– Prophet – Chieftain
October 1966 – 2 November 2005
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Index of this Site
Last Updated: Monday 12th December 2005
Original message breaking the news and providing general information
Updates to this site including current and archival ones
Online Guestbook for e-versions of your testimonies
Colin's Posthumous Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland
a) Text & context
b) Audio link (you may need your volume turned high to hear this)
Eulogy - The Herald - by the GalGael Peoples of Scotland (substantially drafted by Gehan) (on this page)
Eulogy - Sunday Herald (full internet version) - by Alan Crawford & Maxwell Macleod
Eulogy - Sunday Mail - by Rosie Kane MSP (on this page)
Eulogy - The Independent - by Glen Murray (on this page
Eulogy - Evening Times - by David Leask (on this page)
Eulogy - West Highland Free Press - by Ian Mackinnon (on this page)
Eulogy - Stornoway Gazette - by Alastair McIntosh
Eulogy - Daily Telegraph (by Maxwell MacLeod)
Eulogy - City Strolls
GalGael Trust website
Latest Updates to this Site
This section comprises update information. Each time the page is updated, a note of what has been added will be given at the top here, and below are earlier updates for archival memory. Please remember that both this, and the online Guestbook that his cousin has set up, are temporary sites, which at some time, will probably be shifted to the main GalGael web site at www.GalGael.org .
Update 12 December 2005: The audio link to Colin's posthumous contribution on Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland is now working. The file appears to be very quiet, so turn your volume up to maximum to hear it.
The Herald's euology and others have now been moved to this page to avoid being hidden in archives.
At GalGael all is well, and we are looking before Christmas to recruit two workshop trainers to commence in January - contact GalGael on 0141 427 3070. One is for woodwork and the other for wood/metal work.
Update 2 December: Links to Rosie Kane's Sunday Mail piece and Glen Murray's piece in The Independent have now been re-directed as they'd disappeared or started to charge for access. These pieces are now on this page. I've still not managed to sort out the Thought for the Day audio file, but a sound engineer at Glasgow Caledonian has now made contact and is willing to advise, so this may appear in days to come.
Life at the GalGael cannot be normal, but things are thriving and there is a very good energy in the place. Gehan is hard at work, and everybody is pulling together to make sure there's no slackening off other than the setback inevitably incurred in our programme schedules over this past month. We have cleared the decks of things that are not top priority, and the top priorities that remain are, 1) the Navigating the Future training course, 2) seeking funding for refurbishing the Fairley Street Sail Loft (the upstairs crafts area, that we cannot use just now because of health & safety), and 3) very excitingly, in negotiations with the Pearce Institute and Govan Old Parish Church on advancing our Hogback Longhouse project in partnership with their projects, and with an eye on Living Landmark funding.
Many people report extraordinary depth in how they are looking at their own lives since Colin moved on, but here is not the place to describe that; merely to observe it with a kind of serene gratitude. Gehan and the kids are coping in extraordinary ways, and that is because it has been no ordinary passing. Although some things can never be the same, there is a quality of the spirit, of his Spirit, that feels stronger and more present than ever before. There is no slacking off.
Update 4pm 17 November: A new photo of Colin at the Pollok Free State has been added, found today by Gehan (above the index on this page). Assuming the eulogy in the Stornoway Gazette is published this week, a link to that will be added by the weekend. There was also a piece in Tuesday's Scotsman and we may add a link to that. I now have the audio file of Colin's Thought for the Day, but file difficulties. The file is 2 MB, but when I copy it only 44 bytes transfers. I'm not sure if the BBC have jinxed it to prevent copying, or if it's just something I don't understand about how CD audios work. Please contact me if you understand these issues so I can get it up (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Many of you have emailed appreciating the content of this site and its news about Gehan and the kids. That news is sparse as it is not my place to broadcast too much of their personal process, but I think it is appropriate to say that, at the moment, Gehan has been remarking how the grieving process does not seem quite "normal". She is profoundly aware of the immense pool of grief, and yet, she and the kids feel his spirit so strongly with them and feel deeply held in the extended family. She is coming in to work at the GalGael, though obviously, much of what she is currently doing is focussed around Colin and helping others with their grieving, so although the GalGael is open and functioning, we could not claim to be fully "back to normal." It is amazing, though, to witness things like the guy who came in off the street today, to speak to Colin about coming on to the Navigating the Future programme. He told us he is addicted to drugs, and has been for 9 years, and he broke down in tears when he learned what had happened. He said that he'd just wandered in off the streets a little while ago, and that Colin had sat him down, listened to him without judging him, and given him hope for getting his life sorted out. We told him that we are determined for this spirit to continue, and he went away with the application form.
Please note that Gehan has now added a link to this page on the GalGael website. So, if you're telling people about the page, direct them there rather than to my personal website as such - i.e. to www.GalGael.org . In due course the material on this page will migrate to the GalGael site, but that may take a little while, and so these updates will continue for the time being.
Update 11 pm 13 November: Major article in West Highland Free Press now added.
