WEST WORD
Community paper for Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Glenuig, Arisaig, Morar,
Mallaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

List of Issues online

October 2001 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Shearwater's Last Run
Monthly news from Eigg & Muck
China Walk for Cancer research
Harry Potter filming
The Fishing Scene
Madame Prawn 2001
Teaching in Japan
Mallaig Canoe Club
Local History & Genealogy

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe
Sign our Guestbook

LAUNCH OF THE COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK WEBSITE

photo
Maureen MacMillan, MSP, looks at the new website,
with Helen Turnbull, LCNL Project Development Worker and Councillor Drew MacFarlane Slack.

Mallaig was the chosen venue for the launch of the new Lochaber Communications Network Limited website on 7th September, by Maureen MacMillan MSP. The Community Centre hosted the event, attended by LCNL Support Workers from all over Lochaber.

Last October our issue headlined the launch of the Communications Network. A year on, wide consultation has been held on the look and operation of the web site and this is the result! The new LCNL community website, www.lcnl.org.uk not only provides a wide variety of information for community groups, but also allows community groups in Lochaber to build their own web pages.

Each group can include items under LCNL's events and news sections as well as have their own discussion forum and contact details. The website has a variety of templates for community groups to use to create their pages and add their own photos and graphics. Helen Turnbull LCNL Project Development Worker explained:

'The new website builds on what community groups have asked us to provide, each group's pages can vary in look and can include photos and documents to download. Groups don't need any web-design experience, and LCNL's team of Community Support Workers are on hand to help any community group build their pages.'

It was a very wet and miserable day but guests came from LCNL sites throughout Lochaber and LCNL's special guest Maureen MacMillan added her support to the project, highlighting LCNL's ongoing community support and the opportunity to use LCNL facilities for a variety of things from contacting your local Councillor or MSP to tracing your family tree.

If your group would like to add pages or you would like further information about any LCNL facilities please contact Niki Robertson, your LCNL Community Support Worker at Mallaig and Morar Community Centre, or by phone 01687 462633 or by Email at niki-robertson@beeb.net.


Shearwater's Last Run
photo
Skipper Ronnie Dyer on board Shearwater
as her last passengers disembark at Arisaig.
MV Shearwater made her last scheduled run out of Arisaig on Sunday 30th September, taking the chance of a 'window' in the gales to fetch home the Mallaig High School pupils who had been taking part in a 'digital imaging weekend' on Eigg.
West Word will be featuring an article on the grand old lady in a future issue. Meanwhile the farewells have started! See Eigg & Muck comments below.


NEWS FROM THE ISLE OF EIGG

Brambling time again, tons of berries this year swiftly turned into jelly to keep that sweet taste of late summer throughout the winter months. The big tide of early September also provided shellfish amateurs on Eigg with an abundant harvest of razor-fish, as well as an unexpected archaeological discovery at the very edge of the tide, courtesy of Stuart Miller aka Scruff.

Stuart noticed wooden shapes covered in seaweed forming a 30 ft oval shape and deduced that these were the remains of a famous boat, the Dubh Ghleannag, which came to Eigg in 1815 after many long years on Loch Shiel when it belonged to MacDonald of Glenaladale. The boat foundered in 1817 on its way back from a cattle sale on the mainland, drowning its new owner Dr MacAskill of Kildonnan and the Small Isles minister. After this tragedy, the ship was allegedly towed to Galmisdale Bay where glimpses of it have been recorded since on exceptionally low tides. A plank was taken out and revealed to be hard wood, probably oak, with square nail holes and one wooden dowel, also showing evidence of adze work. If the wreck is effectively that of the Dubh Ghleannag, we will very possibly have found the remains of a classic 18th century Hebridean galley or birlinn.

We sincerely hope that the Highland Council Road and Transport Dept. will find some funding in the causeway budget to finance a proper survey as the wreck is situated in its vicinity. In any case our RCHAMS commissioners are quite excited about the discovery, one of a great many this summer.

Cultural heritage is certainly big on the agenda these days, as was confirmed by the topics covered by the Inverness Arts conference on the 24 and 25 September. "Inheritance and creativity - making the connections," was the chosen theme explored through the various ways arts and sport are practised in the Highlands and Islands.

