Monday, January 29, 2007

Signs of Spring

I hesitate to write about early spring, because I know that somewhere the climate change doom mongers will be down on me with a vengeance. But it generally happens about now, at least it does here in the mild West of Scotland. One day you will be driving along with nothing but naked trees and mud to look at, and then overnight or so it seems, the verges will be white with snowdrops. It happens just as the sparrows, which like to nest in the old house martins' nest just above my study, start to sit on the roof and make a noise (hardly singing, but it is a very welcome sound!) and just about the time that you glance outside at five o'clock in the afternoon and realise that it is still (more or less) light. And it happens at about the same time every year. Not much earlier, not much later.
Of course there will be frosts and winds to come. Of course there will maybe even be snowfalls. But we have seen the signs and we know that the year is on the turn.
Meanwhile, here's a lovely Scottish village sunrise for you. We look forward to the sun coming up each day, because Scottish Power, a company with little efficiency, and less customer care, has seen to it that our street lights have been off for four nights now. South Ayrshire Council tell me that it is Not Their Fault. They wash their hands of the matter. They have reported it to Scottish Power, or Scottish no-power as it is beginning to be called round here, but they have done zippo, zilch, nada about it. When one of my elderly neighbours keels over and breaks a leg, who will be responsible, I wonder?


Heather said...

I received your book, God's Islanders today, and agree: its appearance is quite beautiful.

My McNeill ancestors were - in the 1770s in Kintyre, right across the way from Gigha. In my many visits to the area, I have just not got over to Gigha. However, I find it so interesting, from a historical point of view.

Your mention of John McNeill of Colonsay purchasing swatches of Gigha in the 1780s is also interesting: he was I think in competition with Sir Archibald Campbell of Interneill, who was at the same time purchased what became the Inverneill Estate in Knapdale. The Inverneill Papers from that time j(they did an inventory, of course) have lists of people who lived on the various farms.

I have a website now, on Knapdale (half my ancestors lived there, including the Galbreaths and McNeills and Campbells, etc). It includes 3 surname lists, one of Inverneill (where there are Gigha people mentioned); one of Monument Inscriptions of 11 Knapdale cemeteries (including the interesting and no doubt disintegrated McNeill Mausoleum at Oakfield on the Crinan Canal); and one of the people involved in the 1848 Arichonan Clearance Affray.
All this is at:, and at its related blog,
Cheers. And now I will read your book!!

Heather said...

another note: I have written a review of your very excellent book. It is mentioned at my blog, and on my website at

Good work.

heather said...

I added this to my blog:
Grahams in Knapdale, by Somerled MacMillan

Catherine Czerkawska in her "God's Islanders" about the people of Gigha, mentions that "Graham" is a very old name on that Island. Well, Somerled McMillan, in HIS book (mentioned below) has a section on the Grahams in Knapdale:
"This very old family is of ecclesiastical origin, their name in the Gaelic language being MAC-GHILLE-MHEARNAIG, 'son of the servant of St Mernoc', but through fanciful etymology they imagined that it was derived from GILLE-BHEARNAIG, 'servant of the bite', or 'greim', hence the change of their surname to GRAHAM. Their lands were known as Oib-MacIlvernock, and latterly as Oib-Greim..... On 22nd June, 1946, the following notice appeared in a well-known Scottish Newspaper: 'By giving up New Danna Farm, Tayvallich, Argyll, Mr. Archibald Graham is said to be ending a tenancy held by his family since 1692."
Such local information is valuable, because this western highland area is simply not covered by the usual Scottish reference books. For example, George F Black's book, "Surnames of Scotland" speaks only of the Anglo Norman Grahams who settled in Dalkeith and Abercorn, etc. The Grahams whose ancestors lived in Knapdale and on the edge of the Celtic Sea were of quite a different people.

(thought it would interest you)

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Thanks Heather - and it is all absolutely fascinating.