Community paper for Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Glenuig, Arisaig, Morar,
Mallaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
August 2001 Issue
Contents of the online version:
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED AS GALA WEEKEND RETURNS
The weather could have been more like summer but the rain held off for the return of the Fishermens Mission Gala Weekend which ran from Friday 27th. to Sunday 29th. July.
There had been no Mission Weekend last year, although Mallaig & District Swimming Pool had stepped into the breach to organise a Gala Day which had kept the local raft building teams in practice.
Gala Queen Ashley Currie was crowned by MP David Stewart at the start of the Saturday festivities, accompanied by Gala Princess Kayleigh MacBeth. Ashley was presented with the Caroline Currie Cup, which is named in memory of her late cousin.
Attractions included the Lochaber High School Pipe Band, life saving practice on a dummy, boat and canoe trips, a steel band, cooking displays, a pet show, stalls and raffles, the Fire Service hot dog and burger stand, and of course the fishing boat and raft races.
The Gala came to an end with an ecumenical service to bless the fleet, with a choir from Mallaig and Morar Catholic Church and organ playing from Angela Hardman.
Mrs Jessie Hepburn was presented with a painting of Mallaig Harbour to mark the long involvement of both her and her husband James with the work of the Mission in Mallaig. The presentation was made by Mission Superintendent Mr. Dan Conley OBE, RN at a luncheon in the Marine Hotel during Mission Weekend.
The Shannoa G was voted the 'best dressed vessel' and Alan received the trophy, donated by the Royal Bank of Scotland, from Mission Chief Executive Dan Conley.
All the money raised at the Gala is for the benefit of fishermen and their families. All thanks go to Arthur Cowie and committee for the tremendous organisation that went into the successful weekend.
The Lifeboat performed a rescue operation with the help of the crew of the Margaret Ann. They simulated the drama of a fire on board, firing flares when it became unmanageable and taking to the life raft. In came the RNLI inflatable to assist while the Lifeboat, Henry Alston Hewat, raced to the rescue. The crew of the Margaret Ann were pulled safely aboard to the applause of the crowd watching on the pier.
The information stand of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines proved very popular. Sergeant Hughes of the Royal Marines was on hand to answer questions while scores of interested people made the tour of the Vigilant
SPECIAL OPS HERO'S MESSAGE FOR THE PEOPLE OF ARISAIG
Major General Petrįk (left) and Major Pavel Bock
on their visit the Land, Sea & Islands Centre to view the SOE display
A Slovakian general who was here as an SOE trainer in World War II revisited old haunts in July and left a personal message for the local people.
Major General Antonin Petrįk MBE MC, now aged 89, was a lieutenant billeted at Traigh House for eight months in 1942 -43, where he was liaison officer and interpreter for his Slovakian countrymen.
Both Traigh House and Camusdarach House played an important role for the Slovakian forces stationed in Great Britain during the war. Training included rock-climbing, firing exercises, elementary sabotage, unarmed combat and courses in silent killing, signalling and map reading. Night training was essential.
The General was accompanied by six of his fellow countrymen, including Major Pavel Bock who was stationed here in the war as a trainee. The group are making a documentary for the Slovak Ministry of Defence about the assassination in 1942 of Reinhard Heydrich, who had been appointed 'Protector of Bohemia and Moravia' by Hitler and who had carried out his duties so enthusiastically that he was known as 'Hangman Heydrich' and 'The Butcher of Prague.' The assassination was carried out by two Slovak partisans called Kubis and Gabcik; and the link is that Gabcik was one of the first group of trainees to arrive at Camusdarach.
Also trained at Arisaig and Morar were the 'spy' heroines Violette Szabo and Odette Churchill, subjects of the films 'Carve Her Name With Pride' (1958, starring Anna Neagle) and 'Odette' (1950, with Virginia McKenna). The writer Gavin Maxwell was an instructor in 'single shot despatch', and the 'Heroes of Telemark' trained in explosive techniques at Meoble.
The Slovakian party stayed for two nights at Garramore, also an SOE training school and visited Traigh and Camusdarach as well as calling in at Arisaig's Land, Sea and Island Centre to see the display panel about Special Operations Executive exploits. General Petrįk is the author of the chapter on 'Czechoslovak-British Reminiscences 50 years after the war' in the book 'SOE Paramilitary Training in Scotland' compiled by David Harrison, which is on show at the Centre.
