Tag Archives: IONA


This story appeared last Friday.

Copyright of The Herald, 19 August 2016

“New discoveries rewrite history of holy Iona

Iona Abbey.

Iona Abbey.

2 days ago / Jody Harrison, Reporter /

“IT has long been regarded as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, where the earliest missionaries gathered before spreading the Word of the Lord across the land.

“But now archaeologists have uncovered fascinating new evidence of those who lived on the island of Iona long before St Columba set foot on its shores during preparatory work for the building of an extension to the small school.

“The Hebridean Isle is home to a religious community, with an abbey founded in 563 by St Columba and 12 companions who had been exiled from his native Ireland.

“Yet when they arrived they would have already found an existing population with a recent dig revealing traces of buildings which take the island’s history back 2,500 years.

“And it seems as though they lived in decidedly un-Christian times with the remains of a two-metre defensive wall found among other remnants of Iona’s long vanished past.

“Excavations have also revealed pottery, flints and other prehistoric material, indicating a prehistoric village.

“Archaeologist Hugh McBrien, of the West of Scotland Archaeology Service, an umbrella organisation providing expertise to 13 local authorities, described the finds as “exciting”.

He said: “When finds like this come along it allows the past to speak to us. There are no written records, of course, so all we have to go on is what is in the ground.

“When we find something unexpected, as in this case, we have to stop and reconsider what we previously understood about the site.

“What is becoming clear is that when the ice sheets rolled back off Scotland some 1012,000 years ago the Mesolithic hunter gatherers moved onto the islands and followed the retreating ice.

“What we now have on Iona is evidence that people lived on the island, created boundaries and set up communities long before the lands were ‘discovered’ by St Columba.”

“The archaeological work was carried out by Dr Clare Ellis of Campbeltown-based professional archaeology company Argyll Archaeology Ltd.”

When I read this and a similar article in The Times, I was immediately reminded of Granduncle Dugald and the stories he would tell us young ones (me and my sisters Morag and Fiona) at our Grannie and Grandpa MacCormick’s flat at 25 Elmbank Crescent in Glasgow in the 1940s.    You can get a real sense of his style in the link to his letter to Fiona provided in my first entry in this MACCORMICK series dated 4 January 2015, reachable by scrolling forever backwards  on this site.

One of the most vivid images he described for us back then was the scene on the Iona  beach when Columba  landed.

According to Uncle Dugald, there was a MacCormick standing there, holding a sign reading “WELCOME TO IONA.”.

“Och Uncle Dugald, we may have looked a wee bit sceptical but we really believed your story” say Neil and Morag in 2016!

[The Times article includes a photograph of the school where I am aware Ewan MacCormick and Annabel [MacCormick] MacInness once taught.]


ACHABAN HOUSE I have been curious over the years regarding various stories I have come across on the connection of the MacCormicks to Achaban House in Fionnphort.  (A   search today  unexpectedly uncovered the £495,000 price asked for Achaban  through the Knight Frank group –  see http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-46328663.html.  Any family bidders?) – One version I  read in a recent publication was that NEIL and ANNABELLA MACCORMICK bought Achaban after moving from Fionnphort House.  However a search of the Valuation Rolls on the Scotland’s People site shows the following.  The latest available record is the Valuation Roll of 1925, the year NEIL MACCORMICK died.  . ScotlandsPeople_CFB6A6C2-96E0-46C4-8D03-B6CA7BA361D7-VR008900071-00552- Thus at the time of his death, NEIL MACCORMICK  was a tenant  paying rent to The Duke of Argyll who even at that time continued to own much of the property on the Ross of Mull and Iona, including Achaban.  

ANNABELLA died at Achaban in 1932.  But I have no information as to  the ownership of the house. at that time.  Nor do I know when JOHN and ANNABEL HARPER-NELSON acquired the property, presumably from the Duke. Perhaps other family members can provide that information either by email to me or by adding a comment to this post. The Valuation Rolls provide a rich source of other information.  For example, the name of the Tormore Quarry firm was The Shap Granite and Patent Concrete Company Limited – I did not have this elsewhere.  And the names and occupations of owners and tenants/’occupiers’  give a fascinating view of the social structure of that time – one soul is labeled ‘pauper’ and this in 1925!  The 1925 record also shows the Tormore quarry as ‘unlet by the owner, the Duke. 

A view of life at Achaban is given by JOHN HARPER-NELSON in a piece he was kind enough to provide me a few years ago.   JOHN H N RE ACHABAN 001 TORMORE QUARRY SITE ET AL A  note on the Tormore Quarry site,.   Several years ago, Jack Campin passed along the following to me on the Mudcat web site during a discussion of the origin of the tune, Bunessan. “Okay, here is what Joan [Faithfull] says about MacCormick in her book The Ross of Mull Granite Quarries, 2nd ed, New Iona Press, 2004:

Neil MacCormick succeeded William Muir as Tormore quarry manager in 1875 and moved into Fionnphort House with his wife Annabella MacLachlan and their large family, of eventually eleven. Neil had been born in Iona in 1836 and shortly afterwards the family moved across to the Ross of Mull. He worked in the quarries from an early age, acquiring great knowledge and technical skill. It is said that his invention of a brake, applied by a lever, to the steep rail which took trucks from the upper Tormore quarry down to the quay became widely known. A memorable event in his life was a visit to Egypt to advise in a dispute about transport methods, which had arisen between the Government there and a firm of London sculptors who had leased a large porphyry quarry. Neil MacCormick took a close interest in the social and religious life of the community. Besides leading the local choir, he was a precentor in the Free Church and was president of the Band of Hope (later the Temperance Society) which met once a fortnight at Creich School and to which William Vass and quarrymen such as Lachlan MacCormick [his son] and Alexander Maclean also belonged. Neil also liked sailing and competing in regattas with his boat the Fairy Queen. Two months before his death in 1925, at the ripe old age of 90, he and Brigadier General Cheape judged the piping competition at the Iona Regatta and Games. A tribute to his memory in the Oban Times of 21 November 1925 was fittingly headed ‘A Noble Highlander’.

“I have frequently stayed in the quarrymen’s cottages at Tormore (which Joan grew up in and still owns). That is probably where MacCormick grew up – Fionnphort House, where he would have written the tune, doesn’t exist any more. “This ties a few things together. A missing link might have been Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser – she stayed for a while in the cottage at Tormore just below the one I’ve stayed in. Joan’s father William Caldwell Crawford leased and then bought the cottages just after MacCormick died; he was a painter so may well have been told about the place by Kennedy-Fraser’s batty painter friend John Duncan (I’ll ask Joan about that). Kennedy-Fraser would have known Neil MacCormick. “MacCormick would also have been happy to see his tune used for the Temperance movement, so maybe the connection goes back a long way. But he would not have been best pleased to see the Catholics getting hold of it.”

A STORY ABOUT STONES – A MYSTICAL MULL TALE.  I am inserting this piece as is rather than retyping it.  It seems to me more authentic this way.  The story is in two parts.  The first part was told to my mother by my father, NEIL MACCORMICK.  The second part relates a curious chance  encounter in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York in the 1970s which my mother and my sister Morag had with an original member of the Iona Communiy, a Reverend Barrows. JENNY MACCORMICK RE IONA ABBEY 001 And so the tales will continue.


In Part 1, I referred o an article on JOHN, the firstborn of NEIL and ANNABEL.  With the help of Arnot McDonald, Senior Library Assistant, University of Edinburgh. I found a working link to the piece.  Because of the earlier difficulty I had downloading it, I have decided to insert the entire essay by Professor Sheila M.Kidd hereIt was published in Vol. 22 of Scottish Gaelic Studies.  In my view, it is an important part of this history not the least because it shows a remarkable level of energy and initiative for a young man fresh off the croft and quarry on Mull to thrust himself into  the academic and literary world of his time.   That is why I said earlier he is my hero, my most admired of the MacCormicks.

171 THE FORGOTTEN FIRST: JOHN MACCORMICK’S DÙN-ÀLUINN   Given the current renaissance in the writing of Gaelic fiction with the recent publication of five novels and two collections of short stories under the auspices of Ùr-Sgeul it seems timely to look back at the development of the Gaelic novel, and more specifically at the first Gaelic novel. John MacCormick’s Dùn-Àluinn,  no an t-Oighre   ’na Dhìobarach, was serialised in the People’s Journal in 19101 before being published in its entirety in 1912 with serialisation again in the Celtic  Monthly  during  1913–152    and  further  editions    appearing around 1920 and in 2003. Within a year of the publication of Dùn- Àluinn as a novel, the second Gaelic novel, Angus Robertson’s An t-Ogha Mòr appeared in print, underlining the renaissance which Gaelic literature was experiencing. Both novels, while remarked upon by contemporaries and by general studies of Gaelic literature, have been all but ignored to date, with no criticism or analysis of either having been published. The main aim of this article, therefore, is to offer some general comments about MacCormick’s Dùn-Àluinn in the hope that this may open up both the novel and indeed other early twentieth-century Gaelic writers and their work to further scrutiny. Consideration will be given to the author himself, the contemporary Gaelic literary scene and finally some of the more interesting aspects of the novel itself.

