A Commitment to Kisimul – Statement from Macneil of Barra

Below you’ll find a statement from The Macniel – current chief of Clan Macniel of Barra – regarding today’s announcement of the major conservation , archaelogical and interpretation work at the seat of the clan. The Kisimul Castle agreement is part of a plan between Historic Scotland and Macneil of Barra, which will see an investment of over £200,000 to conserve and future-proof the site. Half of the funds were donated by Clan Macneil members and Barraich worldwide.


The Macniel’s flag flying high today at Kisimul Castle

Friday’s ceremony to celebrate finalising the Lease of Kisimul Castle to Historic Scotland is a milestone in Kisimul’s long history. It will enable my father’s dream of securing a viable future for Kisimul to be realised. Supported by my mother, his vision and determination through five years of negotiation of the lease with Historic Scotland, followed by a decade of persistance to ensure that Historic Scotland presented a viable Conservation Plan, laid the foundation for the finalisation of the Lease being celebrated today.

Many other people have contributed to the growing relationship between the MacNeils of Barra, Historic Scotland, the people of Barra and MacNeils around the world that had brought us to where we are today, at the dawn of a bright new future for Kisimul. At the head of the list is Ruth Parsons, former Chief Executive of Historic Scotland, who courageously re-engaged with my family, admitting mistakes that had been made in the past, and inspiring the team at Historic Scotland to provide the devoted and professional support that has been so much in evidence for the past five years.

Ian Walford, the current Chief Executive of Historic Scotland, has continued on the path Ruth set out, quickly came to grips with the unique challenges support and care of Kisimul presents, and is demonstrating his ongoing personal commitment to Kisimul by, among other things, organising and attending today’s ceremony.

Many people at Historic Scotland are involved in providing one form of support or another to Kisimul. Lucy Vaughan and Jamie MacPherson, who lead the team, are both highly skilled and committed professionals. The fantastic work they do at Kisimul itself and in Barra is open for all to see; they have been equally effective in working within Historic Scotland to explain Kisimul and the challenges it presents and act as advocates for it. I am sure I can speak for both Historic Scotland and the community in saying that we are very fortunate indeed to have Lucy and Jamie so actively involved in managing Kisimul.

Donald, Anne-Marie, Maggie and Gerry have proved worthy counterparts to the ‘offshore’ Historic Scotland team. Their commitment and good humoured professionalism, notwithstanding the weather(!), has been instrumental in Historic Scotland’s growing involvement in the Castle over the past five years. Without the local knowledge they bring to the day to day management and operation of Kisimul its management would literally be impossible. With Annag Bheag’s support, the participation of the children from the school in the outreach activities Jamie has initiated has been an inspiration to more people that you might think, both within and beyond Historic Scotland.

I would specially to thank Alasdair Allan. Alasdair intervened not once but twice to build a bridge to Historic Scotland during a period when it appeared very likely that no Conservation Plan would be forthcoming. It was the second of these interventions, a meeting with Ruth Parsons, that set stage for the progress made over the past five years and the promise of much more to come in the years ahead.

Last but not least, a timely reminder of the fact that Kisimul is important not just to the local community but to MacNeils and other Barraich around the world comes from the happy fact that the finalisation of the Lease enables my family to make available to Historic Scotland the 100,000 in the Kisimul Castle Restoration Fund for use in the conservation projects now planned for the next three years.

Warm thanks are also due to the many donors, small and large, who contributed to that fund over the years.

Rory Macneil of Barra

You can read the full press release from Historic Scotland regarding Kisimul Castle by clicking here.


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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