The Crofter’s champion
HISTORY, they say, has a habit of repeating itself, which is why I took more than a passing interest in what our new Highland MSP Donald Cameron had to say about crofting and crofting law in The Oban Times a few weeks ago.
If there is anyone living in the Highlands and Islands who has the background to offer an opinion on crofting in the Scottish Parliament since MSP John Farquhar Munro (1934-2014) passed away, Mr Cameron from Lochaber, must rate high in the list.
Not only is he a lawyer who has been involved in rural issues for many years, he is also the great grandson of Donald Walter Cameron of Lochiel (1876-1951) MP for Inverness-shire, a native Gaelic speaker and an active member of The Napier Commission whose deliberations led to the first Crofter’s Act of 1886.
Donald Cameron MP, travelled the length and breadth of the Highlands and Islands gathering evidence from cotters, crofters, factors, landowners, ministers and priests about rents, living conditions, leases, fairness and security of tenure. Land-leaguers who wanted the right to buy their land, thought the Act didn’t go far enough.
That may have been so, nonetheless, the meticulous evidence collected by Lochiel and his fellow commissioners brought the plight of the crofters to a wider audience and provided a solid foundation on which future legislation has been based.
Many of MP Donald Cameron’s estate and personal papers can be accessed at the Lochaber Archive Centre, in the West Highland College, Fort William.
Film Guild memories
YEARS ago, before television and electricity came to the area, little dark blue vans with ‘Highlands and Islands Film Guild’ written across their sides, were a welcome sight in many far-flung communities.
Established in 1946, the guild showed popular films, newsreels, cartoons and public information titles and were often the social highlight of the month. The fleet of vans with their own self- contained petrol generators, film-projectors, speakers and screens would arrive outside village halls around noon for the day’s showing. In the afternoon children and teachers would attend educational films followed by the evening’s entertainment.
Digital technology and not been invented so every reel had to be spooled- on by hand, changed and rewound at the end. Drivers doubled up as projectionists and were often great characters.
The late Victor Gall, who covered Morvern, Sunart and Ardnamurchan, was a well-known and popular figure with everyone.
Once the main film was set in motion, Vic, as he was affectionately called, would often retire to the local hostelry but not before a ‘runner’ was found in the audience and given half a crown to let him know if the generator had run out of fuel or the film had jumped the gate and was unwinding on the hall floor.
The National Anthem was always played at the end of each show which meant the audience remained seated until the ‘big’ film was rewound. When it came on everyone stood to attention and waited until it had finished before bolting for the door. People were much more patriotic in those days. On one occasion, in the old Lochaline village hall, a short film of the Trooping of the Colour provided the anthem. For whatever reason it was spooled on back to front and the wrong way up so not only were the words and music playing in reverse, the Queen and her horse were upside down.
Researchers at the universities of Glasgow and Stirling are looking for first-hand memories of life in remote communities and the part the Film Guild played in providing public entertainment there.
Anyone with stories or tales of the Film Guild are being asked to contact Dr Ian Goode by calling 0141 330 6500, email: email@example.com, or Ealasaid Munroby emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0141 330 6944. More details about the project can be found at email@example.com.
Save painting for Scotland
IT IS disappointing to discover that after many years of using it to promote their business, Diageo, the spirits giant, is putting Landseer’s painting, The Monarch
of the Glen, on the international market because it no longer fits with their brands.
This world famous work is synonymous with Scotland and the whisky trade – it should not be sold by auction.
If all whisky lovers threatened to stop drinking the stuff for a day in protest, it might help.
If Diageo can’t or won’t gift the painting to a Scottish art gallery without cost, Fiona Hyslop, Holyrood’s cabinet secretary for culture and the arts, should stop the sale and launch a public appeal to save it for the nation. If Landseer had been a Scotsman and painted William Wallace hurling abuse at the English on the field of Bannockburn, perhaps the situation might have been different. Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) was well known for his paintings of animals, particularly horses, dogs and stags. After The Monarch of the
Glen, his best known works are the lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square. Landseer spent many days studying deer in the Highlands. He often stayed at Glenquoich in West Inverness-shire where he used its hills as a backdrop in this king of paintings.
The Monarch of the Glen by Sir Edwin Landseer.