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

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December 2001 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Canna, Eigg & Muck
Coastal Ranger Report
Mallaig Heritage Centre
Stories from the peat and sand
Local Genealogy

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Arisaig's Millennium Hall has its official opening

What could have been a dull afternoon of speeches developed a celebratory air as villagers turned out to welcome the major funders of the £497,000 project.

Ann Martin, Secretary to the Hall Committee, said 'We are delighted with the way it has turned out. We still have the traditional ceilidh hall, with the 70 year old dance floor described as 'the best on the western seaboard' but have been able to introduce facilities worthy of the 21st. century. These include a state of the art kitchen and a community computer.'

On display were the brightly coloured tiles in the entrance hall, a visible record of who lived in Arisaig in the year 2000, signed by most of the local residents.

A big thank you was given to Mandy the architect who not only came up with the idea but who coloured the tiles and fired them, and to Jack McColl, vice-chairman, for spending a lot of time making sure everyone who wanted to sign had the chance.

Acknowledgement was made in the speeches of the time given to the project by Chairmen past and present - Iain MacKinnon, Donald MacEachen and Tommy MacEachen - and a special mention of committee member Mhairi Stewart, who had always been a strong supporter.

Following the unveiling of an acknowledgment plaque by local Councillor Charles King, a rowan tree was planted in the grounds to replace an old sycamore tree which had to be felled at the start of the project. Traditionally rowan trees were planted beside cottage doors to keep away witches and evil spirits.

Turning the first spadeful of earth was Mrs Marie MacPherson, who has been connected with the Hall for the last 60 years through crafts, SWRI, Amateur Dramatics and Hall Committee. Tommy MacEachen, Chairman of the present committee and Marie's nephew, presented her with a bouquet of flowers.


Ann Martin was also given a bouquet by Vice Chairman Jack McColl. To her great pleasure, contractor Alasdair (Pod) Carmichael presented her with a beautiful bowl made from part of the old sycamore tree which he had taken to Glenuig woodturner Angus Clyne.

Pod said, 'When we built our new hall in Glenuig, we admired the Astley Hall so much that we took it as our model. There are many aspects of this hall in ours but we lose out on the tradition.'

The Hall was part of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations' 21st Century Halls for Scotland Millennium Project, receiving from it £228,000, just under 50% of the total cost. The local community had to raise £47,000 as their contribution. Representing the SCVO at the Ceremony was David Martin. Stephen Watt of Historic Scotland praised the careful renovation and restoration work and said it had been reassuring to know the hall was in the hands of architect Mandy Ketchin of Muck and contractor Alasdair Carmichael of Glenuig who are experienced in the care of historical buildings.

Also there were representatives of the Highland Council, Lochaber Enterprise, the Crofters Commission, and Scottish Natural Heritage, all of whom had helped fund the project.


There is not a lot to mention this month. Conditions outside have made it a month for hibernation on the whole, not to mention various ailments such as the common cold and chicken pox. School numbers have been depleted, younger children confined or away, other stalwart members of the community taking a holiday at this quiet time and gardens becoming more and more waterlogged and bedraggled looking. Never mind, Christmas is almost upon us and then daylight hours will start to lengthen again.

St. Andrew's Night was celebrated in the pub with a quiz and music. A visit from Jim Hunter and The Disclaimers enlivened the weekend, enjoyed by guests, who also experienced a sufficient lull in the storms to fit in some serious walking, but then this morning (1st December) back came the gales with a vengeance.

The Knoydart Foundation AGM took place with many items on the agenda. This also includes The Trading Company and Knoydart Hydro. We understand that the work on the Hydro Scheme will not be completed until into the new year, so it looks like candles galore for the festive season. Despite all the setbacks during work on the project, I should just like to put in a word of appreciation for those turning out each day to labour on the site in what have sometimes been appalling conditions.

With reference to the Festive Season, may we wish all at West Word and our friends in Mallaig, the Islands and further afield peace, health and happiness.

