Family Perspectives

David Elder with the original portrait of John McNab, 2006.
© Photograph by Alison Brown

When I was a small boy during the war, my family went on holiday to Edinburgh to stay with my father’s cousin, Frieda. I remember seeing the portrait of John McNab above her fireplace. But of course, when you’re a small boy you don’t think about things like that. When it came into my mother’s care, it was on the fireplace there. When I looked at it, I just though, “Robbie Burns”, though it did strike me that in all the portraits of Robbie Burns, he’s facing to his left, not to his right. Maybe he’s not quite so handsome as Robbie Burns, either! It was only when I came across the note written by my father that I realised that this was the man.

David Elder, John McNab’s great-great-great-nephew, 1 December 2006

Carrie Sheen with a photocopy of the portrait of John McNab, 2006.
© Photograph by Alison Brown

The first time I heard about it was actually when I saw it, so I was quite thrilled to think, "Hey, there's a portrait of someone I belong to". I think it's important to establish your roots and know that there are family across the ocean that are your relatives. My boys haven't seen much of this yet, but my granddaughter's husband was very thrilled at reading this information and seeing how far back it goes. He was very interested in it. My daughter was too. It makes a difference to know where you're from. So much was taken from First Nations people and it's nice to go back and see where you came from. I am certainly going to follow up on my Native side and get as much information from them as I can about John McNab.

Carrie Sheen, John McNab’s great-great-great-great-great grandaughter, 23 June 2006

Roberta Simpson with a photograph of John McNab's granddaughter, Sarah, 2007.
© Photograph by Ross Dobson

The fact that he was a doctor and he had all these skills…The fact that he’d taken his grandson back to Scotland and probably influenced him to be a doctor. Now he seems more real to me. Without the picture I doubt I would have ever given him much thought, so the picture really is important.

Roberta Simpson, John McNab’s great-great-great-great granddaughter, 25 August 2006