Island Spirituality: Spiritual Values of
Lewis and Harris
by Alastair McIntosh
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184 pages, £10.00, ISBN 978-1907443459, 2013
As this book is out of print as of
2015, text may be downloaded free in PDF
at this link
(b. 1955), author of
Soil and Soul,
was educated at Leurbost J.S. School
and the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway. He holds honorary fellowships at
the Centre for Human Ecology, the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh
University’s (New College) School of Divinity. A Quaker with Presbyterian
roots, he often broadcasts
Thought for the Day on
BBC Radio Scotland, and has spoken at the World Council of Churches and the
Holy Trinity Sergyev Monastery in Russia.
Publisher's publicity leaflet
Background and Contents
Launch Events - autumn 2013
Rare 3rd party resource materials
Online erratum and further
First Chapter (PDF) (the full text is now also free in PDF
Purchase Options - retail & trade
Reviews, articles, interviews
Free PDF download of the text
(as out of print from 2015)
Background and Contents
Since 2009 my main writing project has been work on Poacher's Pilgrimage,
a meditation through the islands of Harris and Lewis that reflects on war,
religion and spirituality in our times. Writing it has been a major task,
similar to the effort that went into Soil and Soul. I completed the text
over a year ago, but my literary agent rightly pointed out that it was far too
long for modern reading mores, and contained far too much reflection on
religious and spiritual issues that are specialised or specific to the Hebridean
I didn't know what to do. The local material was just so important to me,
having been so central to the community in which I was raised as a child, and I
felt it would be important to others too. It addresses issues that are focussed
by the two-in-one island of Lewis and Harris, but are actually of much wider
theological concern, and especially for Christian theology as it enters its
Relief came at just the right time. I was contacted by the
Islands Book Trust
on Lewis (my home island) and invited to give
a public lecture on spiritual matters in Stornoway in October 2012. The
lecture went well, and the Book Trust said they would like to publish it. To cut
the story short, this became the safety valve through which I was able to
release all the highly local and specialist material that I'd drafted for
Poacher's Pilgrimage, but which were just too much for it. One book has
therefore divided into two, and Island Spirituality is coming out before
Poacher's Pilgrimage is finished in what will be its new form.
The launch is scheduled for the Book Trust's conference on
‘Slighe Chaluim Chille – Exploring the Life, Legend, and Legacy of St Columba in
Ireland and Scotland’, which will take place over 20 - 22 June 2013.
Chapter 1 starts by exploring the
island’s spirituality as reflected in its sites of ancient veneration.
Chapter 2 moves to Dutch and Westminster
Calvinism, exploring how the Reformation washed upon our island shores.
Chapter 3 looks at how evangelical
religion came to Lewis in the 1820s amidst military conscription and
clearances, and especially at the role of Lady Hood Mackenzie.
Chapter 4 celebrates the island’s deep
spirituality that runs beneath historical vicissitudes, and what it offers
Readers of my
previous works may be surprised at how "Christian" this book is. It is a book
focussed on the spirituality of the community in which I was raised and
educated. I do not recommend it to those who might be averse to Christian
thought and practice. Neither can I recommend it to those who might be offended
by the suggestion that some aspects of traditional religion were spiritually
abusive, and developed as a means of social control administered by the
Everybody from the island knows that to write about its
religion is not an easy or a comfortable task. That, in itself, says something.
It is, however, a task that I have
found immensely rewarding and endlessly fascinating. Not least, I believe that
the religion of Lewis and Harris provides a living insight into much wider
social and political forces that continue, largely at unconscious levels, to
shape our world today - especially the Anglo-American world. While this book is
about a small island on the Atlantic edge it is, ultimately, not an insular
work. That is because I see the island standing both in its own uniqueness and
as an icon into the wider human condition and world religious history. Organised
religion can be riddled with viscissitude, but In the end, in my experience,
what the island most profoundly offers is spiritual depth.
I have written this book not because I expect it to have a wide readership,
or to be especially well received, or to make my fortune (the royalties
all go back to the Islands Book Trust). I've written it for three reasons.
