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Hello and welcome!

Hello! Welcome to my historical blog.

I am Andrew and I’m the Highland Historian. I offer heritage consultancy services, including historical and genealogical research; and guided tours, including site, half-day, day and multi-day tours. Please visit highlandhistorian.com or email andrew@highlandhistorian.com for more information.

Amongst my experiences, I have a Master of Arts degree in Scottish Historical Studies and I’m a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. I have been employed as a tour guide at numerous sites, am a Trustee of Castle Leod and was the Manager of Culloden Battlefield from 2014-2018. More about my experiences and background can be found here.

On this blog, we will discover the true background to the folk traditions and culture that make the Scottish Highlands an incredible place to live and visit.

Please like, share, comment, get in touch and ask as many questions as you can! They will inspire me to write for you!

I look forward to meeting you on your Highland Historian tour!

Andrew Grant McKenzie MA (Hons) FSA Scot

highlandhistorian.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Highland Historian includes social media sites that offer my information and research free of charge for you to enjoy. I believe it is important to continue offering this.

It does, however, take time and resources to share this information. If you would like to support my work, you are able to offer a contribution of a value of your choosing via www.paypal.me/highlandhistorian

All contributions received will be much appreciated and will support the continuation of this work.

All income received as contributions will be declared and does not act as payment for services or a contract of services between Highland Historian and the giver.

Deer Interactions at Kingshouse Hotel, Glencoe

contact@kingshousehotel.co.uk

To (General Manager),

This letter is an open letter, available on my Highland Historian blog and Facebook page. It is not a complaint letter and is hopefully the beginning of our positive joint-effort to ensure that information is available to all guests, clients and tour guides who use your facilities, whether that is on a regular basis or on a once-in-a-lifetime visit. I hope that my colleagues in tourism and tour guides will also read the letter and take positive action.

I have been visiting the Kingshouse semi-regularly since around 2005. Before that I visited a few times with family. I have watched the development of the site and the activities of those who visit closely, including attending the planning meeting where the modern Kingshouse Hotel received planning permission; due to that meeting also including the Viewhill (Cairnfields) housing development built on Culloden Battlefield being on the agenda.

The issue I am raising here is people and their reactions to animals; particularly deer. This will be no surprise to you as the issue has been discussed widely and you no-doubt look out of the window and see people interacting with the deer on a daily basis. For those who are not aware, my view on this is that the deer herd from Etive and the southern end of Glencoe which regularly gather in the Kingshouse car park are often interacted with by visitors. This ranges from photos from a distance which is great, to photos with the deer which is less-great, to stroking which is too much interaction, to feeding which is completely wrong for guests to be doing. It is not a new issue, but it is developing rapidly with increased footfall.

I have personally watched as people have fed crisps, peanuts, chocolate digestives, oranges and kit-kats (other brands of chocolate biscuit are available) to the enthusiastic deer. A young stag ran into my tent in 2009 by the stream when an inebriated member of a party camping close by tried to make it drink whisky at 5am. Explaining the implications of these actions to one person is one-thing but it will (and does) occur again and again unless something more substantial is done.

The rights-and-wrongs of this biologically have been discussed widely, as have the health and safety implications. I know that your team are aware of these, but again for those not aware, these wild animals can move very quickly and can protect food and even scrap for food on offer. This has been very close to causing injury on several (in fact, many) occasions at the Kingshouse and we are remarkably lucky that incidents of serious injury are not more regular.

I strongly believe, having managed a visitor centre that received over 250,000 visitors to the site and over 115,000 paying visitors to a visitor centre per year, that it is time for Kingshouse to take the lead on an awareness campaign to ensure that the experience of seeing these animals can continue safely. However, I am also offering to help because I recognise that additional tasks on top of day-to-day operations will not be part of your business plan or budget, particularly if there is no legal requirement to act.

There are many options available, but I am imploring you to act on at least one of them. I am happy to meet and discuss options or to be contacted about how we might develop wider awareness of how to safely interact with the deer in the car park, but without Kingshouse taking the lead on this, it will just continue. Your new facilities have already brought an increase of footfall to the area and that will hopefully continue. But with this generated increase comes an increase in your duty of care to your guests, whether they are paying customers or not.

As the interactions usually occur between the guests’ vehicle and the entrance, there is no point in discussing the issue after arrival. There are also many tour guides now using the Kingshouse as a stop. Many of these share my views, but some encourage the interactions. This is something to be reviewed and may lead to positive engagement with companies and tour guides to ensure greater awareness of the implications of enticing wild animals to feed on unnatural resources.

Signage in the car park does not appear to have worked. You do have a message on your website, but this requires the visitor to read English, to click on the link and to read between the lines of your message. It could be clearer and the page is under a heading “meet the deer, dear” which, if the rest is not read, is an encouragement to engage with one of “your best bits” (as if the deer are somehow pets). Whilst it is explained later that they are not pets or belong to the hotel, it is unlikely that many website visitors will read that far. The message is there, but it is too cloudy. We can clarify the message easily.

Let’s discuss and act on this. We have an opportunity to ensure responsible measures are taken to ensure quality and safe experiences during the continuing growth of your business.

Sincerely,

Andrew McKenzie

Andrew Grant McKenzie MA (Hons) FSA Scot
highlandhistorian.com

Copyright Fraud in Bagpipe Music: The Orchard Music and Robbie Mclean

Copyright bullies and proving them to be ridiculous (using history): The story of Robbie Mclean and The Orchard Music Company (also known as The Orchard Enterprises):

Sometimes you’re in for it, even when you stick to the rules. Unfortunately for a small business, this is something that is part of the ‘fun and games’. This YouTube video, which features the tune I wrote for my deceased Grandfather, has had to be hacked up and a segment removed due to a case upheld against me with no evidence.

