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Roderick, born 1804, was the son of John Bethune and Margaret MacAulay of Berneray. Family history relates that Roderick was educated in Latin and Greek in preparation for the ministry. The money for his education in Harris and Edinburgh was provided by his grandfather Roderick MacAulay and later his uncle Neil.
Roderick was due to marry Isabelle MacNeil of North Uist, but following her death he quit his studies. Instead, possibly in 1828, Roderick emigrated to Cape Breton as part of a group that included Isabelle’s uncle Donald MacNeil. Roderick settled in Loch Lomond where he became teacher and the settlement’s first postmaster.
At West Bay in 1837 Roderick married Mary Morrison, who had also emigrated from Berneray. Together they were to have ten children: Helen, Margaret, Rachel, Isabella, John Lemuel, Sarah, Catherine, Christina, Angus William and Donald John.