At the Centre the two heroes met with Bob Poole, 81, who liked the area so much when he trained here in the war that he returned afterwards to settle in Bracara and raise his family there. The party presented a tiny Slovak flag to the Centre, which will go on display.
And the General had this personal message for the people of Arisaig and Morar:
'Best wishes to the local people. We were very happy to see the places we remember so well, sixty years after the war. A special greeting from General Petrįk and the people of the Slovak Republic.'
ISLE OF EIGG
July has been a truly dull, dreich and dismal month for birds on Eigg, our wildlife warden tells us! In fact a real hassle for them as they are desperately seeking food for their growing youngsters. Nonetheless the breeding season seems to have gone relatively well despite the blow of yet another complete failure in breeding divers.
On the plus side, the Golden Eagle fledged two young, Terns had a better than average year and many species of small birds did exceptionally well, with locally rare breeders like Redwings and Blackcaps confirmed as breeding. Passage was almost non existent but a considerable influx of Crossbills in mid winter, possibly birds moving from the mainland, was of note. Orchid species made an excellent if late showing, dark headed fritillaries were abundant and on sunny days, great numbers of magpie were observed on the moor.
Large number of Minke Whales have also been recorded offshore, with some spectacular displays on the occasional hot day. It is hard to believe that Norwegian fishermen are putting pressure to start hunting these beautiful mammals - especially the pregnant ones - for their meat! The Mull-based Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is circulating petitions against this and we hope that all our visitors will sign it.
On the human front, July has not been a bad month at all for cultural activities! Feis Eige 2001 benefited from the good weather that weekend, and the island children were able to play football on the Lodge lawn in between music and dance classes. We all enjoyed Meg Grounds' inspiring felt-making workshop and strove to emulate her fantastic sea-inspired designs (soon to be on sale in the island craftshop). Graham Irvine's button box combined with Donna's pipes made for a very lively ceilidh, and a good time was had by all.
The island children also enjoyed taking part in the drama and dance classes featured in the Lochaber Arts and Leisure summer programme whilst for the adults, the Butoh class revealed to be a wonderfully challenging experience! We are looking forward to see Roxanna back on Eigg for more of the same in the autumn! A ceilidh with the talented Irish band Devana finished the month nicely, and we are now looking forward to a bit of blues with Martin and Scott at the Tea-room on 14 August and Blaze's lively Rock and Roll sound on 17 August! There will also be a beach disco on the 11th as reward for yet another beach tidying up organised by Eigg waste management team.
Meanwhile Eigg seems to surpass Skibo castle as a wedding venue with 2 weddings scheduled for next month: all our best wishes to Robert and Heather who are coming back to Eigg to tie the knot on the 4th!! Last but not least, a big welcome to Eigg's newest resident, baby Erin, born on July 19th. and congratulations to proud parents Grace and Stuart!
Events calendar for August:
11th August mega beach tidy and Beach disco with Nevis radio DJ
ISLE OF MUCK
So much has happened this month that I must apologise for taking up so much space in West Word.
First there was the arrival of the Noble family. It is incredible that this event, though important for the island, was considered of National interest. On the day in question reporters and television personnel outnumbered ordinary passengers on the Shearwater 3 - 1. However when the furniture arrived on Wave in the evening they joined with the islanders in carrying it up to Carn Darg.
Next day after the departure of the Lochnevis, everyone rallied round to quickly prepare for the wedding of John and Suzanne, which they had not wished to be another media event. This was all outdoors, the ceremony carried out by Alan Lamb in a field of thistles above the graveyard and the reception outside the craft shop. The wedding cake was beautifully baked and iced by Norma Lutas, Jenny and the team organised the food, the weather was perfect, the bride looked superb and all because of a letter addressed to 'The Postmaster , Isle of Muck'.
Then there was my 60th Birthday on the 24th, also considered by some newspapers of public interest. Again the weather was kind. A warm evening allowed a bar-b-que on the beach where islanders, visitors and CCG personnel mingles and danced on the sand to the sound of the pipes. I was given some lovely presents, including a pair of pig transporting crates painted wit characters from Beatrix Potter's 'A Tale of Pigling Bland'.
