Butt to Barra District News

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Community Centre - The Hogmanay night held in the Community Centre was well attended and grateful thanks go to the bands who entertained throughout the evening.

The annual festive lunch was held on January 9th and was enjoyed by all with a picture display and music kindly provided by John Porteous and Ian Mackay.

The traditional Christmas cake cutting was done this year by Ishbal from Linshader who will be 100 years old this month. Grateful thanks go to all those who came to help and for all donations received.

We hope to have a further fund raising meal night on 30th January. Details available shortly.

There will be a whist night this Friday 15th January at 7.30pm and all are welcome.

Sympathy - One of Great Bernera’s oldest residents Mary MacDonald, aged 92, died peacefully at Blar Buidhe Care Home on 22nd December 2015.

Mary was born in Croir House and brought up in the village of Tobson in what was probably the last ‘black house’ of the area.

As a young woman Mary worked in Edinburgh but had to return home to care for her mother before she died, and also her younger sister Joey who had Multiple Sclerosis.

Mary latterly worked as Matron of an Abbeyfield Home in Aberdeen which she thoroughly enjoyed and retired to spend her later years in 8 Heath Park.

She loved her home and was always pleased to have friends, young and old, pop in especially at the communion times.

She missed the contact and fellowship with the people when she could no longer attend church where she was a member from a young age.

She is missed by friends and family to whom we all send our condolences.


Passing of Harris’ last Arctic Convoy veteran - His many relatives and friends in Harris and beyond learned with sadness of the passing of Donald Mackinnon on Saturday 9 January at the age of 95.

Donald was born in Moll na Faobhag in Cluer Harris on 5 January 1921, the eldest of a family of eleven born to James and Murdina Mackinnon.

Donald was an intelligent boy, but the prevailing economics of the time meant that he was unable to pursue his education and he left school at the age of 14.

He worked at a number of jobs to support the family until the outbreak of war when he joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1939.

His father, James, served in the Merchant Navy during the War and was lost at sea in January 1941. This was a huge blow to the family and especially to Donald who was only 20 at the time and was himself at sea.

He rose to the rank of Petty Officer in the Royal Navy and took part in the Russian Arctic Convoys while serving on the HMS Lapwing.

The Russian Convoys was described by Churchill as the most dangerous journey of the war.

The Lapwing was torpedoed near Murmansk in March 1945 and Donald was one of 61 survivors – 158 were lost.

The survivors were picked up by HMS Diadem and one of the sailors on the rescue ship was the late Norman MacSween of Scotisay House, Tarbert.

Donald’s story is told in a book called “Survival Against the Odds” by Donald J Macleod.

Donald was a champion swimmer, having been taught as a boy in Moll na Faobhag by the late Neil Macdonald and he is convinced this ability helped him to survive the ordeal of being torpedoed.

In later years he held the World Record for the highest number of Swimming Awards. After the war Donald worked in the Security Police in Hillington until he retired.

He also used his swimming abilities to teach swimming to children and young people with disabilities.

In 2013, the British Government recognised the contribution which was made by Russian Convoys in World War II and awarded the Arctic Star to veterans.

Donald received his in Prestwick in June of that year. In November 2014 he received Ushakov Medal from the Russian Consul.

This medal was established in Russia in 1944 for those who demonstrated courage and prowess in sea warfare during World War II.

It was awarded to British veterans of the Arctic Convoys “for personal courage and valour shown during World War II while participating in the Arctic Convoys.”

As is the custom when a War Veteran passes away, the flag on Harris War Memorial is flying at half mast.

Donald was married to Anne who predeceased him last year.

The sympathy of the Harris Community is extended to his daughter Morag, her husband Jim, their two daughters and four granddaughters, his sister Dolina in Aberdeen, his sister Rachel in Thurso, his brother Thomas in Southampton and his brother Roddy Alick in Australia.


Event - On Friday, January 15th at 6.30 pm at the Scottish Poetry Library, Canongate, Edinburgh is the launch of the new published collection of poetry ‘Gu Leor’ (Galore) by Peter Mackay.

Originally from Lewis, but now living in Edinburgh, Pàdraig MacAoidh (Peter Mackay) writes in Scottish Gaelic and English.

Gu Leòr / Galore, just published by Acair, is his first full collection of poems, and draws on his experiences living in Scotland, Spain and Ireland, in a complex and sensual weave of voices, languages, echoes and forms.

According to Kevin MacNeil, he is: “One of the brightest and most provocative minds in the world of Gaelic literature today. His work is by turns beautiful, startling and insightful.

“More than ever, Gaeldom needs eloquent, characterful and challenging writers of Mackay’s calibre. His work is a great gift to Gaelic and English readers alike.” For the Scotsman, he is ‘the best young Gaelic poet writing today’ and the heir of Iain Crichton Smith.”


Celebrating 60 years of Fergie - For all fans of traditional ceilidh music there is a treat in store this Saturday evening (January 16th) on BBC Radio Scotland when programme Take the Floor celebrates the talents of dance band leader Fergie Macdonald.

Take the floor will celebrate Fergie’s 60th year as a band leader.

Join Robbie Shepherd for the very best in traditional music and song.

The programme airs at 7pm and will be repeated on Sunday, January 17th at 5pm.

Pictured is Harris’ last Arctic Convoy veteran Donald Mackinnon who passed away on Saturday 9 January at the age of 95.