Tales of the McDonald family

Vera Pickford’s earliest memories of Crookwell are sitting atop the two long cedar counters at the McDonald’s General Store, in 1939. 

She is the granddaughter of George McDonald and Clara Fowler. 

I remember going in there and sitting on the counter with a drink and an ice-cream, said Mrs Pickford.

George McDonald Senior (1845 - 1927). Photo courtesy Vera Pickford.

George McDonald Senior (1845 - 1927). Photo courtesy Vera Pickford.

McDonald's General Store, at 75/77 Goulburn Street where Arcadia is now, was managed by Mr McDonald until his eldest son William Moreton McDonald took it over.

Clara Fowler, Mrs Pickford’s grandmother laid the foundation stone at Crookwell Hospital, she was the daughter of convict Daniel Fowler and his wife Bridget Walsh. 

The first home and business owned by Mr McDonald was the two-storey white stone house, originally bluestone, on Spring Street.

It was purchased for Mr McDonald by his sister Eliza Isobel Bremner. 

Both stores suffered at various times by being burned out in fires - there was no laid on water supply back then so they had to rely on buckets to extinguish fires.

Mrs Bremner had convinced her brother to emigrate too after the High Clearances and potato famine that had devastated both Ireland and Scotland, he arrived in 1880.

Her husband, James Bremner was an Inspector of Police in Sydney, and Mr McDonald was appointed to the NSW Foot Police at the Rocks.

Mr Bremner died on duty during a Federation Day celebration in 1901, after he was kicked by a horse.

Clara (Fowler) McDonald (1848 - 1925) and son Colin. Photo courtesy Vera Pickford.

Clara (Fowler) McDonald (1848 - 1925) and son Colin. Photo courtesy Vera Pickford.

Mrs Pickford’s father, also George McDonald was one of nine children he married Vida Tranter from Bigga. 

“When he (George McDonald) came back from the WWI, he got a job on a road gang on the roads around Bigga and was boarding at my mum's house.

“In 1927 mum discovered she was pregnant and not married, and chaos ensued. 

“Mum knew that if she went to Orange and they took in the unmarried mothers.

“Their babies were born in another small hospital, there was a very strong Catholic welfare society, and they took the babies and gave them to women who were childless.

“I've never been able to find my brother, after years of searching, we're pretty sure it's a boy.

He'd be 90 now,” said Mrs Pickford.

For the last 30 years Mrs Pickford has been collating a family history, and at 84 she is preparing to hand it over to her son to continue.

Mrs Pickford’s aunt, Florence Emily Isobel served in WWI as a nurse, on her return to Australia, she married a George McDonald from Nashdale, near Orange.

For many years, it caused great confusion as her father, and one of her brothers had the same name.

George's brother-in-law William McDonald Sutherland married his first cousin Clara Ethel (first child of George and Clara) and they had two children, but sadly she died in the flu epidemic after WWI.

Mr Sutherland with two little girls, re-married to a lady called Muriel Alston and she gave birth to Joan Sutherland, the famous Opera Star.

George McDonald senior was born was born March 18, 1845, in Caithness, Scotland to William McDonald and Elizabeth (Sutherland)​.