But that was not all. On Thursday (26th) under the disguise of Coastguard training I was inveigled to Port Mor pier and was flabbergasted - the Shearwater alongside, loaded with islanders from Eigg and Muck and quite a few from Arisaig and beyond. Then we set off for Tobermory where the Reade family from Sgraib Ruadh had laid on a bar-b-que at MacGeochans, one of the town's pubs and another birthday cake with 60 candles, and though we missed the sunset the weather was calm and Ronnie even managed a whale.
On the following Monday I was at Killichronan, one of Mulls's best known farms, high on the hill above Loch na Keal, gathering for shearing, and Calac, though not a hill dog carried out her duties with credit. A great end to a memorable week.
On the farm we have reached 460 bales of silage and 500 small bales of hay. The shearing is over and all the ewes and lambs sprayed with Vetrazin against blow fly. The barns are full of swallows and we have a family of corncrakes which have taken refuge in Cnoc na Curran bog but seem to be OK. If it was not for the spectre of the sheep and cattle sales this would be a good time.
Thank you to Jan for contributing copy last month in my absence. I would remind everyone in Knoydart that I don't have a monopoly and that anyone can contribute to West Word either independently or through this channel.
We extend a welcome to baby Calum Adam, born to Angela and Mark in July, a brother for Caitlin and look forward to seeing him and his mum in Knoydart soon. Anna is back home at Inverguserein after her responsibilities as bridesmaid at her auntie's wedding in Gloucestershire. We shall enjoy seeing photos of you in the special dress, Anna.
On Thursday 28th June a walk through the woods around Inverie was organised for the children when they could explore easily along the cleared tracks which are quite extensive behind the village. Stephanie and Lara have left Inverie Primary School this summer and start senior education at Mallaig High School in August. Good luck to both of you and study well.
The group 'Harum Scarum' visited Knoydart recently. The pub was packed to full capacity for the event, I'm told, since I was away and unfortunately missed the music.
Lara's pony has arrived and I hope I'm correct in saying his name is 'Reko'.
From the end of last week work is finally underway to restore the Knoydart Hydro-Electric scheme. This has started with the helicopter making literally hundreds of flights to transport building materials from the beach at Inverie to Loch Bhraomisaig.
The many phases of the task will take until October to complete providing everything goes according to plan. Meanwhile, Knoydart, or at least the environs of Inverie are vibrating to the sound of individual generators, since the back-up generator in the village has 'given up the ghost'. Knoydart Games Day will take place on Saturday 4th August.
'Old Forge' wins prestigious award
Congratulations to Ian and Jackie Robertson, of Old Forge, Inverie, on winning the top accolade for smaller businesses in the 2001 Highlands & Islands Business Awards. The pub is the most remote in mainland Britain, being only accessible by boat or by trek over the mountains of Knoydart.
First Minister to cut first turf of A830
First Minister Henry McLeish and Transport Minister Boyack will be in Arisaig to cut the first sod of the A830 Arisaig to Kinsadel road, on Tuesday 7th. August.
Mallaig's new Co-op opens its doors
Tuesday saw the official opening of the Co-op, which has taken over Nevis Stores with a £150,000 refurbishment. Heather MacQueen and Cameron Lawrie of Mallaig Primary School performed the opening and received gift vouchers, and a television for their school.
Why is the English rail gauge 4 feet 8.5 inches wide?
Because the first lines were built by the people who built the pre-railroad tramways. Why were the tramways that gauge? Because they used the same jig and tools they used for building carts which used that wheel spacing. Why did carts have that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried any other spacing, the cartwheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads., because that was the spacing of the wheel ruts. Who built those old rutted roads,? The first long distance roads in England were built by the Romans for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their cartwheels. So the railway gauge derives from specification for a Roman chariot.....
RACE AGAINST TIME TO UNCOVER CAIRN'S SECRETS
A team of archaeologists from Headland Archaeology Ltd (Edinburgh) have been excavating a probable Bronze Age burial cairn near Arisaig. The work was commissioned by Historic Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Executive and was undertaken in advance of the construction of the A830 Arisaig to Kinsadel Trunk Road.
Much interest was aroused by the fenced off hillock on the outskirts of Arisaig, especially when it became apparent that a 'dig' was in process.
