17 August 2020

17 August 2020

Yesterday, on another truly summer’s day, we drove to Achinduin to walk the south coast raised beach. We had done this is June but on a slightly different route. As we went between the houses, I realised how, as a northerner, I have not walked here often in the last 30 years. And that made me think of how common it was to hear older Liosaich, raised in the north, say how little they knew of the south and vice versa. And that further led me to the origin of the massive feeling of loyalty generated by the north/south tug of war on Sports Day. Cancelled this year of course, and another subject for another day. Below are two of Jim Millard’s images. Thank you, Jim, I have never knowingly taken war images.

 We walked due south through Coille na Gallanaich and artist Pat Pippard’s lovely studio and through the large abandoned settlement. How well these places last compared to the time it will take for our present buildings to sink into oblivion. We turned left at the sea, wishing for shade and hoping for sheep trails but mainly falling into holes made by cattle. A couple of boats were moored off Bernera, one blasting ‘music’. Colonising and annoying if I’m honest (which I’ve decided to be) in such a silent place. Not even the sea murmured except in the wash of a boat. Once round the monumental dyke pouring in glacial time towards the sea, (these are not limestone but probably dolomite, H tells me, and he did one year of geology as part of his degree, so I believe him but please correct us), we found a place to clamber up into the fields known I believe as the back shore.

Once again shade would have been lovely, but shade there was none, just happy sheep vaguely interested in us. On the way back we needed to climb a couple of walls, but we are always careful to replace stones we dislodge on the rare occasions that happens. Great labour and skill has gone into these treasures built by locals under orders from absent landowners. Liosaich are skilled stonewallers.

The most notable previous time I was in Achinduin was 2007 when I reported on a visit of a Senior United States Congressman who was in Lismore to see for himself the place from which two branches of his family left in the late 1700s to settle in North Carolina. Douglas Carmichael McIntyre 11, known as Mike, was visiting Argyll with fellow congressmen as part of the Friends of Scotland Caucus which promotes links between the two countries.

Mike and his wife Dee visited first the Livingstones of Bachuil, where they were shown the Staff of St Moluag, and later the Parish church where they privately renewed their wedding vows remembering their ancestors who had worshipped and married there before them. The Bachuil, they told me, put them in touch with the beginnings of the strong Christian faith the Carmichaels and MacIntyres (McIntyres) had taken to North Carolina where they had started Presbyterian churches, one of which his family still attends. The Heritage filled in yet more blanks with its portrayal of the lives of Liosaich through the centuries, so, when they visited Achinduin, the stronghold of the MacIntyres, they were delighted to meet Donnie and Iris MacColl, and Mike was able to see the last house occupied by MacIntyres and walk the land his ancestors had worked.

Before catching the afternoon ferry they visited Lismore School and met the pupils including a possible descendant, Aileen Carmichael.

Mike’s constituency, North Carolina’s 7th district, included the largest number of Scottish-American descendants in the United States. In office, he co-founded the Friends of Scotland caucus and was the original sponsor of the unanimously passed H.Res. 41 “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that a day should be established as National Tartan Day to recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Scottish-Americans to the United States.”

His other notable achievement was in 2008 when he helped rescue Scottish literature and poetry after the Library of Congress had made changes to its world renowned classification system, removing 40 headings and subheadings for Scottish writing and placing this body of work under the English classification. This was a major cultural crime and academics, writers, government ministers and many others were outraged. Both First Minister Alex Salmond and Linda Fabiani, the Minister of Culture in Edinburgh, lobbied McIntyre while he was visiting the country and, thanks to a few phone calls, the changes were reversed (phew) by the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, who sent a letter to the National Library of Scotland. Apologising, I hope, but I haven’t seen it.

As a token of gratitude, the Scottish Parliament passed a motion (S4M-10778) on December 8, 2014 at the First Minister’s request, recognizing McIntyre’s contributions to Scotland’s relationship with the United States and congratulating him on his retirement from Congress.

All in all an interesting descendant.

An historical Proms performance in the evening in the absence of the real thing. I have sung in and attended many proms and summer evenings without this festival are yet another victim of the pandemic. However, Daniel Barenboim and Marta Argerich with the West-Eastern Divan orchestra were dazzling in Liszt’s first piano concerto.

In 1999, the Israeli Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian literary scholar Edward W. Said, created a workshop for young musicians to promote peace and cultural dialogue between Israel and Palestine. It has been hugely successful in this area at least. It is a great orchestra with an equal number of Israeli and Arab musicians as its basis, together with members from Turkey, Iran, and Spain.