The novel’s author, John MacCormick (1860–1947), was a native of the Ross of Mull, the eldest of 11 children born to Neil and Annabella McCormick (née MacLachlan). Neil McCormick, whose family had moved to the Ross of Mull from Iona in 1837, was the manager of the Tormore granite quarry (Faithfull 1995: 18–19). John MacCormick received his early education in Mull before attending first the Free Church Normal School in Glasgow to train as a teacher and thereafter the University of Glasgow where he studied Latin, Greek, Logic and Mathematics.3 After a brief spell teaching on North Uist he seems to have turned his back on that profession and returned to  Mull  where  initially  at  least  he  devoted  his  time  to    literary endeavours, most notably the Iona Press, but also as a regular contributor to the North British Daily Mail. When his first son was born in 1890 he was described on the record of birth as a ‘journalist’ although a year later the Census gives no description of his employment. In the record of his marriage and also those of the births of his second and  third  sons he was  variously described     as ‘Quarry Manager’ and ‘Quarry Foreman’, a change of employment perhaps dictated by the financial demands of supporting a family.4 His first wife, Jane McLean, died in 1897 at the early age of 29 and at some point after this he settled in Glasgow where he undertook various jobs such as cemetery clerk at the Necroplis to supplement his income from writing, and it was in Glasgow that he died in 1947.

MacCormick was a prolific writer whose numerous Gaelic plays, short stories and the occasional poem were published mainly in the first three decades of the twentieth century. His published collections of stories include Oiteagan o’n Iar (1908), Seanchaidh na h-Airigh (1911) and Seanchaidh na Tràghad (1911). He also wrote a long story or novelette, Gu’n Tug i Spéis do’n Armunn (1908) which  was a precursor to his longer project of completing a novel. Among his published plays are Rath-Innis (1924), Am Fear a  Chaill a’ Ghàidhlig (1925), An t-Agh Odhar (1931) and An Ceòl-sithe  (n.d.). In addition to his literary endeavours his 1923 publication,  The Island of Mull, reflects his strong antiquarian interest in Highland history, tradition and folklore, particularly that of his native island. In an obituary published shortly after his death in 1947 he is described as being ‘the last of a race of Gaelic scholars which in the early years of the present century made a notable contribution to the literature of their Mother Tongue’ (OT, 22/2/1947: 1).

In addition to being a prolific writer, John MacCormick co-founded the Iona Press along with William Muir, a former manager of Tormore Quarry. According to a prospectus for the Iona Press it aimed to provide ‘literary as well as geological mementoes of the sacred isle’ (MacArthur 1990: 161). Among the dozen or so pamphlets of Gaelic poems and prayers which it published are The Death of Fraoch (1887), A Highland New Year’s Carol (1888) and The Blessing of the Ship (1888), a traditional prayer used in Iona by sailors beginning a journey. The pamphlets which this hand press produced feature artwork    strongly influenced by the stone carving and sculpture of the island and hand- coloured by local girls (Faithfull 1995: 18). The Press was publishing from about 1887 and most of its output was concentrated between then and 1893.5 In considering the literary context in which MacCormick was writing, it must be borne in mind that secular Gaelic prose writing was barely out of its infancy in the early twentieth century, having only emerged in the 1830s with the publication of journals such as Norman MacLeod’s Teachdaire Gaelach and Cuairtear nan Gleann. Given the strong influence of the clergy over these publications it is unsurprising to find that they featured very little fiction with most material being either religious or instructive in nature. Even in the 1870s, with a fresh flurry of periodicals and newspapers in which Gaelic was printed, there was little in the way of original fiction being published. Instead there was a leaning towards the translation of English fiction. Gaelic oral tradition, however, compensated for any apparent deficiency in Gaelic writing given the abundance of sgeulachdan it had to offer. The early 1860s, for instance, witnessed the publication of John Francis Campbell’s landmark Popular Tales of the West Highlands. It may in fact be that the emphasis placed on recording and preserving oral tradition in the second half of the nineteenth century contributed to the writing of original  Gaelic fiction not establishing itself in any meaningful way until the turn of the century. The impact of the Education Act of 1872 which established a national education system should also be borne  in mind. While no provision was made for the Gaelic language, at least initially, the existence of a universal, English-oriented education system would have made Scottish and English literary texts more accessible to Gaelic speakers, and thus opened up Gaelic writers to a greater range of external literary influences. In the later decades of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century there were a small number of writers actively producing Gaelic stories. The stories, poems and songs of these writers were much in demand at urban ceilidhs and readings and it was with this audience in mind that they would generally have been writing. Most of these writers were Glasgow-based and included: Henry Whyte (‘Fionn’), author of The Celtic Garland (1881) and Leabhar na Ceilidh (1898); fellow Muileach John MacFadyen who published collections of stories, An t-Eileanach (1890) and Sgeulaiche nan Caol (1902); Angus Robertson, author of An t-Ogha Mór (1913); and Hector MacDougall from Coll, who was one of the most prolific writers of the period, penning stories, plays and poetry. In the first decade of the twentieth century this coterie of writers found a patron for their work in the form of the Honourable Roderick Erskine of Marr, or Ruaraidh Arascain agus Mhàirr as he  was known. Erskine of Marr, who had learned Gaelic from his Harris nurse, was a fervent nationalist and pan-Celticist who held a strong conviction that Gaelic literary standards needed to be raised and that new writing should be encouraged. It was Erskine of Marr who gave a new cohesion and direction to these writers in developing a primarily urban-based ‘school’ of Gaelic literature. He used his private wealth to finance new periodicals in which their  writing could be published, periodicals such as Guth na Bliadhna (1904–25), An Sgeulaiche (1909–11), a weekly newspaper, Alba (1908–09) and An Ròsarnach (sporadically between 1917 and 1930). It was not only fiction which he encouraged, but the use of Gaelic to discuss a diverse spectrum of topics, albeit with a leaning towards matters political. John MacCormick’s writing appeared in all of the aforementioned periodicals apart from An Ròsarnach, and with greatest frequency in the journal devoted to fiction, An Sgeulaiche.