The announcement of the Highland Council bid for Inverness/Highland as Capital of Culture 2008 came as a surprise to delegates such as myself, but welcome news indeed for if each community in Highland supports the bid, an awful lot of funding for the arts, sports and heritage could come our way from Europe! I can't wait! But we will have to hear the message delivered by the Youth Parliament representatives: "skateparks, text messages, Ibiza and the environment!"

Never mind Ibiza, our local youngsters certainly had their work cut out last weekend as far as art and environment goes. Together with 7 girls from Mallaig High school they filmed the sea-shore, build fires in caves, made sand designs, animated bits of sea-shore flotsam, created abstract coloured compositions out of it, interviewed each-other, discovered how to scan and transform familiar found objects and had a great time! This SNH/SEPA project which is also carried out in Orkney, Shetland, Oban, Islay, Glasgow and Aberdeen will end with a special presentation of all the artwork produced planned for next May. Now that would be some teen-age party if they were all invited to go and see it!

In spite of all these positive happenings, September was a sombre month for us as well as for the rest of the world. The island community buried the MacDonald sisters, victims of a tragic road accident as they were speeding on their way to greet their new-born nephew in Kintyre. Janet MacDonald and Sheena MacCulloch were familiar figures on Eigg where they returned each summer to make the family crofthouse ready for their numerous relatives. Both retired nurses, they gave their best in the service of others and were devout Catholics, worshipping daily at their parish church in Glasgow, and helping to nurture the Catholic tradition on Eigg with their smiling presence. Janet was also a great genealogist and was ever helpful with queries from the various members of the Isle of Eigg History Society. They left us the poorer without them.. With all their relatives and friends we mourn their passing.

Camille Dressler.


ISLE OF MUCK

This month we say farewell to MV Shearwater, which has served Muck every summer for 25 years, first with Ian MacEachen in command, but for most under Ronnie Dyer. Built in 1941 as a harbour defence vessel, she came to Arisaig via Loch Etive and Ullapool, and over the years has built up a devoted clientele who travelled on her every year; not surprising really when it was possible to see more marine life from Shearwater than any of the other much more expensive whale watching boats. Like me, she is 60 this year and that is a good age for a boat.

I would like to wish her replacement, Allasdale Lass, every success. It won't be the same but we still have Ronnie and that is even more important.

On the farm it was sale time with no sales and 400+ lambs eating their way through fields of foggage. Attempts to sell the lambs privately failed and just in time the Ben Nevis Mart reopened. With it came the £10 cull where the Intervention Board purchased the smaller lambs and disposed of them. In an epic of co-operation Duncan Ferguson from Eigg and Sandra Mathers and myself from Muck, shared MV Raasay and Ewan Bowman's truck to take them to Fort William.

Sadly the lambs fell foul of CalMac's extraordinary pricing system. As they were in pens on Raasay each one cost £3.50 to ship. Had they been on a trailer they would have cost less than £1.

Meanwhile the bigger lambs were crossing the water on Wave helped by the excellent weather. By special permission the Dept of Agriculture in Inverness and the kindness of E. D. MacMillan we had the use of a field in Arisaig. On the morning of the sale James Colston lent us a sheep race for all the lambs had to be sorted into lots on the truck. Only mart staff were allowed near the pens while we had to wear clean wellies and plastic coats. Muck topped the sale at £27.

Lawrence MacEwen

China Walk for Cancer research
by Mary Boyle

D-Day approaches for me - I fly from Heathrow to Beijing to begin my walk on Sunday October 7th. The fund raising has been a humbling experience for me. The community has shown such spontaneous generosity. I've had help from so many of my colleagues and friends. Various outlets in both Mallaig and Arisaig have helped with collecting donations. Thank you to you all. The fund raising is well on target.

How well prepared am I? Catherine and team and Angus Macintyre have given me lots of motivation and advice. Thanks, Catherine and Angus - it has all been very enjoyable (most of it!).

The Air China flight to Beijing takes approximately nine hours. In flight entertainment is in Chinese so I've been advised to bring a good book! A two hour drive to the countryside takes us to a lodge to stay overnight. It is close to the starting point of the walk.

Our walk begins at The Great Wall at Gubeikou. It is seemingly tough on the legs and lungs. Many parts of the wall have uneven steps and some loose rubble but that doesn't worry me too much now that I've been on several of Angus's walks. Nae bother.

The walk continues for six days on and around The Great Wall: on the fourth day of walking between the West gate and North Gate we spend about 40 minutes climbing steps. That definitely sounds worse than Catherine's step class!

