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The Oban Times - - DISTRICTS - Iain Thorn­ber iain.thorn­ber@bt­in­ter­net.com

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: ian.goode@glas­gow.ac.uk, or Eala­said Mun­roby email­ing: eala­said.munro@glas­gow.ac.uk, or call 0141 330 6944. More de­tails about the project can be found at hi­filmguild@gla.ac.uk.

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.

Pho­to­graph: Di­a­geo.

The Monarch of the Glen by Sir Ed­win Land­seer.

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