Margaret Fay Shaw: a life and life’s work worth celebrating

This year brings the tenth anniversary of the death of Margaret Fay Shaw, surely one of the most remarkable women of the 20th century, and a life – and a life’s work – worth celebrating. Continue reading

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A country built aslant: exploring Scotland’s fault line

I was born in Islington – a very different place in 1947 than it is now – but I had never been particularly proud of the fact until I heard Alistair Moffat at the Lennoxlove Book Festival, talking about his new book Britain’s Last Frontier, A Journey Along the Highland Line. The London borough, he told us, played a big part in the success of the whisky industry.  Continue reading

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Little Bird comes home

It was very fitting that A Little Bird Blown Off Course, the musical tribute to Margaret Fay Shaw devised and performed by Fiona Mackenzie, should have premiered on South Uist, the island where she started her work and her lifelong love of the Hebrides, and finished its first run on Canna, the island which was her home for 70 years. Continue reading

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A Little Bird Blown off Course


Great news that A Little Bird Blown off Course, a new piece of music–theatre by Gaelic singer Fiona Mackenzie celebrating the life and Gaelic song collection of Margaret Fay Shaw, is to be performed in the islands and Highlands as part of the Blas Festival next month.

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Canna is magic

Thanks for highlighting Canna. Some of my best moments in the Trust.

Canna House garden weaves a spell over everyone who visits it but it is not always obvious how much devoted work goes on behind the scenes. I am delighted to publish this tribute to the Thistle Camps, the dedicated volunteers of the National Trust for Scotland who have played such an important part in restoring the garden.  Now over to Jan Haenraets, landscape architect and former NTS Head of Gardens. Continue reading

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Tall tales: history in a vertical plane

As a historian in an age when history was still dominated by studies of ‘Great Men’ and battles, John was ahead of his time in paying attention to the lives of ordinary people recounted in their own words. Continue reading

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The new postscript should not be the end of the story

‘Alone in his attic study John Lorne Campbell made an astonishing discovery. Painstakingly going through old papers, he uncovered the family secret which had caused an unbridgeable emotional gap with his father and burdened his early years with heavy debt.’ Continue reading

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Men and Women of Rock

A chance meeting with Denise Walton at an Edinburgh farmer’s market calls to mind the man we have in common – James Hutton. Continue reading

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Public keep out!

The news that a millionaire absentee landlord is to close the island of Sanda to the public shows how little has changed in attitudes to land – and islands in particular – in the last 50 years.

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Kay Shaw’s incredible Pan Am Clipper journey

“Life for most of us may begin at forty, but let no-one worry if a few more years go by before the real excitement sets in.” With these words Margaret Fay Shaw’s sister Kay begins her account of an epic and adventurous journey to visit Canna in 1939.

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