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Issue 87 - Editor's View

Scotland Magazine Issue 87
June 2016


This article is 2 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Editor's View

Christopher Coates on Scotland's ‘living history'

While bringing together this latest issue, I came across the work of Dr Isobel F. Grant, founder of the Highland Folk Museum, and her vision of creating what she called a piece of ‘living history.’ By this she meant not merely a museum to hold a collection of historic items, or even the preservation of a significant building or site for posterity, such as a castle or historic house. Instead, she wished to go further, to create a special place where a visitor could experience the living culture of a bygone age first hand, get a feel for the (often harsh) realities of historic lifestyles and see for themselves how people of the past lived and died.

I saw this aim very much reflected in the work of the Knockando Woolmill Trust, who have not only restored the eponymous mill’s Victorian machinery and buildings, but also worked hard to pass on to the next generation the skills to work them. As I watched a member of their team operate a Victorian power loom, it struck me that the techniques being employed before me – and trust me when I say that it is no easy task to tame this mechanical beast – were almost entirely unchanged from those practiced by its very first user. That such threads of social life have been kept alive over the years isn’t just blind luck, it is truly a testament to the passion and dedication of a select few, who believed such things were important. It’s lucky for us that they did.

Other sites weren’t quite so fortunate. But although the human element many be gone, their splendour and majesty live on as a constant reminder of the people who came before us. James Irvine Robertson has visited the impressive Cambuskenneth Abbey, once a hub of wealth and influence – now only the bell tower remains. Keith Fergus has investigated the fascinating past of Scotland’s titan cranes. Now silent, these towers of industry stand guard on the waterways as a colossal reminder of Glasgow’s time as the ‘second city of the British Empire.’ Charles Douglas, our resident travel expert, has visited the iconic Eilean Donan Castle, which I’m sure you all shall recognise. After all, “There can be only one.” From there he has taken us on a spectacular tour of our region of focus, Ross and Cromarty, home to some of Scotland’s most breathtaking scenery and varied flora.

For the final time, I draw your attention to the
Scotland Magazine Photo Challenge, for which we will cease accepting entries on 28 August 2016. Visit to submit your favourite pictures, for a chance to be published on these very pages later this year. Good luck!