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Harriet (A Highland Christian and her circle)

Rev Donald A Macfarlane and others

Published by Reformation Press

This book has just been published for the first time in 2020. I suspect many of us have books on ‘The Men’ of the Highlands and Islands and much of the life of the Church is dominated outwardly by those masculine figures. However, any real appreciation of the life of the Church would acknowledge the central role of its many godly female members and adherents.  The mothers in Israel that are written about in these pages are names that I have heard previously from the lips of elders and ministers, who benefited either first or second hand from their wise councils and faithful lives.

Harriet MacDonald (of the title) was born in 1858 and would die in ripe old age in 1940. In her childhood she attended the ministry of the Rev. Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall, but she would leave the Disruption Free Church in 1893 to join the Free Presbyterian Church.  She had heard CH Spurgeon preach at the opening of the church and her father Alexander MacDonald was a convert of the Apostle of the North and a catechist for Kennedy. She was well read in Biblical and Puritan literature and her favourite authors were Boston, Erskine, McCheyne, MacLaurin, Edwards, Hawker and Charnock (what a list). She would prove a blessing to many who knew her, in fact, her minister Rev. DA Macfarlane would publish a booklet (that forms the core of this book) shortly after her death.

Rev Donald Maclean, whose picture is on my wall as I write these words, spoke fondly of both Harriet MacDonald and the Morton Sisters (whose lives are also included in these pages). On one occasion after the death of Harriet’s father and before the Rev D A Macfarlane had moved to Dingwall, there was no male present at a weekly prayer meeting. Miss MacDonald, Miss Forbes and Mrs Calder held a prayer meeting together and after that meeting, they were not again without a man who could preside..

Miss MacDonald’s house in Dingwall was a landmark of the communion seasons in that town and part of a community where you could walk down the street in an evening and hear the Psalm singing from family worship as it echoed from house to house.

After the life of Harriet MacDonald there are the lives of a few others within her circle that have been taken from the Free Presbyterian Magazine.  There is Alexander MacDonald, who was her father, who also left the Free Church to join the FP Church. There is then a set of short accounts of the circle of her godly friends, Helen Finlayson, Catherine Cameron-Mackintosh, the Morton sisters (Barbara and Isabella) from Glasgow, Charlotte Mackay (Strathy),

It is also nice to see a set of the correspondence from Miss MacDonald at the end of the book and the delightful pair of early photographs. All in all, this is exactly the sort of book that we ought to be putting out as an example of how godly women conduct themselves, in a world that is often searching for positive female role models.

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