News of how the walk went will hopefully be in next month's edition of West Word.


HARRY POTTER FILMING

Filming of the second Harry Potter book,
'Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets' was taking place last month,
with pupils from Lochaber High School dressed in the wizard robes
of pupils of Hogwarts Castle, the School for Wizards.

photo
Hogwarts Express

photo
Hogwarts' second year pupils alighting from the train at Glenfinnan


THE FISHING SCENE

The year in general has been a considerable improvement on last with a healthy demand for prawns sustaining prices, particularly for tails. Reports from the grounds have been mixed (what's new?!) with signs of possible overfishing - predominantly small prawns with a high proportion of berried females - whilst others report exceptionally good quality from areas not having been noted for this in recent years.

The creel sector has continued to enjoy premium prices and this is reflected in the investment being made in new and second-hand vessels here, with most favouring speedy vessels just under the ten metre mark such as the Cygnus Cyclone. However the grounds are under pressure and it is hoped that the Scottish Executive will introduce some form of restriction such as that being considered for crabs and lobsters.

A powerful fleet of under ten metre trawlers has also built up over recent years; this, coupled with the expansion of the creel fleet and the new requirements on catch reporting, has put the limited amount of quota set aside for this sector under severe pressure this year. The industry has been pressing the Government to allow POs to admit under ten metre vessels into their quota management schemes and afford them the status of over ten metre vessels. The industry is particularly concerned that the under ten metre sector will be on very low quota allocations next year given the continuing increase in this fleet whilst, unlike the over ten metre sector, they do not have the option of joining a PO. Additionally, if under ten metre vessels were permitted to leave that sector, it should give rise to better monthly quotas for those remaining.

As with prawns, the scallop fleet has had a better year with steady prices and fewer problems with algal toxins. Algal toxins, such as ASP, are still being found in scallops and other bivalve shellfish but this year the testing regime recognizes that the ASP toxin tends to accumulate in those parts of the scallop which are not eaten and to a lesser degrees on the edible parts. Therefore, some grounds, which would have been closed last year due to high toxin reading from the whole scallop, have remained open this year on condition that the scallops are shucked before marketing. Despite this, some grounds are closed due to high levels of toxin in all parts of the scallops sampled; catch rates from grounds opened after even a relatively short closure last year showed that such closures allow stocks to improve considerably.

The West of Scotland Fish Producers' Organisation has at last been given quota management responsibilities for the main pelagic stocks (herring and mackerel). The organisation had applied to the Scottish Executive's Environment and Rural Affairs Department for the right to manage pelagic quota allocations on behalf of its members for the first time at the end of last year because the only catching opportunities remaining in the pelagic non-sector group belonged entirely to WSFPO vessels. Not only will this allow WSFPO vessels to fish herring and mackerel when they want to, it also means that the organisation and its members can acquire additional pelagic quota for their exclusive use, improving the range of their catching opportunities, capitalising on the huge increase in demand for herring. Robert Stevenson


Page 3 Pin Up - Madame Prawn 2001

And the winner was....... Auntie Jessie
related, if distantly, to Alan Eddie.

The compère for the night, seen here admiring Aunt Jessie's obvious charms, was Andy Thorburn of Wolfstone, one of the few people there to be wearing his own hair (yes, folks, that is his own hair..)

The Madame Prawn Contest was resurrected to raise funds by the Community Centre Association. Now in its third year, this is the first time it's been held in the new Community Centre.

More pictures of this fishy business in Mallaig can be found on www.lcnl.org.uk

photo


A Sense of Adventure

Alison MacDougall of Mallaig graduated this year from Glasgow University
and is spending a year in Japan to teach English.
We thought West Word readers would like to share her first impressions ....

11th September 2001: I've been in Japan for 6 weeks now and I feel like I could have written an article for every day so far. Unfortunately it has taken me this long to get organized enough to sit down and write so I have to try and cram the whole period into one go. I suppose it's inevitable that things will be left out but as I have a year out here I'm banking on having quiet months that will give me space to recap. So here goes.

