October 9th, 1925 – August 10th, 2015
The large congregation who gathered at Appin Parish Church to pay their respects and to celebrate Lachie’s long life was testimony to the special place he had in the Appin community. He was a huge character who lived life his way as a family man, war veteran, crofter, bee-keeper, gardener, motor- cyclist, neighbour and friend.
Lachlan Neil Black was born on October 9, 1925 in Ardtun, Bunessan, Mull. Fittingly, the first hymn at this funeral was Morning Has Broken, sung to the tune, Bunessan. He was brought up by his granny and aunts and moved to Appin when he was very young as his mother, Marjorie – known as Maisie – worked as a housekeeper in various estates across Argyll.
Lachie attended school in Duror and Appin, where he met his future wife, Margaret Aird who, at the time, teased him endlessly – so much so, that he avoided her as much as he could!
He enlisted in the Royal Engineers in 1943 aged 17, training initially at the Bridge of Don barracks in Aberdeen and subsequently at various places around the country. He was then ordered to Plymouth where he joined the Ardmore - an Irish supply vessel deployed to land essential supplies at Dieppe in France to support the first wave of allied troops at the D-Day landings.
After the war, his service continued with the British military mission in Greece at Salonika and Piraeus, where he spent his 21st birthday. His granny sent him a cooked chicken and clootie dumpling which he added to the rum and ouzo he had acquired at the docks, allowing a true Appin celebration, only interrupted when several people started projectile vomiting! Granny’s good intentions had not allowed for international borders and hotter climates.
Lachie then went on to the Middle East, learning to swim in the Suez Canal, before returning to Britain to demob. He came back to Appin and worked as a cattleman on the Fasnacloich Estate. There his relationship with Margaret blossomed and the couple were married on March 16, 1955 by the Rev Kenneth MacMillan. Margaret became the Fasnacloich post mistress while Lachie moved from the estate to driving lorries at the sawmill. He then worked at the Alginate factory at Barcaldine where he stayed until he retired.
Lachie and Margaret had six children before moving to Croft 5, Achosrigan, Appin, living in two static caravans. Margaret returned to nursing, while Lachie used his skills to build the family home at Burnside – essentially two prefabs joined together. Lachie drove them down from Ballachulish on a tractor and trailer with Margaret leading the way in a car as the tractor had no lights. Their new home became a very welcoming place where many a ceilidh took place with Margaret on the piano and Lachie yodelling beside her as songs and the odd libation were enjoyed. Family holidays were in a wee caravan touring the length and breadth of Britain.
Once Lachie retired from the factory and Margaret from Glencoe Hospital, they enjoyed travelling, visiting daughter Christine in Eastbourne and Lachie’s cousin in Melbourne, Australia, as well as a memorable holiday in North Africa where Lachie rode a camel. But most of all they enjoyed the bonhomie of home surrounded by family and friends, especially at the Appin Show and Hogmanay.
Margaret’s health began to decline and so a new chapter in Lachie’s life opened as he became her devoted carer. He nursed her for several years before she died at Burnside with Lachie beside her.
After her death, Lachie was quite lonely, but kept going – enjoying his morning porridge, his daily drive down to the village shop and blethering with neighbours and friends, preferably in his native Gaelic. He was a central member of the weekly lunch club at Port Appin village hall, enjoying the company and endless yarns told (and retold).
There are many stories of Lachie, too numerous to recount here, involving bulls and fires and moons, but one especially illustrates his quick wit. His third child was about to be born at home by candlelight, before they had electricity. All was going well until Nurse Harvey realised there was also an undiagnosed twin which she proceeded to deliver safely causing Lachie to cry out: ‘Put the candles out – the light is attracting them!’ The twin was named Iain Harvey Black.
Lachie lived a full life with many ups and some downs especially with the deaths of his youngest son, Hugh, in childhood and his grandson, Fraser, and, of course, the loss of Margaret.
A very human man, he leaves a big gap in many lives and the Appin community where we will remember him laughing and dancing in the shop a few hours before he slipped peacefully away at home, just days before the Appin Show.
He leaves behind his children, Christine, Mairi, Neil, Iain, Robert and Elise, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Lachie, we will miss you. Iain D. McNicol. SADLY MISSED: Lachie Black with his