I love the island, I love its people who taught me, and I cannot help to love
that ground of cosmic Being that, for lack of a less-loaded word, our culture
I am very aware that what is offered here is a
snapshot of work in progress. The writing of it led to fathoms far beyond my
anchor chain. It has raised issues that I will continue to wrestle with as I
turn now, over the course of the summer, to try and finalise
Pilgrimage (now published, as of June 2016) - covering some of the same ground but in a story-telling
way, and aimed towards a much less specialised readership.
This book (RRP £10) was published in 2013, reprinted in 2014, and the Islands Book Trust (IBT)
have now sold out. It's too much of specialist interest to justify another
reprint. As of 2015, I have a handful of remaining copies that can be ordered
via Amazon - click
here. However, with the OK of the Island's Book Trust, I've now put the full
PDF online. This can be downloaded and shared for free,
at this link.
Rare 3rd Party Resource Materials
In the course of my research I had to dig out rare materials that are out of print
and mostly out of copyright (or never copyrighted in the first place), and have
been privately supplied or otherwise hard to find. As these may be of use to others who are interested in
Hebridean spirituality I've scanned them
into the PDF files below, as well as linking some key material (such as the
Carmina) on other websites. I doubt any of
this material has commercial value, but if anybody has any objection to my
having posted these files, or is
aware of family members who would wish me to seek explicit permission, then please let me
I have rendered these files searchable using an OCR program. This means
that specific terms like "Barvas" or "Free Church" can quickly be found within
documents, but in some cases scanning errors or spelling variations may cause
such entries to be missed.
Should you have found one of these files via a Google search you may have
been surprised to see that the search query response sometimes gives the
appearance of listing me as the author. This is something that Google wrongly
assumes because the files are stored on my website. There nothing that I can do
to prevent it, and the Properties of each file will reveal that every effort has
been made to assert the correct authorship (in the PDF, click on File /
Properties to view this).
Rev Murdo Macaulay's Aspects of the Religious History of Lewis (1980)
(14 MB file)
Arthur Geddes (son of Patrick Geddes) on Isle of Lewis & Harris spirituality and
The Rev Alexander Macleod of Uig and Rogart, Diary and Sermons, 1925
The Rev Alexander Macleod of Uig and Rogart - Campbell's profile in
Disruption Worthies, 1886
5. Angus of the
Hills & Callum the Seer, from The 'Men' of the Lews, 1924
Maclennan, Free Church Precentor of Contin (source of Mainzer's French),
Robson on the churches of North Lewis (in print, but with kind permission)
Iain Crichton Smith Real People in a Real Place & Between Sea and Moor,
The Napier Commission - Volume
5 - Appendices and Warrants
other 4 volumes
at this link.
10. Alexander Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica - first 3 volumes in PDF from
Project Guttenberg (each over 10 MB)
a. Carmina Gadelica Volume 1 PDF: http://archive.org/download/carminagadelicah03carm/carminagadelicah03carm.pdf
b. Carmina Gadelica Volume 2 PDF: http://archive.org/download/carminagadelicah04carm/carminagadelicah04carm.pdf
c. Carmina Gadelica Volume 3 PDF: http://archive.org/download/carminagadelicah30carm/carminagadelicah30carm.pdf
d. Carmichael-Watson Project Archive: http://www.carmichaelwatson.lib.ed.ac.uk/cwatson/
Kennedy's The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire -
this is a Canadian edition with different pagination
to the print edition I have used, and lacking the footnotes such as my citation
of Gustavus Aird. However, as the fourth edition it has interesting new prefaces
- especially to the 2nd edition (pp. x - xvi) commencing: "I anticipated all the
censure, and none of the praise, bestowed upon my little book" and going on to
address "the choir of scorners" especially with respect to claims of
supernatural experience amongst "the Fathers" of Ross-shire. In searching for
text strings to find my quoted passages watch out for scanning errors that can
cause things to be missed. I recommend downloading the PDF version offered here
(13 MB) unless your interconnect connection is slow, in which case use "read
Press reports of the death and funeral of the Hon Mrs Mary Stewart Mackenzie
(Lady Mary), 1862
Johntston's Ch. 5 from The History of the Working Classes in Scotland, 1929
(On how the barons double-crossed Knox. Johnston
became Secretary of State for Scotland in Churchill's government in 1941). His
chapter gives insight into relationships between church and landed power both
before and after the Reformation. Andy Wightman first alerted me to this source
- it plays a large part in his book, The Poor had no Lawyers)
Rachel Barrowman's and Janet Hooper's report, Lewis Coastal Chapel-Sites
Survey 2005, University of Glasgow, 2006. An
archaeological study of Teampall Pheadair (St Peter's, Suainebost), Teampall
Mhealastadh and Tigh nan Cailleachan Dubha (the "temple" and nunnery of
Mealastadh, Uig), and Airighean na h-Annaid (Sheiling of the Monastery) and
another site on the Shaint Islands).
