Donald Trump’s Scottish heritage and business ties to Scotland explained
To say the former leader of the U.S. was the grandson of a Gaelic-speaking fisherman in the Outer Hebrides may surprise some but this is the reality of Donald Trump and his ties to Scotland.
The 76-year-old visited Scotland in the summer of 2018 when he and his wife Melania spent two days at the Turnberry resort which he bought in 2014. Following his win in the 2016 presidential elections, Mr Trump said: “I love Scotland. One of the biggest problems I have in winning [the US presidency], I won't be able to get back there so often.”
This sentiment has been linked not only to his business here but also his heritage as his mother was born near Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis; a heartland of Scottish Gaelic. Here’s everything we know about Mr Trump’s ties to Scotland including his business links and ancestry.
Donald Trump’s Scottish roots explained
While Mr Trump’s father was a German American born in the Bronx of New York City, his mother was from the tiny village of Tong on the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides. Her name was Mary Anne MacLeod and she was born in 1912 in Pebbledash Croft House in Tong as the youngest of ten children.
Being raised in a Gaelic-speaking household, her first language was Scottish Gaelic while she learned English in school. Mary’s maternal line was well-established in Tong village as her mother was born there in 1867 to parents Donald and Mary Smith. Some suspect Donald Trump was so named in honour of Mary Anne’s maternal grandfather.
It was common for islanders to migrate to North America in the early 1900s following events like the Highland Clearances and World War 1, so in 1930 Mary Anne sailed to the U.S. on the RMS Transylvania. There, she worked as a domestic servant and nanny for years before eventually meeting Frederick Trump who she married in 1936.
The surname MacLeod is anglicised from the Gaelic “Mac Leòid” meaning “son of Leòd” (similar to the Isle of Lewis being Eilean Leòdhais.) MacLeods are associated with northwestern Scotland and its Viking heritage so some link ‘Leòd’ to the Old Norse ‘ljótr’ meaning “ugly” but it has also been linked to the Germanic “liút” meaning “shining”.
The Clan MacLeod Organisation says the slogan for MacLeod of Lewis is “I BIRN QUHIL I SE” which means “I shine, not burn”.
Donald Trump’s business links in Scotland
When Mr Trump took high office in 2016, one Scottish newspaper covered the event with a hyperlocal angle. The Buchan Observer covered the story on their website with the headline “Aberdeenshire business owner wins presidential election” - unique but totally factual phrasing.
According to NewsWeek, before his presidency, Mr Trump invested millions into two “lavish” Scottish golf courses; Menie in Aberdeenshire and Turnberry in Ayrshire which he visited this year. He purchased Turnberry in 2014 from a Dubai-based company and announced his intention to invest around $260 million into transforming the venue.
Mr Trump also bought a 570-hectare plot of land in 2006 at Menie located by the North Sea coast; he planned to convert it into “the world’s best golf course”. Two years later the Scottish Government granted the Trump Organization planning permission for his Aberdeenshire resort which Aberdeen Live reported as costing $1.3 billion.
Six years after that the green of Trump International Golf Links was finally christened with the white of golf balls. However, Mr Trump has regrettably had a strained relationship with Scottish politicians and faced disputes with the likes of former SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.
In 2022, the Herald reported that Sturgeon urged Americans to not re-elect Donald Trump “at any point”. Upon her resignation in 2023, Mr Trump responded: “Good riddance to failed woke extremist Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland!"
What did Donald Trump say about Scotland?
Mr Trump’s visit to Scotland this year was his first trip to the United Kingdom since 2019. He arrived at Aberdeen Airport around 11:30 and was welcomed by “two pipers, a red carpet and a 10-vehicle motorcade” according to the BBC.
As the former president approached a car waiting to collect him he addressed some reporters. He said: “It’s great to be home, this was the home of my mother.”
He continued: “My mother was an incredible woman who loved Scotland. She returned here every year and she loved the Queen.
“I love Scotland just as much.”
Mr Trump announced that a second course on the Menie Estate at Balmedie would be dedicated to his mother and that it would “host many great championships” in future.
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