I am writing from my school, Asahi (like the beer, co-incidence they put the Scot up here?) Junior High in Matsuyama city. Matsuyama is the main city on Shikoku (the smallest of the 4 main islands of Japan) and, since I landed here shell-shocked, jet-lagged and not a little hungover from karaokeing in Tokyo on August 5th, my home for the next year. As we're in the south we benefit from warm weather - the climate of Japan changes dramatically from the very south, Okinawa, which is sub-tropical (I'm not that far down, thank God!) to Hokkaido, which is next to Russia and has short, mild summers and horrendously cold and long winters. Our summer was murder when we first arrived as the humidity is intense; around 85% in August. Now it is cooling down and life is so much more bearable. The temperature is no longer a stifling 31 degrees Celsius but in the 20s, with a pleasant breeze that helps to cool you down when you're on your bicycle!

Ah, the bicycle. This is possibly one of the strangest things I noticed about Japan when I first arrived, although it's amazing how quickly things start to seem normal. Everybody cycles here, and I don't mean top of the range mountain bikes with obligatory helmets. We're talking granny bikes, we're talking basket on the front (and, if you're lucky, one on the back too), we're talking no helmet and most of all we're talking cycle on the pavement, ring your bell to get annoying pedestrians or perhaps a slower cyclist out of the way, and show no fear of the worst drivers in Japan. That's official, by the way.

I live in an apartment block (excuse the Americanisms but if you don't use them here you won't be understood) with 8 other ALTs (Assistant Language Teacher) in an area called Oku Dogo, conveniently situated up in the hills 6 miles out of town where the other ALTs are placed. You can imagine the fun we have getting home.

Still, there's nothing like becoming good at something to build your confidence, and having not ridden a bike since I was about 10 this last month has proved that it is indeed something that you never forget. Now we're cycling like natives and ringing our bells at every opportunity to avoid running into grandparents, businessmen, school children and the random young women that cycle with parasols, umbrellas and mobile phones whilst wearing kitten heels the way only Japanese women can. And then there's the pedestrians. I haven't run over anyone yet, although I've had a couple of close calls. Hey, it's not my fault, they're the ones that ignore the bell.

Outside I can hear the kids stretching out to mad Japanese pop music, they're practicing, get this, for sports day which is on Sunday! This is madness, I tell you. Every day for about 4 periods they're out there marching to music, and the teachers all go out to help. I obviously observe more than anything else as I have no idea what's going on. Still, it looks quite impressive if somewhat bizarre. When they're not practicing for this huge event (every school has the same sports day and it's an important event in the calendar) they have lessons; mine so far have consisted purely of self-introductions which probably bored the poor souls to death, but we have to do it. The teacher-student relationship is very different from the west, and all the ALTs have to adjust completely when they start work somewhere!

We have a short cleaning time every day, where kids and teachers alike hoover, dust, scrub floors - whatever needs doing. My area is the language room, and the children that I clean with are quite shy, but I try my pidgin Japanese and it helps to break down one or two barriers. The children are close to the teachers, and will often be in the staff room on errands which let them chat to the teachers with ease. Needless to say they're still a bit scared of me (being a gaijin, or foreigner, you soon learn that you cause extreme shyness, curiosity, giggle fits or all three to erupt, even in adults) but probably not half as much as I am of them. I'm visiting one of my 2 elementary schools on Thursday for the first time, so here's hoping its not quite as intimidating a job as teaching teenagers, although it will certainly be more lively. Now where did I leave that aspirin?


MALLAIG & DISTRICT CANOE CLUB
From Black Bears to Leopard Man

On the last week end of August, the scheduled trip was a gentle paddle to the Crowlins, a small group of islands between Broadford on Skye and Applecross on the Mainland. For weeks the weather had been poor, but the inshore forecast promised a rare consecutive two days of Force 3 to 4 winds which would create possible, but not ideal, conditions. As it transpired only John MacKenzie, the trip organiser, and Roger Lanyon were available to paddle, so no one was inconvenienced by a quick change of plan. It was decided that instead of ferrying our boats across to Broadford, we would launch from Mallaig and endeavour to get as close to the Crowlins as we could manage, bearing in mind our need to get back to Mallaig on the Sunday evening.