Unfortunately, a company called The Orchard Music and a gentleman named Robbie Mclean have fraudulently claimed that they own the copyright to “High Road to Gairloch”; a tune which is so old that it is normally transcribed as “Traditional” and is certainly over 150 years of age, as it’s been played longer than that in army pipe bands. Let’s have a look at the tune, the case and the history:

The recording company are claiming that they own the tune based on a recording by a piper named Robbie Mclean on the uninspiringly named album “The Pipes of Scotland”, recorded in 2009 and released on the 1st November 2009.

Unfortunately, the way YouTube works, my counter-claim was not upheld because The Orchard Music disagreed with it. This meant I would need to risk being given a “Copyright Strike” by taking the matter further, potentially to court in particularly bad cases. If you are given three Copyright Strikes, your YouTube channel can be deleted. As a small business owner, I can’t afford the time or the money to be taking an ill-educated bully to court. But I can clarify my position and disprove his claim to those who matter most – you.

Despite this 2009 album by Robbie Mclean also having the tune “Brown Haired Maiden”, which also appeared in my video, they did not extend their fraudulent claim to that tune.

A note to Robbie; the pipes of Scotland historically include many variations on the bagpipe, not just the Great Highland Bagpipe. I would have expected some smallpipes and perhaps some border pipes to feature at the very least. Instead, just one example of bagpipes from Scotland features on the album and is played solo.

The use of the word ‘pipes’ also suggests multiple bagpipers, although he may correctly claim that his pipes had three drones, a chanter and a blowpipe. Funnily, it is possible that the piper who wrote the tune he is claiming to own the copyright of wouldn’t have had three drones because the tune is literally that old.

The first known example of a three drone bagpipe was depicted in the 1600s, but they were not widely used or popular until the mid to late 1700s. In 1760, Joseph MacDonald wrote the “Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe”, in which he included an unusual picture of a piper with a set of pipes with a bass drone. In 1803, in a printed edition of the book, a note was added, it is thought by Patrick MacDonald, which states:

“Besides the smaller Drones of the Highland Bagpipe (two in number) there was, and still is, in use, with the pipers in the North Highlands particularly, a great Drone, double the Length and Thickness of the smaller…”

This, surely, can be read as evidence that the three drone bagpipes were not known to have been in general use. The only question over this passage is the fact it is an inserted comment and the reason for this addition and its author’s identity is not altogether clear.

We do, however, know that some pipers of an anti-Jacobite persuasion were playing three-drone bagpipes in 1714, such as the Piper to the Laird of Grant; William Cummine (or Cumming), who’s portrait was painted by Richard Waitt in that year.

There is also the set of pipes at Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre which, despite not being set up accurately and having been re-covered in Mackenzie tartan which did not exist until at least the 1770s; the laburnum pipes are clearly only set up to be played with two tenor drones; and so-ends our little diversion into bagpipe history – but it all matters, because the detail is essential. These pipes and piping styles existed when “High Road to Gairloch” is most likely to have been composed.

The tune being disputed is literally so old that nobody knows who wrote it. There are several accounts of it which may have some historical significance; but even then, it is a huge leap of academic faith to claim any conclusion on its origin date. The earliest claim of the tune being played or sung is 1547 at the Battle of Pinkie. This appears unlikely, but as with all folklore, it is worthy of cautious preservation as part of the story.

The Gaelic name of the tune, which was known before the tune was ever called “High Road to Gairloch”, is “Gàbhaidh Sinn An Rathad Mòr”. This translates in some variation of; “We Go the Great Road”. The tune has also been known as “We Will Go the Great Road” and “the Stewart’s March” according to some collections. “Gàbhaidh Sinn An Rathad Mòr” is thought to have been written by Iain Breac MacEanuig. When it comes to attributing authorship on the tune, most collections don’t bother attempting it; but those that do, always cite Iain Breac. He was the Henderson piper to the MacIains of Glencoe. The tune is thought to have been played by a Henderson at the head of the MacIain MacDonalds at the Battle of Sherrifmuir in 1715. If this is true, this could be very important indeed!

There is a claim that the piper to Campbell of Breadalbane, Hugh Mackenzie, supposedly played a joyous tune as the Campbells murdered a number of the MacIain MacDonalds in Glencoe on the 13th February 1692. It is thought by some bagpipe historians that this tune was “The Carles Wi’ The Breeks” which he may have written at the battle of Altimarlach on the 13th July 1680 due to the Sinclairs wearing trousers. Mackenzie had also apparently played a warning to the MacIains at Glencoe without his Campbell colleagues realising the night before the massacre, which is also presumed by some to have been “Carles Wi’ The Breeks” which has a warning song in Gaelic associated with it. Would it surprise anyone to know that the tune’s composer cannot ever be truly proven and that it had several names, including being known as “Lord Breadalbane’s March”?

Is this sneaky communication with pipe tunes at Glencoe possible? Well; when you’re the first recorded professional regimental piper in British Army history, as Mackenzie was, and it’s relatively likely that your murderous companions either weren’t the piper-soldiers of usual clan regiments of the time, or had other things on their minds; it would be relatively easy to slip in a few stark shock-notes or mistakes to tune the ears of any listening piper to your communication. Once that is achieved, tunes can be affected by variations which pipers will recognise instantly as being of a warning mood.

The fact that this communication with bagpipes is possible now is remarkable; but in 1692 when piping was literally “mood music” and a way of communicating, it is highly likely. So highly, in fact; I would say it is extremely likely to have happened: And that’s without throwing ourselves head-long into a history of Ceòl Mòr and Pìobaireachd.

My point is this: I cannot completely prove a lot of what we have discussed here due to the fragile nature of folklore and the unscientific recording of history that has beautifully kept our magical instrument as mysterious as it deserves to be. However, I can supply ample information to debate the qualities of each of the things I have said here based on my knowledge of the surrounding circumstances of the stories which have survived. I will also be writing in much more detail on the topics we’ve graced over.

