Johnnie Mac and Marlene MacKinnon

Johnnie Mac and Marlene MacKinnon

16 August 2020

Cooler today. Still fine, but the heat in my study is bearable.

Possibly our hottest walk ever yesterday. Biked to the heritage centre and walked to Balnagown, climbing down a very overgrown steep track to the raised beach. Backtracked to the wall at Tirfuir through a beech-tree planted glade which, we learnt, is called Aonaidh MacColl. There is no house, not even the remains of anything that could have been a house, yet with two well-preserved walls and a clearing with planted trees, it seemed odd. Did they change their minds, did they leave? The walk along the raised beach was by the flax mill and the flour mill and picturesque Stoker’s Cottage on the shore with its own beach. Then on the well-beaten path, dry for a change, to Achnacroish.

Earlier on the road we met Anne MacCormick with her daughters, May and Sandra, and daughter-in-law Hazel. They were returning from lunch at the café to honour Hazel’s husband John, as it would have been his birthday. His death, aged just 50, from a brain tumour in May 2018, not only produced the biggest funeral I had ever seen but an unimaginable loss for his wife Hazel and their two children Rachel and Donald, and of course, John’s parents Anne and Donnie, their children and the wider MacCormick family. Hazel has erected a lovely memorial seat beautifully made by his brother Jim. Admirable and exceptional people on any terms.

Graham Waddell, John’s very close friend (seen front left above) and his son Euan and friend Ross Robertson, cycled from Glasgow to Lismore on Monday 1 July 2019 distance of approximately 110 miles, to honour and remember John and to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity.

Island deaths are sad for everyone, as we all know one another and feel the loss as one of our own.

Unfortunately, earlier that week the church had been packed for a memorial service for Marlene MacKinnon, a long time friend of the island who, like me, had married a child of a Liosach, Ian MacKinnon. After she retired as a primary Headteacher in Glasgow, where she had a wonderful reputation to judge by the eulogies at her memorial, she and Ian had been able to move to Lismore full time. Her death from motor neurone disease was a great tragedy and a huge loss to the community as she was extremely capable and, before she became ill, full of the kind of energy and ideas retired people so often bring to the island’s development. And the island showed its appreciation both at the memorial and on 22 October 2016 when huge numbers of us biked or walked from Port Appin to Oban and some from Point to Achnacroish in overcast but calm weather to raise money for motor neurone research, an unforgiving condition with no treatment yet on the horizon.

The charity walk/cycle galvanised the entire island. It not only raised a lot of money but also gave invaluable support to Marlene, Ian and Lorna as they coped with the disease. The walk images are a little fuzzy but capture the day. Will post any others that may be better.

Funerals or memorials always move me to think of planning what we will do for each other and so far that is as far as it has gone. Events have superseded us anyway, as funerals in a pandemic are very different and the cemetery we were told at one point is full, and we have no minister.