Another contemporary who figures large on the Gaelic literary scene and who played a crucial role in supporting and nurturing MacCormick’s writing was Malcolm MacFarlane, a Paisley land- surveyor, born in Dalavich, Argyll. MacFarlane was a member of Marr’s coterie and his advice was frequently sought by Marr and others, a fact to which his voluminous manuscripts letters which are held by the National Library of Scotland testify. Although perhaps best known now as the compiler of The School Dictionary (1912) he undertook a great deal of editing of Gaelic material such  as the Gaelic column of the People’s Journal and was also  briefly the editor of An Comunn Gaidhealach’s An Deò-Grèine. It is primarily thanks to his efforts that much of MacCormick’s work was published. Writing in An Sgeulaiche in 1910 about the frustrations which MacCormick experienced as a writer he explains that the writer was an impis gach mìr Gàidhlig a sgrìobh e riamh a thrusadh ’s a thilgeil anns an teine. Is coltach gu’n robh e mothachail air an nì so: nach robh a bhuadhan mar sgeulaiche air am meas a réir an airidheachd le breitheamhan a’ Mhòid – nì a bha da-rìreadh fìor. Thachair gu’m bheil droch làmh sgrìobhaidh aig Iain; agus tha mi meas nach do ghabh na breitheamhan an dragh orra féin a phaipeirean a leughadh. Cha do leugh mi féin trì duilleagan nuair a mhothaich mi gu’n robh sgeulaiche ealanta agam fo  m’ bheachd. Bho’n àm sin gus an latha ’n diugh thug mi os làimh gach sgrìobhadh a rinn e an Gàidhlig ath-sgrìobhadh ’s a chur an clò. (Sg: 21) MacCormick’s handwriting is certainly far from clear as can be seen from his letters to MacFarlane. There was, however, probably more to MacFarlane’s comments about the Mòd adjudicators than these words might suggest as he did not always see eye to eye with adjudications or indeed with An Comunn Gaidhealach. Four years after his comments in An Sgeulaiche, a draft of a letter which MacFarlane sent to Neil Shaw, Secretary of An Comunn, in 1914 reveals his dissatisfaction with adjudication procedures with a reference to ‘certain infamous judgements and other reprehensible circumstances connected with the 1913 Mòd’. More interesting, however is his reference in the same letter to MacCormick’s experiences: I have just this morning received fresh evidence of the rottenness of the judging in the literary competitions, in Mr John MacCormick’s markings where he gets 45 percent as the value of his three short stories from one of the judges – who of course will at once be spotted as the only one capable of stabbing a rival in the dark. (NLS Acc.9736/20) This rival alluded to here may have been Angus Robertson, author of n  t-Ogha  Mòr,  who  was  one  of  the  four  adjudicators  for    the competition in question (DG 2, 1913: 12). This and other evidence seems to hint at tensions within the Gaelic literary revival of the early twentieth century. MacFarlane had crossed swords publicly with Robertson in the letters page of the Oban Times in 1913 over the latter’s novel. In a lengthy and strongly worded letter in response to a positive review of An t-Ogha Mòr by Angus Henderson, MacFarlane refers to ‘its tortuous method and diction’, and to its style which is ‘unnatural and affected’. (OT, 9/8/1913: 3) This provoked an equally strongly-worded response from Robertson who claimed that MacFarlane ‘only writes Gaelic as a foreigner’, a comment which stung MacFarlane into replying and so the vitriolic correspondence continued for another month (OT, 16/8/1913: 3). Further evidence of tension between MacFarlane and An Comunn – with Angus Robertson on its Executive Council – is evidenced in the speech made by Malcolm MacLeod, President of An Comunn Gaidhealach at the 1913 Mòd in which he heralded An t-Ogha Mòr as the first Gaelic novel, eliciting an acerbic response from MacFarlane who observed It is a pity these things cannot be better managed. Here we have a pioneer author [MacCormick] whose works have been epoch- making. Why the haste to throw him over like so many other pioneers? [. . .] Is it decent to take the credit which is his due from one who has led the way, and by his example, been such a stimulus to others? (OT, 27/9/1913: 3) MacCormick himself seems to have preferred to avoid controversy, although in a letter to MacFarlane he does voice his appreciation that MacFarlane had taken issue with MacLeod over the matter (NLS Acc.9736/19). Clearly there are undercurrents among the various groups and individuals active at the time which would merit more thorough research, but for present purposes it is sufficient to be aware that they existed and may have affected the reception of Dùn- Àluinn. Despite MacFarlane’s negative views on the adjudication of the Mòd’s literary competitions there is no doubt that, alongside Erskine of   Marr’s   publications,   the   competitions   were   of fundamental importance in stimulating Gaelic literary productivity in this period. An Comunn Gaidhealach, which had been established in 1891, in addition to its role in campaigning for the advancement of Gaelic’s position in Highland schools, had as one of its main functions, as it still does, the organisation of the annual Mòd. There were a number of competitions for literary compositions, including poetry, plays, stories and dialogues and despite MacCormick’s experience of adjudication, to which MacFarlane referred, his name appears with frequency over the years as a prize-winner in the competitions for stories and for short plays. In 1911, for instance he won two first prizes, one for a short Gaelic play and another for a story ‘based on historical incidents or local legends’ (DG, 1911: 26). In 1912 he won the competition to write a short Gaelic play for children (DG,   1912:13) and in 1913 he won the competitions for short humorous play and for Gaelic story (DG, 1913: 13). In 1925 his poem ‘Blàr Inbhir- Chèitein’ won him the Bardic Crown at the Greenock Mòd. It can be no coincidence that the first Gaelic novels emerged in this environment which encouraged Gaelic literary creativity and which generated fresh opportunities for writers seeking to publish their work. Evidence underlining the importance of Erskine of Marr and MacFarlane’s influence over MacCormick lies in a letter from 1909 in which Erskine of Marr, writing of the possibility of setting up An Sgeulaiche, suggests to MacFarlane that ‘a good “Land League” serial such as McCormack (sic) could put together  (under instruction) would be a good draw and useful politics’ (NLS, Acc.9736/15, n.d.). These may well be the seeds of Dùn-Àluinn which would then be serialised the following year although to what extent it was written ‘under instruction’, beyond the  necessary editing which MacFarlane would undertake, cannot now be established. The author’s decision to offer his novel for serialisation in the weekly People’s Journal is likely to have been influenced by MacFarlane who seems to have been acting as an editor for the paper’s Gaelic column. It is certainly not likely to have been influenced by financial incentive, as MacFarlane’s correspondence reveals that ‘the Editor has agreed to pay Mr MacCormick £3.3/-. I do not know that you will consider that quite satisfactory but in any case it is better than nothing!’ (NLS Acc.9736/16). This compares less than favourably with the £100 which the People’s Journal was offering for serial novels in English by the beginning of the twentieth century (Donaldson 1986: 33). The first announcement that a Gaelic novel was to be published appeared in the People’s Journal in April 1910, a month in advance of the paper’s serialisation of the novel. In addition to heralding the appearance of the first novel produced in Gaelic, readers  are provided with some information about the main characters and are told that ‘the story is full of light and shade; and tragedy and comedy are skilfully blended’. One chapter of the novel is then published in the paper every week between 7 May and 12 November 1910. There are two main differences between the serialised form and the novel itself. The serialised version is accompanied by both illustrations and the occasional footnote, neither of which is reproduced in the novel. The footnotes tend to offer further information about superstitions or customs which feature in the novel. In the opening instalment of the novel, for instance, which focuses on the death-bed of Dùn-àluinn’s wife, a servant has been sent to Tobar an t-sonais for water which it is hoped will cure the dying woman. The sick woman asks “Am fac i beothach beò?” and it is clear from what follows that the fact that she hasn’t seen any living creature there is a bad omen. The footnote which appears in the People’s Journal offers the following information: Tha tobar ’san Ros Mhuileach ris an abair iad “Tobar  an t-Sonais” agus bha seann daoine a creidsinn gu ’n leighiseadh deoch dheth neach a bhiodh tinn. Na ’m faicteadh beothach beò ’san tobar bu chomharra e gu ’n tigeadh neach a bhiodh tinn, bho ’n bhàs. (PJ, 7/5/1910: 12) Similarly, in Chapter 16, which contains the minister’s tirade against landlord tyranny, the serial is accompanied by a footnote stating that much of the novel is based on events of the past, although Mull is not explicitly mentioned on this occasion.  The novel itself, in common with many of MacCormick’s short stories, is essentially a historical romance/adventure, but with a strong element of socio-historic commentary. The plot centres on the estate of Dùn-àluinn where a native landlord, Cailean Mòr, is clearing tenants. The novel opens with the death in childbirth of Cailean Òg’s mother, leaving Cailean and his new sister motherless. Shortly after this they find themselves with a new stepmother – referred to throughout as a’ Bhan-Fhrangach, the Frenchwoman. Her actual name (Mariette Wolfe) is only mentioned once in the course of the novel. She marries Dùn-àluinn, Cailean Mòr, by somewhat dubious means. Her own husband apparently dies in mysterious circumstances a few chapters into the novel, thereby freeing her to marry Dùn-àluinn. Through the manipulation of this woman Cailean Òg finds himself banished from his inheritance. As a result he leaves the country, bidding farewell to Màiri, his sweetheart, his father having opposed his wish to marry her. On hearing that  the ship which Cailean Òg was supposed to be on has sunk with no survivors, all at home think him dead. In Cailean’s absence the crofters, under the leadership of their minister, rebel against the system of clearance being pursued by Dùn-àluinn and clearance is more or less brought to an end on the estate. Cailean Òg, meanwhile, has reached first Australia and then New Zealand where he is eventually successful in striking gold. While in New Zealand he takes part in the trial of a miner – Perkins – accused of cheating his fellow miners. Thanks to Cailean’s defence Perkins is not sentenced to death, merely to be whipped. Perkins manages to escape before this sentence is carried out. Cailean, having made his fortune in New Zealand, returns home. He brings with him a friend with whom he had become acquainted in New Zealand, and the two arrive in Dùn-àluinn in disguise, and live in a cave, and mix with the estate’s tenantry. Cailean Mòr  dies shortly after in suspicious circumstances. At this point comes the denouement of the novel as Cailean Òg reveals his true identity and confronts his stepmother and her new factor. It turns out that Cailean’s friend whom he met in New Zealand is none other than the ‘dead’ husband of the Frenchwoman. The man whom she  had ordered to murder her husband was Perkins who had then gone to New Zealand, and subsequently returned as her new factor. Both  the stepmother and Perkins are imprisoned for their crimes, presumably including the murder of Dùn-àluinn himself. Cailean finds his old sweetheart and his young sister, and all who are morally upstanding are left to live happily ever after. This summary, which necessarily omits some of the finer points of the plot, demonstrates that the novel is an adventure story, but with strong social undercurrents specific to the Highlands. The plot has much in common with a number of MacCormick’s Gaelic stories, stories such as ‘’S Leam Fèin an Gleann’ and ‘Oighre an Dùn Bhàin’. These stories share similar patterns of conflict, exile abroad, adventures abroad, return to the Highlands and a resolution of the circumstances which had caused their departure. Neither the time nor the exact location of the novel is specified by MacCormick, although the novel is described in the  People’s Journal as being set about the beginning of the nineteenth century in the West Highlands. The reference in the novel to Cailean and his friend heading from Australia to New Zealand when word came of gold being found there would suggest a timescale closer to  the 1860s. As far as geographical location is concerned it would seem that MacCormick has chosen Mull or its environs. The  names Cailean and Eachann are each used for two different characters and were associated with the Campbells and the MacLeans