Barrowman's report, Lewis Coastal Chapel-Sites Survey 2007-8,
University of Glasgow, 2008. An archaeological study of Teampall
Pheadair (St Peter's, Siadar) and Teampall Eoin (St John's, Bragar). A further
report of Rachel's is awaiting publication.
Rare recording MP3 file of a woman from the Isle of Lewis preaching, Mary
Morrison recorded by the Irish Quaker Charles Lamb, at Loughborough College Christian Union
c. 1963. [Sorry - I've temporarily had to remove this due to the space it was
taking up - email me if required].
Donald J. MacLeod's notes on The Clearances, Parish of Uig, Isle of Lewis,
and cemetery records from Gisla, Quebec, 2015 Page
5 states that the Timsgarry clearances in 1826 caused the Rev Alexander Macleod
concern that his ministry might be adversely affected. The p. 3 description of
the Gisla clearances is particularly heartrending, and most of these accounts
were news to me. Donald has given me permission to scan his documents to the web
as they were otherwise unpublished.
Erratum & Further Reflections
A wide-ranging work of this nature is bound to contain some errors. If
readers would be kind enough to notify me of any they might spot (mail@AlastairMcIntosh.com)
I would be most grateful, and will list them here (ouch) and corrections made in any subsequent editions.
There were also some typos - probably mainly from my last minute edits after it
had been proof checked. I've shown here the ones that make a difference but not
minor items like a missing preposition.
Please incorporate any relevant corrections if quoting. The major part of what
is given here comprise further reflections as I learn more, review
my position on certain points, or respond to reader feedback.
The book's cover
photograph. I've been asked where this came from, and there's an
interesting story. When I walked through the island in May 2009 I passed by
a lochan called Loch an Teine (the Loch of Fire) just on the Harris
side of the Lewis-Harris border, on the headwater that flows in to the south
end of Loch Langabhat. In October that year I returned with my wife and some
of the guys from Leurbost to walk out on the stalker's path up Glen
Bhìogadiail (from Aline) to Loch Voshimid. There was an incredible storm
with a force 9 gale. Langabhat was in complete spin-drift, and we only
ventured out because there were 5 of us together. On the way over I asked
Rusty (John Macdonald, the Leurbost blacksmith) why he thought the loch was
associated with fire. He said, "Sometimes when you see a place in particular
conditions you'll see why it got its name - Gaelic placenames are usually
very descriptive." On the way back to the car park I turned to take one last
look, and saw this huge shaft of sunburst through a gap in very heavy cloud
heading for the loch. I grabbed my camera just in time to take a snap, and
it was gone before any of the others could do likewise. I turned to Rusty
and said, "As you were explaining!" The photographs of Teampall Eòin in
Bragar were taken when I passed through in May 2009 - and all these, on a
nothing-special automatic camera. It was Dr Finlay Macleod (Shawbost) who
told me of the local tradition that associates it with St John the Baptist
as distinct from St John the Evangelist, though as Finlay would often
emphasise, most such designations have been the subject of constantly
shifting layers of meaning over time.
