Macnab Memorial

Macnab Country - The village of Killin and Loch Tay from Stron a'Chlachain. Photo by Andy Hall

Macnab Country – The village of Killin and Loch Tay from Stron a’Chlachain. Photo by Andy Hall

Last Friday Amanda and I attended the memorial service for James Charles Macnab of Macnab, 23rd Chief of Clan Macnab. The memorial was held in the Killin Kirk, followed by interment of the ashes of James and his wife Diana on the ancient Macnab burial island of Innis Bhuidhe.

The journey from Edinbugh to Killin took us about two hours by car; passing through quaint Stirlingshire countryside, then the very edges of the Highlands via The Trossochs National Park. I’m rather ashamed to admit that I haven’t been further north than Edinburgh since I arrived in Scotland, so once we were on the road I felt an instant sense of relief when the grey and charcoal stone of Edinburgh gave way to brown and khaki earthy fields. We passed the still, deep waters of Loch Lubnaig, then on through the rocky and unforgiving mountain ranges towards Killin. My ears popped as we drove further up winding roads into the hills; passing mountains with giant cracks in their sides, snow capped peaks and weathered shards of rock poking out of steep slopes. The landscape certainly does remind me of New Zealand, but there’s a much more imposing, dramatic element to it that I have completely fallen head over heels for.

Dochart Falls, Killin

Dochart Falls, Killin

The beautifully wild Dochart Falls greeted us upon arrival in Killin. Situated on the River Dochart, the falls pass through the town, past the island of Innis Bhuidhe then onto Loch Tay. We walked to the kirk at the other end of the town, where inside a sea of mourners were wearing tartans of all different colours and patterns. The minister began the service by mentioning that the kirk was not very old by Scotland’s standards – it was only built the year before the 1745 Rising. The service featured songs and readings by the youngest generation of Macnabs, and a stirring eulogy delivered by the new chief, James William Macnab of Macnab. He recollected his father’s fantastic sense of humour, and his love for the land around Killin. The late chief was a particularly keen shot, and would insist upon hunting in his kilt. On one particular outing the chief jumped into a bush, disturbing a trio of grouse who got caught in his kilt as they tried to flee.

The procession gathers outside Killin Kirk

The procession gathers outside Killin Kirk

After the service the attendees gathered outside the kirk for a procession along the main street of Killin towards the burial island. With a piper leading the way the new chief and his brother carried the ashes of their father and mother, followed by family, clansmen and other mourners. As we were walking we noticed black smoke rising further along the road, which turned out to be a barn that had caught fire. As we got closer firefighters told us that we would not be able to get through as there was a risk of explosion, and we would have to turn back. We had turned around when the new chief yelled out to us to follow him through a field around the burning building. In a moment of comedy that I’m sure the late chief would have appreciated, hundreds of mourners (some of us hobbling in heels) were sent marching through a field around the outskirts of Killin.

The procession begins

The procession begins

The procession on Innis Bhuidhe

The procession on Innis Bhuidhe

The Macnab Crypt at the far end of Innis Bhuidhe

The Macnab Crypt at the far end of Innis Bhuidhe

The ancient burial island of Innis Bhuidhe was absolutely beautiful. Roughly half the size of a football field, the island is covered in lush woodland with a path leading down the middle towards the ancient crypt where Macnab chiefs are buried. The procession was lead to the crypt by Pipe Major Greig Canning playing the Macnab piobaireachd – The Gathering of the Macnabs. After a short prayer the ashes of the late chief and his wife were laid to rest, and his pennon and cap badge were handed over to the new Macnab of Macnab, announcing the new chief. Following the interment we stopped briefly at the hotel where the wake was being held. We chatted with the new chief, and toasted him with a glass of whisky that I’m sure flowed freely for the rest of the evening.

On our way back to Edinburgh we passed a number of Highland Heritage tour buses going in the other direction. Each bus was emblazoned with a clan name across the front – MacLeod, MacGregor, and Macnab to name a few. How amazing that a few miles back along the road, the modern day versions of those great clans had gathered just a few hours earlier.

You can view our photos from the memorial in an album on Tartan Footprint, and I have also uploaded the Order of Service here. Oh and just in case you’re wondering, I do have more travel in Scotland planned for April!

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