respectively and towards the end of the novel when Dùn-àluinn dies he is on his way home from the fair in Salen, and it is remarked, ‘bidh torradh an so nach robh riamh a leithid ’san dùthaich bho ’n latha thìodhlaiceadh Lachann Mór Dhubhairt am Muile’.6 Like so many parts of the Highlands, MacCormick’s native district, the Ross of Mull, which belonged to the Duke of Argyll, experienced  clearances in the middle of the nineteenth century and is likely to have provided him with some inspiration. The Duke’s factor in the Ross of Mull between 1845 and 1872 was John Campbell, ‘am Factor Mòr’, who has been described as being ‘unparalleled as a focus for  resentment in 300 years of Mull history’ (Currie 2000: 354). He dealt harshly with tenants, most notably during the potato famine of 1847 when rents were raised by fifty percent, and the effects of the clearances which he carried out were felt as keenly by MacCormick’s family as any, since most of his father’s brothers left the Ross of Mull during his time as factor.7 Yet, while there are strong echoes of the writer’s native land, he leaves the location of the novel sufficiently vague to enable readers from most parts of the Highlands and Islands to relate to the novel’s social backdrop. Published comments on Dùn-Àluinn either at the time of its publication or since are few and far between. The two contemporary reviews traced were published in the Oban Times and in An Comunn Gaidhealach’s An Deò-Grèine. The Oban Times reviewer Dr Cameron Gillies (and one of MacFarlane’s correspondents) is fulsome in his praise for MacFarlane’s role in bringing the novel to publication. Of the novel he declares ‘it is out and out Highland and Gaelic in plot and plan and feeling and expression. It is a treat in store for every Gaelic speaker’ (OT, 2/11/1912: 3). He does however, complain of ‘an occasional turgidity of adjectives in descriptive parts which does not add to otherwise admirable wording’ and ‘there is also quite a number of unfamiliar words which may, or may not be Gaelic, but which give a strained feeling to the story’. It may be that the reviewer’s scepticism about some of the vocabulary was due to his not being wholly familiar with MacCormick’s native dialect, since a letter from Mary Maclean, a native of Mull, to MacFarlane says of the novel’s language, ‘the Gaelic was very local’ (NLS Acc.9736/16, 3/8/1910). The novel is also received favourably by the anonymous reviewer in An Deò-Grèine who observes that the appearance of both it and Angus Robertson’s An t-Ogha Mòr are a sign of a new epoch in Gaelic literature and states ‘that the central aim of the story is to place the tyranny of landlords under a strong search light’ (DG 10, 1913: 31). Since then the novel has received no consideration except from Donald John MacLeod in his doctoral thesis which touches on it briefly and in his paper surveying the history of Gaelic prose (MacLeod 1969: 69–71; MacLeod  1977: 212). His description of it, some sixty years after its initial publication, is as ‘a rather anaemic adventure yarn […] [given] some weight by interpolating a long diatribe by one of his characters against the Clearances’ (MacLeod 1977: 212). There is clearly some divergence between the contemporary reaction to the way in which MacCormick deals with the issue of land reform and the reaction some sixty years later. The Crofters’ Act of 1886 did not bring about the radical changes in land legislation for which many had hoped and as a result land reform was still very much on the Highland political agenda in the early twentieth century. Land raids, and the threat of land raids, were common in the period in which MacCormick was writing his novel and this coupled with his personal knowledge of the clearances and emigration in the Ross of Mull have left their mark on the novel. The next section of this paper will therefore consider this aspect of the novel in more detail. From the outset of the novel, with the death-bed scene as Cailean Mòr’s wife lies dying, there is a strong sense of caochladh in the novel, a theme which pervades Gaelic verse of the nineteenth century. We find the land mourning her death: Cha robh uchd nach robh air a leòn. Cha robh sùil air nach robh deur. Cha robh cnoc nach robh a bhreo-chual féin air, air sgàth Baintighearn Dhùin-àluinn. Ghleidh na beanntan féin an ceò mu ’n guailnean; agus cha d’ éirich dealt na h-oidhche bhàrr duilleagan nan craobh mar b’àbhaist. Sheinn an t-allt  a choronach, is rinn a’ ghaoth co-sheirm ris am measg nam preas’. (DA: 28) The physical landscape remains prominent throughout the  novel often with a resonance of nineteenth century verse. In the following excerpt we see the land through Cailean Òg’s eyes when he returns from university as pre- and post-clearance scenes are juxtaposed: Cha robh uair a rachadh e dhachaidh nach robh atharrachadh r’ a fhaicinn: an sluagh air an sguabadh á baile an sud is á baile an so; is far an robh, eadhon an dé, sluagh lìonmhor a’ toirt am beathachaidh as an fhonn a leasaich iad féin le saothair an làmh, ’s a thug iad gu rian ’s gu feum, bho riasg is bho roinnich, gus an robh blàth a’ bhuntàta is diasan a’ choirce a’ gliostradh ’sa ghréin an àite an fhraoich bhadanaich ’s na luachrach fheusagaich, cha ’n ’eil an diugh ach tobhtaichean falamh is achaidhean lom. (DA: 46) Cailean Mòr is portrayed from the outset as a disreputable character who spends much of his time away from his estate while involving himself in degenerate pursuits – ‘b’ e chompanach an duaircean bu mhotha. B’ e àite tathaich an drùth-lann a b’ isle. Bha cur-am-mach anabarrach ann’ (DA: 21–22). He is clearly the antithesis of all those praise-worthy qualities for which Highland chiefs were traditionally praised by poets, and unlike many poets of the nineteenth century MacCormick does not overlook the landlord’s role in the clearances on his estate. Yet, even in this fictional setting where the author has the opportunity to make a clean break with the nineteenth-century Gaelic poet’s tendency to blame sheep, shepherds or the English before blaming his chief, MacCormick cannot help but make an excuse for Cailean Mòr’s conduct – he was orphaned when young and consequently did not receive appropriate guidance in his youth. Although Cailean’s long Highland pedigree is made clear, so too is the reality of his position in the new socio-economic order, as he is consistently referred to as uachdaran rather than ceann-feadhna. The protagonist, Cailean Òg, heir to Dùn-àluinn, stands in opposition to the forces which are destroying the  estate. He represents continuity with the past and with Highland tradition and it is partly through him that a process of regeneration takes place by the end of the novel. It is he, not his father, who embodies all that is traditionally expected of a clan chief (although he too is only ever referred to as uachdaran): kindness, honesty, fairness, eloquence, wisdom and courage. His generosity is evident when he helps those of his father’s evicted tenants whom he encounters in Glasgow, ‘fhad ’s a ruigeadh a phòca air, dheanadh e fuasgladh orra’ (DA: 44). In New Zealand he defends Perkins (alias the merchant and the factor) in order to ensure that justice is served, the irony of which is only revealed at the end of the novel when readers discover that the man whom he defended is not merely guilty of fraud, but also of murder. Cailean Òg is, of course, in a position to empathise with those who have been driven from their homes as he too has suffered this experience. At the end of the novel the people and the land which mourned Cailean Òg’s mother and which suffered under his father’s management are revitalised by Cailean himself: Rinn Cailean òg uachdaran math; agus cha robh a bhean chaomh ’na grabadh ’sam bith air. Dh’ fhàs an sluagh lìonmhor agus sona aon uair eile, agus bliadhna an déidh bliadhna chìteadh smùid ’ga togail an sud ’s an so, far an robh teinteinean fuara fad bhliadhnachan athaiseach. (DA: 258) Here MacCormick reflects the traditional Gaelic, and indeed Celtic, concept which dictates that a land will flourish under a good and rightful rule. A ruler’s shortcomings were seen as having repercussions on the entire land, as evidenced by Cailean Mòr’s rule. Cailean Òg is not, however, the sole agent of resolution in the novel. The first stage of progression is through the resistance of the tenantry to Cailean Mòr’s policy of clearance. It is the chapters featuring this resistance which represent the most successful and convincing  part of the novel, drawing as they did on events during the  Land Agitation period of the 1880s. The revolt in Dùn-àluinn is led by the parish minister, ‘am ministear mór’: Bha ’n sluagh air éirigh ’na aghaidh. Bha iad iomadh  latha roimhe sud bruich a chum éirigh. Cha robh ’gan dìth ach ceannard g’ am brosnachadh ’s g’ an stiùradh; agus fhuair iad e. Fhuair iad am ministear mór còir, ach mi-fhortanach […] Bha iad air an dùsgadh as an t-suain ’san robh iad agus chuir an dùsgadh sin clach an craos ain-tighearnais feadh na Gaidhealtachd air fad. (DA: 131–32) The minister openly condemns the clearances being carried out and, albeit unwillingly, he leads a riotous crowd of tenants to Cailean Mòr’s castle. A few chapters later the minister addresses a crowd of tenants on the subject of land rights. An entire chapter is devoted to this lecture in which he echoes the pro-crofter rhetoric of the later nineteenth century, condemning the system of land division within the Highlands and insisting that the circumstances of the Gaels are no better than those of slaves – ‘Có thug a leithid de ùghdaras da thairis oirbhse is gu ’m faod e ur làimhseachadh mar thràillean dubha nan Innsean?’ (DA: 137). MacCormick’s minister may have been inspired by the Iona minister, the Rev. Archibald MacMillan, also known as the ‘Ministear Mòr’, an outspoken individual who fell out of favour with the Duke of Argyll at the end of the  nineteenth century (MacArthur 1990: 194) or perhaps by the Rev. Donald MacCallum who was the most prominent member of the nineteenth- century Highland clergy to campaign actively on behalf of the crofters. The minister does, however, have a flaw in his fondness for alcohol, and this prevents him from achieving heroic stature and so Cailean Òg is not upstaged as the hero. As so often happens with tragically flawed characters, the minister’s condition deteriorates in the course of the novel, to the point where he is reduced to living in a cave. Another possible source of inspiration for MacCormick’s outcast minister was a nineteenth-century Baptist schoolmaster in the Ross of Mull who, according to oral tradition, was evicted from his home and resorted to teaching in a cave by the shore, a cave which the Baptists used for worship after being put out of their meeting house.8 It is interesting to note that MacCormick’s minister did  not sit well with the 1912 reviewer, Cameron Gillies, who    commented, ‘the “ministear mór” is right away from anything we ever knew in the Highlands. He is artistically the worst-drawn character in the book’ (OT, 2/11/1912: 3). MacCormick himself had had his doubts about the minister as an earlier letter to MacFarlane  reveals that when ‘I was writing Dunaluinn I thought I made the minister too rude but in considering he was rude only when drunk I let him have his say as that particular vice is I am sorry to say too true in some’ (NLS Acc.9736/16). The minister, in fact, from a present-day perspective at least, would seem to be one of the stronger characters, although it is easy to see why readers a century ago may have had their misgivings about the way in which a ‘pillar of the community’ was represented. An alternative voice in the novel which offers a slightly different perspective to that of Cailean Òg and of the minister is that of the tenants themselves who form a sort of rustic chorus. This tool used commonly by novelists and playwrights is employed  by MacCormick to comment on events and to provide additional information. When Cailean Òg returns home in disguise he is told by Eóghan a’ Chìobair’s wife that the estate has a new factor, ‘nach ’eil bàillidh ùr air tighinn do ’n bhaile; is tha mi cinnteach gu ’n tig reachdan ùra cuideachd’ (DA: 216). This is the first hint we have that although the clearances have stopped they may be about to begin again. Similarly, it is the local pedlar Eachann a’ Phaca who is the first to voice his doubts about ‘am marsanta Gallda’. The merchant’s appearance in Dùn-àluinn, near the beginning of the novel coincides with that of the Frenchwoman and it is only through Eachann’s comments that the readers’ suspicions are aroused to the fact that there may be some connection between the two characters. At one point Eachann observes that the merchant must have murdered another pedlar: Cha ’n fhaod e bhi nach ann a mharbh am marsanta Gallda fear- pac eile mu ’n urrainn da leithid de chùnnradh a thoirt seachad: agus ’s ann air a tha fìor choltas an t-slaightire. Cha mhór ri cliù na Ban-fhrangaich gu ’m biodh uiread malairt eatorra. An