Anne Trussell


It seems so long since the October holidays. A lot has happened on the island. Workmen came and renovated the Primary School so we now have a nursery for Caroline MacKinnon, she goes five days a week with Shona Quinn stepping in as Nursery Auxiliary teacher. Mrs. Stephen and her husband Mike have moved from the school house into Burnside, a lot more room for them to move about in and it also gets the teacher away from schoolwork. The outside of the school has a hard-standing area with slabs so the girls can play skipping and other outdoor activities on it when the weather permits.

The farm has managed to get all its livestock moved on with lambs being sold privately to the Black Isle, and fat lambs to market, also the cattle have been moved. A lot of restrictions on moving livestock with licences and permits but thankfully the weather held well and we got them off. The Department Bull was removed by the Raasay only last week. The tups were put out with the sheep just after the 20th November.

Cattle feed arrived by the Spanish John also in November and they are due back early December to take away the last remaining sheep.

A Wind Monitor is to be put up on Canna early December to see if there is an eligible site for a wind turbine as the second phase of our Power Scheme.

Christmas is fast approaching us again, only a few weeks to go so in case I don't write again next month we wish you all a 'HAPPY CHRISTMAS' and a Prosperous New Year.

Wendy MacKinnon


Not much to report from Eigg this month apart from Joanne Kirk's 18th birthday on St Andrew's Day! Joanne, who is on her gap year, did a great job helping to manage the tea-room this summer and we all wish her the very best for her future plans!

A new Development co-ordinator - that's the new title for the project officer's job - has been appointed: Iain Leaven from Edinburgh. He is planning to move to Eigg between Christmas and New Year, ready to start in January. His first task will be to help us re-visit our "whole island plan" which will identify what we need to focus on for the next five years.

Work is advancing steadily on the Trust office, upstairs in the Pier Centre, which should make it convenient for the Development Co-ordinator to be in touch with everyone and for people to drop in and help out. Tasha and Brig's house is nearing completion too and John Booth has made an enthusiastic start on Galmisdale. It's great to see repairs done at long last to one of the historic farmhouses on the island.

On the energy side, the Kildonnan Hydro-electric scheme has received the green light for funding from the Scottish Land Fund: this should provide clean energy to the five households in that area. Hugh Piggot from Scoraig is the man behind the turbines and will also conduct an energy survey for the whole island, since the plan is to facilitate access to renewable energy for every household on Eigg!

Excellent news on the waste management front with the announcement that aluminium and plastic will be easier to recycle from now on! Well done, the Lochaber Waste Management team! I was impressed to see so much plastic recycled in France when I went to visit my mum: in her area, all households have been issued with 3 sorting bins, whilst in others, the local council is issuing folks with special bags for weekly plastic collection. Surely that beats burning and releasing dioxin into the atmosphere!

Camille Dressler.


If I was trying to punish any construction company for its misdemeanours, I would tell it to build a pier on Muck in the middle of winter! One cannot but feel sorry for CCG struggling to complete the slipway amid the heavy swell and often atrocious weather.

Progress is being made even if very slowly and at immense cost. The latest deadline is now 1st February. Even worse for CCG are the two marker lights at the entrance to this harbour. There have been days when it has been possible to get aboard the jack-up rig to drill the foundations but not many! How did this get forgotten last summer?

Christmas is coming! There will be a fund raising evening for the Christmas Party on the 3rd. And more than half the island are heading for Eden Court and the Pantomime on the 6th.

On the farm it has not been a good year for arable crops. The oats never saw the binder. The gale on the 21st August flattened so much of the crop that we had to big bale what was left. The kale (Maris Kestrel) was very promising at first - until it was attacked by what looked like cabbage root fly. It recovered but never grew to its normal size. The swedes were a new variety, Kenmore, as the usual Doon Major has been banned by the EEC. Germination was poor and growth was very slow but the open autumn saved the situation to some extent and the roots there are a fair size. At least Kenmore seems to be less attractive to crows and Grey Lag geese. The potatoes (Desiree) have not been a big crop but they are extremely sound with no sign of blight in the tubers. The only problem is that having missed the fine weather in late September we have not been able to lift them by machine.

