One of Stornoway’s best-loved characters, the town’s last blacksmith, Calum ‘Stealag’ Macleod, has passed away at the age of 84.
His funeral is today (Friday August 9th) at the High Church of Scotland at 2pm.
Calum had been part of the industrial and social scene of the town since his childhood. At the age of five he was entrusted by his blacksmith father with the task of holding the heads of shire horses when they were brought for shoeing.
His father was the original ‘Stealag’, having earned his nickname by diving into a muddy puddle while saving a goal during school football. Calum learnt his craft at his father’s side through pure physical experience, graduating during the 1950s from his first jobs making pokers for the stoves that were still used in every home, to shoeing horses and making brands for sheep.
Some of the sheep brand marks and the story behind them are preserved for posterity at Museum nan Eilean at Lews Castle, where part of the door to the former smithy is on permanent display. One of his stories recalled days when escaped rams were brought to the smithy by police, so that the owner could be identified and a fine levied before the animal was returned.
For many years Calum was an essential supporter to island industry, tackling the numerous mending tasks needed for fishermen and crofters and always ready to fix a loom for a weaver who needed to get on with a job.
He never liked to see anything go to waste, and his smithy on Inaclete Road was an Aladdin’s cave of iron and steel pieces that might one day be put to use. He had a fascination with decorative techniques in wrought iron, setting himself puzzles such as creating a chain from a single piece of metal.
A musician by temperament, he lately bemoaned the fact that age and hard use of his hands had made it harder to play his accordion, but still contributed to the informal sessions of the Sawmill Band which met at the castle sawmill. He was also a fount of knowledge on Gaelic song, learnt from his mother.
Many people combined visits to his smithy with extended social sessions, listening to stories and remembering changed times. Although in recent years ill-health had keep him away from work for periods, he was still often to be found among the sparks of the roaring forge, wearing no protective clothing beyond an old jumper and working on anything from a gate to a peat iron with continued enthusiasm.
Calum is survived by his wife Mairi, son John Murdo and daughter Kathleen.
Canon Angus MacQueen, who has died at the age of 95, was a giant of his faith, his culture and of the communities he served throughout the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles over seven decades.
Wherever he went as parish priest, he left a mark not just on the spiritual life of his flock but also on the social and economic interests of places that needed leadership. His Christianity took intensely practical forms, embracing a multitude of projects and innovations, all for the good of the people, always leading by example.
Donald Stewart Macleod, who died recently in Stornoway, devoted his time and energies unsparingly teaching at Bayble Secondary School for 38 years - in fact, his entire professional life.
Always known as “D.S.” he joined the staff there as a young graduate fresh from Edinburgh University. Tall well-attired, good looking and with innate courtly courtesy, he made a striking presence among the youthful milieu who sat in the classrooms.
Dr Colin MacDonald, who has died from a brain tumour at the age of 69, was one of the last of a precious breed – an excellent doctor who chose to apply his expertise in the role of single-handed General Practitioner in a remote Scottish community.
The benefit for the Uig area of the Isle of Lewis was immense. It enjoyed that priceless service for a decade longer than most similar places while Colin also became a key figure in community initiatives including the Suileachan project which created a wonderful memorial to the Riof Land Raiders.
Colin was Hebridean by birth, genealogy and temperament though most of his early life and medical career were spent in Lochaber. His father, Dr Duncan MacDonald, was a Glasgow Gael who, after a distinguished war career, opted for general practice in South Uist which is where Colin was born. His mother was Glaswegian.
On Friday 18 January, a large gathering of relatives and friends from the mainland, Skye, Uist, Lewis and Harris attended the funeral service in the Church of Scotland, Tarbert, Isle of Harris, of the late Rev Roderick M Mackinnon Lth, retired Church of Scotland Minister who passed away suddenly but peacefully in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness on Saturday 12 January in his 91st year.
The previous day, Thursday 17 January, over 400 mourners attended a service in the Church of Scotland, Castle Street, Dingwall, where 70 years ago, Rev Mackinnon became a communicant member of the church and where he had served as an elder for many years. The remains were taken to Luskentyre cemetery and laid to rest a short distance from his twin Murdo, who predeceased him over 30 years ago.
Rev Mackinnon had retired to Conon Bridge on his retirement from the ministry in 1995 and had celebrated 50 years in the ministry in March 2018. The following tribute by Donald Martin, a fellow Harris man and family friend, was delivered at the service in Tarbert.