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Clan Donald Magazine No11 (1987) Online

Glencoe and North Lorn Folk Museum by Barbara Fairweather FSA Scot.

I have been asked to continue the story of the Museum from the last magazine. In 1984 we had a near disaster when an arsonist set the roof alight in the night (about 2 am). I woke to hear stones being thrown onto my window as a party came from the village to tell me the shattering news. Without the help we had from the village there would have been no future to the Museum. Locals who live near the Museum heard the crackle, alerted the fire brigade in Kinlochleven and roused those who had not wakened. Men went on the roof and took the heather off before the advancing fire could reach it. A chain of water buckets was organised. By the time I got to the scene the brigade was there. Our door had defied the policeman's efforts to force it open but one of the shutters had been broken open and the hose was playing on the fire. We had put on this special door for security and it certainly proved its capabilities. I unlocked the door and the firemen got right inside. A neighbour made tea and gave us all a cup. About four o'clock the firemen declared the fire out and we all dispersed. Next morning I was at the scene by 6.30 and began the task of packing up exhibits. There was a huge hole in the roof which meant loss of security. By eight o'clock it seemed as if the whole village had joined in the work of packing. Cars appeared and drove off with the packed boxes to safety. Our insurance firm could not have been more helpful. We had not specified arson in our policy but they made no quibble. The damage was largely structural. We lost a few exhibits and some others were damaged when moved quickly from danger. The arsonist was caught by the police; he had set four fires going in the one night.

Earlier in 1984 we had won an award in the "Museum of the Year for Scotland" competition.

Now in 1986 I can report that we have had a further win in this competition when we won the Publications prize with a book "Highland Heritage" published by the Museum.

We have made improvements to the display during the winter for the season of 1987. First of all we have bought new display figures for our costumes. The figures were dismantled and when Mrs Grant drove them to Glencoe she got some very old fashioned looks at the sight of a Crippen-like display of odd arms and heads. When we began the Museum we used standard lamps with coat hangers attached, then we moved on to dressmakers' models. Much better, but with no heads, but this coming season we look forward to heads on our ladies. Likewise we have improved our dolls houses. Some of our dolls house folk, though nicely dressed and to size, had very modern faces not suited to Victorian and earlier houses.

These people have gone to get their faces altered to their own centuries. Also we have bought a new Victorian dolls house with some delightful furnishings. The larger dolls have been increased by the addition of two wax-faced dolls of which we had no example previously.

The shoemakers' tools will look more interesting in that we now have silhouettes of shoes of the different centuries which give a better idea of changes in footwear.

One of our exhibits of great interest is an anvil for making armour which came from Clan Ranald country. It had twice been stolen and came to us for safety. We had it last year with the blacksmith's tools but were not satisfied with this display so we plan to have it beside the main collection of weapons. We had hoped to get a bit of armour or even some mock armour to show how the anvil was used but have not so far managed this.

At the suggestion of a Canadian MacDonald we have a MacDonald Register alongside the ordinary visitors book. In the MacDonald Register visitors are asked to give their genealogy. We have been told of at least two visitors who were able to make contact and to find missing links in their line.

We have changed to more modern electric fires which take up less room. We plan to put new displays in their place. Space, as those who have visited the Museum know, is limited, but every now and again we manage to make more room for further displays.

At the sales table we considered branching out into new products but lack of space and the fact that only one person is on duty at a time limits items.

This year for the school competition run by the Museum the local primary schools are asked to write the history of their own Clan. If they have no Clan they can write about any Clan they choose. We had this competition some years ago and the entries were excellent, so we hope for good work again. Each year they are given a theme. One year we asked them for their favourite lunch in summer and winter with recipes and illustrations. We were stumped by the reference to Space Food. We found from the teachers this referred to vegetables which the children were told they would need to eat if they were to be astronauts. This past year the competition was to write about their favourite character in history. One child wrote about Marco Polo; he said he liked him because he was adventurous and was called after his favourite sweetie. The winner in this instance was the child who wrote about Prince Charles Edward.

I always feel the start of the season is the 13th of February when I have the pleasure of welcoming MacDonalds to my home where they come after lunch. They see the new exhibits for the coming season and we enjoy a friendly get-together. All through the year we have visits from Clan members and where possible I ask them to I he house which was the old home of the Chiefs of the MacDonalds of Glencoe. It is uncertain when the house was built, some say when the Clan returned to the Glen after the Massacre. We know the house was fired to some extent after the '45 but do not know for certain if the present Invercoe House is the same house restored or a new one built on or near the foundations. There is a line of sycamore trees which have the oral reputation of being planted by John the Chief after the Massacre when he returned to the Glen. Three have come down since I came to Glencoe but there are still two fine specimens which a forester said would date back to the early 18th century which would make it tie up with the tale.

If any Clan member can add to the information about the house I would be glad to hear from them.

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