After this tale of woe it is good to end the year on a happier note with this little story about a calf (see below).

Lawrence MacEwen


It was Christmas Eve 1999. We had been carol singing at Port Mor House, the island's only hotel, and were returning to Gallanach over the hill. There we found him with his twin brother lying among the rushes. Twins are unusual among Luing cows on the hill and these were born two months before the rest of the herd. I had not started to feed the cows so finding these two was pure luck. On the hill cows which have given birth to twins often leave one calf and go off with the other stronger one, so when I had changed into my working clothes I returned on the tractor to check. The mother (No. 45) was gone and so was one calf. The other (whose ear tag was to be 268) still lay there so I lifted him up and held him so that he could find his feet. When I let go he just flopped-he could not stand. I found his mother over the hill and put both calves in the tractor transport box. Many cows will follow their calves in the box, but 45 would not. I needed help.

Luckily Ian Stephens was passing, and he came to help by driving the tractor while I tried to keep 45 close behind. Two hours later, after many break backs and in total darkness, we reached the byre and we soon had 45 and her twins in a pen deep in straw. 268 could not suck of course so I milked the cow and fed him with a bottle. I did not think he would ever walk but on the third day he got up with a little help and suckled his mother. Soon they were all out with the autumn calving hers which were being fed silage.

Six months passed. 268 and his brother did not grow as fast as the other calves but then both had to share one cow. Early summer on the hill and it soon became apparent that all was not well with the calf. He was not following his mother and it was obvious that she had decided that one calf was enough. There was not much I could do, he was too old for bottle feeding but he should survive on grass alone. I put him in a field and left him.

By November the outlook was bleak for 268. Hook and pin bones protruded from a dry unthrifty coat. If I did not do something quickly he would die. So I started feeding him hay and Primebeef pellets from NEF.

I cannot say that there was an immediate transformation but by spring he was unrecognisable. And in June when Duncan Ferguson from Eigg and his friend Donald Frazer came to see the stirks they quickly picked out 268 from the rest.

And so when the cattle were finally sold in Oban on the 22nd October, 268 weighed 455 kilos and achieved the highest price of the whole consignment.

Lawrence MacEwen

Coastal Ranger Report

Ah, the evil hour is upon me, another month already and dear old Ed waiting with bated breath to see what magical prose might flow from my pen to grace the e-mail channels and hopefully fill the reserved space! This month at least, my literary wanderings will be in time, as pressure of work at a distant venue, forces me to compile this epistle a whole week in advance. There now, that's got your curiosity aroused! "Where might he be off to? You ask, what extravagances are being lavished on a mere Ranger by the Highland Council?" Well the truth is that all the H.C. rangers are having a staff meeting in Inverness, at which it is intended that we learn all about access to everywhere that anyone may care to walk/perambulate/cycle/ride/run, or any other man powered version of getting from "a" to "b". All this in a mere three days, with, as far as I can make out, only a mere couple of hours in the fresh air, with the remainder of the time spent indoors with lectures of varying degrees of boredom/interest, depending on the room temperature at the time!! In order that we may be housed together in true outdoor fashion, we have duly been allocated a section of the Youth Hostel in which to rest our weary heads of an evening, whilst contemplating what might have been if only the taxpayer had donated a few more pence to keep us in the luxury we deserve! No matter, think of the homeless ere you shed a tear for us. On a vaguely more serious note, these meetings are in fact most important for us, as we get a chance to compare notes from the different areas of the Highlands, and a chance to make suggestions to our superiors as to what we should be concentrating on. At least we get a fair hearing, but at the end of the day, as usual, it all comes down to funding, and unfortunately the Ranger Service is fairly low on the priority list. Despite this, we are an amazingly happy bunch, and by dint of concentrated scrounging we get by!!

