Donald Trump has rarely expressed affection for his Scottish roots, and only once visited his mother’s home, spending less than two minutes inside the pebbledashed croft where she and her nine siblings were raised.
Now, a relative of his has pointed out that the US president has “never given a penny” to the Hebridean community where his mother was born, and where many of his family remain.
Alice Mackay, who is related to Trump’s maternal family line, the MacLeods, said his mother and sister frequently returned to the crofting township of Tong on Lewis, with both making sizeable financial donations – in stark contrast to the 73-year-old.
The claim comes in a new feature-length documentary exploring the journey which took Trump’s late mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, from the Outer Hebrides to New York, where she met and married his father, Fred.
As well as charting the poignant story of how Mary Anne was reunited with her Scottish pen pal nearly 70 years after they first wrote to one another, the programme, Trump’s Mother, explores Trump’s strained relationship with Scotland.
He visited Tong with his mother as a child and made his one and only return in 2008, while en route to give evidence at a public inquiry into his contentious inaugural Scottish golf resort.
Trump, known as Donald John to islanders, spent around three hours on Lewis, and even less time inside his mother’s modest birthplace, visiting for 97 seconds.
Mackay said Trump’s mother and his sister, Maryann Trump Barry, had maintained close links with the area, and ensured the wealth they accrued in their new lives across the Atlantic trickled back home.
“Maryann and his mother gave Tong a lot of money for the hall, and a lot of money to Bethesda [care home]. And Donald has never given a penny,” explained Trump’s distant cousin.
It is little known outside of Lewis, but the Trump family’s generosity towards Tong stretches back generations, although Donald is a notable exception. His mother, who died in 2000, gave a significant donation to build a village hall in the 1970s. In 2015, Maryann, a retired federal appellate judge who has visited Lewis dozens of times over the years, gave £158,000 to the Bethesda care home and hospice, based in Stornoway.
During his fleeting trip to Lewis 11 years ago, Trump appeared as if he was about to follow in Mary Anne’s footsteps, telling a press conference that he may look at “charitable things”.
A delegation from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar met with Trump to discuss their plans to convert Lews Castle, a mock baronial mansion, into a hotel and museum. Trump promised to “look at it” but the council never heard from him again.
The new documentary, which airs on BBC Alba this Tuesday, also hears from genealogist, Bill Lawson, who said Mary Anne’s own maternal descendants were forcibly removed from their homes during the Highland Clearances. “Her mother’s people had been refugees,” he explains.
Journalist Torcuil Crichton, who presents the documentary, said the story of how Mary Anne forged a better future in the US was ultimately one about immigrants.
“It was immigrants like Donald John Trump’s mother and his German grandfather who made the US powerful and wealthy,” he said. “It was immigrants who made America great.”