The ‘natives’ are coming home
‘ALL ROADS lead to Rome’ is the modern reading of a medieval proverb meaning that many routes can lead to a given result. Later this year all roads lead to Mull.
The Macleans are coming! Between June 20 and 25, around 500 clansmen will make their way to Mull to take part in the International Gathering of the Clan Maclean Association to celebrate its 125th anniversary. This will be the seventh great gathering since 1916 when Sir Fitzroy Maclean, the 26th chief, completed the restoration of Duart Castle.
Attendees are coming from all around the world. Previously, the chiefs have welcomed people to their ancestral home from as far north as Norway and Sweden, and Tasmania in the south. This year Sir Lachlan and Lady Maclean of Duart and Morvern will also meet clansfolk from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South America and Europe, as well as others from around the United Kingdom, including Mull and Morvern.
This year particularly the association wants to highlight the costly restoration work which has been going on at Duart for the past few seasons to ensure that it remains wind and waterproof for the next 125 years. During the weeklong celebrations, visitors will be able to meet the project architect and craftsmen to see and hear how this difficult work is being achieved on one of the most windswept sites in Scotland. They will also be able to tour the castle and get up close and personal with their chief and his chieflings to help raise £ 500,000 needed to complete the £1.2 million restoration costs.
Other events for the week will include receptions, an evening talk and exhibition of items from the MacDougall Collection at Dunollie, Oban; visits to Iona, Glengorm Castle and Tiree; convivial whisky tasting, the chief’s ceilidh, a ball, a concert, a clan congress and a gathering to which visitors and locals are encouraged to attend. A service in the Tobermory parish church will bring to a close what will be a memorable occasion.
On June 21, the date, incidentally, when the first Victoria Cross was won in the Crimean War and when Lord Mountbatten resigned as Viceroy of India, 70 lucky Macleans are going to Morvern. They were due to sail over the Sound from Tobermory and disembark on the old stone pier at Drimnin, which was built by some of their ancestors before they were shovelled off to the colonies at the time of the Clearances.
Alas, tidal and other constraints have dictated otherwise and they are having to take the longer sea route past Killundine and the Castle of the Dogs, another of their ancestral homes, to Loch Aline. Here they will be guaranteed a friendly reception at the popular community pontoons beside the famous silica sand mine and a short distance away from Kinlochaline Cas- tle, home to one of their 17th century chiefs.
Passing the ancient cemetery of Kiel, where many of their forebears lie under ornamental grave slabs, the party will follow the winding coastal route to Drimnin Estate to be entertained at the end of it by Mr and Mrs Derek Lewis and their family who purchased the property in 2002.
Drimnin formed part of the ancient Maclean territory. Here, in the 17th century, they built a small castle on a knoll a few yards above the sea guarding the entrance to the Inner Hebrides. The castle was demolished in 1838 by Sir Charles Gordon to make way for St Columba’s, a Roman Catholic chapel, to which the faithful on Mull and the adjacent mainland were summoned to mass by bell and the sight of a flag flying from a staff on its tower.
At Drimnin, the visitors will have an opportunity to lay a wreath at a cairn near the old stone jetty. It was built a decade or so ago by the Clan Maclean Association in memory of Charles Maclean of Drimnin who died leading the clan at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746, in the absence of their chief.
Later in the day the party will make their way to Cnoc Michael (Gaelic - Michael’s Hillock) near Drimnin House, to remember Allan Maclean of Drimnin, an officer in the Jacobite Army who also fought at Culloden. Allan, who died in 1792, was such a popular figure that the year in which he passed away was a chronological landmark in the district. Those who came into the world in 1792 were said to have been born in the year Allan of Drimnin died.
Then it is into Drimnin House for lunch followed by a concert in the restored chapel and a tour of the recently completed family distillery. Nine new local jobs have been created here to produce 100,000 litres of single malt whisky a year using renewable energy.
The name of the Drimnin whisky has not been announced yet. I once suggested ‘Satan’s Chloroform’, which, unsurprisingly, didn’t go down too well, but I wonder if one of two old Maclean slogans – ‘Another for Hector’ or ‘Death or Life’ – might be appropriate.
Drimnin House and the site of the new distillery to the left.