Update 5 pm Saturday 9 November - Further to what was written this morning (below), we have just learned of a major eulogy in today's Daily Telegraph and of a moving piece on the City Strolls website. I've added links to both these (above) but not had time to read them. Verene and I are about to pick Gehan and the kids up from the airport, and Danny and Lusi are in their house with a peat fire burning and food on the table.
Update 11 am Saturday 9 November - Index, and the Laying to Rest on Lewis: An index has now been created to the contents of this webpage and to the growing number of major appreciations of his life. Please advise me of important material in the public domain that needs to be added to this that I may have missed, or of any faulty links ( mail@AlastairMcIntosh.com - but I may not be able to thank you due to e-mail overload). If you are reading this on Saturday, you might want to buy the Independent newspaper and also this weekend's West Highland Free Press, as they both have a page devoted to Colin with iconic photographs. There is also a couple of columns in the Stornoway Gazette and this will be complemented with a further 300 words from me next week, setting his life in the context of the Isle of Lewis, and including his Thought for the Day text.
Let me now give a brief account of Colin's final journey.
On Thursday the GalGael contingent who had gone up to Lewis with Gehan travelled home. The final laying to rest of Colin was, yet again, a powerful experience. We had to go via Skye to avoid the ferry cancellations caused by 100 mile-an-hour gales. As we drove through Skye, we were followed by rainbows, the most vivid of which advanced to within a stone's throw of our convoy. Flumes of rainbow smoke flowed as an dancing auroric curtain behind the hearse as we, riding with this iridescent Sidhe, approached the Uig ferry terminal - all of which is captured on video by Tosh. As we waited for the ferry we saw a bolt of lightening - rare in that part of the world - and heard the thunder drumroll.
On arrival on Lewis we learned that lightening had knocked out the power to the Free Church, and so the service would have to proceed with no artificial amplification (something that Colin hated). The Psalms were precented and sung in both English and Gaelic, and the minister gave a prayer that was pure praise in the poetry of its intonation. We then carried Colin on his last walk and laid him to rest in the good Earth. During the procession, his fellow spiritual warriors passed back his Claymore from hand to hand through the procession. "We have to be spiritual kamikaze pilots," one of them quoted Colin as saying. "His sword," Gehan had said a couple of days earlier, "was love of the purest order."
The minister said a few words that reflected his Calvinist theology, and Colin's brother, Peter, and myself for the GalGael, moved by the Spirit of the occasion, complemented this with one last testimony to the goodness and the light of Christ that we had seen in his life. Throughout the interment another rainbow arced over the cemetery its reminder of hope and testimony that the love of God and the beauty of nature will never let us go.
We made our way back to the house leaving Gehan alone at the graveside. As we sat down to enjoy the hospitality of the family, an eagle was sighted out the window - and not one - but a squadron sent forth of three eagles, two Golden and one Sea. As we all ran outside, they floated over the house, and Gehan saw one of them as she walked her way home to us along the winding road.
It is thought that Gehan and the kids may be returning to Glasgow today, Saturday. Danny and Lusi are at the house, keeping it warmed and ready to receive them.
Update 4 pm Monday 7 November: Colin Macleod to deliver Thought for the Day Posthumously on BBC Radio Scotland, around 7.20 am, Thursday 10 November.
Today's event with the Leader of Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Executive's minister for communities was a huge success, and Gehan was able to be present and speak as well. The Herald's obituary has got an absolutely huge photo of Colin in his kilt on his boat on the Clyde, with a Navigating the Future medallion round his neck and gazing with eagle-eyed intensity. I don't recall when I last saw such a lot of space given to an obituary - nearly half a broadsheet page.
We are scheduled to lay him finally to rest on Wednesday morning, and on Thursday he is scheduled to present Thought for the Day on Radio Scotland. I kid you not. I was scheduled to do TfD that day. Actually I wasn't. It was to have been Philip Newall, the former Warden of Iona Abbey. But there was a muddle up with the dates, and I thought it was my slot, so I contacted the BBC and asked if they'd consider an exceptional idea for exceptional times, and Philip kindly agreed to stand aside to make it possible.
Back on the 7 July when the G8 summit was on, Colin recorded a powerful TfD, which got bounced because of how the spirit of violence got set loose on London (the Underground bombings). TfD is rarely recorded, but it was on this occasion, as Colin was a newcomer to it and an unknown quantity. It was all part of TfD's efforts to bring in some exciting new blood. What will happen on Thursday, then, is that all being well, and provided nothing happens in the news that would make it inappropriate, you will hear me from the Stornoway studio introducing Colin, and then the recording of his posthumous Thought for the Day. Be assured, the relevance of it to the spiritual needs of the GalGael and Scotland will be uncanny.
Only a small number of close family friends will be travelling up to Lewis tomorrow. The weather is bad, and that forced us to change routes to the Skye-Harris ferry, so we assemble at 6.00 am and leave at 6.30 am for those of you who want to be present at Colin's farewell to Govan. We cross from Uig, Skye, at 3.30 pm. It is bad weather that has caused ferry congestion on the Ullapool route (originally chosen by the undertaker) that has forced us to change plans - but Colin would have much preferred the scenic route home, and so do we.