Try to imagine yourself back to the Bronze Age, 3 to 4000 years ago. There would probably have been much more woodland, but the hilltop commands a good view of the surrounding area and the ground falling away below it. Some-one of importance was being buried here in all due pomp and ceremony. Perhaps it was pouring with rain, as it was when the photograph above was taken.
Over the centuries and millennia, the carefully made mound of stones, containing the burial cist (or kist) became overgrown and neglected, finally disappearing into the landscape. Perhaps around the 19th century, in the newly awakened interest in archaeology and fossils created by Darwin's Origin of the Species, it was discovered and robbed of any artefacts it may have held.
The archaeological team had a race against time during July to find out what they could, as the site is in the way of the proposed spur road from the village of Arisaig to the new route of the A830. As one of them commented, it was a shame it couldn't have been left in the road design as a roundabout!
Stuart Halliday of Headland Archaeology Ltd. Writes for West Word:
'The cairn, which consists of a mound of stones 15m in diameter, is situated on top of an outcrop of bedrock. A preliminary investigation by Headland Archaeology Ltd. six months ago identified the disturbed remains of a cist, or stone lined grave, at the centre of the monument. This discovery prompted a three- week investigation, which was designed to clarify the nature, extent and date of the monument. The team have carefully removed the mound of stones to expose a circular stone setting around the central cist. Fragments of prehistoric pottery were retrieved from the outer edge of the cairn.
'The form of the monument is typical of many Bronze age cairns and it is likely to have been constructed between 2000 and 1000 BC. It is hoped that soil samples taken during the excavation will yield further information about the lives of those occupying the area during this period and the environment in which they lived.'
The team divided the area to be investigated into four quadrants or modules, and looked at each in turn. One of their tasks was to prepare minutely detailed sketches of each and every stone in situ by placing over an area a 1 square metre grid made of a wooden framework divided by string into 28 cm squares in the scale of 1:20. Then the stones could be photographed and carefully removed. The site has now been dismantled.
Stuart has taken extra sets of all his photographs for West Word and the Land, Sea & Islands Centre, where an exhibition of the photos will be mounted in due time.
Other archaeological sites along the stretch of the new A830 are also being investigated. These include the well documented settlement of Achraig, near the Kinloid road. This little township had a population of 27 in 1841.
West Word hopes to include further reports on these digs in future issues if anything of interest is discovered.
Arisaig's Regatta is to be held this year with a three day event on 8th, 9th and 10th. August.
Wednesday, 8th. August is the yacht race from Tobermory to Arisaig, starting at 11.30 am. On Thursday the 9th. is the Arisaig to Eigg 'Eigg and Spoon Race', starting at 9.30 am from Rhu Pier. It's well worth while catching the start of this race to see all the competing yachts under sail; the time of its finish is in the hands of the elements! This race last year was won by Eigg's Lola under skipper Simon Helliwell.
Friday 10th. August is the Fun Day. All races are open to all comers, with special prizes for local entrants. The races include: sailing dinghy, open canoe, inflatables, rowing, windsurfers, kayak, and the home-made raft race. There are Junior classes, for 8 years old and under; under 21, men and ladies. The raft should be home-made from waste materials. At 6 pm there will be the prize-giving in front of Arisaig Hotel.
During the day there is a model exhibition in the Astley Hall, featuring not only boats but trains and a working steam engine as well. Soup and refreshments will be available too.
In the evening there is a dance in the Astley Hall with music by The Wild West Ceilidh Band, when the grand prize raffle will be drawn. The prizes for this are: a week's self-catering holiday on the Isle of Muck; a subscription to West Word posted anywhere in the world; a cafetiere and cups; bottles of Islay Mist whisky and wine; an Old Forge T-shirt, and other prizes. Tickets 20p each from Arisaig Marine, The Land, Sea & Islands Centre, Upstairs Downstairs, Arisaig Hotel, Ginger, Cnoc-na-Faire, or in Mallaig from The Boat House and the Toy & Gift Shop. Or get some from members of the committee.
See posters and programmes for more details of all events.
ARISAIG ORIENTEERING UPDATE
A brief round up on some points of local interest that have emerged since my article in last month's West Word about the forthcoming competition in Arisaig on Friday 10th. August.