P. 7 and 92, Purvis should be
P. 58, 3rd para. The
Stornoway distillery's dates. Based on
sources as cited I said that the Stornoway distillery failed within a
decade. However, Fred Silver (a former editor of the Stornoway Gazette)
tells me that in researching his book, Glimpses of Stornoway, he
uncovered documents suggesting that it survived for longer. He tells me
that: "On June 23, 1833, the distillery was described by the then factor,
Alex Stewart, as 'doing well'. In 1840, according to a document held by
Museum nan Eilean, the distillery was seen as a suitable subject for a
school visit. In 1851, Lews Chamberlain John Munro Mackenzie was looking for
another site for the works. It was closed and demolished in 1857." Fred also
cautions against the tendency of some writers to exaggerate the extent to
which landowner schemes were failures.
P. 62 & Note 87 on p. P. 129.
Uig 'paganism' and shipwrecking. As I was working on the manuscript I was searching
through Martin and Carmichael, trying to find something I'd read that
supported Geddes' view that the wrecking of ships in the Hebrides was not a
deliberate undertaking. I've since found that I'd been looking in the wrong
books. The reference I was seeking is pp. 176-7 of Otta Swire's The Outer
Hebrides and Their Legends (Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, 1966). Here Swire
describes "what was said to be a favourite prayer of the Barra men ... so
great was the lack of wood." She gives it in translation: "If ships must in any
case perish, do Thou O Lord guide their timber with their tackling and
rigging to the Isle of Barra and the Sound of Watersay." Swire's Hebridean
folklore collections have a unique timbre and her book about Skye is highly
acclaimed by the Gaelic cultural scholar Ronald Black. Her mother used to stay at Stornoway
Castle in the days of the Matheson proprietors. Her son is Dr Jim Swire
who lost his daughter in the Lockerbie bombing and yet has selflessly
campaigned for more transparent justice for Megrahi, who in Swire's
assessment, was probably set up.
P. 69, last para. My
closing appraisal of Lady Hood Mackenzie. I wrote: "Her real
friends were the people. They could always tell a saint when they saw one."
However, such lines raise an interesting point of historiography (i.e. how
we write history). A friend and reader who is an authority on post-colonial
Highland studies has put it to me that in saying this, I
have deflated the effectiveness of my own preceding argument about the
landed power's use of religion invoking a form of the Stockholm
syndrome. I was aware of this danger when I was writing. Was I being sucked
in to becoming an apologist? Or was it a decent stance to take given the remarks of Angus "Ease" (p.
60) and the fact that at the end of the day, Lady Mary's sister (while
Stewart-Mackenzie was returning from Corfu, just prior to his death) attended the
Disruption assembly of 1843 thereby, symbolically on behalf of the family, laying down
the power of patronage (p. 68)? For my
part, and in the absence of further source material, I just wanted to leave
this complicated woman in peace, to give her the benefit of the doubt, and
not back her into a posthumous corner. I also felt these lines come up in me
with an inner imperative to place them there as her epitaph and to accept
not being able to resolve all the seeming contradictions of her life. Since
that time I have come across Surtees' biography of Mary's daughter Louisa
and while this lowers my appraisal of Stewart-Mackenzie, it leaves
unaffected that of his wife (See the extensive additional notes to p. 121,
Note 70, below). Perhaps, however, I could more prudently have worded that
last line: "Blemishes notwithstanding, they could always tell a saint when
they saw one." Additional point: (and sorry, I can't easily put
paragraph breaks into this format without screwing up the automatic
numbering system) - my said correspondent raised the additional question as
to whether the description that I quoted on p. 69 of the size of Lady Mary's
funeral might have been an exaggeration on behalf of my source, Alexander
Mackenzie. It was a fair question as Mackenzie's portrayal, as I've noted
elsewhere in the text, was undoubtedly sycophantic. I've therefore looked in
to the matter further by way of contemporary newspaper accounts. Again,
these may also be sycophantic (as their tetchiness in dismissing reports of
suffering in Sky suggests), but both the Inverness Courier and the Elgin
Courier concur that it was a pretty massive funeral - at least 3 miles long.