At this time of year, many of the people I meet, with heads bent against the rain and hail, make comment on the vagaries of the weather and say "You'll not be very busy just now, what do you do in the winter?" or something along these lines. Fair comment I suppose for those who think that when the walking season stops in October we go into hibernation. Unfortunately, even this job is not that cushy! These dark winter's days I spend catching up on reports, composing begging, sorry funding applications, and preparing for my school visits. If you throw in a couple of courses and the "swatting" that goes with them, you can be sure that my nose is never very far from some kind of grindstone! By the way, if anyone fancies stepping into a composite class of from four to eight year olds to try and impart some knowledge to the glowingly expectant faces of the primary schools with their varying degrees of ability, please feel free to join me at any time! Believe me, I admire those that are paid to perform this service full time!!!

But enough. With Christmas fast approaching and thoughts of presents to be bought and given, trees to be decorated and food to be prepared, I am lucky enough to still have some holiday time to take, so maybe this job is not so bad after all. As the temperature drops, spare a thought for the birds, and if you do feed them, please do so on a regular basis as they will be programmed to visit the various feeding tables, and rely on their food intake for sufficient energy to see them through the winter. If any of you could spare the time, I would be delighted to know what birds you have visiting on a regular basis, and particularly a note of any unusual ones that might appear. In fact, come to think of it, it's high time that you lot started telling me something, instead of all my outpourings to you, after all I do believe that some of you actually do read my column!!

I suppose the next issue will be in 2002! So to all of you who haven't taken offence, have a lovely time at Christmas and a good Hogmanay.

Angus Macintyre

Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner

This month two people asked the same question ! Both were asking if it is likely that the wee birds which they had seen while walking over moorland were Bullfinches. The birds were described as sparrow-size, with a black head and orangey-coloured chest and white rump. The birds sitting on their own in heather made a distinct staccato tutting call and were sometimes joined by another paler-coloured bird, the same size.

From the description of the birds, and the habitat where they were seen, it sounds more like the birds spotted were Stonechats. Stonechats Saxicola torquata have a black (male) dark brown(female) head, with orange-coloured feathers on the chest and a white undercarriage. The male has a white rump. Stonechats belong to the Thrush family and have a short, narrow, pointed bill which is used to pick insects, spiders and worms from vegetation and the ground. Typically in Lochaber Stonechats live all year round on moors or where there are bushes in grassland. Bird books vary in their depiction of the emphatic, short call as "chat, chat" or "chit, chit" or "teck, teck" or "tut, tut" ! Please take your pick !

A close relation of the Stonechat, the Whinchat Saxicola rubetra is a summer visitor to Lochaber moors and especially whin bushes. They have a prominent white stripe above each eye and a mottled brown back, with an orange and white breast like the stonechat - but paler.

Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula are slightly larger than the two 'chats', the top of their heads are black, they have white white rumps and the male has a very obvious reddy-pink front. As finches their beaks are short, thick and very strong for cracking seed cases. They are usually seen in woods, trees or bushes which have buds, berries or seeds on which they feed. In winter they sometimes form small flocks. Their call is described as a soft "peu, peu".

The Gaelic names for these birds are Clacharan for the Stonechat, Gocan for the Whinchat, and Deargan-coille which translates as 'little red one in the wood'.

Perhaps next month's question will be about the Big Bad Wolf ?! Whatever, Happy Christmas.

Dr. Mary Elliott

Stories from the peat and sand
by Ian Shennan

Over the summer, among the construction traffic associated with the new bypass, residents and visitors may have noticed a van from the Department of Geography at the University of Durham. Or one Sunday in August, a party of 40 visitors, actually scientists from all over the world. While they will have left with everlasting memories enriched by the unique combination of the landscape, sky and the wind, their reasons for coming to Arisaig in the first place were rather different.

Since 1993 we have been exploring the landscape of the Arisaig area for evidence of climate and environmental changes since the retreat of the last great ice sheets. Little did we know at the start of the work that we would still be finding new information 8 years later and that the results would put Arisaig alongside Barbados and Tahiti as the locations in the World with the best records of changes in sea level for the last 16,000 years. In scientific terms, this tells us about the changes of the World's climate that caused the ice sheets to melt, about the balance between land and sea, and about the movement of the Earth's crust, all before any effect of global warming. What started 16,000 years ago still continues today and there's nothing we can do about it. Actually, its mainly good news.