First, it is disappointing to read in Community Council minutes of concern about lack of consultation in connection with the event. All its major aspects have been in place for at least the past two years, but it now appears that such information has not been percolating as perhaps it should. (In a fine example of Murphy's Law, this problem remained hidden for several months as a result of scheduled publicity, in West Word and elsewhere, being held over earlier this year because of the Foot and Mouth situation!).
Second, although the Kinloid road will be primarily 'one way' for much of the day, those residents who have to travel against the traffic flow are being catered for. There will be radio-equipped marshals along the road who can suspend the main traffic flow should a vehicle need exit or entrance. We are having a further meeting with Inspector Souter during the next few days to 'fine tune' all traffic plans.
Third, having seen for myself the traffic in Arisaig village and thinking that regatta-related activities alone will fully tax Arisaig's resources on 10 August, we will alert orienteering competitors (using our own news-sheet published daily during the 6-Days event) and ask them not to add to congestion in the village by stopping or parking. The vast majority will undoubtedly comply with such a request - at the same time making a mental note to return to this beautiful part of the world in a more leisurely way at some future date.
Finally, we renew our invitation to residents and visitors to come along to the orienteering if so inclined, either just to enjoy the spectacle or to try the sport themselves.
In June's West Word we promised the story which Alasdair Roberts
had told to the school children.
It is reprinted from 'Scalan News', the newsletter of the Scalan Association.
Lord Lovat at Eilean Ban
This is the story of an island in Loch Morar, the deepest lake in Britain joined to the sea by the shortest river. There is a group of islands near the shallow end, and the first one you see coming from Morar village is Eilean Ban. That Gaelic name means the White Island, from the sandy beach which could one be seen from the shore. You don't see it now because of the level of water has risen, due to the hydro-electric dam at the Falls of Morar.
Another thing which has changed about the island is that it is now covered in trees and bushes. Some of these have been cut back recently, with a new jetty to encourage visitors. The islands were planted quite a long time ago by the owner of the estate, Lord Lovat, and the Lady Lovat School is named after his wife.
The story is about an earlier Lord Lovat who came to the island when it was still owned by the MacDonalds of Morar. They were in the area from ancient times. At the time I am going to tell you about, in the early 1700s, a school was opened on Eilean Ban for boys who thought they might like to be priests, like Fr Michael. Everybody in Morar spoke Gaelic, but Mass was said in Latin so they had to learn it. You can read about the school, or seminary, in a book called 'A Cairn of Small Stones'.
Eilean Ban was also the headquarters for all the priests and Catholics of the West Highlands. Nearly everyone from Knoydart down to Glenuig was Catholic then, and so were the people of Eigg, Canna, Uist and Barra. There were no roads, and priests travelled by boat when they could. If there was a child to be baptised in Knoydart, the priest would get someone to sail him up the loch to Tarbet and someone else to take him over Loch Nevis.
A short time before the exciting part of the story, a priest called Hugh MacDonald became the people's first Bishop. He was a brother of the Laird of Morar, Angus Roy MacDonald, who lived at Cross Farm. Bishop Hugh studied Latin on Eilean Ban as a boy, but at the time I'm telling you about the seminary was at Guidal near Arisaig. Eilean Ban still had the Bishop's house and a chapel. Nowadays Bishop Ian Murray's house is beside the Catholic Cathedral at Oban.
Bonnie Prince Charlie 1745 is such a famous date in Scottish history that the Rising of that year is called the '45.....The man it was all about (was) 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' - handsome Prince Charles, whose Gaelic name was Tearlach....
....the 'Forty-five ended with the last battle which ever took place in Britain, at Culloden near Inverness on 16th April 1746.
The Last Battle
The Highlanders were tired and hungry that day. They had no cannons but still expected to win, as usual, by charging straight at the enemy with claymore and targe. But the redcoat soldiers had practised using their bayonets, and the Highlanders could not break through. After half an hour Bonnie Prince Charlie ordered them to retreat.
