The Glencoe and North Lorne Museum Report by Barbara Fairweather.

I have been asked to give an account of the Museum for the latest Clan Donald Magazine. First of all I would like to congratulate the Society on the high standard of its production – not an easy thing to achieve nowadays. It takes a considerable effort to go to print these days, but without this publication much information of great interest and importance might well be lost, instead of being safely gathered into the Clan magazine.

Many people ask me how you start a museum. It is not easy, and must be more difficult nowadays. We began without anything but managed to get a derelict cottage without paying rent. Money for repairs was raised by ceilidhs. We have to thank Clan Donald for their help in this work. We did put up notices in local shops appealing for exhibits, we also advertised in the Oban Times. But really the best way is to open the museum even with very little and let people see that you mean to take the matter seriously, then they will give. Too many small museums start and then fade away and in the process many bits of value may get lost.

Starting on a shoestring, we used cupboards with sheets of plastic in front. These have been steadily discarded. For the season of 1978 we had one last one in which we showed our archaeology. Someone came and cut the plastic and went off with all our arrow heads etc. No more plastic. May I say if any reading this can help us to replace this loss we would be most grateful.

I used to have a junk man who came round and offered me scrap items from time to time. Sometimes we bought from him. One day he came to me and said would we buy a picture from him. I enquired about it, he said it was a painting with three cows in it. What would we give for it. I said I would need to see the picture first. He was quite disgusted and replied, “I tell you the picture has three cows in it, surely you can tell me what you would give for it.” He does not come any more.

Sometimes older people come in and enjoy reminiscing over items they have used in the past, or seen their grannies use. Others are a little annoyed and say that such items should not be in a museum as they had used them as youngsters. I have to explain that the younger generation have never seen such items. They may be as simple as a fountain pen and ink or a flat iron. I heard recently of someone who asked his secretary to get him a bottle of ink and she turned to him and said, “But what is ink?”

This year we had a very wet summer and this is the weather that makes the public pour into the Museum. We had a record attendance of 38,000, some 4,500 more than any previous year. We met clansmen both old friends and new. Among those who visited us was D.J. Macdonald of Castleton and his wife, a brief visit from Mr. and Mrs. Ellice McDonald from USA, Mr. and Mrs. Allan McDonald, President of Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh, Hamish MacDonald from Glasgow Society and many others. Mrs. MacDonald Clarke visited us in August and a host of overseas and Scottish MacDonalds.

The hours spent manning the museum are by no means the whole work of the museum. People doing research on various subjects come to the house by arrangement to see spare exhibits and to handle them, something impossible to do in the museum. Books are brought out and an enjoyable and useful time is spent. This year we had among many others a visitor who is writing a book on bygones. We have had several who have been particularly interested in the Slate Quarry especially now it is being landscaped. I had an unexpected request the other day; there have been two bad landslides where the bulldozers have been working on the slate banks. Someone (I suspect with tongue in cheek) said it was because the workmen had been disturbing the grave of Corrag. Corrag was a famous Glencoe witch. She was the daughter of Iain Bhan. Her companions were Gormshuil of Moy (blue eyes) Doideag of Mull, Laorag of Tiree, Maol-odhar of Kintyre (Maol meaning Mull and Odhar meaning drab). It is recounted they sank ships by turning themselves into ravens and perching on the ships and causing them to sink. The group were credited with the sinking of the Armada ship which took refuge in Tobermory bay. The accounts vary, as these tales often do. One point of interest about Corrag is that in spite of reputed badness, she was to have been buried on the Burial Island of Eilean Munda. It was often noticed that however stormy the sea, or wild the weather it habitually calmed down to allow the boat out for a burial. In the case of Corrag the storm did not cease till finally she was buried beside where the road now runs. I believe something of the tale may be in one of the papers. By the way, in the Highlands, islands were used for burial very widely. Remember wolves remained here very much later than in the south.

One impossible request was from someone abroad who wrote to say that their great-great-grandfather was a shepherd in Glencoe and his name was MacDonald, could I please tell them something about him. It is surprising how so many who visit the Glen saying they have just been reading its history and then ask to see the battlefield. I was almost rendered speechless when one asked what were our Scots laws before Scotland was taken over by England!!

During this winter we are working hard to improve the layout of the museum. We hope to have more room in the main building. I hope you will all come and see these improvements in 1979.

Thanks to the Glencoe Trust we are having an annexe at the back of the main cottage to house laundry exhibits such as the wringer, and old-fashioned washing machine (hand operated) etc. and next to it the blacksmith’s tools and display. The large bellows are too big to go into the agricultural shed door, and out of place elsewhere. It should look well to see all the items of a kind grouped together, this also allows more room in the other buildings. Again from the Trust we got a new library table. This was in use during last season. On it are books of information on a wide range of subjects and this year as usual we have added to their number. The guns too have been much improved thanks to a Trust Grant and I think we will have a good display this year.