The Clan Donald Centre, Skye by Rob McDonald Parker, International Director

Can you imagine the thoughts that were going through the minds of the clansmen and women, who gathered together in Edinburgh in 1891 for the purpose of setting up a Clan Donald Society? Their goal must have been to form an organisation that would allow all of those with Clan Donald connections an opportunity to meet on a regular basis and at the same time, protect and preserve our clan traditions. In celebrating the centenary of this great event, we must salute all of the dedicated clansmen and women, who, over the years, have worked hard to keep the Edinburgh Society alive and buoyant and look back at some of their achievements over the period.

In 1971, due to the inspiration of the then Edinburgh Clan Donald Society President, Donald J. Macdonald of Castleton, the Clan Donald Lands Trust was formed in an effort to purchase the last remaining remnants of the once vast clan lands. An appeal was made throughout the world and enough money was raised to purchase 15,000 acres of land in Sleat, Isle of Skye. There, the trustees were empowered to establish a focal point for Clan Donald history and activity, worldwide. In 1976, the Clan Donald Centre first opened it’s gates to the visiting public and since that memorable day, almost half a million visitors have enjoyed a pleasant day, either learning in our museum exhibition, or strolling the restored gardens of Armadale. Since 1971, the trust has increased its land holdings to 20,000 acres and is considered one of the major employers on the Isle of Skye. The ruined stables were restored in 1984 at a cost of £1,000,000 and it now serves as the visitor arrival point. In 1989, six self-catering cottages were built and were awarded the Scottish Tourist Board’s highest standard rating. Later that year, the trust acquired Armadale House, which sat in the middle of the Centre grounds and which had been the home of the late Dowager Lady Macdonald. The house was converted to become the home for our collection of books, papers and maps, valued at over £600,000. Today, we can boast of having the best collection of Highland study material in the Western Highlands. All of this from an inspired idea from the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh.

In 1991, the Clan Donald Centre is well and truly on the map, thanks to the Board of Trustees and the leadership and tremendous financial support given by Mr and Mrs Ellice McDonald Jr. and the Glencoe Foundation Inc. and in a smaller way, the support we are able to attract from the many Government grant making organisations and the Clan Donald Foundation in USA.

In 1971, the officers of the Edinburgh Clan Donald Society could have had no ideathat the Clan Donald Centre would become the success that it has, but there is no question that it was their enthusiasm and dedication that inspired everyone involved to strive to achieve the objectives laid out in the trust deed. There is however much work to do yet on Skye and an urgent need for more Clan Society involvement.

The Edinburgh Society for so many years, was the cornerstone of the Clan Donald movement worldwide. They alone, kept alive the name of Clan Donald. by corresponding with many clansmen throughout the world, who were seeking information on the Clan or their ancestry. The Clan organisations that we have today in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium and on Skye owe a great deal to the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh for helping them to get started.

So to all of the clansmen and women in Edinburgh, we say thank you for a very important and valuable one hundred years of hard work and for keeping the spirit of Clan Donald alive, through some difficult times. None of us will be around in 2091 to salute the Bicentenary, but if as much is achieved in the next one hundred years as has been in the past, Clan Donald will still be in it’s rightful place as the strongest of all the Highland clans.

Congratulations in reaching your centenary year and may those who follow strive to match your accomplishments.