What I can prove, beyond doubt, is that no man named Robbie Mclean or his record company called the Orchard Music can lay claim of copyright ownership to the tune “The High Road To Gairloch”. Therefore I intend to record, when time allows, a video looking into the history of that specific tune for YouTube, which I will be willing to go to court over if I am challenged by Robbie or Orchard Music over copyright again. The reason being; the video will, in itself, be my case for proving him wrong.

The tune I played in the video, which has now had to be cut out by a YouTube edit which does no justice to the video because I didn’t want to bother being challenged to a court case over that particular use of it, was taught to me from a book first published in 1953. This book is “The College of Piping: Tutor for the Highland Bagpipe, Part 1” by Seumas MacNeill and Thomas Pearston, which no doubt Robbie Mclean’s tutor used to teach him because other tunes from it feature on his 2009 album from which his record company is claiming to own the copyright to the tune from!

Robbie Mclean didn’t even play pipes when the book was first published in 1953 and The Orchard Music didn’t exist; and yet, there is the very old tune written down for learner pipers everywhere to learn from that year, on page 47. To be fair to Robbie, the book was revised in 1954, reprinted in 1955 and then reprinted annually (that’s every year!) until its second revision in 1997, which is the edition I learned the tune from. Did Robbie suddenly claim to have written the tune by then? Well; no. It’s not given any writing credit that year either.

It appears that Robbie has challenged me to prove him to be a fraud: Challenge accepted, Robbie.

Andrew Grant McKenzie MA (Hons) FSA Scot

www.highlandhistorian.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Highland Historian includes social media sites that offer my information and research free of charge for you to enjoy. I believe it is important to continue offering this.

It does, however, take time and resources to share this information. If you would like to support my work, you are able to offer a contribution of a value of your choosing via www.paypal.me/highlandhistorian

All contributions received will be much appreciated and will support the continuation of this work.

All income received as contributions will be declared and does not act as payment for services or a contract of services between Highland Historian and the giver.

Sea-Faring Traditions

The following article was published in the January 2020 Spotlight Magazine – Inverness and District; Nairn and District; Forres and District; Buckie, Keith and District; Turriff, Huntly and District; Strathspey and District and Lewis and Harris editions.

This article is in response to a reader’s request for information about traditions in fishing communities. This is an area where we have plenty of very good collections of traditions thanks to the sharing of stories and information that was commonplace in port villages. As such, it is a vast area of cultural research, but here is a small insight:

Any job at sea has inherent dangers. Many of Scotland’s coastal communities have relied upon the sea for income, food and survival since the earliest human inhabitations. As a result of the danger and the reliance upon powerful natural forces, it is little wonder that traditions and superstitions have developed.

Fishing and survival from the sea was already firmly rooted before Christianity was introduced to Scotland by the Scot-Gaels of Ireland and so, a combination of complex belief systems can be found within fishing traditions.

Every area has its own traditions and some of these are repetitions or adjustments on traditions which exist worldwide, like the belief that crossing paths with certain beings on the way to a boat is a sign of ill fate at sea. Examples of this in Scotland are the belief that meeting a cat, raven, rabbits, dogs or hares; which may be otherworldly beings in disguise, is a sign of extreme danger.

Upon meeting one of these creatures, a seafarer would return home, cross the threshold, and begin the journey to the harbor again. An unlucky sailor would have to repeat the journey several times!

The same was practiced upon the meeting of a minister en-route to the boat in some communities. It was also deemed to be incredibly dangerous to mention a minister either by name or position whilst at sea. This is thought to derive from the ‘sea-gods’ being pre-Christian or un-Christian. There are many examples of sea-gods and beasts around the Scottish coast, all of which appear to have developed as a way to explain the forces of nature by those who experienced them at close-quarters.

Forget St. Columba’s freshwater Loch Ness Monster; saltwater beasts such as the Shoney of Lewis, Manann MacLir and the Muireartach should instill much greater fear! The first two were similar to Davy Jones and are said to hold drowned sailors in their ‘locker’. The Muireartach was a hag of the sea, ready to create storms to drown the sailors at any moment. These un-Christian and other older beasts may also go some way to explain the use of an aquatic beast by St. Columba to evoke respect from those he was trying to convert.

Mermaids were no different, with a belief at Buchan and Peterhead that these sea-beings would entice boats onto specific rocks. This is similar to beliefs in fishing villages around the Minch, where the Blue Men of the Minch, who float waste deep in water, would lure ships onto rocks unless those on board could complete the verses of poems they were reciting in the water.

There are, as you can imagine, many more examples. But what should we make of these traditions? Are they mere fanciful storytelling? Or are they a deeper part of our cultural memory and understanding which have some historical and cultural truth? As with so many examples in our folklore, the latter is certainly true.

On the most basic level, they attempt to explain things like quick weather changes. But on deeper levels, there are examples of eyewitness testimony to shipwrecks, skilled insights into weather systems and efforts to ensure that the longevity of a fishing community would understand the fragility of the world in which they were toiling to survive. The records we have of these things are fragile and, like all heritage, must be conserved and recorded for future generations wherever possible.

If you have a topic you’d like to find out more about, or have local traditions and stories to share, please e-mail andrew@highlandhistorian.com and visit highlandhistorian.com to book your bespoke guided tour!

Andrew Grant McKenzie MA (Hons) FSA Scot

www.highlandhistorian.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Highland Historian includes social media sites that offer my information and research free of charge for you to enjoy. I believe it is important to continue offering this.

It does, however, take time and resources to share this information. If you would like to support my work, you are able to offer a contribution of a value of your choosing via www.paypal.me/highlandhistorian

All contributions received will be much appreciated and will support the continuation of this work.

All income received as contributions will be declared and does not act as payment for services or a contract of services between Highland Historian and the giver.

The Glencoe Sheep Farming Empire

As well as being a place that defines the early modern development of the Highlands; Glencoe was a place that is closely connected with an industry which was instrumental in forcing the social change in the Highlands which is emblematic of the destruction of the old way of life. The story of sheep farming in Glencoe is significant evidence that change came as a result of Highland landowners as much as any external factors. In Glencoe, this led to the unsettlement of families who had existed in this glen for centuries.