16,000 years ago the area would have looked rather like parts of Greenland today. To the north and east there was an icecap across the Highlands, with just the mountain tops showing. As the glaciers discharged into the sea, breaking off as icebergs, they released the ground-up rock that they had been carrying as they flowed across the landscape. This sediment fell to the bottom of the sea and here is where our story starts. Among the sediment are the microscopic remains of algae that lived in this inhospitable sea and by collecting cores of sediment we can start to tell where the sea was at one time. In some areas of the world this story is simple, indeed rather uninteresting. Not so Arisaig. Here it is rather complicated, but that's what makes it unique.

If the Earth was rigid and didn't move under stress then you could think of the oceans as a bathtub. As the ice sheets melted, so the bath would fill and you would see the level of the sea rise around the edge. The coastline would move upward across the land surface. But the Earth isn't rigid. The weight of ice causes the rocks of Earth's crust beneath the ice to deform, like squeezing a sponge. Let go of the sponge and it regains its shape. The same with the Earth. So when there was over 3500ft (1100m) of ice over Scotland the land surface was depressed. After the ice melted the land started to rise.

But while the ice melted quickly, the land, as our investigations now show, is still rising today. This is part of the good news, for this offsets any sea-level rise caused by the "Greenhouse Effect", at least for a while.

With the amount of water in the global oceans changing and the land moving at the same time it is a delicate balance whether the coastline at any one location is moving up or down. This is what we've been trying to resolve over the last 8 years. The peat tells us when that part of the land was above high tide. The sand and mud can tell us when it was below the sea, or perhaps a tidal flat between the high and low tide at the time, or maybe it was a lake or a stream deposit?

Arisaig sits at centre of a geoscience puzzle and paradise. Drive along the road to the old pier at Rumach and you'll pass infilled valleys that once had lakes in, that prior to being lakes were embayments of the sea. They are filled with over 30ft (10m) of sediment with different species of algae that tell us whether it was freshwater or marine water in the valley. The col south of Loch Torr a' Bheithe was once a tidal channel and Rumach Hill was an island. As was the Strath of Arisaig. The Cnoc na Faire Hotel was at the sea's edge 15,000 years ago (maybe it wasn't built then?). Mointeach Mhor was once a large, sheltered embayment. And the bypass will run along the old sand dune that marked the coastline perhaps 5000 years ago across Mointeach Mhor.

Next month I'll say something more about the evidence that allows us to make these reconstructions and how our investigations along the bypass have added to the story. Meanwhile, if you see us like this, you'll know what we are doing.


Mallaig Heritage Centre
by Malcolm Poole

Last month I explained how the Heritage Centre has finally managed to get funding which has enabled us to stay open longer hours and during the winter and to begin improving the level of service we can provide. This money is not a straightforward 'grant', however, but comes in return for our committing to a 'service agreement', under which the Centre must provide a museum service to the area complying with standards agreed with the Council. In short, the Council is 'buying' a museum service for the area (at a price much lower than it would cost them to do it themselves).

These standards and targets are to be agreed each year and in future years will probably include provision of educational materials for schools, publication of local history research, a programme of special events and producing exhibitions which can be shown at other museums in the Highlands. For this year however, the emphasis is on achieving two stars in the Scottish Tourist Board quality scheme for visitor attractions and in achieving full registered museum status in the quality standards scheme operated by 'Resource', the government body responsible for promoting best practice in Britain's museums and art galleries.

There are a long list of conditions to be fulfilled in order to achieve Registered Museum status, covering everything from the way the management committee operates to providing access to the museum for the public and, of the course, the level of care given to the items in the care of the museum. This winter I have been working on, and shall continue to be working on for many months more, the cataloguing and storage of the hundreds of items which the Centre has bought from other archives or which have been given or lent. A museum is expected to do everything possible to ensure that the objects in its care are protected from harm and preserved for as long as possible.