tràill! (DA: 53) Elsewhere an old man observes of the merchant that there is not an occasion that the merchant goes to the castle that the Frenchwoman doesn’t take him to her room and buy from him. It is only at the end of the novel that it becomes clear that his suspicions were correct and that the merchant was in league with the Frenchwoman, and that he is in fact none other than the man who attempted to murder her husband, alias Perkins in New Zealand, alias the new factor. Eachann is the most prominent member of the chorus, primarily because he is so outspoken, and at times he seems to talk nonsense. He is frequently the butt of the other characters’ jokes. Yet, as is so often the case, the apparent fool is the one who speaks most sense. The last job which John MacCormick had was that of cemetery clerk at the Necropolis where he would sit translating Shakespeare into Gaelic and it may be that this is of significance here.9  While   Gaelic tradition has its share of fools, such as Gilleasbaig Aotrom, Eachann’s role is strongly reminiscent of the Fool in King Lear. The Fool, contrary to appearances, is in fact one of the most perceptive characters in the entire play. Like Lear with the Fool, it is with Eachann that the minister seeks refuge when he is cast out of his charge, the refuge being a cave, just as Lear and the Fool take refuge in similarly basic accommodation. When Cailean Òg and his companion return to Dùn-àluinn in disguise and arrive at Uamh-nam- farrabhalach, they are greeted with Eachann’s mockery: “Glaodh ris na searbhantan. Ho-ho-hó” Is bhuaileadh Eachann a dhà bhois air a chéile. “Tha mi cinnteach gur h-ann dh’ ionnsuidh na seilge a thàinig sibh. O nach iomadh slinnean féidh a théid a chrochadh ri mullach na h-àrdraich so mu ’n téid an geamhradh seachad!” ars Eachann (DA: 226). For all Eachann’s banter, there is an element of social commentary here, based on reality for many Highland estates, in his reference to strangers coming to hunt deer on the estate. Just as we are aware of his uneasiness about the English merchant, so it is Eachann who draws the reader to speculate about the new factor – who in fact turns out to be that very merchant. Riamh bho ’n d’ thàinig am marsanta Gallda tarsuinn air, bliadhnachan roimhe sud, bhiodh e cumail cinn chruaidh ris a’ bhàillidh ùr, ged nach robh aige ’na aghaidh ach gu ’n robh a bhruidhinn coltach ri bruidhinn a’ mharsanta Ghallda. (DA: 231– 232) It would seem therefore that Dùn-Àluinn is more than a mere ‘adventure yarn’, providing as it does a fictional view of social change in the Highlands. When considered alongside nineteenth century and contemporary Scottish fiction it is evident that there are certain elements which they have in common. In Dùn-Àluinn the tenantry are being uprooted and dispersed and, paralleling this, Cailean Òg’s family is similarly torn apart with his mother dead, his sister in England and himself in New Zealand. The destruction of the family unit emphasises the theme of social upheaval and it is Cailean Òg who challenges the new social order and who restores stability and traditional values to this microcosm of Highland society. This places MacCormick’s novel in the same sort of mould as those nineteenth-century Scottish novels which Douglas Gifford has described  as  being  ones  of  ‘mythic  regeneration’,  novels  such as Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian, Hogg’s The Brownie of Bodsbeck and Stevenson’s Kidnapped and Catriona (Gifford 1988: 218). MacCormick’s microcosmic Highlands does however lack ‘realism’, with an absence of harrowing accounts of evictions, hardship and suffering and painful leave-takings on emigrant ships as can be found in such contemporary sources as Donald MacLeod’s Gloomy Memories or in Norman MacLeod’s ‘Long Mhór nan Eilthireach’. Instead these are glossed over in a way which accords with the general tendency of nineteenth-century British novels to overlook the less savoury aspects of the social problems which they discuss. It has been observed by R. G. Cox in ‘The Reviews and Magazines’ with its focus on the nineteenth century that ‘realism must not be carried to the point of sordid; social criticism must not become too disturbingly precise and political’ (Cox 1982: 194). This presumably has much to do with audience, as those reading MacCormick’s work would have been doing so for entertainment rather than for incisive social criticism. Certainly a significant portion of this urban readership would be able to relate to the situation presented in the novel, whether through personal experience or through hearing the accounts of others, but that is not to say they wanted to be reminded too vividly of unpleasant memories of the past. Instead MacCormick seems to have aimed for some middle ground by incorporating a strong thread of social commentary, but ensuring that at no point does it completely supersede the romantic adventure side of the novel. The conclusion, with Cailean Òg restored to his inheritance, may seem somewhat unsatisfying to a present day readership. While there has been an improvement in the situation of the tenantry over the course of the novel it has taken the form of a return to a pre-Clearance idyll and is thus a step backwards rather than forwards to cope with the pressures of an increasingly commercialised world and with tenants still apparently having no legal tenancy rights. For an early twentieth-century emigré audience, however, this may have been a wholly acceptable, and indeed anticipated, conclusion and should be judged accordingly. Stylistically the novel owes much to Gaelic tradition. The influence of the sgeulachdan of oral tradition is evident in both the plot, with the step-mother, exile and successful return of the hero, and in the timescale of the novel which is a lengthy, indeterminate period. For the most part – with the notable exception of the minister – there is little character development, with stereotypes being used and in a number of cases, particularly those from outwith the community, their personal names are hardly ever used.  The writing can at times be ponderous and on occasions lapses into Ossianic-like evocations of scenery as when Cailean Òg’s return to his estate is described: Bha bùirich an uillt, nuallan an eas, agus iargaltachd  an t-seallaidh mu ’n cuairt, a’ cur oillt air an t-Sasunnach. Cha do thachair e r’ a leithid riamh a h-uile ceum gu ’n d’ thug e. Bha e daonnan a’ cur ionghnaidh air, an cruadal ’s a’ mhisneach a bha ’n Cailean; ach an uair a chunnaic e an dùthaich ’san do thogadh e, thuig e le thùr nàdarra féin, nach b’ urrainn ach ceatharnaich tighinn am mach á laifeid nam fuar-bheann oillteil ud, far an robh an tein-adhair a’ dannsadh air mullach nam beann, fuaim an tairneanaich a’ leum bho bhinnean gu binnean ’s an stoirm a’ gleac ’s a’ beadradh ris an eas, a bha sloistreadh nam bearradh, ’s a’ teicheadh le uamhas gu sàmhachair nam bruach an grunnd a’ ghlinne fhàsail. (DA: 208) The accusation of adjectival turgidity which is levelled at MacCormick is perhaps overly harsh since here he was following the style of nineteenth-century writers of Gaelic in using two or three adjectives with the same or similar meaning, a technique both influenced by the rhetoric of oral tradition and preaching and consciously feeding back into an oral environment (see Kidd, forthcoming). Typical examples of this include ‘cha do shuidh riamh an Dùn-éidinn no an Lunnainn cùirt a b’ òrdaile, a bu shoineannta, a bu shuimeala, no a bu shuairce […]’ (DA: 186) and ‘bha Cailean  air a mheas ’na dhuine pongail, deas-bhriathrach, ionnsuichte, (DA: 189). These verbose moments tend, however, to be restricted to the most serious and dramatic points in the novel. MacCormick was equally capable of precision and of highly visual yet concise turns of phrase as when he talks of the clearances as ‘an obair ghràineil a bha ’g itheadh na Gaidhealtachd mar an luibhre bhàsail’ (DA: 46) and when he describes the effect which a’ Bhan-Fhrangach had on the widowed Dùn-àluinn, ‘chuir i tuaineal ’na cheann, mar a chuireas an neas an ceann an eòin, agus laigh e aig a casan’ (DA: 48). The novelist seems though to be most at ease and also most successful when he is dealing with the estate’s tenants, his rustic chorus, and particularly with humorous encounters. One such example is when Eachann a’ Phaca tries to say the word ‘dì-làrachadh’: “‘Dì-làrachadh,’ Eachainn! ‘Dì-làrachadh!’” arsa Dòmhnull saor, le triotan gàire. “Seadh!” ars Eachann. “’S e sin a tha mi a’ ciallachadh; ach dhì-chuimhnich mi ’n fhuaim. Dh’ fhàg an li-dàrachadh so an dùthaich gun daoine.” [. . . ] Feuch a rithis e, Eachainn,” ars an greusaiche. “Ciod è ghlagail a th’ oirbh?” ars Eachann. “Abair ‘dì-làrachadh,’”ars Dòmhnull saor; “‘dì-làrachadh’; ‘dì-làrachadh.’” “’S nach e sin a tha mi ’g ràdh?” ars Eachann – “‘di- ràlachadh’; ‘dì-dì-dalàrachadh.’” (DA: 160–61) Clearly MacCormick enjoyed playing with language. When Cailean Òg returns to the estate in disguise he has him pretend to be from Islay and thus imitate that island’s dialect, ‘tha luidhte nach fheaca, ach bha sinn turas an so roimhe o cheann bliadhnachan. Channa mi sibhse, cuideachd tha mi ’n dùil […] An do shiu- an do chiubhail an sean fhear?’ (DA: 216–17) Traditional imagery features prominently in the novel. The motif of the tree was a standard one in the bardic tradition which, at its most expansive, represented the chief, his family, the clan, the past with its roots and ancestors as well as the tree’s future potential. Of Cailean Mòr’s genealogy, MacCormick writes Chinn iomadh geug mhaiseach air a’ chraoibh-ghinealaich, agus dh’ fhàg an toradh an lorg ’nan déidh an eachdraidh na rìoghachd. Chinn geugan mosgaineach oirre cuideachd aig iomadh àm bho na fhreumhaich i an talamh sultmhor Dhùin-àluinn. (DA: 19) And specifically of Cailean Mòr, the rotten branch, ‘B’ e Dùn-àluinn laoghan na craoibhe de ’m buineadh e. B’ e cuideachd,  an aona gheug a chrìon ’s a shearg ’s a ghrod, làn mhosgain is fhineag is chnuimh.’ (DA: 106) The novelist transfers the poetic motif effortlessly into prose here as he underlines how shameful Cailean Mòr’s conduct was. The tree is made use of again to relate the destruction of the family by Cailean Mòr’s new wife, this time extending the image to incorporate the family nest as well as the tree: Chuir i r’ a sùil ìnnleachd a ghiùlan am mach, is cha ghabhadh sin dèanamh gun a’ chraobh a leagail còmhla ris an nead a chreach- adh, ’s an cuachan a sgapadh ris na gaoithean. (DA: 172–3) Another example of MacCormick firmly grounding his work in Gaelic tradition is his use of popular Highland belief, as when Dùn- àluinn’s wife dies and ‘sheall an t-aosda saobh-chreideach, caomhail air son rionnaig ùir ’san speur’ (DA: 28). Similarly, Eachann sees a taibhse, a sign that someone is going to die and shortly after this the Ban-Fhrangach’s husband is shot. MacCormick turned his hand to writing plays later in his literary career, but there are times when the novel feels somewhat like a play, or at the very least that it could be very readily adapted for the stage. There are a number of lengthy monologues, such as a’ Bhan- Fhrangach’s and those in the court-scene in New Zealand, which feel more akin to drama than a novel, perhaps due primarily to MacCormick’s repetitive and at times exaggerated style with its roots in the oral side of Highland literary traditions. His use of disguise and deception can be readily envisaged working on the stage with one actor sufficing for three characters – am Marsanta Gallda, Perkins and the Factor – and one for Cailean Òg’s friend and the husband of a’ Bhan-fhrangach. The humorous scenes involving Eachann, to which reference has already been made, would also lend themselves to being performed, and would perhaps be even more successful on stage than in the novel. All these points contribute to the sense that this first novel, as might be expected, was very much an experiment in writing an extended piece of fiction and that the writer drew on different aspects of Gaelic traditions and literature as suited his needs, whether consciously or sub-consciously and the result is, as Cameron Gillies claimed, a novel which ‘is out and out Highland and Gaelic in plot and plan and feeling and expression’. That is not to say that Dùn- Àluinn does not have it shortcomings, but we must be wary of falling into the trap of judging it by present-day standards and instead must place it firmly in the context of its day and its audience, a primarily emigré audience whose expectations of Gaelic literature do not necessarily coincide with literary tastes today.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my sincere thanks to Professor Sir Neil MacCormick for sharing with me all he knew of his great-uncle and to Mrs Annabel MacInnes, John MacCormick’s grand-daughter. I am also indebted to Mr Tom Aitchison, Dr Michel Byrne, Professor Thomas Owen Clancy, Ms Rachel Hosker (Glasgow University Archive Services) and Professor Donald Meek for the advice and assistance which they have offered.