We launched from the boat slip at 10.00 a.m. and travelled NE up the Sound of Sleat on compass bearings due to the prevailing mist and rain which reduced visibility down to about a mile. By one o'clock the day had cleared up and we took a lunch break at the Sandaig Islands. The flaw in our plan was that it was impossible to ride the tides favourably through the narrows of Kylerhea on both days. Mid Saturday afternoon found us trapped on the mainland side, just west of the ferry, whilst we waited an hour and a half for a five knot Spring tide to abate. Just before slack water we were able to paddle against the current and make our way along the mainland coast using an eddy to help us along. We were then treated to one of those delights that makes sea kayaking such a pleasure: a family of otters were playing in the tideway, totally oblivious to our approach. Neither of us had ever been so close to otters in the wild and we watched entranced until the group cottoned on to their audience and slipped out of sight. Entering Loch Alsh and bearing west, we both recalled Denis Rixson's recent article in West Word which mentioned the Norse use of the anchorage at Sgeir na Cailleach. In our cockleshell craft, it was easy for us to empathise with the skippers of the longboats searching for a sheltered spot to rest their oarsmen and escape the fickle winds and treacherous tides.

After following Skye's SE coastline for nearly 25 miles we arrived at Kyleakin and at 7.00p.m. paddled under the Skye Bridge to glimpse, a further five miles away, the Crowlin Isles, the week end's objective. Alas, although we knew we could reach them, we also knew there was no way we could work the tides from the Crowlins to get back to Mallaig the following day.

So reluctantly, having called up the Coastguard on the VHF to let them know we had arrived at Kyle safely, we turned and started to make some of the miles back towards Mallaig.

We recalled a grassy patch on the southern bank of Loch na Béiste, just south of Kyleakin, which we had noticed as we paddled outwards. We made for this and were delighted to find a splendid campsite in a verdant pasture nestling alongside the ruins of some black houses. The tents went up in record time, for conditions were the midgiest either of us had experienced this year. Wearing a midge hat and ample repellent, Roger then went off to explore the ruins, only to find that one of the buildings was roofed over with heavy blue polythene. On winding through a maze like entrance, it became obvious that the building was not only snug and dry, but also occupied.

A troglodyte reading a paperback introduced himself as "Tom" and being able to discern in the dim blue light a rash of blue tattoos over his cheeks, Roger recalled reading about The Leopard Man of Skye. Tom Leppard, for that is his full name, is listed by Guinness World Records as the world's most tattooed man for, over fifteen years, he has turned his body into a visual pun on his name. Although all we could see were the tattoos on his cheeks and the back of his hands, every bit of his body, except the insides of his ears and the gaps between his toes, is tattooed to a leopard skin effect. Tom told us that he had lived a hermit's life in this spot for fourteen years and, until this year had never been visited by sea kayakers. We were now the sixth pair to have called on him this year.

Next morning we set off for home in bright sunshine and a dead flat calm. We had carefully timed a late start to ensure we would not have to wait at Kylerhea for the tide to turn. Sure enough, we were able to ferry glide across the narrows on the tail end of the flood and then work our way along the Skye shore whilst we waited for the ebb to set in. Unfortunately, the calm conditions altered and we ended having to plug for 12 miles into a stiff sou'wester. We arrived back in Mallaig shattered, having taken nine hours to travel 23 miles. Given that our usual four miles per hour speed was reduced to an average of 2.5 m.p.h., the reader can readily appreciate the effort involved. For all our weariness, we were both exhilarated by a substantial paddle over a week end of varied and contrasting weather.


Arisaig in 1718 by Denis Rixson
by Denis Rixson, Mallaig Heritage Centre

How far back can we go? This is a question that fascinates and frustrates local historians. In Britain we have census returns from 1801 - but only from 1841 do they give personal details. We have official records of births, deaths and marriages from 1855. We have parish records that sometimes stretch back to the sixteenth century. If we are lucky there may be early rentals and charters, tacks and sasines - all the legal paraphernalia of land-holding. In some parts of the Highlands (e.g. Kintyre) these go back to the early sixteenth century. Beyond that the written sources become very scarce. We may have the names of the great landholders, the priests, the abbots and bishops, or the names of witnesses to the charters - we usually have little else.

That is the general picture. In the West Highlands it is even worse. We have very little in the way of documentary records before about 1700. The area was remote and relationships with the Scottish State were usually difficult. The King's writ simply did not run in the Rough Bounds - although this does mean we have the names of some who fell foul of the authorities. However, the failure of the various Jacobite Risings between 1689 and 1745 meant the gradual assimilation of the West Highlands and Hebrides. The Rough Bounds were absorbed - politically and culturally - a process that was accelerated by a tourist industry that began within a generation of Culloden.