But before any disruption of population, the Glencoe sheep farming empire was to be a ground-breaking business development. It took inspiration from examples outside the Highlands and developed to suit Highland estates and land as well as making the most of connections between land owners and the desperation of the period to improve at all costs. For a short while, until the disastrous consequences of an over-extended business and debts struck, Glencoe was the leader in Highland sheep farming and the remit of its business far outreached the Glencoe estate.

This entire episode of history comes out of the Jacobite period, which not only saw the massacre happen in the glen in 1692, but also saw the involvement of Glencoe men in the 1745 Jacobite rising and their involvement in MacDonnell of Keppoch’s Regiment at the Battle of Culloden.[1]

Alexander MacIain MacDonald, 14th Chief of Glencoe, lived between 1708 and 1750 and was Grandson to Alasdair Ruadh MacIain MacDonald killed during the massacre in 1692.[2] Alexander, 14th of Glencoe and his men were present at the battle of Sherrifmuir in 1715 and Prestonpans in 1745.[3] The chief did not join the Jacobite march into England, but was later in Doune, possibly recruiting while his men fought with MacDonell of Keppoch’s regiment at the battle of Falkirk in 1746. Alexander 14th of Glencoe was then ill at home and not present at the battle of Culloden where his men again bolstered Keppoch’s regiment. After Culloden, Alexander 14th of Glencoe surrendered with his men to Major-General Campbell of Mamore. He was later released in 1749 with the future of the Glencoe estate still to be decided upon.[4]

After this period, Glencoe was an estate which was certainly of interest to the authorities. At this time many estates were forfeited to the crown and annexed. Despite the events in 1692 and the MacDonald of Glencoe support for Jacobitism, including their involvement in Charles Edward Stuart’s army of 1745 and presence at Culloden in 1746, the Glencoe estate was not forfeited or annexed:

“The uncertainty which surrounded so many is well illustrated by the list proposed by Milton, Deskford and Lieutenant-Colonel David Watson, a friend of Cumberland’s, who was Quartermaster-General for Scotland. They included one that was not to be forfeited, Glencoe, and several that were later sold…”[5]

The forfeiture of other estates after the last Jacobite rising of 1745-46 may have, in turn, had a positive effect on Glencoe’s development. These estates enabled the government to raise annexed estates funds from rents and items from the estates which then paid for, amongst other things, roads. The road through Glencoe was one of these and was built with assistance from the funds before the 1770s. This road and the connection it gave the Glencoe estate to the increasingly connected network or roads in the Highlands would have undoubtedly assisted the Glencoe estate’s developments between 1787 and 1814.[6]

Alexander 14th of Glencoe’s son, John MacIain MacDonald, became 15th Chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe. He died in 1785 and his fourth child and only son, Alexander MacIain MacDonald of Glencoe became 16th Chief of the Glencoe MacDonalds and landowner of the Glencoe estate in 1787.[7], [8]

Having taken on the estate, Alexander almost immediately began taking on rentals and grazing agreements throughout the Highlands. According to Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, sheep farming was unusual behaviour at this time for a Highland landowner and he blamed Lowland landowners for “leading Highlanders astray”.[9]

This brave style of business development may have been influenced by the land usage patterns in the lowlands and possibly further afield, but what is immediately clear is that Highland based landowners, predominantly estate chieftains, were inflicting a business model on the land in their ownership which would not co-exist with populated glens and the working of land for food which would be better for grazing. The business model was profitable and had been proven elsewhere, but it was implemented by Highlanders who wished to make their countryside profitable and knew how.

This, to avoid confusion, was not the clearances. Not at this early stage. It is arguable that it directly led to them in areas like Glencoe, however. In the early stages, this was land owners looking to better their estates. It may even be said that initially their intentions towards people of the estates was fair and positive, but this was hard business and income generation was the driving force. Profitability relied on sound economic and business decisions. It inevitably led to clearance type evictions as debts grew and profitability dropped, but this was some time after initial developments.

This development towards clearance was not just as a result of the profitability of wool, but also the decline in wool prices against the developing cotton trade (1780-1815), which meant that Highland wool producers were forced to expand to maintain profitability, even without the income to pay for their expanding business. The risks of debt-inducing loans were off-set by a belief that economics would counterbalance the expenditure and, in the process, that ‘developments’ which were irrevocable, including the removal of tenants with long histories on the estates, would be worthy of the risk for a selection of the landowning gentry. As we will see, this did not include Alexander MacDonald of Glencoe, but the actions and decisions taken by him, regardless of his personal aims, led to the financial ruin and removal of Rankins and MacDonalds from the Glencoe estate due to economic pressures after 1814.

To understand the extent of Alexander MacDonald’s business development strategy, we must look at the land usage he left upon his death in 1814. It is clear that Alexander expanded to attempt to out-grow the declining wool prices, which was a strategy with inherent risk which Alexander left to the following generations of MacDonalds of Glencoe. At this junction in the Glencoe estate’s history, Alexander had an incredible list of geographically diverse land tenancies. These included, but aren’t limited to:

  • Glencreran in North Argyll from Campbell of Barcaldine,
  • Three leases at Brae Lochaber from MacKintosh of MacKintosh,
  • Glendessaray to the west of Loch Arkaig from Cameron of Locheil,
  • Kinlochnevis in Knoydart from MacDonnell of Glengarry,
  • The central part of Glenstrathfarrar from Fraser of Lovat,
  • Glenmarksie south of Loch Luichart from MacKenzie of Strathgarve,
  • Part of Fersit near Brae Lochaber from the Duke of Gordon,
  • Part of the forest of Monar in Ross-shire from MacKenzie of Fairburn. [10]

Other tenancies include the rental of Corpach from Cameron of Locheil, and the sub-tenancy of Auchteraw near Fort Augustus from Fraser of Lovat.