NOTES 1        The People’s Journal had a regular Gaelic column at this time. 2        October 1913–September 1915. 3        I am grateful to Rachel Hosker of Glasgow University Archives Services for this information. 4        Statutory Marriages 542/00 0001; Statutory Births 542/00 0002; Statutory Births 542/00 0016. 5        The National Library of Scotland holds ‘Photocopies of items printed at   the Iona Press 1887–1893 from the collection of Angus Johnston’. 6        Lachlann Mòr MacLean  died in  1598  at  the Battle  of Tràigh   Ghruineart, Islay, fighting against the MacDonalds. 7        I  am  grateful  to  John  MacCormick’s  great-nephew,  Professor  Sir    Neil MacCormick, for sharing this information with me. 8        Donald E. Meek, ‘The Baptists of the Ross of Mull’, Northern Studies, 26 (1989), 28–42. 9        I am grateful to Professor Sir Neil MacCormick for this information.

ABBREVIATIONS DA           Dùn-Àluinn DG          An Deò-Grèine OT           Oban Times PJ             People’s Journal Sg            An Sgeulaiche    

REFERENCES COX, R. G. (1982) ‘The Reviews and Magazines’, The New Pelican Guide to English  Literature  6:  from  Dickens  to  Hardy,  ed.  Boris  Ford.  London. pp. 182–97. CURRIE, Jo (2000) Mull. The Island and its People. Edinburgh. DONALDSON, William (1986) Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland. Language, fiction and the press. Aberdeen. FAITHFULL, Joan (1995) The Ross of Mull Granite Quarries. Iona. GIFFORD, Douglas (1988) ‘Myth, Parody and Dissociation: Scottish Fiction 1814–1914’, The History of Scottish Literature Volume 3. Nineteenth Century, ed. Douglas Gifford. Aberdeen. pp. 217–59. KIDD, Sheila M. (forthcoming) ‘An Eye to the Ear: The Interface Between Oral and Literate Cultures in the Nineteenth-century Highlands’, Scottish Studies. MACARTHUR,   E.   Mairi   (1990)   Iona.   The   Living   Memory  of   a Crofting Community 1750–1914. Edinburgh. MACCALUIM,         Alasdair,          ‘Ruaraidh            Arascain          is         Mhàirr’, http://www.akerbeltz.org/rannsachadh/ruaraidh.htm consulted on 22/12/2005. MACCORMAIC, Iain (1912) Dùn-Àluinn. Glasgow. MACLEOD, Donald John (1969) ‘Twentieth Century Gaelic Literature: A Description, Comprising Critical Study and a Comprehensive Bibliography’, unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Glasgow. MACLEOD, Donald John (1977) ‘Gaelic Prose’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 49: 198–230. MEEK, Donald E. (1989) ‘The Baptists of the Ross of Mull’, Northern Studies 26: 28–42. ‘Photocopies of items printed at the Iona Press 1887–1893 from the collection of Angus Johnston’, held by the National Library of Scotland. MACFARLANE, Malcolm – Papers of: NLS Acc.9736. Oilthigh Ghlaschu                                              SHEILA M. KIDD . .



Left to right Andrew MacCormick,  my uncle; Annabel (Campbell MacLachlan) MacCormick, my great-grandmother; Neil Lamont MacCormick my grandfather; Neil Lamont MacCormick Sr., my great-grandfather; John MacCormick, my granduncle.   (Note the characteristic of photographs of the period I have observed – subjects looking away from the camera, perhaps because of the magnesium flare used to illuminate.)


Several years ago, I had the idea and ambition to put together a history of  my father’s family, the MacCormicks.  I contacted several relatives and scoured the internet for information.  Unfortunately or not, I had to put aside the project.. Now,  as time moves on its customary fashion, I feel that I should pass on the material  gathered.  Perhaps another family member will be inspired to add to and complete this rough piece.  Frankly, I presently have no time nor energy to polish up my draft.   I ask your forgiveness and indulgence! NOTE:  two figures are prominent in the MacCormick family collection:  John MacDonald MacCormick and his son, Professor Sir Donald Neil MacCormick.  Because of the huge amount of data on the two available on the internet,, I have chosen to give more space here to other family members whose activities may be less familiar. Here follows the material I have collected.


                                       A  Ross of Mull/Isle of Iona (Scotland) Family.   We write family histories for many reasons: to see how far back in time we can  trace our roots;  to try and understand  where we came from and perhaps who we are; and  to ensure that our descendants will be informed of their past.   In this brief record, I will first concentrate on the more notable accomplishments of my family.I find it intriguing to consider how a mix of genes, circumstances and chance all play a  role in personal outcomes.   This work should have been initiated years ago while older generations with rich stores  of family history  were still with us.  But we were all too busy getting on with our lives  to recognize  the  need to  record.  Anyway, this is a beginning.   The information presented here is from personal knowledge, from family members,  information from my mother ( still going on at age 96),  and data recovered from the internet.     

We have to start somewhere.     I have chosen to begin with my great grandparents on my father’s side because I have substantial  information available for them.  The family can in fact  be traced at least to the 18th century:  NEIL LAMONT MACCORMICK (born Iona 1836, died Fionphort 1925),     ANNABELCAMPBELL MACLACHLAN MACCORMICK  (born Iona 1838,  died  Fionphort    1932 )    As there will be many Neils and Annabels  listed in this brief essay. I have chosen to add, not only the the normal  use of arabic and  Roman numerals to indicate generations but also, where useful,  to clarify identities by adding place names – for example – Neil Tormore, my great grandfather.  (Footnote – I encountered  this problem  at first hand  as a youth when at a dinner table in my home in Glasgow, we had five Neil MacCormicks seated :   me,  my grandfather and  my father, plus a son and grandson of William and Mary MacCormick).   

