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Eye on Millig: The MacLeod family of gifted clergymen with connections to Garelochside



THE second of three gifted clergymen of the same name introduced the MacLeod family of Fiunary, overlooking the Sound of Mull, to life at Garelochside.

The family has produced some of Scotland’s most gifted clergymen, including the founder of the world famous Iona community.

At one point, the Reverend Norman MacLeod (1783-1862) built or acquired the Shandon Fuinary Mansion.

In May 1848, his eldest son, Norman also, came to rest there, after being struck down by overwork. This third generation Norman (1812-1872), like his father and grandfather, became a Reverend Dr. Norman MacLeod.

This has led to much confusion, so that the second Norman is often described as “the oldest”, while his son is called “the youngest”.

To confuse matters even more, there was even more Reverend Norman MacLeod in the extended family.

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The Norman who came to recuperate in 1848 is sometimes described as the most gifted of the family, and he was considered one of the most powerful orators of his time.

He served as a minister in Loudon, Dalkeith, then Barony Church, Glasgow, and it was to Dalkeith that he came to Garelochside, and he left fascinating glimpses of his time there.

“How beautiful everything is here! he wrote. “I yearn for a quiet retirement here – I got it yesterday.”

While there, he enjoyed what he called steeplechases, actually hikes across the country.

During an outing, he found himself in Glen Fruin: “In the midst of the sovereign hills, the silence is most becoming,” he wrote.

He had taken a volume of Shakespeare with him “but even he was beginning to be too stiff and prosaic – the ferns, the water and the cuckoo were beating him down”.

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He climbed to the top of the ridge overlooking the Gareloch and said, “The power of the hills is upon me – the great hills of Arran and beyond.

Norman kept a journal, published and edited after his death by one of his brothers, the Reverend Donald MacLeod. He provides remarkable insight into his innermost thoughts and feelings, sometimes expressed quite frankly.

He always seems to have put his heart and soul into everything he has done – but it is not known if this total commitment contributed to the recurring bouts of ill health he suffered in the last 16 years of his life.

Like his father, his calling meant that he was far from the Highlands, but also like him, he possessed a keen appreciation for the issues there.

From the age of 12, he went to live with his grandparents in Morvern, in order to ensure a perfect knowledge of the life and culture there.

At the barony he numbered some 67,000 people in his parish, many of whom were displaced from the Highlands. He did his best to help them as much as possible, even helping some to find jobs.

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Appointed one of the Queen’s royal chaplains in 1857, he became in high demand, not only by the monarch, but also by other members of the royal family. Regularly responsible for assisting His Majesty at Balmoral, he visits frequently in the spring and fall.

He had the ability to provide the Queen with great comfort and company, especially in private audiences. On one occasion, she tended to a spinning wheel while he read Burns ‘poems aloud, like Tam o’ Shanter.

It is not known whether the royal family were aware of his increasingly fragile health, but on one occasion in 1870 the Prince of Wales ordered his presence in Dunrobin.

He noted in his diary: “Left at 7:00 am by train to Dunrobin, 220 miles away – lounge, 1:30, smokehouse, 3:30. Left for train at 6am – reached Glasgow at 6.30pm ”.

Two days later, he confided in his diary: “Again, dead beat, and went to my old mother, the first time in six weeks.”

Like other members of the family, Norman was an accomplished writer and the author of a number of books, still in demand to this day.

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He lived until his 60th birthday in June 1872, but died a fortnight later.

For some time before he had been strongly advised to avoid fatigue, and younger brother George had forbidden him to tire. However, he seems to have struggled to comply and many people have continued to ask him.

He married and a son, John Maxwell Macleod, became Fiunary’s first baronet, while his son, in turn, George Fielden MacLeod, became the Right Reverend Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, making history in as the founder of the Iona community.

The esteem in which Norman was held by the people of Glasgow is evidenced by an imposing statue of him, by the famous sculptor John Mossman, which stands in the city’s Cathedral Square. It is believed to be a first-class likeness of him.

The Shandon house passed in 1860 to a younger brother of the third Norman, George Husband Baird MacLeod, born in 1828. In a family so closely associated with the Church of Scotland, George was an exception because his career was in medicine.

George distinguished himself in his chosen field and was chief surgeon at a hospital in Smyrna during the Crimean War.