This list reads like a ‘who’s who’ of land owners in the Highlands during this period and is clear evidence of MacDonald of Glencoe’s shrewdness in business development and the estate’s power at the time. To put a finer point on this, in order to see all of these tenancies in one view, you would need to look at the Ordinance Survey 1:50,000 maps 25, 26, 33, 34, 40, 41 and 50 simultaneously.[11]

The timing of Alexander’s ownership of the Glencoe estate in 1787 and his apparently sudden interest in sheep farming was for good reason. In 1780 there had been a huge rise in wool prices and anyone who could access land tenancies or money to develop had an irresistible opportunity to build an empire.[12] This was exactly what Alexander MacDonald did.

Further evidence of Alexander MacDonald’s power to develop an empire can be found in the money that other landowners appeared so willing to give Alexander MacDonald to keep his business afloat and to keep the development growing. Alexander’s access to money during this period was nothing short of incredible. We must again look at the point of his death in December 1814 to see the true scale of his borrowing ability. At the point of his death, Alexander had outstanding loans of over £8,000. Today this is equivalent to approximately £512,000[13] and included:

  • £2,000 from MacPherson of Cluny,
  • £1,000 from Isabella MacLeod of Bernera,
  • £1,000 from Rev. Alexander Rose of Inverness,
  • £1,000 from George MacKenzie of Dundonnell,
  • £800 from his uncle, Captain Donald MacDonald,
  • £500 from Angus Kennedy of Leanachan.[14]

There were also various other loans recorded by the Glencoe Trustee Accounts after Alexander’s death. Apart from showing an incredible ability to gain money and land tenancies to build a business which grew to be an Empire at its height; we also begin to see the evidence of a man who was funding a business on money not owned by the business. This was and is a recipe for failure. This failure was also disastrous for the Glencoe estate and the people living there.

“Alexander MacDonald of Glencoe also misjudged the market badly. The very large sums of money which he had been able to borrow enabled him to expand well beyond the limit of prudence and he built a sheep farming empire which he was probably incapable of managing properly.”[15]

It is clear that Alexander MacDonald’s brave ‘have a go’ style of business development was flawed from the beginning. He had developed by pushing the boundaries and was unable to stop that style of management when he achieved success. He ignored the principles of working to supply a market and attempted to manage the market to his own agenda. In doing so he gained his business accruement with borrowed money which the business would never manage to pay off. In doing so he destroyed the Glencoe estate, but the true effect of this wasn’t to be felt until 1935 when the entire estate was auctioned in 40 separate lots.

Of the 40 lots, only 30 sold for a combined value of c.£17,800 after the entire 48,357 acre estate was withdrawn from sale at a bid of £28,000. The National Trust for Scotland, through Mr Arthur Russell, bought the smallest plot of land of just 23 acres for £1,350 – by far the highest price per acre in the sale.[16]

Managing an estate effectively and within your means is the first rule of land ownership. Paying attention to trends in the markets you are reliant on is fundamental to achieving secure management. The years leading up to the sale in 1935 are significant in charting the failure of Alexander MacDonald’s sheep farming empire and the demise of the historic Glencoe estate.

Alexander MacIain MacDonald of Glencoe died in December 1814 at the age of 53. It appears that a group of gentleman calling themselves the ‘Trustees of Glencoe’ took over the estate at this time due to the absence of Alexander’s sons. A Trustee minute of a meeting in January 1817 refers to the men being ‘men from Glencoe’ but, according to historian Iain S. MacDonald; “this slender evidence about their origins lacks corroboration”.[17] Left with Alexander’s debts, it was these Trustees who enforced a raised tenancy rate upon the MacDonald and Rankin families living in Glencoe and, in pursuing them for monies, ruined them.[18]

Alexander’s 5th child, Ewen McDonald, became 17thChief of the faltering estate and was the last to take an active role in the management of the estate. He was to be survived by his brother (Alexander’s 7th child) Ronald MacIain MacDonald, 18th chief, who died in New South Wales; who was survived by the last of the Glencoe MacDonalds, Alexander James John MacDonald, born on the Isle of Man and who died in Middlesex on 7th December 1889, the 19th and last MacDonald of Glencoe.[19]

Ewen, 17th of Glencoe and his brother Colin were serving in the East India Company during the time that the Trustees took charge of Glencoe. A record of the Trustee’s accounts records that £5,000 was sent by Ewen and Colin from India, but £6,500 of debt still remained in 1818. It appears that despite the attempts of the Glencoe brothers, the Trustees could not correct the debts accrued by Alexander and were set for failure from the outset:

“In 1821 a messenger called Stewart in Dingwall was instructed by John Cumming, a Writer there acting for the Glencoe Trustees, to poind stock at Monar. Fortunately for Stewart he was paid promptly by John Cumming, but by 1827 Cumming had still not been reimbursed by the Glencoe Trustees who disputed the amount of Stewart’s charges.”[20]

In 1828, after failure to correct the situation, the Trustees handed the estate to Ewen.[21] It would appear that, at this stage, the Glencoe-based sheep farming empire had all but failed and the historic estate was on a decline towards fragmentation from which it would never recover.

The development from 1828 to the breaking up and sale of the Glencoe estate in 1935 is evidence that the risks taken by Alexander MacIain MacDonald, 16th Chief of Glencoe, had been disastrous for the people and the estate. Despite being one of, if not the biggest sheep farming estate in the Highlands, economic pressures led to an inevitable demise due to the economic insecurity of the risks. It was as a result of the decline from 1814 that the estate was broken up and sold in 1935.

The sale catalogue of 1935 held at the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness also records the development of a deal with Dr Sutherland who bought a larger lot from the estate and after discussion with Mr Russell decided to donate his lot to the National Trust for Scotland.[22] The organisation now claim to own the Glencoe estate and took legal ownership of the name in the mid-2010s, which saw the organisation threaten a small outdoor clothing manufacturer with legal action for producing a ‘Glencoe’ jacket.[23] Other lots were sold for, generally, lower than value bids and were intended as farmland or sporting estates.[24] The Glencoe estate is still split and not owned by a single individual or organisation.

