So the archive has been open to the public since 2004. We were awarded some money from the Heritage Lottery Fund initially to set it up, catalogue it, open it to the public, produce some publications and we also instigated an annual memorial lecture in honour of Angus Macleod where we have a speaker who talks about a subject which would have been of interest, we hope, to Angus. Certainly I think it’s worked very well so far. So the archive is there, it’s open to the public and, as a second project, we digitised quite a considerable amount of the archive and it’s now online. We now have a website which is and a lot of the material, but not all of it, is on the website. We get a lot of visitors, both visitors and local people who, because the archive has information about the genealogy of each of the villages and obviously that’s of particular interest to local people ... Genealogy is absolutely part of the culture here so people can tell you not only who you are but who your ancestors were back several generations. But as well as local people we are getting increasing interest from visitors and from colleges, universities, schools, because I think it’s potentially a very important educational resource and it’s not just of local interest. While it’s mainly to do with South Lochs, the themes that it covers are of much wider interest, fishing, for example, or the Clearances. So what we have, I think, in the Angus Macleod Archive is a localised set of information which sheds light on these wider topics and what I think is important about the archive is not necessarily that every statement made in it is correct in some absolute sense but that, in a way, it represents the collective memory of the people of this area. I mean, Angus Macleod was a most incredible person, well ahead of his time in terms of recording local history. He was doing this from the 1960s, at least, onwards before it became fashionable, and I know he went round and collected a lot of stories and information from local people. I think there was a bit of a love-hate relationship actually between local people and Angus Macleod, but one good effect of all of that is that local people regard it as their archive! (laughs) He twisted their arms to get it in the first place. It’s not like some archives which are seen as somehow distant and from the outside. This is something that local people very much relate to and it’s that combination of getting the views of local people and the views of people from the outside, academics, for example, from universities, which is important. That’s very much what we’re trying to do here at Ravenspoint and also through the Islands Book Trust, bringing people together from different perspectives which I think sheds new light on history. I think we all learn from each other.

  • John Randall
Thursday 3rd June 2010