Part of this process involved the forfeiture of the estates of leading Jacobites after 1715 and 1745. But the government then had to establish the extent and value of the lands it had just acquired. Surveyors were dispatched to the North West to take a "judicial rental" in which the tenants were examined under oath as to the rents normally paid. Such rentals were taken on the Clanranald Estates in 1718 and 1748 and provide the first details about ordinary people of the area. In truth we are not seeing the full range of local society. We are only given the names of the tenants - those who held directly from the landowner. Beneath the tenants were the landless labourers, the women and children. Nevertheless it is a valuable resource.

The 1718 rental for Arisaig is held in the National Archives of Scotland (GD 201/5/1257/2). It gives us the names of 17 settlements and 41 tenants. Only three of these could sign their name, two being local, the third from Benbecula. There is too much detail to present here but I hope that in the future the Heritage Centre may be able to publish the full rental. The following extract gives a brief taste:

Ronald McEachan in Torbea and paroch aforsaid And John McEachan there for themselves and for Donald McEachan there Make oath that the whole town of Torbea pays yearly the Sum of One hundred Merks Scots money two Stones Cheese two quarts butter and two Sheep Of which Money rent and Customs the Saids deponents and the said Donald McEachan were in use to pay to the said Late Clanranald a Just third part yearly And that they are in no arrear having payed the three last years with ye presents to the Lady Clanranald which is the truth as he Shall answer to God & Cannot write.

A modern 'explanation' of this might run:-

Ronald & John McEachan are residents of Torr a Bheithe (Rhu, Arisaig) which is in the parish of Kilmory. They appear for themselves and also for Donald McEachan, a third tenant. They swear that the whole township normally pays 100 Scots merks per annum plus 2 stones of cheese, 2 quarts of butter and 2 sheep. They divide both the money rent and the rents in kind (Customs) equally between them. They are not in arrears for their rent since they have paid the last three years to Clanranald's widow. Ronald McEachan cannot write.

The rental indicates the pastoral bias of the area. There are no payments in oats or barley or even fish. Renders were made in money, butter, cheese and sheep. The cash was probably raised by selling cattle since the droving trade was well established in the Highlands long before Culloden. As far as the level of rent was concerned there was probably once a going rate of so much per pennyland or merkland. By 1718 rents varied from farm to farm but in several cases we meet a ratio of 45-60 merks, 1 stone of cheese, 1 quart of butter and 1 sheep per pennyland.

Such documents are of general interest - but they are also important for particular families. There is a huge - and growing - interest in genealogy. Local families can follow the official records back to the mid-nineteenth century. Using parish records, gravestone inscriptions, oral tradition, family trees etc - they may be able to take this back to the early nineteenth or late eighteenth centuries. If we include emigration records, militia rolls, and legal proceedings during clearance we reach the 1770's. With one more step we arrive at the rentals of 1762 (North Morar) and 1748 (Arisaig). Another step takes us to the rental of 1718, one final one to 1699 and the earliest rental I have come across for Arisaig.

Of course these records have to be used with care. Families did not often leave their native area but the nineteenth century census returns suggest they were surprisingly mobile within it. People tended to share a narrow range of Christian names and surnames. One John McDonald or Catherine Gillies can easily be confused with another. Nevertheless certain families were associated with particular places and the use of patronymics (A, son of B, son of C) helps us with identification. In addition, most families favoured particular personal names which might be repeated in alternate generations.

In the Heritage Centre we are often asked to help with genealogical research. Naturally we try and encourage people in the right direction. It helps them - and it helps us by broadening the local knowledge base. The starting point however must always be the researcher's family. What information can be gleaned from within the family. Who married whom and when - which settlements were they associated with? Do house-names provide a clue as to the family's point of origin? So! - ask those elderly relatives now - before the knowledge is lost - and write it all down for your children!


The Last Laird of Morar by Alasdair Roberts

The crowd who came to my talks on emigration at Arisaig last August will remember repeated slides taken from the portrait of Eneas Ranald MacDonell of Camusdarach. Before that house was built, Eneas and his family lived at Morar House, Traigh, where he was born. Having bought the estate in 1855 (then gone bankrupt paying wages to evicted crofters) he was indeed The Last Laird of Morar - although it seems that the rightful laird was in Canada!

Since August I have learned a lot more about him and put together a colourful set of slides. This time the talk will be in the Mallaig Heritage Centre, which is where the portrait went after the Bowman family sold Camusdarach. At least one of the Bowmans will be there. The date is Tuesday, 16th. October, time 7.30pm.