Andrew Grant McKenzie MA (Hons) FSA Scot

www.highlandhistorian.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Highland Historian includes social media sites that offer my information and research free of charge for you to enjoy. I believe it is important to continue offering this.

It does, however, take time and resources to share this information. If you would like to support my work, you are able to offer a contribution of a value of your choosing via www.paypal.me/highlandhistorian

All contributions received will be much appreciated and will support the continuation of this work.

All income received as contributions will be declared and does not act as payment for services or a contract of services between Highland Historian and the giver.

[1] Livingston, A., Aikman, C.W.H. and Hart B., (1984), No Quarter Given: The Muster Roll of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army, 1745-46, Glasgow, Neil Wilson, pp.152-154

[2] http://www.clanmacfarlanegenealogy.info/genealogy/TNGWebsite/getperson.php?personID=I24266&tree=CC

[3] Lee, H., (1920), History of the Clan Donald: The Families of MacDonald, McDonald and McDonnell, New York, R.L. Polk and Company, p.80

[4] Livingston, A., Aikman, C.W.H. and Hart B., (1984), p.152

[5] Smith, A.M., (1982), Jacobite Estates of the Forty-Five, Edinburgh, John Donald, p.21

[6] Ibid, p.177-178

[7] http://www.ancestryresearchservice.com/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I68&tree=cameron1

[8] Macdonald, I.S., (1997), Alexander MacDonald Esq of Glencoe: Insights into early Highland Sheep Farming, The Review of Scottish Culture, No. 10, pp.55-66

[9] Mackintosh, C.F. (1897), Antiquarian Notes: Second Series, Inverness, p.9

[10] Macdonald, I.S., (1997), pp.55-66

[11] Ibid, pp.55-66

[12] Ibid, p.56

[13] http://inflation.stephenmorley.org/

[14] Macdonald, I.S., (1997), p.57

[15] Ibid, p.62

[16] Fox and Sons, Walker, Fraser and Steele, (1935), Sale Catalogue, Glencoe Estate: Argyllshire and Perthshire, Highland Council Archives, HCA/D4/243, Inverness

[17] Macdonald, I.S., (1997), p.62

[18] Ibid, p.62

[19] http://www.ancestryresearchservice.com/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I982&tree=cameron1

[20] Macdonald, I.S., (2000), Some Highland Lawyers and Their Clients, The Review of Scottish Culture, No. 12, pp.85-92

[21] Macdonald, I.S., (1997), pp.62-66

[22] Fox and Sons, Walker, Fraser and Steele, (1935), HCA/D4/243

[23] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2017/08/nts_threaten_outdoor_firm_over_glencoe_name_copyright-71219

[24] Fox and Sons, Walker, Fraser and Steele, (1935), HCA/D4/243

Warming by the Hearth’s Fire

The following article was published in the December 2019 Spotlight Magazine – Inverness and District; Nairn and District; Forres and District; Buckie, Keith and District; Turriff, Huntly and District; and Strathspey and District editions.

As we enter the colder months in the North of Scotland, many of us will be considering the use of fire to warm our homes if we have a clean lum and a good stove.

Historically, the hearth, or the place the fire sits, is much more than just a useful heating mechanism. To our ancestors, the hearth was a giver of light; a social gathering point for sharing stories, traditions, music; and staving off the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It was the focal point of strong cultural communities in the winter time and Hugh Cheape describes the hearth as being associated with the true West Coast and Hebridean cèilidh.

Alexander Fenton observed that the open grate hearths were more traditional in Highland and North East homes, rather than the European-style wood stoves that are now becoming popular. These open fireplaces are perhaps a close relative of the early central floor fires which we can only guess must have been used since prehistoric periods.

It is difficult to date the earliest use of fire within the home, but ancestors living in caves, crannogs and more recent blackhouses all appear to have had a central fire, but without a chimney to allow the smoke to be removed cleanly. Instead, in crannogs and blackhouses, smoke would dissipate through the roof structures, or through a small central hole which would help create a draw of air.

In castles too, a central fire would have been a usual sight in the earliest wood and stone fortifications. The use of decorative hearths and chimneypieces developed in the early 1600s, according to Ian Gow, which is why many of the surviving castles and ruins usually have obvious hearth structures after 17th century additions. Designs were brought from Europe by various Royals and copied throughout the homes of the Scottish gentry, with personal emblems added for variation.

In most Scottish homes, only one fire would be in regular use, regardless of the number of rooms or hearths. This is perhaps a link with the old cottage dwellings. Many cottages were a longer structure than the romantic view of the Scottish blackhouse – usually a smaller structure dating from the 1800s. This is because the original houses would be used to house animals during winter at one end of the house, with the fire in the middle.

Changes occurred when the ‘byre’ section was closed off from the main living area, with a hearth built into the central wall. Many of the byre sections were later dismantled, like the cottage at Culloden battlefield, or not built on later croft structures like those of the 1800s in Caithness.

As Gary West notes, the hearth was also an intriguing part of custom and superstition in the Highlands. After Culloden, the Gaelic poet John Roy Stuart wrote a curse on Cumberland:

“May your hearth be bare,
No wife, son or brother there,
Without Clarsach music, without candle light.”

The fact that Cumberland died unmarried, with no legitimate heir and predeceased by his brothers is seen as testament to Stuart’s curse. For Stuart, the hearth was clearly a very central family symbol to be attacked and included in this deeply personal curse.

If you don’t own a stove or fireplace, see if you can find one in a friend or relative’s house, a bar, or a hotel this winter. It will be a good place to meet people and discover common interests. If you’re lucky, one of them might also be a good musician…

If you have a topic you’d like to find out more about, or have local traditions and stories to share, please e-mail andrew@highlandhistorian.com and visit highlandhistorian.com to book your bespoke guided tour!

