Mary MacKillop’s father Alexander MacKillop was born in the Lochaber district of Scotland in 1812. He died in Hamilton, Victoria (VIC) on 19 December 1868 and is buried there.
Alexander had studied for the priesthood in Rome and for a short time in his homeland in Scotland. However, as he said, “it was not God’s will that I be a priest”, and so in 1838 he migrated to Australia to start a new life.
Alexander married Flora McDonald on 14 July 1840. Flora had arrived in Australia on 17 April 1840. It was the custom of Scottish settlers to take food and supplies to newly arrived Scottish immigrants – this is how Alexander and Flora met.
Alexander was a complex man, gifted student, well educated, articulate, a spirited debater, well versed in theology, a man of high principles, idealist and a man of justice.
Following his arrival in Australia, he gained the respect of other citizens, was prosperous, purchased a home and began a family. However, this did not last. It would seem that he may have been a little ‘naive’ when it came to business dealings and so he both made unwise decisions and was deceived by others with more business acumen. This meant that the family often experienced poverty and separation, depending on relatives for support.
In 1864, the family was together in Portland (VIC), but disaster again struck and Alexander went to live on a property near Hamilton, VIC, his final separation from his family. When Flora received the news that Alexander was dying, she wasted no time in going to him. This would lead the writer to surmise that, despite all the difficulties, the love between Alexander and Flora endured.
In her book, Judith Geddes rsj puts the following words onto Alexander’s lips:
Looking back on my life I can see the hand of God throughout. My classical education and seminary years gave me a strong faith which I was able to pass on to my children. My parents’ decision to come to Australia inspired me to do the same, and it was in this country that I found my calling in life. With the support of my wife, who was a well-educated woman, I played a significant role in the education of my children.
What was closest to my heart was the wonderful blessing of having three of my children dedicate their lives to God in the priesthood and religious life.
Paul Gardiner sj, in his book, Mary MacKillop: An Extraordinary Australian, quotes from a fanciful court scene in which Alexander is accused of being imprudent, improvident and impetuous. In his defense Alexander says, “I merely followed what I felt was, and was taught to be, Christ’s teaching, admittedly with great zeal, but with genuine love for all men”. (p. 19)
The people of Hamilton had, and continue to have, a great love and respect for Alexander. They restored his grave and continue to care for it. Travellers and pilgrims are welcome to visit Alexander’s grave and give thanks for his life and legacy.
Annie Bond rsj
Assistant Director – Mary MacKillop Place (Responsible for Ministries)