Lost Scots locket returned from Patagonia 100 years later

A century long quest to reunite a Victorian locket with its owner’s family has reached a fitting finale in a remarkable story spanning three generations and two continents.

The locket, originally belonging to Maggie Darling has now been returned to Mandy Darling by Colin Scott Mackenzie. Picture: Contributed

The locket, belonging to former Lewis schoolteacher and councillor Maggie Darling, and containing portraits of her and her husband, was lost decades ago on the grass plains of Patagonia. It was picked up by a shepherd and after an exhaustive search for the identity of the owner, it found its way back to Lewis.

Yesterday retired sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie said that he was “thoroughly relieved” to present Mandy Darling with her great-aunt Maggie Darling’s sweetheart keepsake.

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Born at Patterton Farm, near Thornliebank, Glasgow, in 1874, Maggie Darling trained as a schoolteacher before taking up post at Dun Carloway School, Isle of Lewis, at the turn of the 20th century. She married Calum Macleod and the couple, known locally as the “Aird a Bhaighs” after their home, moved to South American’s Patagonia region.

A lively woman of her era, Maggie had a keen interest in politics and the supernatural – reportedly holding séances.

“You could say we’re very similar, well, apart from holding séances. It’s as if everything was waiting until the locket could be returned to me,” said Mandy Darling.

Following the FirstWorld War, the Aird a Bhaighs returned to Lewis, Calum acting as agent for islanders travelling to South America and Maggie becoming a local councillor.

Back in Patagonia, the gold and crystal glass locket lay lost on the vast plains. The shepherd who found, believed to have Lewis connections, saw the portraits and vowed to return itbut by the time the locket made it to Lewis, Maggie and Calum had both died, leaving no descendants. The locket, its story and the quest to reunite it with a Darling family member was entrusted to Lewis solicitor Colin Scott Mackenzie, before being passed to his son, also Colin Scott.

Mr Scott was on the brink of donating the locket, and a written version of its story, to Museum nan Eilean when a chance meeting led to Mandy Darling.

“What else is remarkable is it’s not just the locket that’s survived, but the story has been passed along with it,” she said.