This will probably be the last update before we leave, but there may be more on return. We know that some of you are closely monitoring this page as it is difficult to get information otherwise if far away, when folks are often not answering the phone. Little Iona is currently celebrating her birthday party, and was very excited about it. Those kids have phenomenal capacity to hold both sorrow and joy.
Can't resist this ... just went on to the Met Office web to check forecast for tomorrow's sailing, as we knew there's a chance the ferries may not sail. Here's what the 24 hour forecast is for sea area Hebrides as of noon today:
SOUTH 6 TO GALE 8, BECOMING CYCLONIC STORM 10 TO HURRICANE 12, THEN
SOUTHWEST 5 TO 7. RAIN THEN SHOWERS. MODERATE
Update 7 am, Monday 7th November
This email has just been sent out. Because we have so much on this morning and it is still very early in the day, I have not been able to check it with Gehan, but I'll trust that she'll be fine with me sharing with you the experiences of yesterday's writing of his tribute. Oh, one thing I forgot to say in it ... we'd all been making a big laugh of the Glasgow expression, "It's all one." When we finally had to finish the drafting job yesterday and did a word-count, it came out at 1111 words!
Please copy and forward it around:
Update - 8 am Suday 6 November
Here is the Sunday Herald's full web version of their report on Saturday's service in Govan Old Parish Church - taken from http://www.sundayherald.com/52721 . The print version was considerably cut, as often happens in newspapers. Watch this page, especially tomorrow (Monday) for further updates which will now be announced underneath Colin's prophetic poem that was read out by his brother in yesterday's service. I am not clearing old material off this site at the moment, as some of it might be wanted later. Apologies to those of you with slow internet connections!
Update 7pm ... Gehan and I have just finished all day marathon writing the obituary for Monday's Herald. 1111 words - "it's all one". Watch this spot for more tomorrow - also, brilliant column by Rosie Kane MSP in the Sunday Mail.
Update as of 7am, Saturday 5 November: Dearest Friends ... to call what happened last night a "viewing" is to say nothing of the extraordinary poetry and song rooted in communal prayer that culminated close to midnight in Gehan's presence, with the lid being closed on Colin's coffin, the children having by this time gone to bed after being present with the last of their father's outward physical form. They believe his spirit is now as an Eagle.
We held a sacred space for you all last night, and had a wee dram as well.
There are no major changes to what is already written below. This morning, Saturday morning, the procession carrying Colin to Govan Old Parish Church sets out from 15 Fairley Street, Ibrox, at 10 am. Be with us there if you can, but mind that the walk is about a mile, and the weather forecast is showery and 13 degrees. Police escorts will be there to marshal the traffic: they have pulled out the stops and given us permission at exceptionally short notice to do this today, in spite of their resources otherwise being tied up with the football match.
The service starts at 11 am. It will last for about an hour and a half, but if you are making travel plans, allow 2 hours to be safe. There is parking around the Co-op and subway, and behind the other Church (nearer to the subway). There is a Rangers v. Aberdeen football match on in the afternoon, so be wary about leaving any car near the GalGael offices, or you may find it difficult to get out with traffic congestion. If you intend to process and you have a car, it might be best to park it at Govan Cross, and take the subway up to Ibrox - Fairley Street is just up to the right from the subway.
After the service there are refreshments in the Pearce Institute - and thanks so much to the local community group that has organised them, though I can't remember who Helen said they were, but it's appreciated. The final laying to rest of Colin into the Earth of the Hebrides where he can sing his Gaelic songs in the communion of the saints is expected to be on Wednesday in Gravir, Isle of Lewis, and is being planned mainly as a family, local people and close friends event, so do not feel you ought to be trying to go there. The family are very clear that the principal farewell is today in Govan. The text that follows comprises earlier messages, which may not all be updated.
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The word "obituary" has been avoided in this site as Gehan does not greatly like it, and so "eulogy" (good words) has been used. Here are ones that were not freely available (or ceased to be so) by internet links: Rosie Kane in the Sunday Mail, The Independent, the Evening News in Glasgow, and the West Highland Free Press.
GALGAEL PEOPLES OF SCOTLAND
Murdo Macleod began life as a far-flung Gael in Sydney, Australia. He was one of
the five children of Donald and Josephine Macleod. When he was four, the family
came back and settled in the Pollok area of Glasgow.
culture, alcoholism, drug addiction and violence were daily facts of life. Colin
saw it all. He could stand his ground among the toughest of them. But what made
him so exceptional was his depth of understanding and the tenderness of his
heart was, throughout childhood, always drawn to the pure wildness of nature
that, at the end of the day, sustains and contains the city. And it was given
wings by true nature wild - by time spent in wilderness.