Andrew Grant McKenzie MA (Hons) FSA Scot

www.highlandhistorian.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Highland Historian includes social media sites that offer my information and research free of charge for you to enjoy. I believe it is important to continue offering this.

It does, however, take time and resources to share this information. If you would like to support my work, you are able to offer a contribution of a value of your choosing via www.paypal.me/highlandhistorian

All contributions received will be much appreciated and will support the continuation of this work.

All income received as contributions will be declared and does not act as payment for services or a contract of services between Highland Historian and the giver.

Philip Rankin – RAF Pilot and the ‘Godfather of Scottish Skiing’

As we approach winter in the Highlands, with temperatures dropping below zero centigrade once more and the nights drawing in; it’s a good time to think about the beginnings of the Scottish Ski tourism industry which, fingers crossed, will see a better year than the last few! If you’d like to book me for your transport to and from ski resorts or the mountains this winter, just get in touch by emailing andrew@highlandhistorian.com!

Philip Rankin was born on 16th April 1917 and his activities in the 1950s can be proclaimed as the beginning of the Scottish ski industry. A contemporary and friend of Hamish MacInnes, the creativity and imagination of this pair in Glencoe is a huge part of why the glen is renowned worldwide for its outdoor activities. Their creativity was part of what led to the drive of the Scottish Ski Club, Creagh Dhu Climbing Club and Scottish Mountaineering Club to regularly visit Glencoe whilst mountaineering, climbing and skiing as pastimes in Scotland were all in their infancy. As his nickname dictates, Philip Rankin became the ‘Godfather of Scottish skiing’ as we know it today.

But in order to get to that point, Rankin had an adventurous and dangerous experience of the Second World War which he barely survived. Rankin flew Spitfires and Mosquitos for the Royal Air Force and was based in Oxfordshire, Cairo, Calcutta and Rhodesia. In his own words, he described himself as;

“… the most expensive and useless pilot in the RAF… I always arrived just after the battle was finished or left before it started. It wasn’t until 1945 (1944 – ed.) that I first scratched the paint on anything.”

The incident he referenced occurred in late 1944 whilst flying an RAF Mosquito on a photographic reconnaissance mission over the Nazi-held island of Walcheren in the Netherlands. It was certainly a little bit more catastrophic than “scratching the paint” as Rankin’s plane was riddled by anti-aircraft guns. Running out of power, Rankin’s plane began to dip into the English Channel after he had nursed it away from danger. This scenario, for most, would have been deadly.

As luck would have it, an air-sea rescue crew had spotted the Mosquito’s trail of smoke and had followed it towards the point it entered the water. Shortly after being flung through the plane’s canopy, Rankin was plucked from the ocean and was believed to be paralysed. He eventually ended up being treated at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.

It was at this point that the encouragement which subsequently led to the invention of the Scottish ski industry occurred. Rankin had a Canadian doctor whose remarkable advice to Rankin for the most effective form of physiotherapy was to walk up snow slopes, preferably on snowshoes or on skis with skins! This bizarre advice must have been rooted in Rankin’s love of the mountains and skiing, but the encouragement came with a stern warning not to use the skis to go downhill – advice which it appears Rankin ignored. Although little is written about his recovery, it appears that Rankin was incredibly lucky and recovered remarkably well.

As with many people’s experience of life after a period of excitement, Rankin found himself bored and searching for a way out of a dull existence after the war. By his own admission:

“I went from quite an exciting life to reverting to my destiny, alleged, of being a partner in a small Glasgow light engineering firm, which I found extremely boring. I went skiing, I think, to get away from the tedium…”

It was during these forays to the mountains that Rankin started to consider possible sites for ski runs similar to the permanent resorts which were already well established in the Alps. Scotland had nothing like this and despite a few attempts at uplift, including motor vehicle engines being used to run removable rope tows and a caterpillar vehicle known as ‘The Weasel’ (which, according to some sources was a fellow survivor of the battle of Walcheren!) as well as attempts by the Scottish Ski Club and inventive skiers like Donnaie Mackenzie and William Blackwood on Ben Lawers and Cairngorm; there was no concerted effort or group of activists working together until Rankin made his successful attempt to build a permanent ski uplift in Scotland.

It was through Rankin’s role as Editor of the Scottish Ski Club Journal that, in 1952, he enlightened members to his consideration of Meall a Bhuiridh to the east of Glencoe as a focus for efforts. This may have surprised many of his readers as there had been such a discussion and enthusiasm for Ben Lawers and Cairngorm. Rankin’s impassioned articles often stirred support for his ideas and he quickly gained a pivotal position in the Club. Of the on-going discussions about the creation of resorts, he wrote:

“Scottish skiing is in that awkward stage between pigtails and perms, when lemonade is no longer good enough and our legs cannot stand cocktails.”

Rather than the much-discussed Cairngorm and Ben Lawers, for Rankin, Meall a Bhuiridh was ideal and offered the slope, the north facing aspect and the access from Glasgow on the A82 that lit up his imagination. Showing an understanding of the great limiting factor which still causes problems for today’s Scottish ski resort owners, in the 1952/3 edition of the Scottish Ski Club Journal, Rankin wrote:

“It has an ample corrie deeply scored with ravines, which collect such a mass of snow as to be virtually impervious to even weeks of thaw.”

He may also have been aware that members of the Glasgow-based Creagh Dhu Climbing Club, otherwise known as the ‘Mafia of Glencoe’ due to their infamous activities, had been skiing there since 1938. It seems that this article and Rankin’s enthusiasm were enough to put an end to the Scottish Ski Club’s aims of opening a ski resort on Ben Lawers and turned their collective attention to Glencoe.

