The Glencoe and North Lorn Museum by Barbara Fairweather FSA Scot

I have pleasure in writing again about the Museum in Glencoe for the Clan Magazine. Since the last issue the Museum has grown. Thanks to the Glencoe Foundation Trust we have added a wooden building as a lean-to at the back of the main cottage. Here we display the large items belonging to the blacksmith, his fire and bellows and anvil, along with his smaller tools. At the other end of the building we show the large items connected with laundry, such as the mangle and early washing machine, hand operated. Smaller items like irons, wash tubs and other washday bygones are there too. We were particularly glad to get the mangle away from the public for though we wired it for safety some visitors would try to get the rollers to work by loosening the wire and we feared for small fingers. All these items are large and took up a great deal of room in our main building, but housed together make a very good show.

The ploughs and harrows have now been displayed on a concrete platform where they can stand free, except that I am sorry to say all have had to be padlocked. The watling fence has been continued the whole way round the back and this gives a finish.

Inside the main cottage we have given ourselves and our visitors more space by having hanging cases on the wall. In 1979 we had a year of theft when we lost a number of exhibits so these cases hung on the wall besides giving space also give security. The layout of exhibits too has been changed. All the most valuable exhibits are now housed in the main building for greater security. Besides this, new locks etc. have been added. In 1980 we were lucky not to lose any exhibits, though we did have several pieces slightly damaged by visitors trying to use them, such as the churns. It seems that we will need to make it impossible for any exhibits to be handled.

Many visitors have MacDonald connections and it is of great interest for us to meet them. When I can do so, I like to ask them to come to my home as Invercoe House was at one time the home of the Chiefs of Glencoe. I have made some very good friends this way, from all over the world. Sometimes I can’t do this because I am on duty at the Museum during the time of their stay in the Glen, and again I may not be on duty when a Macdonald comes to the Museum, but when they can come to house after the Museum is closed then we can enjoy a talk.

We had the pleasure of an official visit from the Scottish Costume Society in June. They came to the Museum and half remained there while the others came to Invercoe where we had on display our reserve collection of costumes, accessories and embroidery. It really surprised us how much and how varied our collection had become. At the end of an hour the visitors at the Museum came to the house while the rest went round the Museum.

We had added to our collection in the spring when we got four hats, two Victorian dresses and two feather boas. Hats tend not to be kept and shoes are difficult to come by. Working clothes are also in short supply, as few of us keep such garments. Luckily we do have two working costumes.

Since the last Magazine was printed all our guns have been overhauled by an expert and look very fine now. Where possible missing parts have been replaced with their contemporary parts. Again this work was only possible by a grant from the Glencoe Foundation Trust.

We have many new exhibits, but I will only name a few. Some Highland lead soldiers were given to the Museum and we got an artist to make a model of the Drill Hall in Ballachulish and in front of this the soldiers are on parade. The same artist made us a display showing the sheepdog trials. Two fine old dolls have just arrived from New Zealand from a Clan Donald member. We got something I had always wanted which is one of those old glass bottles filled with coloured liquid which used to be on show at chemists shops. The Presbyterian Church at Duror has lent us their old church pewter which makes an interesting display along with other church items such as Communion tokens etc. We have six fine models of Highland figures made by Mrs Scott who previously made us a drover with his beasts. We have other new items in the process of being made.

Two fresh books were produced this year (1980) “Travellers Tales from the Highlands” and “The Eye of the Traveller” both anthologies of travel in the Highlands from the 17th, 18th and 19th century travellers’ accounts. In 1979 we produced “The ’45 Rising” reviewed in Clan Donald News Letter, and “Tales from the Highlands”, another travel anthology. We now sell colour postcards, slides and several posters, badges and keyrings.

The National Trust are putting out a book on Glencoe and have come to us for information and used a Museum book still in manuscript. They plan to visit us again in the spring to draw some of our exhibits for their book. Again the Country Side Commission have asked our help in their forthcoming display planned at Ballachulish. Luckily the Museum started just in time to get information now no longer available owing to the deaths of the older inhabitants of Glencoe and Ballachulish.

As usual I end with some of the funny stories we get in the Museum. Not such a good haul as usual. A small Oriental came into the Museum with Mother. The child about three I think, gazed at the doll in the Christening robe, seeing how fascinated the child was, I asked, “Have you got a doll?” The child replied, “I have this” brandishing a toy pistol. “I don’t need a doll”, I then realised it was a little boy not a girl. Two little girls about six came up to me and very seriously asked me if we undressed the doll in the Christening robe and put her to bed at night because it must be so hard for her to keep still all day and sit in such clothes. An adult on seeing the chair which is labelled as having belonged to “Prince Charles Edward” said, ”Oh! did it come all the way from Balmoral?” Whether she thought Balmoral was an old Scots Palace or mixed two personalities I don’t know.