should be a naturalist, boy, " his grandfather from the Isle of Lewis once
said, for at school he'd be always daydreaming out the window, and throughout
life the far-seeing eye of his eagle's mind was forever out with the stags on
the hill, leaping with the wild salmon in the river and running under sail in a
gale - singing heavenwards on the Gaelic ocean wave.
the Holy Hebrides of his father's family were not his only inspiration. A saving
grace of his childhood environment was that all around were the trees and
creatures of Pollok Park. Colin spent endless hours there, climbing high in oak
and beech trees, hunting for sparrowhawks and wrens, collecting rowan berries
and ash keys, finding joy in the smallest Tawny Owl's feather.
deep connection with this nature, this Creation, inspired him to protect it when
it was threatened by the arrival of a motorway. Spending nine days in a
150-year-old beech tree, he became known as the Birdman of Pollok.
was here that he came to understand that the constant letters he wrote to
newspapers, his articles (under the name of Quiet MacLOUD) and even his written
poetry, were not sufficiently powerful tools for the unadulterated spiritual
force he wanted to convey.
came from the fact that before the motorway protest in the early 1990s, he had
been inspired to learn to carve stone among the Abenaki tribes of Canada and
among the Lakota of South Dakota. Here, he also witnessed an indigenous people's
struggle to reclaim their native language and traditions.
his return to Scotland, he had bought himself a chisel, made a hammer and taught
himself to carve - practising Celtic knots and other designs on derelict
buildings and beneath railway bridges throughout Glasgow and beyond. And the
carvings flew from his chisels thick and fast.
1990s became a prolific period of creative energy.
as a prelude to reverence, was a constant theme in all his work and human
relationships. For this man, "work was worship, " as George MacLeod of
the Iona Community had once put it. Animal carvings spoke in their own language,
especially through an eagle totem pole that became the defining icon of the
motorway protest at the prophetically styled Pollok Free State.
standing his ground at the Free State, Colin was unafraid of derision and
ridicule. He had built the necessary spiritual bravery to "hold fast".
"I don't go to church, " he was to say in a Radio Scotland Life in
Question interview in 2005, "but I do connect very deeply with the
foundational Christian values of love and forgiveness. And when I read the Bible
and you've got Jesus going to the wilderness for 40 days, I realise you've got a
wilderness man, just like in Gaelic culture the songs of river and mountain
greatness lay in the fact that his warriorship was not that of the sword. The
sword would have been too blunt an instrument to cut the darknesses that he
named, unmasked and engaged. Rather, Colin's way had become the path of the
spiritual warrior. He was an artist who integrated head, heart and hand.
people, so many people, warmed themselves round the Pollok hearth. The motorway
protest became almost incidental. It was a convenient focal point. Indeed, he
used to say: "It's simply about fresh air - it's just common sense."
But in this world such sense is uncommon.
has been said that Colin failed to halt the motorway. But while the outward
Battle of the Trees was lost, an inner spiritual war was won. Ordinary people
found their voice and glimpsed their own greatness.
deliberately rekindled a sense of peoplehood. This was the birth of GalGael;
reconnecting of people with their land and true potential. The name, GalGael,
means that there is both a bit of the stranger and a bit of the native in us
all. The boat - the Hebridean Birlinn - was a symbol. He set out to build one,
he did so, and in May last year it carried them to Ireland where his mother's
people had come from.
legend for the modern day that he envisioned was to see the creation on the
Clyde at Govan of a Hogback longhouse and a granite slipway. These would be
centres for community skills that would ensure that the people were given back
their river, their story.
breathed life into natural materials through his carving, into the Clyde through
his boats and into people through his belief in them. He was a poet who wrote
his lines in wood and in stone and on our hearts.
of us have lost our best friend, Donald and Josie have lost a son, Gehan has
lost her anam cara, and Oran Angus, Iona and Tawny have lost their beloved
whom we consider to have been our greatest living poet, prophet and chieftain,
has now flown this world.
Scotland seen many who embodied all three of these qualities, and from such
ordinary origins, since the days of Wallace and the early Celtic saints?
leaves a legacy that lives on in his children, in the people he touched and in
his works. He was only 39.
Gus am bris an la, mo ghraidh.
I WAS delighted to be invited to the Sunday Mail's Great Scot awards last week to honour some of the country's real heroes.
Sadly, a few days later, we lost one. Colin MacLeod was such a special person that the world seems emptier without him.
He rarely got called Colin, usually it was "the Big Man", "the man fae the trees" or " Colin wi' the dreadlocks and the boats".
He was no ordinary man and he never left an ordinary impression.
Since becoming an MSP I have been asked many times how I ended up in politics. I always say it was because I saw a man in a hammock up a tree - Colin.
He was hanging in one of the highest trees in Glasgow's Pollok Park, fighting to save the trees from the construction of the M77.
I was shy when I first met him and other protesters. I had wandered into the park with my daughters to chat to them I looked up and saw Colin, his black dreadlocks hanging to his waist, ropes and clips hanging off him to stop him falling out the tree. Then he shouted "How's it going?" in a big, broad Glaswegian accent.
