The ‘na­tives’ are com­ing home


The Oban Times - - NEWS - Iain Thorn­ber iain.thorn­ber@bt­in­ter­

‘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 week-long 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 Cas­tle, 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 de­mol- ished 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.

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