

But remarkable as that tale is, I think the odds against my hearing of it in the way l did were even heavier. In 1896, having matriculated from London University, it was decided that I should go to McGill University, Montreal, to study medicine. I went by steamer to Halifax and by train to Montreal. At Truro, the junction with the railway from Cape Breton, a middle-aged man with flowing hair boarded the train and at once lay down on a lounge which had been reserved for him, covered his face with a large handkerchief and did not move until the call came for lunch. As we were washing our hands in adjoining basins, I said to him " I hope your headache is better , sir," to which he replied " Thank you my lad, but I have no headache: this is my time for sleep. For many months I have not gone to bed until 4.30 a.m." I said, " What a strange hour to go, to bed. What occupation could make that hour for retiring necessary? "He said," Oh! I have no particular occupation. I am a gentleman of leisure, I suppose. But I do a lot of delicate experiments and find the earth much quieter and free from vibration after midnight. You may have seen my name in connection with the telephone; I am Bell, the inventor." I said, " Of course I have seen your name in that connection, but I had the honour of meeting you, your wife, daughters, father and mother when you visited my father in St John's some years ago."He at once said, "Then you are a Macpherson, come along and have lunch with me and give me all the St John's news."

After enquiring about the family, he said, "And, of course you still have that portrait with the very remarkable history." I said I did not know of any remarkable history attached to the portraits at home. He said, "Oh but you must know of this one, it has the most remarkable story I've ever heard attached to it." On my still protesting ignorance of it, he told me the story I have just told, and assured me he had seen it on the occasion of his visit. I promised to make enquiries by letter at once and let him know. He then went on to talk about his experiments in heavier-than-air flight. He told me that it was not with any contraption flapping its wings like a bird that we were going to get into the air, but with planes.

He asked me if I knew a Chinese box kite. I said I did, and turning over the menu (how I wish I had kept it) he proceeded to draw something quite like the first aeroplanes and said, "Now, as soon as we can get an engine light enough to pull that through the air fast enough, we are in the air; it is only a matter of stabilisation after that. The importance of that statement lies in the fact that he said it some five years before the Wright Brothers got into the air by doing just that !!

On reaching Montreal I got a letter off to my grandmother, but I had to wait three months before getting a reply. She wrote that everything Mr Bell had said about the portrait was exactly as it had happened, but that he was wrong in saying he had seen the portrait. His father, Alexander Melville Bell, had asked to see it; he had been here when grandfather had returned with it; they were working in the same establishment and were close friends; in fact it was my grandfather who early recognised Bell's gift of elocution and persuaded him to return to Edinburgh and make it his life work. Sorrowfully Bell had been told that the portrait had been burned in the fire that destroyed St John's in 1846; that his sisters had prevented my grandfather risking his life trying to save it. Naturally he felt terribly about it and from that day to Bell's visit, it had never been mentioned. Though grandfather had been dead before my birth I had never heard of it and as it was, had quite a job to extract the story from grandmother. The story had made such a deep impression on Alexander Graham Bell that he could have sworn he had actually seen the portrait.

I corresponded with Bell in later years, but was never able to accept his repeated invitation to visit him either in Cape Breton or Washington. But last summer when I attended the Mod in Cape Breton I visited Beinn Breagh, and there his two daughters and' I recalled our meeting some sixty-five years before and had a good chat over old times.

 Post subject: Re: Cluny Macpherson
 Post Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:08 am 
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Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:54 am
Posts: 19
What a lovely story. I remember my grandfather telling me stories how Cluny Mcpherson used to have his clydesdale horses dredge a pond area around their home in the winter so the children in the area could skate there. My grandfather's grandfather had a farm in the area of Newtown Road and Whiteway St which wasn't too far from where the Mcpherson's lived on what I think may be called Lamb's Lane.

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