I was a little surprised. My world was much smaller back then and he looked quite exotic, so I suppose I assumed he came from another country.
Whether he liked to admit it or not, Colin was pure magic.
I remember watching him carve wood in Pollok Park. He gathered it after a storm had taken out some trees and turned it into amazing sculptures.
Be it cats, dogs or Celtic designs, he had a knack of breathing life into things that had ended up on the scrap heap. But it wasn't just wood he protected and changed - his belief in people was never ending and he used the same gentle skills to help folk who most other people would turn their backs on.
Colin also had a dream - he wanted to build boats. I remember hearing him talking about building a wooden Viking ship.
He talked about the high unemployment in Govan and how it had once been a shipbuilding capital.
Colin once told me that young people around Govan were the grandchildren and great grandchildren of great men who had built boats.
He talked about how these young people had skills inside them which would never see the light of day and would leave them frustrated and angry.
"Where does that anger go, Rosie?" he'd say. "It ends up on a street corner or out of its face on drugs. These are great people - it's not good enough."
Colin later set up the Gal Gael Trust in Govan to help these young people.
It grew through his care and nurturing alongside his two daughters and son - Tawny, Iona and Orin - with his partner Gehan, a wonderful woman.
He brought out the skills he believed these young people had when no one else had faith in them.
He taught them to carve wood, build boats, sail, shape metal and weave.
He looked at derelict Govan, with its high unemployment, drugs and kids destroying the world because it was destroying them, and decided enough was enough. He intervened.
He took action and had dreams but they were dreams for other people and hopes for their future.
He took people who were ravaged by drugs and hopelessness and, just like wood battered to the ground in storms, he rescued them.
Tragically, Colin died very suddenly on Wednesday, aged just 39.
Those who knew him will never forget him. He was all about hope, life, strength and culture. He believed in people and their abilities.
One worker at Gal Gael described him as a guy who could turn a rusty bit of metal into gold.
He truly was one in a million and I'm honoured to have known him. Goodbye, big fella, the world will miss you. So will I
Colin Murdo Macleod, campaigner: born Sydney, New South Wales 12 October 1966; married 1995 Gehan Ibrahim (one son, two daughters); died Glasgow 2 November 2005.
Colin Macleod was a dreadlocked anti-motorway protester who led his clan of kilted eco-warriors from their treetop protest houses to establish a highly praised and emulated Gaelic-based movement for cultural renewal in inner-city Glasgow. His work brought hope, purpose and meaning into many lives previously blighted by alcohol, drugs, poverty and unemployment. He was one of that notable species, a true inspirer of people to find the best in themselves.
Perhaps best known as a leader of the "Pollok Free State" protest against the construction of the M77 motorway through south Glasgow in the early 1990s and as a founder of the Gal Gael Trust in 1997, Macleod has been described in many ways: activist, community leader, prophet, chieftain, shaman, craftsman, poet. He was all of these, and something indefinably greater than the sum of the parts.
Colin Murdo Macleod began life as part of the Scottish diaspora. He was born in Sydney, Australia, to parents of Hebridean and Irish descent, but they returned to Scotland when Colin was four, to settle in the Pollok area of Glasgow. Pollok Park provided the young Colin with a focus for his fascination with nature and fostered his deep love of its trees and wildlife.
After training as a forester, Colin Macleod spent time in the United States, working as a volunteer among Native Americans. He learned wood- and stone-carving. He also came into contact with a movement to restore the self-esteem of young people whose lives were damaged by alcohol and drugs by reconnecting them with their native culture. The experience was to prove inspirational and shaped his life's work.
Discovering, on his return to Scotland, that the ancient trees of Pollok Park that had meant so much to him as a boy were threatened with destruction to make way for the proposed M77 motorway, Macleod instinctively acted to protect them. He gained a certain notoriety as the "Birdman of Pollok", spending nine days in a tree to prevent its being cut down. He was heavily involved in setting up and running the protest campaign and camp, which became the seedbed for many of the skills, insights and attitudes behind the Gal Gael Trust.
To survive and be effective, the camp evolved a culture in which drugs and heavy drinking were outlawed and a strict rule of non-judgemental hospitality and inclusivity was established. There were also carved totem poles and regular skill-sharing workshops. Macleod's practical skills and visionary social thinking were coming together.
When the "Free State" dissolved, Macleod harnessed this culture into an ambitious new project. A charity was registered and a request broadcast on local radio that trees blown down in a storm in the winter of 1998 be collected on an area of waste ground in Govan so that local people could use them for carving and boat-building. The Gal Gael Trust was born.
The concept was to occupy long-term unemployed people in activities that would provide them with transferable skills and experience that could lead them back into work. For many it became a means of re-finding their sense of personhood.
A timber-frame workshop, a 12ft-long model of a birlinn, a Hebridean galley of the kind that provided transport among the Western Isles for centuries, and a number of beautiful traditional rowing skiffs emerged from the hands of the experienced and learning workers. The Gal Gael took the birlinn model to the Govan Fair. The press loved it and the publicity helped them generate greater public interest and find new funding.
