Gazette Letters

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To our readers & letter contributors

The Stornoway Gazette letters pages are a platform for topical debate.

Over the years, many subjects have been explored, with arguments raised and points examined amongst readers.

However, letters recently have become far too focused on matters of faith, which I feel cannot be correctly examined or debated as they depend on doctrine or tradition, which is either accepted or not.

This newspaper’s letters pages are therefore not an appropriate forum for contributions of this nature and we will no longer consider them for inclusion.

Melinda Gillen, Editor

Beautiful Barra

New flag doesn’t reflect island

Sir, – I see the Lyon Court has approved the design of flag that may now be raised over the island of Barra (last week’s Gazette).

It’s not an overly-imaginative flag, it has to be said, and what do the staid white lines and the sombre green background actually represent?

Barra is a little jewel of an island with blue seas, white surf, golden sands, wild flowers in profusion, rainbows and red-roofed cottages.

Could some of that glorious colour not have been incorporated in the flag? – Yours, etc.,

Keith Fernie


Hunt for family roots

MacDonalds and 78th Highlanders

Sir, – I hope that this story may prompt some memories from older readers in order for me to make a connection with extended family and my own family roots.

I have discovered that my GGGG grandfather was also known as John MacDonald and he married in 1796 in Glasgow.

His occupation is given as that of a weaver, but census records give no idea as to his place of origin, although they do reveal that he resided in the Carlton area.

This is currently around the crossroads of George Street, Duke Street and the High Street, just down from Glasgow Cathederal.

What I do know about him is that in 1806 he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the 78th Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs) and that he then went to Sicily.

All of these facts were discovered because his son, James, was born on Sicily and that is recorded in the Glasgow census records, and later in poor record returns held at the Mitchell Library.

What I could not reconcile was why he would join the army as a fairly old married man and enlist with a predominantly Gaelic-speaking Highland regiment recruited heavily from the Islands and Lewis in particular.

Joining the army might be explained because in 1806 the one-man/one-loom style of weaving collapsed in Glasgow as weaving became industrialised.

I believe that the fact that he went to the predominantly Gaelic-speaking 2nd Battalion of the 78th Highlanders might then be explainable because of the clan and family nature of Highland regiments, given that the 1745 rebellion was a recent memory.

My thought is that he enlisted with men from his own family and area.

I have withdrawn the original muster rolls of the regiment which show 12 John MacDonalds being enlisted when the regiment was raised.

No places of origin are noted. Numerous other MacDonalds are also on the muster rolls.

My belief that I might have connections on Lewis and Uig in particular are twofold.

First, because my grandfather always stated that he believed the family came from Skye, which is the home of the ancestral seat of the clan at Armadale or Duntulum Castle.

Second, I have had a DNA connection reaching back several generations to a MacDonald who is native to Lewis, and whose family have an unbroken connection with the island. He can also trace his family back to Uig in the mid 17th-century.

Given that the regiment won a very significant battle at Madia in Italy and were mauled heavily at the battle of Rosetta in Egypt, there is not a great deal known about it.

As the collective Highland memory is long, I’m hoping that there is still much knowledge or even diaries or papers which may remain within families regarding their ancestors’ military involvement.

I’m also hoping that I can eventually find the elusive connection to a point of origin.

My request to Gazette readers is would any with family links back to the 78th Highlanders 2nd Battalion, MacDonald ancestors in particular, please make contact with me; also anyone else with 78th memories or stories or connections with Uig?

And I have one more question.

Has anyone had ever heard of MacDonalds returning from the ‘45 and living on, down through the generations, on the west coast of Skye, up to the early 20th century?

I am hoping that the term “The Blood is strong” has significance in my quest, and any assistance is appreciated. – Yours, etc.,

John AB MacDonald

c/o St Helena

Station Road



Trump’s policies

Fulcrum removed from balance

Sir, – Reputable normal people, like the United Nations, have counted all the beans and found that in the 30 years since the Thatcher/Reagan era, the world has got more extreme, with a few people paid silly money and lots of people on (or below) sustenance wages. The Trump administration is doing the same thing as Reagan, but better, having just cut corporation taxes.

This extreme action will increase the speed of wealth transfer to the American corporations, continue lack of accountability and lack of responsibility, while measurement of wider results will be left undone, as this is the sort of work that used to be done by the people in government who Trump never employed.

The upshots of his chosen policies look like being increased poverty globally, more civil disorder, war and refugees.

In America there will be other effects – increased illiteracy due to a lack of schooling and, incredibly, in one of the richest countries in the world, an increase in maternal mortality from preventable medical issues.

At the same time, the wealthy are buying the media, so that the voice of independent journalism is bought, affecting votes.

Democracy requires votes based on information.

Voting for the biggest guy 
on the TV is a vote for the money that bought his TV show, rather than efficient policy that provides for democracy.

Buying the media takes 
away the market place for voices discussing competing policy, and leaves no spaces for consumer choice to inform and discuss, educate and communicate, and therefore no space, for the invisible hand to act to achieve balance.

The invisible hand is what the free market system of Republican America and Conservative Britain rely on to control monopolies and reduce concentrations of power. If you take the fulcrum out of the balancing system, or the umpire out of the match, you will get the one god of monopoly, that is what ‘island blood’ Mr Trump has chosen. – Yours, etc.,

H G Mansfield


MSP wants to know

Island deliveries: rip-off charges

Sir, – At this time of year many people will be shopping online for presents for friends and family.

Like everyone else in Scotland, islanders naturally want to be able to take advantage of the choice and bargains offered online.

However, it’s worth remembering the variety of local shops we have, and I hope that many of your readers will have had the chance to spend the recent Small Business Saturday supporting local businesses.

As we all know, there are certain items and goods it is impossible to get locally and we rely on the ability to get these from online shopping.

Many people have come to me to express shock and anger at some of the ludicrously high delivery surcharges they are being asked to pay by companies who deliver for free in the rest of the UK.

Some of the delivery surcharges imposed on local homes and businesses I’ve heard about are staggering.

That’s why I am working with my MSP colleague, Richard Lochhead, who has a campaign website – – where the public can support the call for action to ensure 
retailers and courier companies who want our custom stop ripping off customers 
in the Highlands and Islands.

I can also be contacted at and would be grateful if your readers could let me know of their experiences and name those companies who are unfairly discriminating against the islands. – Yours, etc.,

Alasdair Allan MSP