I've put these reports, along with the Inverness Courier's report of her
death into a single PDF file along with my other special resource materials
download here. Note that the death notice cum obituary also speaks of
her having kept an estimable journal while in India. If that still survives
it would be an outstanding source for the swashbuckling biography that
awaits the writing.
P. 71, first para.
Correction re. my Sgitheanach friend. Delete
extraneous comma after "in Chapter 2" as this could be read to suggest that
my Sgitheanach friend considers himself to be "Calvinist", which he does
not. My apologies for any such confusion.
P. 80, My Friend on Point,
para 3. Delete, "However, one night, before his passing, she became aware of
a benign presence..." and substitue: "On the night of the day in which he
passed away she became aware of a benign presence..." This is an interesting
correction. As I was finalising the text I tried several times to telephone
the elderly woman in question to check on the timing, but I was unable to
get her. I settled for using the less dramatic version. However, when I
visited her in June 2013 she confirmed that it happened on the actual night.
It brought to mind a paper I read about parapsychological phenomena many
years ago - I forget in which journal - but the researchers found that when
dramatic out-of-the-ordinary things happen people's memory of them tends to
become less dramatic over time, as if there is a tendency not to exaggerate
such experiences, but to draw them into conformity with more ordinary
constructs of reality.
P. 91, Note 5, para 3.
Meanings of anamnesis. Delete the first two
sentences commencing "In the gospels ..." as my etymology is misleading
without having given further explanation. Substitute instead: "In the gospels,
Eucharistic anamnesis is usually translated, "do this in
remembrance of me"; but the Greek is far deeper - more akin to "without
amnesia" as in Plato's sense of "memory" (mnemnon = "mindful")
as the restoration of
the past to an ever-living eternal present."
P. 93, Note 10. Mainzer,
Maclennan and "French". I refer to
Joseph Mainzer's rendition of "a French tune" as originally collected from
Maclennan for Psalm 65. Elisabeth and Alan Jack of the Mull Gaelic
Choir, who sung this at the 1450th St Columba anniversary event in Iona
Abbey in May 2013, have put me right: I should have said, "the tune known as
French." However, while at it, here are some links for original
material now on the web. (Some of these have several blank pages at the
front and back.) 1)
Mainzer's dissertation including
Gaelic Psalm Tunes of Ross-shire. 3)
Fuinn nan Salm.
P. 108, Note 45 - the Calvin
reference should be dated 1559, as I used the fifth and last edition of the
Institutes, not the 1536 first edition.
P. 121-2, Note 70 etc. Lady Hood Mackenzie & James Stewart - further biography from Victoria
Spirituality was launched prior to the dinner of the Slighe Chaluim
Chille conference held in South Lochs in June 2013 and in a short address I
spoke about my dearth of sources on Mary Mackenzie (The Hooded Lassie) and
the complication in conducing research due to her multiple name
permutations. A descendent of the family line was present, Colin Scott Mackenzie
who is the
retired Procurator Fiscal of Stornoway, and afterwards advised me that
additional biographical material on Mary can be found in the biography of
one of her daughters,
Louisa Lady Ashburton, called The Ludovisi Goddess by Virginia
Surtees (Michael Russell Ltd, Salisbury, 1984). The first three chapters of
this describe Louisa's childhood and family background. Here are the main
points of interest:
Maria or Mary? Lady Mary was indeed
originally named Maria (see my p. 48 and its Note 70) - Surtees writes: "Of
the Hon. Maria Frederika Mackenzie's childhood (or Mary as she was always
called) there is little to tell" (p. 11, note also Frederika with a "k").
Her mother. Was Mary
Proby, the only child of Mary Russell (a clergyman's daughter) and the Very
Rev Baptist Proby DD, Dean of Lichfield (p. 11). Internet research suggests
that Mary Proby died in Edinburgh at the age of 74 in 1829, and it would be
fascinating to know if any correspondence survives that would shed light on
the mother-daughter relationship with respect to religious formation. Dean
Proby's obituary in The Gentleman's Magazine of 1807 (Vol 101, p.