The success stimulated Macleod's vision of something greater. He wanted the Gal Gael to build a full-size birlinn. The birlinn would not only be physical testimony to their growing skill and confidence; it also symbolised a culture, represented a set of values, a reconnection with lost roots.
After two years' work, the 30ft-long Orcuan was finished in the summer of 2002. During the time it was being built, members of the Gal Gael took the opportunity offered by the existence of another replica, the Aileach, to learn how to row and sail these ancient craft. After Orcuan was launched on the Clyde by the Deputy Social Justice Minister for Scotland, they applied these new skills, under Macleod's leadership, to sailing her to the island of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides to offer sail training opportunities to the community there.
In May 2004 Orcuan was sailed to Ireland, where Macleod's mother's people had their origins. Given the recent past of most of the crew, recreating classic voyages of their forebears was a momentous experience for them, a new dimension to the sense of belonging and self-esteem developed in the work community in which they themselves had built their vessel.
It had been a long haul, but the benefits to Govan of its dispossessed and disadvantaged people having this sort of experience were receiving recognition. A few days after Colin Macleod died, the new Gal Gael premises were visited by Scotland's Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm, and the leader of Glasgow City Council, Steven Purcell. The man who had been such a challenge to the authorities in the Pollok Free State was now the focus of their more positive attentions.
At the time of his tragically early death at the age of 39, Macleod was busily developing even more ambitious projects. Working in partnership with Govan Youth Access, the Gal Gael are mentoring local youths in building a series of 23ft galleys. There is talk of racing these on the Clyde as a better channel for young people's energy than gang fighting. Plans are in hand to build a timber Gaelic-Norse longhouse based on images on 10th-century tombstones in Govan parish church. The building is to become a community centre and also to house the construction of a 70ft birlinn, which the Gal Gael aims to sail round Scotland, promoting community and ecological regeneration.
Macleod's contribution to all these activities was enormously practical. He was a man who produced beautiful artefacts and whose enthusiasm for skilled manual work was infectious. But there was much more to it. When enlisting the efforts of unemployed men to restore the cathedral on Iona in the 1930s, the Rev George MacLeod (the future Lord MacLeod of Fuinary) talked about "work as worship". Never a churchgoer, Colin Macleod was nevertheless a deeply spiritual man, a man for whom work was a "religious" pursuit. His spirituality connected him very strongly with the people he came in contact with and was the foundation of his qualities as a leader.
As a leader, Macleod fused the practical and the romantic. As the chieftain of his clan, his Gal Gael, he became a sort of living myth. He was a "father" to his people, who provided inspiration, taught skills and self-respect, and who was always there, whether it was the loan of a tenner or a good talking to that was needed. This was chieftainship not in the debased tradition of the hereditary clan chiefs who featured so largely in the clearances of people from the Highlands and the decline of Gaelic society. There was an element of inspirational romanticism in it but it had a great deal about it of the old, robust, tradition of chieftainship in which becoming and remaining head of the clan (family or community) was based on earning the respect, indeed the love, of its members; leading not from the front, but from the midst.
The qualities that made Colin Macleod a "chieftain" in 21st-century Govan put him up there with some of the important folk of Scottish history. His legacy of regeneration will endure - and he will live on in the hearts and in the stories of his people.
|Colin inspired us . . . we'll keep his memory alive Volunteers' pledge following death of charity founder; [Final Edition]|
|Chief Reporter DAVID LEASK. Evening Times . Glasgow (UK): Nov 8, 2005. pg. 8|
|Full Text (637 words)|
|(Copyright 2005 SMG Newspapers Ltd.)
COLIN MacLEOD led one of Glasgow's most successful training schemes until his death last week.
Today friends tell Chief Reporter DAVID LEASK that they will strive to ensure his legacy, the Govan charity GalGael, lives on
THEY called him their chieftain. Charismatic and passionate, Colin Macleod was a born leader. In 10 short years he turned the unlikeliest of projects, the building and sailing of ancient Scots boats on the Clyde, into one of Glasgow's most successful training schemes.
Today, a week after his tragic early death from a suspected heart attack at just 39, Mr Macleod's followers vowed to save his legacy.
He was the founder and leader of GalGael Trust, a Govan charity that offers 60 youngsters a year the chance to try out almost lost skills in boatbuilding, sailing and carving.
Alastair McIntosh, a writer and environmental activist who helped found GalGael, said volunteers and workers would find a way to stay true to the course set by Mr Macleod.
GalGael - despite its obvious "alternative" credentials - currently operates thanks to substantial public funding.
Only yesterday it was visited by Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm, effectively the man in charge of Scotland's fight with poverty, and Glasgow City Council leader Steven Purcell.
Mr Macleod's project found a way to build up the self-esteem of hundreds of young people almost destroyed by poverty, drugs, booze and crime. And he turned them into citizens ready to make a real contribution to their families and communities.
GalGael, Mr McIntosh said, costs the Government a lot less than the alternative, leaving its trainees to the "violence of poverty as expressed through drugs, alcohol and crime".