People seemed to like the piping before and after at the Astley Hall, so I will again start 15 minutes before that with a piobaireachd outside - practically on the station platform. This time it will be a Lament for Angus Dearg MacDonell, son and father to Chiefs of Glengarry and a forebear of the man in question. Come early or you may have to stand at the back.


A Little Genealogy
by Allan MacDonald

In early July, Cameron MacDonald, from Australia, after completing a business trip to Spain, came to Scotland to see where his ancestors came from.

He was fairly well documented, which helped to place the family, and after establishing that the family left from 'Camus-a-Raghnall' at the head of Loch-nan-Uamh in 1852, we checked the Baptismal Record in St. Mary's and discovered five other children he did not have knowledge of, and was delighted with the find. It filled in some gaps in history which had not percolated down the generations in Australia.

The emigrants, Ronald and Catherine MacDonald, had 11 children, viz. Donald, Anne (1), Anne (2), Mary, Helen, Janet, Isabella, John, Margaret, Lachlan and Coll.

Andrew D. MacDonald arrived in one day, clutching a copy of a book called 'Fair is the Place' published in Nova Scotia and, being out of print, difficult to get hold of. This book lists two families who emigrated to Cape Breton in 1790-91 known as the Clann Sheumais MacDonalds related to the Glenaladales, and the 'Boghain' MacDonalds from the Island of Eigg from whence Andrew came, who were known by this patronymic because, on the stormiest day, the 'Bogainn' or water ouzel was the only bird out on the marshes looking for food and the MacDonalds were the only people on the Minch looking for fish.

Andrew had his own lineage marked in the book, which runs to 600 pages of every descendant of the two families to the day of its publication in 1984. Assuming 20 names to a page, there is documented genealogy of some 12000 people. His g.g.g.g. grandfather was John MacDonald and wife Effie MacDonald of Glencoe, pioneers on the ship Dunkeld which left Arisaig in 1791, and are descended from MacDonalds of Laig in Eigg, offshoots of the MacDonalds of Morar.

You may remember in a previous issue of West Word, I made mention of Marie Eilidh Cheng, née MacDonald, a descendant of John of Guidal, and her 56 generations back to the year 177 AD.

I have since acquired a copy of another Canadian family who link into the same lineage, which is interesting as it shows the moment in time when the Clanranald Chieftainship moved from the Morar MacDonalds to Moidart.

At Generation 40, VI Chief Dougal, by all accounts a cruel and despotic character or a very loved and honourable person, depending on whose narrative of the day you read.

Dougal had an uncle Alexander, who had his eye on the chiefship and plotted his nephew's death. Dougal was returning from Arisaig to Castle Tioram when he was ambushed at Alisary and fled for his life, but was pursued to the Braes of Lochailort and put to death in the burn which flows past the church on the Braes and is known ever since as Alt Dhughuill. The man who murdered him was Allan-nan-Core, 'Allan of the Knife', a treacherous being in the pay of Alexander.

Alexander tried to claim the title but the Clan wouldn't have him or any of his natural sons, but the influential families of the clan in that time elected John of Moidart, 'Ian Muideteach' born out of wedlock to Diorbhail, or Dorothy, a native of Kinlochmoidart, but fathered by Alexander.

Generation No. 41 - Allan, Dougal's eldest son, then became the 1st. Laird of Morar and maintained most of the holdings of South Morar, Eigg, Uist, Benbecula and a small part of Arisaig. By a cruel twist of fate, he fell in love with and married Allan nan Core's daughter. Following a dispute in the house one day, his wife threatened Allan with the same treatment from her father as he'd given to his father. Allan wasted no time in dispatching his father in law to the next world to remove the threat to himself.

The direct line of Morar ran out on the demise of Simon IX, whose three sons followed in quick succession with no male heirs. Females were not yet considered worthy heirs in succession, a bit grim when you consider that Amie, who had married John of Islay some 500 years before, had brought all the lands of Garmoran as her dowry on marriage.

A couple of notes on Amie MacRhuari - she was the daughter of Roderick who had the lands of Moidart, Arisaig, Morar and Knoydart and on his death, Amie inherited. She was a cousin of John of Islay and after her divorce retired to Moidart and built Castle Tioram around 1353.

More can be found on the subject in Moidart, or Among the Clanranalds.


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