Let's not think about the wounded Highlanders: the leader of the winning side is remembered as 'Butcher' Cumberland. Let's follow the MacDonalds back to Morar. The redcoats advanced into the Highlands to punish the people for rebelling, and also to search for Tearlach. He was in Uist then, looking out for ships that might rescue him, and came to Morar soon after - but that's another story. This one goes on with the report of an English officer, but the 'Forty-five was not just about England versus Scotland. Some Highlanders were old enemies to the MacDonalds, especially the Campbells. They wore kilts, not red coats, and pinned a red ribbon on their bonnets. Tearlach's followers wore the White Cockade. Here is the officer's report:
'On the 8th June 1746, Major-General Campbell sailing with the bulk of his forces from Tobermory up Loch Sunart, he detached Captain Fergusson of the Furnace to look for the Pretender's son and other rebel chiefs.'
The cover of 'Summer Hunting of a Prince' gives an idea of this, but the map shows that the searchers did not know that Loch Morar existed. However Captain Fergusson learned that 'Lord Lovat, with his servants, and a guard of well-armed and resolute men, had retired to an island in Loch Morar.'
Lord Lovat was old and hardly able to walk. Several drawings were done of him at the time, by enemies, which made him look quite ugly. The officer's report (which appeared in The Scots Magazine) goes on: 'In this pleasant little island his Lordship lived with MacDonald of Morar, the proprietor of it, his brother Bishop Hugh MacDonald, and several others of that rebellious family. Here they thought themselves perfectly safe, having brought all the boats on the lake to their island; never once suspecting the possibility of His Majesty's forces being able to bring any boats from the sea over land into the lake. Three hundred men were quickly landed from the King's ships.'
Picture the scene on Eilean Ban. We don't know when the enemy arrived, only that they left Tobermory on 8th June. Maybe it was as late as the 16th, a month after the battle of Culloden, with the men's wounds beginning to heal. They must surely have prayed with Bishop Hugh in the chapel during their time of danger. And they had this old man Lord Lovat to look after. It's difficult to understand the order of events from the report. Boats were finally carried into Loch Morar from the sea, but it took them some time to find Morar Bay. The first troops were put ashore near Arisaig.
Captain Fergusson commanded the ship, but there were two other captains in charge of soldiers. Both had the same name: 'Captain Dougall Campbell of Achachrosan and Captain Dougall Campbell of Cruachan, east of Oban, were in Moidart and Arisaig, where they found a great quantity of arms (swords and muskets) and forty barrels of gunpowder hid among rocks and woods.' But now the Campbells lost their way - perhaps a MacDonald helped them lose it! There is a short path of only three miles from Borrodale to Scamadale on Loch Morar, but they went round by 'a most difficult and dangerous march of nine miles from Arisaig to Morar over inconceivably rugged rocks, where oft-times but one man abreast could clamber.'
At Loch Morar
'Upon their arrival at the lake, they immediately spread themselves opposite to the isle and in view of the rebels.' I picture them coming round from Scamadale to Rhubana, within shouting distance. 'The rebels, concluding themselves quite free from danger, fired upon our people, at the same time calling them insulting names being near enough to be heard.' The Campbells shouted Gaelic insults also, and fired back. A Londoner called Jim Emmerson, who has been coming to Morar with his brother since they were boys, wrote last month (in the Scalan News) about what they discovered in their wet suits diving at Eilean Ban - a lead musket ball half an inch in diameter, 'found in the southern part of the lagoon in just a few feet of water.' He added: 'A lot of the area round the island is very silty, so perhaps there is more to be found.'
The officer goes on to describe the shock being prepared for the MacDonalds: 'The King's ships had sailed round to that part of the coast where boats had little more than a mile to be carried overland to the lake. The rebels immediately lost all courage upon observing the boats moving overland towards the lake, and suddenly taking up their boats they rowed up the lake with utmost speed, so much that though the Argyleshire men pursued on both sides of the lake and our own boats followed as soon as they could be got into the water, yet all the rebel MacDonalds escaped into the mountains - except Bishop MacDonald who was arrested and brought back to the island, together with the boats of those rebels.'
Eilean Ban invaded
A man told me recently he heard from Canon MacInnes (who was priest here) that the soldiers and sailors did not destroy the house, but only removed the thatched roof. That may be right, but according to The Scots Magazine there was quite a bit if destruction and no doubt a bonfire of books.
They found the Bishop's house and chapel, which the sailors quickly gutted and demolished, merrily adorning themselves with the spoils of the chapel.' In other words they dressed up as priests for a laugh. Bishop Hugh wasn't laughing, but he would have been glad that the best vestments had been taken down the loch. They are kept safe behind glass in Morar Church.