And he is determined it's a scheme that will outlive its founder. He said: "Mr Chisholm and Mr Purcell were astonished.
"They went around talking to our trainees, to our volunteers, to whoever they wanted.
"They spoke to a couple of retired guys, engineers, who are helping out. These guys are like elders. I asked Mr Chisholm how much he thinks you would pay for skills like that?"
Mr Macleod's mission training young people began in the great battles of the 1990s over the building of the M77 motorway.
He was dubbed the Birdman of Pollok after he set up home in a beech tree in the new road's path.
Mr McIntosh said he helped "literally thousands" of people with impromptu classes in carving, a skill he had taught himself with the help of the native peoples of the US and practised on the derelict buildings of south side Glasgow.
But Mr McIntosh saw no contradiction between the protester of the early 1990s and the government-financed project leader of the 21st century.
He said: "Colin had a reputation for fighting the authorities.
Now we have a situation where we are being significantly funded by the authorities.
"Colin was even asked if he had gone soft and sold out. He said what had changed: Scotland got its own parliament and its own democracy of a kind and he thought we should work with it."
SOwhat was Mr Macleod's secret? Why was his work so successful? Mr McIntosh said: "He gave people back their pride. The people who come in here are treated as human beings, not neds, not drug addicts."
Can the Big Man be replaced?
Mr McIntosh went back to the seafaring language that runs through all GalGael does.
He said: "We realise in the past there was just one leader who held us all together.
"But there are big men and big women at the oars of our ship."
Mr Macleod leaves a wife, Gehan, and three children, Oran Angus, Iona and Tawny.
Credit: Newsquest Media Group
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further
reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
|People:||MacLEOD, COLIN, McIntosh, Alastair, Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Text Word Count||637|
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West Highland Free Press, 11 November 2005, pp. 12 & 16
Gael who helped bring fresh hope to the mean streets of Govan
by Ian Mackinnon
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Original Message, Announcements & Photo (to end of this page)
Dear Friends .... This is a special message on a temporary webpage from Alastair McIntosh, a director of the GalGael Trust. If you have not already heard, I am extremely sorry to have to tell you in this impersonal way that Colin left this world today, Wednesday 2nd November at about 1.30 pm, after suffering what is thought to have been a massive heart attack during the night.
Gehan woke up in the night and found him at about 2.30 am, still alive but with his body going cold. They had gone to bed routinely and with nothing the matter, so what happened was totally unexpected.
This is not the place or time for an obituary, but suffice to say that Scotland has today lost one of her greatest visionaries; a "warrior-poet" as his colleagues today described him; indeed, a poet who has written his lines in wood and in stone and on our hearts. Many of us have lost our best friend, Donald and Josie have lost a son, Gehan has lost her soul mate, and Oran, Iona and Tawny have lost their beloved dad.
The eye of his eagle's mind was always out with the stags on the hill, leaping with the salmon in the river, and running under sail in a gale singing on the Gaelic ocean wave. But Colin broke his heart fighting poverty in the City of Glasgow. His sun has now set into that western wave amongst the saints of our ancestors. And he was only 39 years old.
Friends ... I have made this web page as a temporary measure, to give information about what has happened and about the funeral arrangements once they become known. The page should really be on the GalGael website, but Gehan is the only person who knows the workings of that, and is obviously not in a position to oblige. (Gehan has now seen and approved this text).
The staff and directors of the GalGael Trust (0141 427 3070) have decided that the premises will stay open as usual because Colin would not have wanted it any other way. The postal address of the family is 4 Drumoyne Drive, Glasgow, G51 4AT. Further information will be added here when we know what the funeral arrangements are to be. The photo below is borrowed from the GalGael website - www.GalGael.org and the URL of this webpage is www.alastairmcintosh.com/colin.htm .
Update Thursday 3 Nov at 6 pm
Deaths Announcement for The Herald and The Evening Times on Friday: Macleod, Colin Murdo, mo graidh, husband of Gehan, loving father of Oran, Iona and Tawny and beloved son of the dear green place. Died suddenly 2nd November 2005. Viewing Friday night 7 – 8 at the GalGael, 15 Fairley St.. Service 11 am, Saturday, Govan Old Parish Church. Interment in Gravir, Isle of Lewis. Donations to the GalGael Memorial Fund. Gus am bris an la.
The Viewing: After weighing everything up the family decided today that their will be a viewing of Colin's body as indicated above. It was felt that for many people this helps to bring peace, however it is not intended to be a protracted event. Colin's body will rest accompanied by his clansmen in the GalGael premises overnight, awaiting the procession. The coffin is being made by the guys down in the workshop this evening. It will be simple, because it has been made at short notice, but his parents have been down to see it and they think it is beautiful. The sides are of oak and the end-pieces from a piece of wood of a type that nobody's quite sure what it is, but Colin had kept it from the Pollok Free State and would never allow it to be used for anything else. We only know it was special to him.
