"Melancholy occurrence"

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This article was published in the 31 July 1849 edition of the Inverness Advertiser.



On Thursday last, as a boat from the district of Coigach, in this parish, was on her way to Lochinver, when doubling the Point of Riff, being close on shore, she was suddenly carried by a heavy swell against a rock and instantly dashed to pieces. There were five men and a woman in the boat at the time-- four of the men got on the rock, the other held by an oar, by which he succeeded in getting to shore. But the woman, who seems to have lost all presence of mind, was carried off with the wreck, and in a few moments sunk to rise no more. She was a widow, and left four children to lament her loss. It is understood the poor woman was going to Lochinver for some meal, as the people of the district in which she lived are very ill off at this moment for want of provisions. The four men that got on the rock had a narrow escape from being swept off, as the tide was making at the time. But fortunately the man who had reached the shore, was able to procure assistance in the neighbourhood, which was the means of rescuing his comrades from their danger.

In 1955 Calum MacLean from the newly originated School of Scottish Studies went to Coigach with a tape recorder to collect old songs and tales. He recorded four hours of an interview with the Coigach Estate factor, Murdo John MacLean of Altandhu. Donald William Stewart of the school ( dw.stewart@ed.ac.uk ) has translated, transcribed, and emailed me the interview, and it includes two stories relavent to this article. The first, "Rèiseamaid Iarla Chrombaidh / The Earl of Cromarty’s Regiment SA1955/160/A7", refers to John MacLeod from Altandhu, and how after fighting in India he married Mairi MacLean, sister of a fellow soldier also from the townland. The second story, "Sgeulachd Màiri / Màiri’s Story SA1955/160/A8", tells the sad tale of the death and burial of Mairi MacLeod (maiden surname MacLean). That story tells how Mairi went one summer by boat to Lochinver to get meal, and how going around the point of Coigach [by Faochaig] the boat grounded on the skerries. Murdo notes that though the men got out, Mairi was lost, carried away by the current. The story continues as to how long after (months?) the body was found on the beach at Balnakeil in Sutherland, and later a travelling foxhunter carried the story back to Altandhu. The body was later identified as Mairi's as her son Murdo who walked from Altandhu to Balnakeil recognized a distinctive petticoat held back from the burial for identification.

Registration of the christenings of Mairi's children show her husband was "Alexander MacLeod", differing a bit with the storyteller's recall more than a century later of forename as "John", but almost all other points agree.

Mairi can be seen in the 1841 census at Altandhu 41-18

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