My father was born in a house outside of Thurso, QC. That homestead had been built by his gr.grandfather Dougald Mcinnis, who had been a “crofter” or tenant farmer, encouraged to go off to Canada during a period called the “Highland Clearances”. Dougald and his second wife Janet McMillan were among many who came from the Isles of Mull & Iona who founded their new home in what is called Lochaber Bay. I have only one record of this Mcinnis family living on Iona in 1841.
Iona is a story all it’s own. A religious settlement, founded in the 5th century by a monk later to be St.Columba. He is credited to bringing christianity to Great Britain. Being located in the center of the Inner Hebrides islands, it was also in the middle of some major trade routes. Invaded by Vikings, burned down and rebuilt, its also where several Scottish Kings (including Duncan & MacBeth) were taken for burial. It really is the stuff of legends, a very good subject to read up on.
Today a small community lives on the island, including one of faith who come on pilgrimage, some just to visit and some to stay on. It’s a beautiful, haunting location.
The day was not good. Rain, cold, wind. But, not to be detoured, literally hundreds lined up for the ferry that left Oban at 9:00 sharp. We braved the miserable weather to catch views on the reseeding harbour, the highland mountains raising in the mist, the old castle ruin….. And finally the Isle of Mull.
We all make a dash for the buses that are waiting on the dock. The journey to catch the next ferry to Iona may only be 37 miles, but it will take us over an hour to reach it. Single lane roads that require occasional pullovers, to let traffic go by, dodging sheep who wonder aimlessly across the island, mingled with small herds of “coos” – the furry highland cattle. Between raindrops we also catch glimpses of lochs, and streams, a few rural cottages sprinkled in the countryside, a couple of very small towns. There are only 3 roads, one along the south coast, one up north the Tobamorey, and one that cuts across country to join them up.
The rain really started to come down while we waited for the second ferry. The sea was also a bit rough, and we watched as this small boat rolled sideways, fighting the swells before coming to land. The side dropped directly onto the ground and a couple of cars pulled off. Foot passengers had to wait for the right moment in-between waves, so as not to be totally soaked. The 30 min ride was everything it looked like it would be from the shore, but finally after hopping a wave on the other end, I was standing on this little island, once home to the Mcinnis family. There are no words….