Sunday, 13 March 2011

Mull flying visit

Baliscate Old Farmhouse (modernised)

I am just home from the shortest visit I have ever paid to the Isle of Mull (Argyll, Scotland). I spent one night there in order to attend the annual dinner of the Mull Historical and Archaeological Society, to hear the speaker, Nicholas Maclean-Bristol who is recognised as the leading Clan Gillean (Maclean) and West Coast Historian. He has published numerous papers and books on the clan's history and its significance in the wider history of Scotland. This indeed was the subject of his talk. He and his wife live at Breacachadh Castle on the Isle of Coll, which he has rebuilt. It was when I was on Coll three or four years ago I bought his From Clan to Regiment, Six Hundred years in the Hebrides, 1400-2000, in which I found my great-great-grandfather John McLean and so found the link back to the Maclean Clan from my grandmother Margaret McLean who married my grandfather William McIlhagga. I didn't meet Nicholas Maclean-Bristol then, so it was a chance to make his acquaintance in Mull. He too is descended from a Coll branch of the clan and is in fact a distant cousin (9th). We had the pleasure of having the Clan Chief, Sir Lachlan with Lady Maclean at dinner. He is an even more distant cousin (11th)!

Since I was last on Mull the farm of Baliscate (see photo above) has been in the news. The television Time-Team has partially excavated a site on the farm where the present owner has discovered the ruins of what turned out to be a Celtic Chapel. Although I have no other firm evidence, the obituaries in the Oban Times of three of my McLean family say that when the above John and his wife Flora and their large family moved from Coll to live on Mull, they first farmed at Baliscate. This would almost certainly have been in 1875. Admittedly they were there only a short time, probably the two years before John died in August 1877, before they moved and son Lachlan farmed at Drumfin, also just south of Tobermory. It was good to meet the present owner of Baliscate and compare notes and to be able to inform her that my family had been part of the farm's history.

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