275), describes him as a man "not less admired for the urbanity of his
manners than honoured and revered for that religious integrity of principle
from which he never swerved." One of his sons was in Bengal, having gone to
sea and later been "appointed to a fituation in the Honourable Eaft India
Scott. Sir Walter Scott,
a close friend and admirer, took her as the role model for Ellen in
The Lady of the Lake (Chapter 2).
First marriage. First marriage to Admiral
Samuel Hood portrayed as loving and happy, with no mention (by Surtees) of
any suggestion of dissatisfaction or scandal.
Brahan Seer. The Brahan Seer's prophesies
of the fall of the house of Mackenzie were treated by both Lady Mary and Sir
Walter as having been predicted prior to, and not antecedent to, the actual events
that they purported to anticipate (pp. 7 & 22).
Changing titles. After
Sir Samuel's passing
she called herself Lady Mackenzie (p. 22), but once remarried to James
Stewart, according to Sophia Scott, "she has dropped her ladyship, and is now plain Mrs Stewart
Mackenzie" (p. 25).
Stewart and anti-Semitism?
James Alexander Stewart, her second husband, is described in generally unflattering and
anti-Semitic terms by, for example, Carlyle who portrayed him as the "dark-complexioned Whig,
lean, bilious, whose face consisted almost wholly of a long hook nose and
two huge yellow eyes" (p. 24).
grandfather. The father of Stewart's heiress mother Georgiana Simha
d'Aguilar was Ephraim Lopez Pereira, or Baron d'Aguilar of Highbury as he
preferred to be called. A Sephardic (or Iberian) Jew who began his fortune
by gaining a monopoly in the tobacco trade, he left Lisbon for Vienna after
the Spanish Wars of Succession and was made a baron of the Holy Roman Empire
in 1726 for having lent money to rebuild a palace. He left Vienna for London
in the mid-eighteenth century bringing his children and slaves with him
where his habits were "the most unnatural, inhuman and degrading" and "his
name was a byword for bestiality," keeping prostitutes and the women he
seduced, along with their daughters, in his house in Shaftesbury Place; and
in Islington, running a yard known as "Starvation Farm" where "he kept some
wretched animals, deliberately denying them sufficient food so that they
expired of hunger, perished of cold on heaps of dung, or else fed upon each
other" (pp. 5-7).
James Stewart is described as having
"a very good fortune" and selling Glasserton estate to finance the
virtual bankruptcy of Lady Mary's inherited estates (p. 25).
Landseer rocking it.
Landseer (the painter's) view on
geo-psychology: "There is a stern sincerity about Highland rocks ... a sort
of unadorned truth that you don't find in the rich combinations of the Banks of the Conan where everything is suggestive of
comfort and tenderness" (p. 26).
Distilling virtue. Surtees says of Mary Mackenzie and her second husband, James Stewart: "Both were dedicated Whigs and Liberals; among their efforts
and achievements were concern for education and Church reform, the founding
of a distillery to deter unlawful distilling, and a stern regard for
Protestant religious observance" (p. 4).
superstitions. Mary's and James' daughter, Louisa's childhood, is described
as having been in Edinburgh, Lewis, "and at Brahan where Gaelic was still
more generally the tongue, where superstition, belief in the occult and
prophecies were rife and where she was allowed an unconstrained freedom
which was to determine her behaviour in future years" (p. 25).
Mary's & Louisa's
omnipotence. "On their own territory the
Mackenzies were omnipotent and Mary retained and passed on to her daughter
the quite unconscious tendency of expecting others to submit to her wishes,
though in her this was tempered with a keen intelligence" (p. 11).
Choice of Rugby School.
