Sunday, February 25, 2007

The MacLeods of Dunvegan

The funeral of John MacLeod of MacLeod, 29th chief of the clan was held on Saturday. He was a fine man who would always find time to greet members of the clan if he possibly could.

The seat of the Macleods is Dunvegan Castle in the north of Skye. John MacLeod attracted some unfavourable publicity recently for putting the Cuillin Hills up for sale. He did this as a last resort to raise money for the castle roof which, as I have seen, does not always keep out the rain. Indeed the castle has recently been a challenge, perhaps a burden, for successive chiefs.

They have been at Dunvegan since the 13th century and in medieval times it was a fine, easily defended, base. However in 1773 Lady MacLeod was finding the castle 'very inconvenient'. She claimed it 'must always be a rude place', to which Dr Johnson retorted that 'were it in Asia, I would not leave the rock'. But then came the awful potato famine of the late 1840s when tens of thousands of Highlanders emigrated. The 25th chief had to leave Dunvegan. He took a job as a clerk in London and the castle was let. Not until 1929 did the chief of the clan return to the rock. Since then the estate has diversified and the tourist potential of the castle, (no longer 'a rude place'!) realised. The clan motto is 'Hold Fast' and I have no doubt that Hugh, now the 30th chief will do just that. The best of luck to him.

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