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
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
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
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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