Street Procession: On account of Colin's importance as a community leader, the Strathclyde Police have pulled out all the stops and agreed, at very short notice, to us holding a procession with the coffin from the GalGael premises at 15 Fairley St (behind the Ibrox stadium) down to Govan Old Parish Church. The procession will leave at about 10 am, so you can either come on that or you can go direct to the church for 11 am. Refreshments will be provided after the service in the Pearce Institute, which is adjacent to the church.
The Service: This has not yet been planned, but the family and his colleagues want it to be Christian but open to the diversity that Colin represented. The Rev Norman Shanks has been wonderful, and has offered to play as much or as little a role as the family and friends want. We are meeting at 2pm tomorrow (Friday) to take this forward. It is expected that there will be an opportunity for the offering of short testimonies, but as it has been wisely pointed out to us, we need to make sure that our needs don't take over from those of the family, and so our original idea for a 2 hour event is perhaps more likely to be nearer an hour, but we'll see how the Spirit moves us and what comes out of tomorrow's planning meeting.
The Interment: This is being organised by Colin's dad and will be finalised tomorrow (Friday). We agreed today that he should be laid to rest in the soil of the Outer Hebrides, at Gravir on the Isle of Lewis in a beautiful location beside the sea. Colin's parents would like this to be mainly for family and very close friends, and would like the main event of commemoration to be seen as being what happens in Govan. At the moment, the plan is for his body to be taken up to Lewis on the ferry on Monday, and for the final laying to rest to take place probably on Tuesday at the Gravir Free Church. Updates on this will be announced here. Update - as of Thursday night we are looking at having the interment on Wednesday morning. This would allow us to do what we have to do at the GalGael on Monday morning, and to fulfil Gehan's preference to travel up by road so that she and the children can accompany Colin on his last journey over the Minch. This will be updated as soon as a decision is made. That decision has now been made. A minibus with Gehan, the kids and close friends will travel up with the hearse on Tuesday, for returning Colin to the Earth on Wednesday, though timings have still to be finalised - contact the Free Church on Gravir if there is no further update on this site, though there will be an update if matters are finalised before Tuesday morning.
Subway Directions: Fairley Street is very close to the Ibrox subway station. Come out of the station, turn right, and it's the first left (I think). We're along at the far end of Fairley Street - a big blue building on the right, the centrepiece of which is a late 19th century sail-loft with the beautiful hammer beam construction that Colin loved so much. Govan Old Parish Church and the Pearce Institute are very close to Govan subway station and bus station. Come out, cross over the road to the Royal Bank, then go left along Govan Road for about 150 yards.
Accommodation: The Kinning Park Complex have generously offered accommodation. It is a community centre very close to Kinning Park subway station. The contact person there who you should probably ring in advance is Heather Jamie on 0141 427 7565. Presumably it's a question of bringing a sleeping bag and mat.
Obituary: The Herald are hoping to run an obituary of about 1,000 words and a picture on Monday. With newspapers you can never be certain what will happen, but that is their intention at this stage. It is to be submitted in the name of the GalGael as a whole, and written with the help of various testimonies given in by people in the workshop today. It will only be possible to weave a small selection of these in, but the general shape of what is written will be influenced by many people and the final text will be cleared with the family before it is sent in.
GalGael's Funders: I was contacted today by Tim Edwards of the Greater Govan Social Inclusion Partnership on behalf of a number of our public agency funders and even Scottish Enterprise. They just wanted us to know that they understand this will be a rough patch for the GalGael, and that they will look as sympathetically as they are able to helping us through it.
Monday's Big Event: After years of struggling on the margins, GalGael and the work that Colin and Gehan have constellated there was finally starting to be recognised in a major way by the Scottish Executive (via Communities Scotland) and the City of Glasgow. It was Colin's pride and joy that the Leader of Glasgow City Council and the Minister for Communities in the Parliament were coming down on Monday 7th to use our premises (which they helped us buy) as the launching place for a major new regeneration initiative. After careful discernment, we have decided that we want this to go ahead. It is not a public event, but you can expect to see it reported on the TV and in the press, and with our trainees speaking about how GalGael's approach is helping to change their lives. We want you all to know that we looked very carefully at whether or not to allow this to go ahead, and it was strongly felt that this sort of official recognition is a powerful testimony to what Colin has achieved, even though the media coverage will be focussed on the regeneration programme rather than on Colin. We hope you will support us in what was a difficult decision to make, and we do think it is wonderful that GalGael is being seen as a pattern and example in this way.
Gehan and the Kids: They got a bit of sleep last night, and are obviously totally devastated. They have spent today going through boxes of photos from the GalGael and the Free State, choosing pictures to represent Colin's life. They are surrounded by many friends and relatives. They are so deeply loved. Update, midnight Thursday ... Verene and I have just come from a long peaceful session planning many things with Gehan and her mother. The kids were all fast asleep. Plans will be further worked through in the GalGael tomorrow morning and in the meeting tomorrow afternoon to finalise Saturday's order of service. We were laughing at how difficult it is to get such a complex act together, when Colin did it all the time and made it look so easy!
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