Page 19



Extract from a document written by Duncan Maclean’s niece, Rachel A Sutton Hayes.

My Grandfather Alexander married Rachel Mackenzie from Altandhu in 1920. He was a crofter/building contractor and built the family home. This is the white house we all see today at Achlochan. I often wondered how he managed to get all the building materials across the bogs. Recently my cousin told me there was once a rough track, although my mother never spoke of it.

Alexander and Rachel had five children: Kenneth, Donald, Ian, Johan (my Mother, affectionately known as Dabac) and Duncan.

The family lived at Achlochan until around 1940 when they moved to Crofton House, Ullapool. My Mother never spoke of when they moved, but she would have been in her teens. Her youngest brother Duncan went to school in Ullapool. Sadly he died in 1950 from TB aged 22 years. The family spoke of him often with great sorrow and never got over his loss.

Leaving their beloved home was without question a huge wrench for them all. But times were changing and life was becoming much harder for my Grandparents. There was no work for their older children and my Grandfather was often away working.

My first memory of walking across to Achlochan was as a little girl with my parents. I was told to take my shoes and socks off! My Mother wanted me to experience what she did as a girl walking barefoot to school in summer. I clearly recall how lovely the deep soft moss and cool water felt between my toes. She spoke to me many, many times about her young life in Achlochan, often with a longing to go back to those happy childhood days. I never tired of her stories no matter how often she told the same ones.

She spoke of the loch where her brothers kept a rowing boat for fishing. Also the long bright summer nights lying awake in her bed listening to the Curlews calling. The numerous orchids and the time her brother Donald decided to run away to Horse Island in a wooden barrel, and Father saving him just in time.

Her Granny was a grumpy old woman and called her a Gaelic name which meant wee brat. Thats how she got the name Dabac, as her brother Ian couldnt pronounce the gaelic word. She spoke of the grocery van that came weekly and stopped on the road, and her mother carrying a big heavy sack of oatmeal on her back across the bogs. In later life my Granny always walked bent over, from all this heavy carrying.

Her brothers digging at the old fort for buried treasure, playing soldiers at the rifle range and collecting old used cartridges. The catalogue her mother ordered their clothes and winter boots from, and how she would pour over it choosing a sister for herself. She always said how she longed for a sister to play with.

The annual Christmas party that the Cadburys put on for the children of Coigach and each child getting a whole bar of Cadburys chocolate. She spoke with anger about the female school teacher who used the edge of a ruler on pupils’ knuckles for speaking their first language. How this teacher beat her little brother Duncan one day until he had an accident, because he couldnt speak English.

The family home had no running water or electricity. All their water came from a well which as I recall was fairly close to the house and frozen in winter. For certain is that my Grandmother worked very hard looking after the home, croft and children. My Mother never spoke of them keeping animals, just chickens. Perhaps they bought milk from a neighbour who had a cow. Like most men in Coigach then, my Grandfather had a boat and went sea fishing.

After moving to Ullapool my Grandmother did have a cow. In those days Crofton House had outbuildings for animals and the land where the High School is was used for grazing, growing hay etc.

When I came home on holiday every summer, a walk to Achlochan with my parents was always something I looked forward to. Id watch my Mother staring longingly through the windows, no doubt remembering all the happy times she spent in that house.

I came home to live in 2003, my parents had passed and I had a growing longing to see inside the ‘Old Homeas Mother lovingly called it. Eventually I did some asking and with some wonderful help, discovered who owned the house, and made contact. One very wet day in 2007 my late husband, my cousin and I walked the old route to Achlochan. We received a lovely warm welcome from Mike and his sister and there is no way I could ever put into words what it felt like being inside the house, or what I felt there. I am so thankful that Michael and his sister have the old home and care for it so well.”

Return to Contents

Continued in page 20

Terms & Conditions     © Ross and Cromarty Heritage