Of course, this duty of preservation has to be balanced against the fact that the objects are no good to anyone if they cannot be seen and examined, so, for example, documents are being placed in polyester covers wherever possible and copies of photographs are used for display, instead of the originals. Different items are affected by different conditions: heat, light, sudden changes in temperature, conditions which are too dry or too humid. Many of the objects we have are made of paper - documents or photographs - and must not be allowed to become too dry or too damp.

This autumn we have begun monitoring the temperature and humidity in the Centre, to check that these levels are within accepted guidelines and so that we can decide how to limit them if necessary.

In the past we have had problems finding the time to catalogue the items we have correctly. Over the next 12 months I will be working my way through everything in the Heritage Centre's collection, placing them in special boxes, envelopes or polyester sleeves if necessary and entering information about them in the computer. When this is finished you will be able to search for information on our computer, and eventually on the internet, and we will be able to locate relevant items, photographs and documents quickly and easily.

At present the Centre has about 2000 individual items. A surprising number of these are photographs of Mallaig over the past 100 years, but there are also a lot of photographs of people, working on the pier or on the railway, in school groups and in other situations (none of them scandalous, I hasten to add). The Centre also has a number of old maps, including OS 6 inch maps for 1901 - 1902 for the Knoydart, North Morar and Arisaig areas and plans for Mallaig harbour through its history. As mentioned before, we have the Census returns for 1841 to 1891 for West Lochaber and population returns for 1800 onwards. Soon we hope to have the Census returns for 1901 and all the returns for the Small Isles.

There are also various other documents, such as invoices and shop receipts. As the years go by we expect the archive and collection to continue growing and when the Centre achieves Registered status it will have more authority to insist that items of local interest remain in the area. Scottish National Heritage has already agreed that the Centre should have the finds from an archaeological dig made near Polnish when the road was being built there, and we hope that these will be followed by other items of interest. The Centre also has copies of past issues of West Word, and we hope to be able to index these one day.

Come in and visit the Centre if you can. During December it will be open from 12 to 5 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and will be FREE EVERY DAY! So even if you only have 5 or 10 minutes to spare, come and reminisce. (There is no truth in the rumour that we will be paying people to come in next month!)

Finding Joy in the Past
by Marlene MacDonald Cheng

I never liked history much. Memorizing dates and hearing old stories bored me to tears. But all that has changed…with a vengeance. Now I am excited by dates of historical happenings, and I chase down old stories as if there was no tomorrow. My life is filled with joy and comradeship and passion. I've discovered genealogy.

Two years ago I couldn't even spell genealogy. There was a vague notion in my head that it had something to do with tracing one's roots, but that's all I knew about it. Now I am totally immersed in a hobby that is rewarding and fascinating. Let me share with you…

It all started when we got a new computer at home with ready access to the Internet. One evening I decided to see what information I could find about my hometown in Nova Scotia. Before long I had signed on to the NSroots list and was tapping into conversations of people searching for their roots. Suddenly my husband had to peel me off the computer, and I lay awake at night trying to remember stories my parents and grandparents had told me when I was young. The initial excitement has not abated; indeed it has deepened. This is more than a 'mad crush'; it's a veritable 'love affair'.

It was hard to know where to begin. There were so many questions and so many problems finding information, especially at a distance, separated by seas and thousands of miles. I decided to start with my family. My parents and I had long telephone conversations, my siblings thought I was crazy, but reached into their storehouse of memories at my insistence, and aunts and uncles who hadn't heard from me in years were thrilled with numerous phone calls. The stories were wonderful and I wrote them all down. I learned lots of things I had never heard before: Grandparents' full names, their nicknames, names of my great grandparents and tales of the hardships under which they lived. They all came alive in my mind. I was hooked.