What happened to the old man? 'Upon examining the prisoners, it was concluded that Lord Lovat's lameness must have made it impossible for him to travel in such rugged country, and that he must probably lie concealed in one of the numberless caves at the upper end of the lake.' it took three days of searching before one of the Captain Dougall Campbells 'found that unhappy Lord lying on two feather beds not far from the side of the lake.' That was at Meoble, or maybe Romasaig. Another version of the story is that Lord Lovat sent a messenger asking to be taken in.
Lord Lovat's Lament
When I started to learn the pipes, one of the first tunes I played was 'Lord Lovat's Lament'. Laments are sad and slow, and I could never understand why it was played quickly. It has to do with the way he left Morar: 'His Lordship was put into one of our boats and rowed down the lake. At the lower end the sailors 'made a run with him' over land to the seaside, the pipers all the while playing the tune called Lord Lovat's march, with which his Lordship pretended to be pleased.'
There are pictures of Lord Lovat in England. He was kept prisoner in the Tower of London, and went to the Houses of Parliament for trial. He was tried in the House of Lords and sentenced to death by the axe. Great crowds turned out to see the execution at Tyburn, and stands were erected like a modern football stadium. He was proud to die a Catholic. Word had reached London about the priests' vestments on Eilean Ban, and later a rumour started that he haunted the Tower of London. The vestments he was shown in, with his head tucked underneath his arm, make a final link with Morar.
School Days - Another Look
Let me first correct a misprint in my last article. My dad didn't become a part-timer with D. A. MacRae, he became a partner. (Sorry! Ed)
At school there was scarcely any truancy, so the 'whipper-in' got very little to do. There were always prizes for perfect attendance, some for three or more years. Lads and lasses were given nick-names which stuck with them. Bullying was rare, and I was lucky having a big brother. One rarely heard a swear word; on the pier perhaps, but not at school. As everywhere, boys got fun teasing the girls, pulling their long hair, running into their skipping ropes. The girls gave as good as the got.
I remember one lad, Big Eck, being punished for smoking. His brown stained fingers gave him away. One day our whole class got the belt from the Headmaster, Mr. McKain, as no-one owned up to breaking a window. The teachers all had belts, mainly as a deterrent. One end-of-term someone collected all the straps and hid them in the school loft. Were they ever found? I must go back and have a look.
The people of Mallaig and district supported their own nurse, and took great pride in doing so. To the school the nurse came twice a year. One thing she did was to look for nits in every head. If you had any, you were sent home. Your mother gave you a thorough doing over with a 'been comb', then a good scrub. Another scrub at bed-time in a bath before the fire. Cleanliness was seen to at home, both outer and inner. On a Friday night, castor-oil or syrup of figs was poured down your throat.
Once a year, the Inspector of Schools visited us. We were primed up to do our best for him. A choir competed at the annual Mod at Fort William. My sister Jean was in it; she had a fine voice, and sang in the church choir.
A great day to us was the prize giving. The village hall was packed. There were the usual boring speeches, but parents just had to be with their children on this day of days.
Written by George W. Baird
I'm not sure if you can help me, but I noted Allan MacDonald's article on genealogy with great interest.
I have been searching for background on my great-great-great-grandfather John MacKinnon for several years. Recently I discovered several relatives who were descended from him through brothers of my own great-great-grandfather. They told me that John MacKinnon was born on the Isle of Muck in 1807. He emigrated with his mother, father and 5 siblings (either two brothers and three sisters or vice versa) to Canada in approximately 1827 - landing at Port Hastings, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
From that point we find no records of his parents or siblings names (there were many MacKinnons on Cape Breton, but we have not yet found a relationship). I am most interested in finding who his parents might have been, and what families he might have descended from! I plan on visiting Muck next spring to see what if anything I can find, but hoped you might give me some idea of where to start. As it is so small, I'm hoping there were not TOO many MacKinnons who lived there at that time!
The only additional clues that I have are the names of John's children. He married Isabelle MacGregor and they had: James, Neil, Effie, Lawrence (my gg-grandfather), John, Marjorie "Misa", Hector, Donald "Dan", Flora, Archibald, and Allan.
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