Neil Tormore  came from an Iona crofting family.  But he built a career at the Tormore granite quarry in Fionphort at the western extremity of the Isle of Mull. .   He became a quarrier in 1871 at the age of 35 and manager of the Tormore Quarry ten years later   This enterprise was the only non-agricultural organization of any size on Mull.  The granite from Tormore was used to build many structures including  Blackfriar’s Bridge and the Embankment in London . Neil Tormore was  a well-known figure on the islands of Mull and Iona.  Among his contributions to island life was his role as conductor of Bunessan church choirs.  It  has been claimed by family members that he composed the well known hymn melody, “Bunessan”.  However . the most recent attempt to have that accomplishment recognized officially was rejected in 2007 by the Church of Scotland Committee established to revise the Church Hymnal.   Recently I have found indications that he may have notated the melody for his  choirs.  One  of his writings is an account of a journey to Egypt.     Because of his knowledge of economic geology, and his expertise in the operation of stone quarries, he had been asked to join an expedition to the Upper Nile (via the Red Sea).  The purpose was to explore ancient Roman porphyry quarries to determine if they could be reopened and exploited.  . As it turned out, the quarries proved unworkable.  However, we are able to benefit from the expedition because of  the insights in a journal he kept (unpublished – original manuscript retained by Annabel MacInnes, Ruanich, Isle of Iona, a great granddaughter of Neil Tormore.)     His obituary read (note the surname spelling, as on the headstone of the grandparents’ grave in the Iona Abbey graveyard)

Oban Times  21 November 1925                                 

 A Noted Highlander  Deep regret was felt throughout the Ross of Mull and in Iona at the death of Mr. Neil McCormick, Achadh Ban, Fionphort, Ross of Mull, who was held in the greatest esteem and respect by all who knew him.  His long life almost spanned three generations in Mull and Iona, and that, coupled with his position as Manager of the Mull Granite Quarries for many years, made him a familiar figure in a wide district.  Mr. McCormick was born at Culbhuirg, Iona, about the year 1836 so that he passed away in his 90th year.  Mr. McCormick was therefore probably among the eldest of the readers of the “Oban Times”.  During his long life Mr. McCormick witnessed many interesting phases in the social growth and development of his native parish.  He was only an infant when the croft in Iona was exchanged for the croft in the Ross of Mull, just across the Sound of Iona, and there he was reared, though during the whole course of his life, he was in close touch with his native Iona, where the majority of the people are his near relatives.  When Mr. McCormick was a youth, the principal industry in the Ross of Mull was quarrying.  The building of Skerryvore Lighthouse had already opened up the place and given a name to what was afterwards known among the quarry masters of the period as “Mull Granite”.  Mr. McCormick entered the trade as a young man and by his grit and perseverance rose to the position of manager of the Mull quarries.  For nearly 40 years he was sole manager, and on account of his great technical skill, his expert knowledge was often sought, and several times it took him far afield in connection with questions of arbitration.  A Visit to Egypt At one time his services as an expert were given in Egypt.  Differences arose between a firm of sculptors in London, and the government of Egypt over the question of transport in connection with a large porphyry quarry which the London firm leased from the Egyptian Government.  It was mutually agreed to settle the matter by arbitration, and Mr. McCormick was accepted as referee.  Mr. McCormick’s interest in antiquarian matters prompted him to undertake a task which for his years had certain risks, for the sun-baked Egyptian desert had to be negotiated to its very centre.  Besides climatic hardships, the Sudan War was in progress, and the Government of Egypt equipped the expedition with an armed guard.  Mr. McCormick had many reminiscences of this trek through the hot desert, and loved to relate interesting incidents connected with the journey, such as the manner in which his guard could ascertain the approach of danger by listening through the sand over a large area at camping time each night.When Mr. McCormick was a young man, the manager of the quarries was an Englishman named Spence.  He was a civil engineer, and is still remembered as the builder of the Suspension Bridge across the Clyde.  Mr. Spence, while in Mull, laid the rails leading from the quarries to the shipping quay, but owing to the steepness of the gradient, which is 1 in 9, there was continual trouble.  Something had to be done for the safety of life and property.  Mr. McCormick evolved the idea of a ‘rail brake’, applied by a lever.  For more than fifty years his invention gave every satisfaction, and during that period it was known as the only ‘rail brake’ in the world, and strangers visiting the quarries were puzzled as to the way in which the machine was worked.  Many years afterwards the Corporation of Glasgow employed a similar brake applied by electricity for their tram cars.  In the course of Mr. McCormick’s management of the Mull Quarries, some of the biggest quarrying contracts in the country passed through his hands, and today in many parts of Europe and America the polished “Red Granite of Mull” still proclaims the superiority in defying climaticonslaught.                                Interesting Reminiscences Although he was always a busy man, Mr. McCormick took a deep interest in the social and religious welfare of the community.  He remembered the Disruption, and though only seven years of age at the time he had interesting reminiscences of the great ecclesiastical upheaval.  He used to tell how, cuddled at the fireside, he would listen to his father, who afterwards became a Free Church Elder, Catechist and Schoolmaster, reading the ‘Witness’, then edited by Hugh Miller, and discussing the points at issue in the great conflict to many earnest men and women who took a pious interest in the memorable struggle.  Like his father, Mr. McCormick was an ardent Free Churchman all his days, and in the course of his active life he contributed to its welfare.  He often acted as precentor, and for many years conducted a psalmody class, the members being drawn from all the denominations in the parish. Tangible proof of the earnest spirit in which Mr. McCormick’s voluntary services were looked upon by all and sundry in a wide area came when he was presented with a handsome marble timepiece – ‘from the people of both Churches’ in the Ross and Iona.  To Mr. McCormick the work he undertook as choir conductor was a labour of love, but of the gift he received by the spontaneous act of his friends and neighbours he was always proud: and today his family cherish it as a token of the respect and esteem in which their father was held among his people.  Notwithstanding his ripe old age, Mr. McCormick enjoyed excellent health up to the day on which his illness began.  He leaves a widow and nine of a family – seven sons and two daughters – to mourn his loss.  It is a remarkable record that with the exception of a child who died in infancy, there was no break in his family of eleven until a son, William, an engineer in the Navy, was killed during the War.  Mrs. McCormick and her family have the sympathy of all who know them in the great loss they have sustained and they have received letters of condolence from far and near.”  ————————-

Neil Tormore and his wife  Annabel had eleven children as noted

JOHN  Gaelic scholar, teacher, author

MARGARET b. 2 April 1862, d. 19 December 192

DONALD      Sea captain, shipping superintendent

WILLIAM (died in infancy) 

NEIL LAMONT   For most of his working life, he was Superintendent of a large working men’s hostel in Glasgow. 

DUGALD  He was a sailor, master mariner and captain in the Australian army. He settled in Australia where he was a grazier of sheep.  Here is a rather bedraggled photo of Granduncle Dugald, I am certain on his return voyage from Australia (with unidentified companions).


 He composed verse in Gaelic and English as well as tunes for pipes and songs.  See this site for a remarkable collection of 56 stories and songs narrated  or sung in his native Gaelic by Granduncle Dugald.   http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/results     Upon his return to Scotland, he was much in demand as a Gaelic raconteur at The Highlanders Institute in  Glasgow.   In 1948 his book written about his son, Iain, was published:

 (A personal note.  Granduncle Dugald was the kindest of the siblings to me and my immediate family.)

Here is a letter of interest with his view of the MacCormick family origins which  he sent to my late youngest sister, Fiona Campbell MacCormick.  You can get a clear impression of his  sense of fun (which did not always sit well in his brother’s home at 25 Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow).  Uncle Dugald Letter0001
WILLIAM   Naval engineer

ROBERT   Shipping Superintendent


COLIN COLL MCDONALD    Lighthouse keeper, Islay  

As  far as I have been able to ascertain, , only LACHLAN remained on Mull, the other siblings seeking livelihoods in  Glasgow and elsewhere, John  however returning to Mull.    A question to be asked is why so?   The most likely answer may be  found in the combination of two major and catastrophic events: the Mull Clearances carried out on behalf of the Duke of Argyll  and the Potato Famine, both of  which occurred a few years after  NEIL TORMORE’s birth on Iona in 1836. See e.g.,   http://highlandrenewal.org/assets/files/Tireragan_History.pdf   (The Tormore Quarry closed in 1910.)  I can only speculate that there may also have been a paucity of suitable arable land to support eleven new MacCormicks in their adulthood.  Another possibility is that Neil TORMORE, a community leader and sage, may have  encouraged his offspring to seek their fortunes off the Island.  This matter is one which intrigues me and I will investigate it further.)