Chapters Bookstore beckoned to me, and I purchased a package called "Tracing your family tree", which had directions, and sheets for listing lineages and family members. My search hasn't always been smooth. There have been obstacles and brick walls, but they have only served to spur me on to unravel the threads. I am Columbo, or Perry Mason, or Sherlock Holmes. Mysteries are to be solved, not avoided, and I eagerly meet the challenge.

Next newsletter I will share with you some of the things I have learned about finding my Scottish roots.
I leave you now with the words of my old friend Archie MacKenzie in his song Tilleadh An Eilthirich.

'S ann an taobh an iar na h-Albainn
Thainig daoine mora calma,
A rinn gniomh a bha cho ainmeil
A dh'fhag sinn an diugh pròiseil.

Thainig a Uidhist 's a Barraidh,
Eige, Colla agus na Hearadh,
Maraichean a b'fhearr a luingis
Cho garbh 's gu'm biodh an fhairge.
Thainig as an Eilean Sgitheanach,
Leodhas, Morar, Muidart 's Croideart,
Tuathanaich nach faicte cearbach
An car no an gniomh a rinn iad.

'S iad a dh'fhag againn dileab
Tha an diugh a' fas cho priseil,
Ceol na fidhle agus na pioba,
A' seinn nan oran Ghaidhlig.

From the west of Scotland
Came the men strong and brawny
Who by their deeds so renowned
Left us today so proud.

They came from Uist and from Barra,
Eigg, Coll and Harris,
Seamen who would prefer to sail
Across the stormy ocean.
They came from the Isle of Skye,
Lewis, Morar, Moidart and Knoydart,
Farmers who tilled the rugged land
Their promises or deeds never found wanting

The legacy they left behind
Is today so much admired,
The music of the fiddle and the pipes,
The ring of the Gaelic songs.

A Little Genealogy
by Allan MacDonald

Last month writing about the families in Clan Donald I mistakenly wrote Clan Ranald instead of Clan Donald.

Contained in the article was a reference to the Martins of Marishadder, and talking to Jessie Dempster in Arisaig, she told me she'd often heard her parents speaking about them. Jessie came from Staffin which was part of Martins' ground.

The Martins of Marishadder are descended from Aongas-na-Goaithe, Angus Of The Wind, because he was forever on the sea and sailed all over the North Sea and the Hebrides. Traditionally he fought in the wars of Sorley Buy Macdonald in Ireland, and after spending some years visiting foreign parts in his galley, he married Bernice, a Danish princess, and had seven sons and settled in Trotternish on Skye.

In the lineage of the family, his second son, Lachlan, married a daughter of Nicholson of Scorriebreck (outside Portree) and had Angus, who married a MacLean of Cuidrach (on the shore of Loch Snizort) and had a son, Lachlan, who married a daughter of MacQueen of Rigg (Staffin), who had an only son, Martin of Marishadder. He married a daughter, Rachel, of MacDonald of Culnacnoc (of the MacDonalds of Sleat) and they in turn had an only son, John, who married Mary, daughter of Peter Nicholson of Penifiler (outside Portree) and they had a family of 9 sons and 3 daughters.

The eldest son, Martin, died at the age of 93, without issue.

Three of his brothers were Doctors - Samuel, Nicol and Donald. Another two - John and Peter - were not married and died in the West Indies. Another brother Lachlan perished in a snowstorm. Alexander had lands in Inversander and married Jessie, daughter of MacLean of Tolachan.

Rev. Angus was minister of Snizort.

Martin Martin, the author of 'A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland' (1695) was also a descendant of Aonghas Gaoithe, his family being Donald Martin, another son of Angus. Martin Martin graduated MA in Edinburgh in 1681 and earned his MD in 1710 after changing career. However, he contracted asthma and died in October 1718, and was buried, appropriately, in St. Martins-in-the-Field-in London.

On a local note, Doctor Donald Martin was at one time proprietor of Roshven Estate and was the person who sold out to Professor Hugh Blackburn in 1854.

Aye, the Blackburns have been in Roshven for 147 years and there are still Martins in Trotternish.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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Page last updated: December 2001

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