Glencoe and North Lorne Museum, A Report by Barbara Fairweather.

Since I last wrote a short account of the Glencoe Museum in the Clan Donald Magazine No5 (1971) we have grown a great deal. While this is not a Clan Museum, it does cover Clan Territory and the surrounding areas which have Clan associations. First of all I should like to thank the Clan Donald members who have supported and helped the Museum. Their encouragement over the years has been great aid to us both materially and otherwise.

I was asked to write this article by Donald J. Macdonald of Castleton last summer when he visited me with his wife; and over lunch I told them some of the amusing tales of my time in the Museum. “Write an article about them,” said Donald; and here they are.

You must realise we get a very mixed lot of visitors, and while many of them are well informed and interested, and some have at least a general idea of history, some few are woefully ignorant. Their words are remembered when those of the majority are forgotten. One morning I heard two women talking, and one turned to the other and announced, “You know this is where Bonnie Bobby Burns wrote his letters to Flora Macdonald”. Another blamed Burns for the tragedy of the clearances and evictions. Previously I had had a very gushing lady who said she just doted on Scottish history. She came hack very soon and asked “You have a lot of stuff connected with the MacDonalds. Did they have anything to do with this part of the country?”. This really shook me!

One man shook me even more. He told me he understood about the coins being given at Communion, but asked “What was Communion?” This was explained on a card next to the exhibits.

Children are fun and often very intelligent with their questions. One small girl said it was dreadful the way the doll’s house was so overcrowded with people and there were not enough beds. I explained they were having a party that day and she would see that there were jellies and ice-cream laid out on the tables. But she said it had been just the same the week before. So I had to temporise and say there were extra beds in the attic.

Another asked how Sleeping Beauty had managed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel as there did not seem to be anything sharp on it. I had to admit it seemed a very unlikely happening, and was compelled to make research. I found some older models did in fact have pins or needles capable of pricking the unfortunate Beauty.

In the summer of 1973 we were visited by a small vole. He was quite fearless and came in and out just as he pleased. Women fled at his approach, but small boys loved him and said it was the best Museum they had ever visited. One small boy lay on the floor for an hour or more watching the vole while he shot in and out of a space under one of the showcases. He returned the next year and asked where the vole had gone. I had to explain the vole was just a visitor like him.

Local small children are most helpful and interested in everything. My youngest assistant curator is aged 5½. She gets very cross when people drop bits and pieces on the floor, helps count the money, record the number of visitors, and makes periodic tours around the outside to see that all is well.

Some visitors take a delight in changing the labels from one exhibit to another with startling results and strange questions. One of them pointed to a gannet and announced that it must be a special Glencoe eagle. Some of these questions make me go round and see how many labels have been changed. I am told other museums suffer in the same way.

On the other hand we have many charming and knowledgeable folk from whom we continue to learn much. Many of them from overseas have their roots in the Glen three or four generations ago. Others have lent me copies of family trees and details of emigration, and I have made many fast friends during my time in the Museum. When I can, I ask some of them to visit Invercoe House which is on or near the site of the Chief’s old home.

Barbara Fairweather
Invercoe House, Glencoe.