JOHN MACCORMICK, their first born,  and my most admired family member (I will explain this  later) was a  well known Gaelic writer and poet.  He was crowned Bard at the 1925 Mod in Greenock, I  calculate, just before his father died.  . He was also author of a still-quoted book, The Isle of Mull,  out of print since 1934He was co-founder of The Iona Press.  A recent research paper sets forth his remarkable career and is highly recommended reading – “The Forgotten First John MacCormick” – http://www.abdn.ac.uk/celtic/sgs22.hti  (This is  currently a non-working link.  I am checking it out.) It is noteworthy that his son John was the sole member of the family to remain in crofting and  on Iona.  Today, his great great  grandson farms Culbuirg on Iona while his granddaughter, ANNABEL and her spouse, John MacInnes, retired from active crofting to ANNABEL’S  Iona family home, Ruanich. _

We now turn to the  next  (or third?) generation to see further accomplishments.    
  JOHN MACDONALD MACCORMICK (BORN 1904 –  DIED 1961) ,third child of DONALD and  Marion , practiced law in Glasgow.  He  came to public attention in    the 1930s    for his leading role in the formation of the Scottish Nationalist Party.   In his 1955 book, Flag In the Wind, reissued in 2008, he predicted correctly that a Scottish Parliament would emerge by the end of the 20th Century.   He was elected Rector of Glasgow University. He famously brought suit to protest the use of QE II mottoes on postal boxes in Scotland.  He argued accurately that the first Queen Elizabeth did not rule Scotland.    The suit was unsuccessful but brought continuing attention to Scottish concerns.      In the 2008 film, Stone of Destiny, Robert Carlisle plays his role in the removal of the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey.   
MARGARET HARPER-NELSON (born1910, died 2003) was the first child of ANNABEL AND JOHN HARPER-NELSON.   Her father was a medical officer  in the Indian Army.  Lieutenant Colonel Harper-Nelson  served from 1930-35 as Principal of the second-oldest educational  institution in the Indian sub-continent, King Edward Medical College.   MARGARET’S  parents retired to “Achaban” the home which they had maintained at Fionphort, a hamlet west of Bunessan, and the terminus of the Iona ferry.   {I have not had time to properly research the ownership history of Achaban.  I know that it was originally a manse and later became the home of the Manager of the Tormore Quarry.)  Neil Tormore died while living there.  Like most property on the Ross of Mull, Achaban was owned by the Duke of Argyll.  ln any event, John and ANNABEL Harper-Nelson subsequently took ownership of Achaban and the adjacent Loch Poit-Na-Hi.  The house later  passed out of the family and is now a hotel.) 

MARGARET played a significant role in the heyday of the British film industry in the 1950s as an imaginative and dedicated casting agent.   Yet you will seek in vain for her name in the credits of such films as The Lavender Hill Mob and Whisky Galore.   Ealing Studios decision  not to identify her role in their most outstanding films is one of those corporate mysteries.   But it was so.  (Nowadays, you will be informed of the name of the standby tea-boy!)    Rather than summarize her accomplishments, I thought it would be more informative  to  insert (without permission thus far) an appreciation of her life which appeared in The Times of London  on June 25, 2003: The Times obituaryJune 25, 2003

“Margaret Harper-Nelson Respected Ealing Studios casting agent who discovered Audrey Hepburn on a chorus line

“As a casting director in the heyday of the Ealing Studios, Margaret Harper-Nelson holds a unique place in the annals of British cinema.With her keen eye for talent and shrewd judgment of scripts, she was personally responsible for casting some of the best-loved British film comedies made in postwar Britain.  In 1949 alone she cast all the leading actors and supporting cast in Passport to Pimlico, Whisky Galore! and Kind Hearts and Coronets. In the last named it was Harper-Nelson’s suggestion that Alec Guinness playall eight of the doomed d’Ascoyne family.:She worked closely with Sir Michael Balcon who, as head of EalingStudios, left a distinctive mark on British cinema and on the representation of”Britishness”. He produced quiet comedies of English character whichusually featured a downtrodden group which rebelled against authority. The comedies were noted for their quirky freshness and originality and the studiosemployed a repertory of known and unknown players.“Harper-Nelson always encouraged new talent. She saw the potential forthe young Peter Sellers and cast him as the Teddy Boy, Harry, in TheLadykillers (1955). One of her favourite stage comedians was Frankie Howerd andshe cast him in the same film as a harassed barrow boy. In Whisky Galore!(1949) she found a small role for an unknown Stanley Baker. She regularlyattended theatres throughout the country and the West End in search of newactors.

“But her new finds were not always appreciated by the studios. Smitten by the charm of one young chorus girl, Harper-Nelson cast her as a cigarette girl in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). When she suggested a long-term contract she was told that Audrey Hepburn “would not go far”.

“Although Ealing Studios were run very much as a family affair,Margaret was one of the few women working behind the scenes. She was, however, highly respected, not least by directors such as Robert Hamer, Charles Frend and Alexander Mackendrick and by the scriptwriter T. E. B. Clarke.  Intelligent and witty, she was popular with actors and she numbered among her many close friends Alec Guinness and Jill Balcon. She was a close friend of Audrey Hepburn until the star’s death in 1993. Harper-Nelson, a heavy smokerfor many years, always offered others a cigarette as well. She claimed that she did so to put people at their ease, but on retiring from the film world she gave up overnight.

“As well as casting comedies such as The Titfield Thunderbolt (1952) and The Ladykillers, she also turned her hand to several dramas. In 1953 she worked on the wartime naval classic, The Cruel Sea, starring Donald Sinden,and the same year Mandy, the weepie starring Phyllis Calvert and Jack Hawkins. She also liked to cast against type, or as she called it “misplacing people”,  such as Majorie Fielding as The Lavender Hill Mob’s elderly hotel resident hooked on crime thrillers and Danny Green as the sentimental gangster, One Round, in The Ladykillers.  “Harper-Nelson worked at the studios for ten years from 1946, yearsmthat she described as “the happiest of her life”. When the studios were bought by the  BBC in 1955 she attended a ceremony with Sir Michael Balcon, who unveiled a plaque that read “Here during a quarter of a century were made many films projecting Britain and the British character”.

“Margaret Harper-Nelson was born in Stepps, North Lanarkshire, and was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College.   During the Second World War she worked for Basil Dean at ENSA, the Forces entertainment organization known by the troops as “Every Night Something Awful”. She worked at the headquarters at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and also as a continuity announcer for Geraldo and his Band at the Fortune Theatre and at munitions factories throughout the country.“In 1946 she obtained a post as an assistant at Ealing Studios and within months became a leading casting agent. In 1957 she worked for a period at the Rank Organisation, promoting new starlets such as Jill Ireland, Susan Shaw, Susan Beaumont and others. Two years later, Harper-Nelson joined the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson as a headhunter for television commercials for the newly formed ATV. Among her most memorable successes was Mary Holland who would play “Katie” in the long-running Oxo commercials.

“At the age of 51, Harper-Nelson suddenly retired and went to look after her mother at the family home in a remote village on the Isle of Mull.

“Six years later she was joined by her sister, the novelist ANNABEL   CAROTHERS.   Harper-Nelson acted as a typist for her sister, notably on Kilcaraig, an epic romantic saga set on the Isle of Mull. Tragically, after a long illness, during which she was nursed by her sister, Annabel died on the day  that her book was published. It became a bestseller.   

“For the rest of her life Harper-Nelson lived alone but enjoyed a huge correspondence with friends all over the world. She kept numerous diaries and notebooks; a typically modest entry read: “Tuesday. Had lunch with the Attenboroughs  Went shopping.” Always fascinated by   people, she was acutely interested in current affairs, new films and up-and-coming actors.  ‘I   may be alone,’ she said recently to a friend, ‘but I am not lonely.’    “Margaret Harper-Nelson, casting agent, was born on October 17, 1910.    She died on June 6, 2003, aged 92 in Bunessan..

Not cited in the obituary was her role in casting The Maggie, my favorite Ealing film.  (The captain  was played by Alex MacKenzie who sang with my father in a quartet of the Glasgow Gaelic Musical Association.)  Margaret once told me she recommended a Mull lad (a MacMillan?) for the part of the wee boy in the film but was overruled by the director.
In the years before she died, Margaret moved from Achaban to Earobus,  Bunessan.  She later  had a new house built in Bunessan and named it “Kilcaraig”.  
ANNABEL CAROTHERS, Margaret’s younger sister, I was told, began writing her bestseller novel, Kilcaraig,in the 1940s (?).  However following the death of her husband in action in World War II, she stopped work on it for decades.   He book was finally published in 1982 sadly on the day that she died.    [I have recently discovered the existence of another volume listed by one source as Kilcaraig: Part 1 1913-1946, The Breeze In the Barley published in 1985 in a large print edition.  I have not located other editions  thus far.)     For those who have not had the pleasure. Kilcaraig is a good read about quite a grand family on Mull. Annabel’s daughter, Fionna Eden-Bushell, recently found a manuscript by her mother and had it published in 2011:  Four Ducks On a Pond, by Nicholas the Cat, and Annabel Carothers is of interest to this history because it portrays life at Achaban in the 1940s..   Fionna has her own web site:  http://www.fionnaeden-bushell.info/ and she has just sent me the  following news.  “I wonder if you know that I, as Fionna Carothers, had a sequel to Four Ducks published last year?  A Grass Bank Beyond – Memories of Mull – extends the period through the 40s and 50s and is found on the Birlinn website and, of course, Amazon where the .uk.co version has a couple of excellent (unsolicited!) reviews.”
JOHN HARPER-NELSON. the youngest of the three. served in the military reaching the rank of major, and was a successful radio and television broadcaster, author and promoter of aboriginal art  in Australia. You can see a sprightly looking  John four years ago at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Perth (Australia) ABC television programming here  http://watvhistory.com/2010/05/abw-channel-2-50th-reunion/   I will later add links to other sites relevant to John’s life.
At this writing (January 2 2015) JOHN HARPER NELSON is the oldest living member of the MACCORMICKS.
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