Louisa's brother, Frank,
was expelled from Rugby for hitting other boys: "Rugby had been chosen with care
by his parents. Arnold [the head teacher] was known to be a supporter of the
new Broad Church as well as being a great reformer; religious and moral
principles took precedence over all other disciplines. Stewart-Mackenzie had
been brought up a Presbyterian and Mary was to range herself with the Free
Church of Scotland. Both were exponents of Evangelicalism." (pp. 28-29).
disquiet: Surtees' description of Pauline Trevelyan's visit to
Stewart-Mackenzie's High Commissioner's Palace in Greece: "The house was
admired, also the shrubbery of geraniums ... [and] they were driven by an
Albanian coachman 'all gold braiding and white kilt' ... [but] recorded with
lesser enthusiasm by this follower of Pusey [of the Oxford Movement] were
the Wednesday evening Baptist meetings (involving an early dinner) held in
the house by Mr Lowndes, 'this missionary sort of man'. Two months earlier
there had been riots, caused, it was rumoured, by unwonted proselytizing. He
was said, in the judgement of others, to have great influence on the family
for they 'have all an Evangelical twist - he sings psalms, expounds false
doctrine, heresy and schism and makes extempore orations, by courtesy called
prayers.'" (p. 33).
dismissal: In contrast to what my informant suggested to me (Note 83),
Surtees suggests that Stewart-Mackenzie's governorship in the Ionian Islands
was not successful, and for the same reasons as in Ceylon. He was recalled
to England and dismissed from the post: "The High Commissioner was falling
foul of authority at home, largely on account of his policies through his
manic evangelizing and and bad temper were also causes for friction" (p.
34). Could it have been that Stewart-Mackenzie overcompensated through his
version of evangelicalism for insecurities that may have been introduced
through his partly non-Christian and chequered family background as
Stewart's passing &
Louisa's evangelicalism: He then returned to Corfu to await the arrival
of his successor and in the spring of 1843 (the same year as the Disruption),
sailed home with his family but became ill and died in Southampton on the
way back - possibly
from chronic meningitis and/or TB (though given his social and pecuniary
embarrassment, one might ponder on other factors). Louisa went back to her mother and she, Mary,
sold Lewis (to Sir James Matheson) to cover debts. "Again Brahan provided the home and
was the stable background for Louisa till she married.... But though a most
devoted and dutiful daughter she was mature for her age, eager for life and
determined to ensure that it was led along her own chosen line. Her mother
had moved in the aristocratic world [and] Loo found her friends in the same
environment and this was to be her course to the end. Religion, of the
strongly Evangelical persuasion, was throughout her life an impetus of
recurring degree, with occasional forays into the Anglican Church" (p. 35).
Louisa's relationship with
F. Nightingale: "Soon after her (Louisa/Loo)
return from Corfu she had met Florence Nightingale, who a few years earlier
had received 'a call from God'. A friendship had been struck, infatuation
had developed such as many romantically minded unmarried women entertained
for each other at that time (a tendency to which Loo was never immune) and
Florence, the 'beloved Zoe' signed herself 'Ever your dearest life, F.
Nightingale', while Loo was 'your truly loving Bird' (p. 35).
Louisa's character and
"goddess" descriptor. Virginia Surtees has also
written the Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography entry for Loo under her
married name, Louisa Caroline Baring (of Barings Bank). She writes: "Many of her [Louisa's]
earliest years were spent on the grim moorland island inherited by her
mother through the Seaforths.... So faithful were her strong, well-defined
features to those of classical nobility that the art historian and critic
Anna Jameson credited her with a resemblance to the head of Juno in Rome,
the ‘Ludovisi goddess’. Yet, despite her attractions, a streak of
pushiness, of ambition, was all too apparent; her emotions were
uncontrolled, her capriciousness uncircumscribed, her restlessness
inexhaustible. She was romantically inclined, and a readiness to fall in
love flourished in conjunction with her eagerness for marriage."
Louisa's eulogy and
comparison with her mother. Louisa died of cancer in her 76th year at
Kent House, Knightsbridge, 2 February 1903, her finances in chaos, her once
"vast fortune" dissipated, the "wandering meteor" being laid to rest in a
Highland glen on what had been her own land (p. 185-6 & ONDB). A few years
earlier when in ill health Florence Nightingale had written that she
"trusted in God that He will raise you up again soon - dearest child of God"
(p. 185). Surtees' closing paragraph reads: "If in Louisa was reflected her
mother's 'almost lawless spirit of adventure', then surely, at the close of
the glen at the foot of rising hills, where the wind sweeps and storm clouds
mass, and as so often in her life of contradictions the dark gives place in
turn to light, so ardent a spirit would not linger in her massive tomb, free
now for some new adventure or some timeless quest, or to make a haven of her
lost inheritance, the sea-girt Western Isles" (p. 186).