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This war became synonymous with disaster from start to finish, but it propelled Florence Nightingale to glory by championing better nursing care for the sick and injured. George would certainly have seen the worst effects of the war while he was there.

Back home, he became involved in teaching and in 1869 became professor of surgery at the University of Glasgow, when he replaced Sir Joseph Lister. He was knighted in 1887.

He married Sophia Houldsworth, daughter of William Houldsworth, a Glasgow merchant, and they had five children.

In addition to Fuinary, there was another family home in Woodside Crescent, Glasgow, and it was here that George died in 1892. Sophia lived in Fuinary until her own death in 1924., and their eldest son, Norman Maxwell MacLeod, also lived there.

When Sophia died, the property passed to another son, the Reverend William Houldsworth MacLeod.

Born in 1863, and educated at the universities of Cambridge and Glasgow, he spent his ministry in the parish of Buchanan in Stirlingshire.

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When the Shandon War Memorial was unveiled in front of the church in 1919, he consecrated it jointly with Pastor Row (Rhu). When Shandon Church was converted to private housing in 1986-87, the memorial was moved to a new site in Gullybridge.

William took up residence in Fuinary when he retired, and died there in 1935. The main house then stood empty for a few years, which seems to have marked the end of the family’s involvement in the property. .

The family had a number of other ties to the neighborhood. Two single sisters of the Norman MacLeods who first came to Shandon, Grace Morrison and Robina Catherine, have moved to Row.

Norman’s younger brother John, who succeeded his father as pastor at Morvern in 1824, had a son, who would become another Rev. Norman MacLeod (1838-1911), pastor at St Stephen’s Church in Inverness.

This Norman, who also became moderator of the General Assembly, married in 1863 Helen Augusta Colquhoun, a niece of Sir James Colquhoun of Luss, tragically drowned with others on Loch Lomond in December 1873.

There is another local connection in that Norman MacLeod of the Barony was a staunch friend of Reverend John MacLeod Campbell, who was dismissed from his life at Row Church in 1831, in what became famous as Row Heresy Case .

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Although Campbell was kicked out by the General Assembly that year, he was not without friends in the ministry. One was Pastor Robert Story, minister in Rosneath, and it was perhaps at least in part because of their friendship that Campbell later settled in Achnashie, Rosneath.

Another good friend was Norman MacLeod, who, at the time of Campbell’s death in February 1872, wrote: “Dr. Campbell was the best man, bar none, I have ever known. This is my first statement, the most decided and without reservation.

The families were also linked by marriage, as a descendant of Norman MacLeod and Anne Maxwell married a son of John MacLeod Campbell, whose middle name was from a marriage to a MacLeod of Raasay, as opposed to those of Skye or by Fuinary.

The Iona community was founded in Glasgow and Iona in 1938 by George Fielden MacLeod, Norman’s third grandson, who became Lord MacLeod of Fuinary.

His father, John Maxwell Macleod, was a successful Glasgow businessman and Unionist MP who became Fuinary’s first baronet.

George, heir to the barony, was educated at Winchester and at the University of Oxford. When World War I broke out in 1914, he joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, reaching the rank of captain.

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He served active duty in Greece, but after falling ill with dysentery he was sent back to Scotland to recuperate, after which he was posted to Flanders. He took part in battles at Ypres and Passchendaele, for which he received the Military Cross and the French Croix de Guerre for bravery.

His experience of total war left a deep mark on him and led him to train for the ministry. He became Deputy Minister at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, then Padre of Toc H in Scotland, then Associate Minister at St Cuthbert Church in Edinburgh.

In 1930 he became minister of Govan Old Parish Church, and he was a visionary amid the poverty and despair of the Depression.

From his parish of the docks, he took unemployed skilled craftsmen and young trainees of the clergy to Iona to rebuild both the monastic quarters of the medieval abbey and the common life by working and living together, by sharing skills and the efforts as well as the joys and achievements.

This task has become a sign of hope for the rebuilding of the community in Scotland and beyond. The experience has shaped and continues to shape the practice and principles of the Iona community.

In 1957 he was elected moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and ten years later he received a peerage, becoming Baron MacLeod of Fuinary in County Argyll – the only minister of the Church of Scotland thus honored.

He later became the first peer to represent the Green Party. When he died in 1991, the Herald described him as “possibly the most important Scotsman of the twentieth century”.

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