Further support came from the owner of the Blackmount Estate, Philip Fleming and, after Rankin had quit his job, some of the yard staff from the engineering firm who were also members of the Creagh Dhu, offered to help Rankin achieve his dream. Between 1953 and 1956 work began on the T bar uplifts and progress was dependent on Rankin’s ability to muster and haggle for metal materials from yards in Glasgow and the major pieces of metal work took at least 4 people to lift. The project was reported to have cost around £5,000. In an interview in 2013, Rankin named Jack Williamson, Jimmy Hamilton and Bill Smith as key members of the original work party.

By 1956 the tow was working and opened to the public before the realisation that there was the requirement for a lower chairlift to bring skiers up from the car park, with the lower T bar’s base being at an altitude of c.2350ft. This was achieved in 1959 when the access chair lift was completed. In remembering Rankin after his death, Alan Forbes of the Scottish Ski Club wrote:

“A few years later the access chair broke down and all the skiers had to climb to the plateau and on the descent a prominent Argyllshire landowner shouted to Philip that it was like the old days and Philip replied that It had discouraged the riff-raff and he thought he might leave it off for a week or two!”

In 1960 the resort opened fully under the company ‘White Corries Ltd.’ which was set up privately by Rankin. Rankin and his wife Goodrun ran the Glencoe ski resort successfully from 1960 until 1992 when he retired. His last ski run on the mountain was in 2000 as an octogenarian.  In an interview with journalist Roger Cox, Rankin remembered this run and gave an indication of his love of the higher slopes where the original uplift was built:

“It was a very good one and I remember I took a tremendous pearler in the process… Oh, I don’t bother about the lower slopes, the top of that mountain – that’s the real thing.”

To mark Rankin’s achievements and impact on Scottish skiing he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by Snowsport Scotland in November 2016 as well as having a green run opened in his honour on Beinn a Bhuiridh called ‘Rankin’s Return’. Philip Rankin died aged 99 years and 11 months in March 2017. The fact that the original uplift created by Rankin’s enthusiastic and hands-on approach is still in operation today, over 60 years since its conception, is a remarkable achievement and is evidence of his accuracy and knowledge of how ideal the position was for both the uplift and the ski run on Beinn a Bhuiridh.

Andrew Grant McKenzie MA (Hons) FSA Scot

www.highlandhistorian.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Highland Historian includes social media sites that offer my information and research free of charge for you to enjoy. I believe it is important to continue offering this.

It does, however, take time and resources to share this information. If you would like to support my work, you are able to offer a contribution of a value of your choosing via www.paypal.me/highlandhistorian

All contributions received will be much appreciated and will support the continuation of this work.

All income received as contributions will be declared and does not act as payment for services or a contract of services between Highland Historian and the giver.

The Laird’s Land Rover

The following article was published in the November 2019 Spotlight Magazine – Inverness and District; Nairn and District; Forres and District; Buckie, Keith and District; Turriff, Huntly and District; and Strathspey and District editions.

Having spent a lot of this summer on the road with guests, I thought I would write a short piece on the vehicle I do the majority of my touring in: The Land Rover Defender.

But this short history is not really about its development and manufacture by the Rover Car Company, Leyland Motor Corporation, British Leyland, Land Rover Ltd., BMW, Ford Motors, or any of those companies’ trials and tribulations. Instead, we’re looking at the firm origins of the Land Rover in the Gàidhealtachd.

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The island of Islay is where the Land Rover name originated and, despite that being irrefutable, the story is rarely told. Land Rover did comment on it in a 2015 article and other commentary on the origins has followed, but rarely do they talk about the individual responsible for the name.

Unfortunately for him, the recognition did not include the financial rewards one might have expected for naming the brand which, for 68 years between 1948 and 2016, continually produced the Series and Defender models which were developed on Islay.

In 1930, Spencer Wilks’ enthusiasm for car design was matched by his younger brother Maurice and they were both appointed to the board of the developing Rover Car Company. Spencer then purchased the Laggan Estate on Islay after becoming a Managing Director of Rover in 1933. After the end of World War II, Spencer began working with Rover car parts, taking inspiration from American and British military overland vehicles.

As a result of this creative work, Spencer and Maurice led the company towards the aim of producing a commercial vehicle that could be used for agricultural purposes as well as military purposes on all terrains. In 1947, Spencer took several prototype vehicles to Islay to put them through rigorous testing, helped by his gamekeeper.

Spencer’s witty gamekeeper was named Ian Fraser and during the prototype testing, he would watch the Laird driving his vehicles on the hills and in the bogs whilst he attempted to do his work on the island and lead shooting parties. He was known to make remarks such as; “there’s the Laird in his land-Rover” as Spencer passed, more than likely spoiling the likelihood of a successful stalk. As the Wilks brothers’ company was already named Rover, this quip was clearly a comment on the vehicle’s intended use on rough land rather than road and the name caught favour with Spencer.

In 1948 the first Series model Land Rovers were produced (the forerunner of the Defender). Since then, many pre-production models were handed over to Ian Fraser and his son Duncan on Islay for rough-testing until Wilks’ death in 1971!

Many Defender models are still on the roads throughout Scotland and my guests and I regularly acknowledge them with a raised hand, as is the custom for Defender drivers; but if you see the Highland Historian Land Rover, feel free to give me a wave in a salute to Ian Fraser, the Islay gamekeeper.

If you have a topic you’d like to find out more about, or have local traditions and stories to share, please e-mail andrew@highlandhistorian.com and visit highlandhistorian.com to book your bespoke guided tour!

Andrew Grant McKenzie MA (Hons) FSA Scot

highlandhistorian.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Highland Historian includes social media sites that offer my information and research free of charge for you to enjoy. I believe it is important to continue offering this.

It does, however, take time and resources to share this information. If you would like to support my work, you are able to offer a contribution of a value of your choosing via www.paypal.me/highlandhistorian

All contributions received will be much appreciated and will support the continuation of this work.

All income received as contributions will be declared and does not act as payment for services or a contract of services between Highland Historian and the giver.