My appraisal. What I
draw from The Ludovisi Goddess largely leaves my appraisal of Lady
Mary unchanged, but it hardens my appraisal of Stewart-Mackenzie, and raises
questions as to how far the family's evangelical zeal on Lewis was as much,
or more, from him as from her. Further, given the dark questions around his
mother's family background and his own sad/hard/neglected childhood (as I
discuss on pp. 57-8 - his mother appears to have neglected him on her
remarriage soon after his father's death when he was 11), one might
reasonably ask: how much was his seemingly forceful attitude to religion a
psychological accommodation, perhaps not unlike I've discussed with Thomas
Boston (pp. 36-7)? If so, ought we judge him harshly, or with compassion? Most of us have not had to walk in
anything like his shoes - yet at the same time, not flinching from assessing Stockholm syndrome
dynamics as my note on p. 69 (above) discusses in response a
colleague's questioning of my leniency towards Lady Mary.
P. 129, first para - "the
word killeth but the letter giveth life" should read "the Spirit", not
P. 141,Note 105 - correct 2
spellings of "Rustenberg" to "Rustenburg" - also at foot of p. 73, top of p.
74, biblio on p. 163 and index on p. 172.
Launch Events & Talks Related to the Book
by latest date)
Geneva, Salle Théodore de Bèze (above the Auditoire de
Calvin), sharing on
Island Spirituality and future of Christianity with
the Church of Scotland,1930 hrs, Mon 13 October 2014.
Iona Abbey &
Macleod Centre, Sat 20 - Fri 26 Sept 2014, Leading week on The
Pilgrimage of Life, bookings here
(nearly full as of April). Island Spirituality is one of the recommended reading
books for preparation, as well as Soil and Soul and Adomnan's Life of Saint
Columba (Penguin Classics). The pilgrimage on the Tuesday will be open to all,
so do come along if you can't get or afford a place (rough terrain, see below).
Festival, Kettering, Sunday 24 August 2014, talk on Island Sprituality,
report from Church Times here.
Iona Abbey & Macleod Centre, Greenbelt Week, Sun 25 - Wed 28 May 2014,
leading sessions on the theme of Island Spirituality. Programme and
here. The pilgrimage that I will be leading around the island on the Tuesday
morning, assembling at St Martin's Cross beside the Abbey at around 10 am, is
open to anyone who wishes to come along (though presumably at own risk, as some
of the terrain is rough).
University of Ireland, Maynooth, evening of Wed 16 April 2014, public lecture on
Centre for the Study of Irish
Protestantism, National University of Ireland (and the
following morning, Thur 17 Apr,
Masterclass in Radical Human Ecology at the Department for Adult & Community
Education). Both events open to the public but please book for the class.
of Lewis, 13 February 2014, 7.30 pm, talk to the
Lochs Historical Society - Growing up in Leurbost - how childhood at the surgery in the 1960s and 70s shaped
my work, including various books
(with signing) - in the
North Lochs Community Centre.
Tuesday 11 February 2014, 8 pm, The Old Brewery, Cromarty,
Spirituality was launched at the Ravenspoint Centre in South Lochs, Isle of
Lewis, as part of the IBT's St Columba festival on 20th June 2013. Further
regional events are scheduled as follows:
- Thursday 24th October 2013,
5 pm, Centre for Theology & Public Issues,
New College, University of Edinburgh, based around a talk entitled
Island Spirituality: Rethinking Westminster Calvinism - in the Martin
Hall running until 6.15 and then drinks reception and book signing in the Rainy
29th October 2013, 7.30 pm, Castlebay Community School, Islands Book Trust
Hebridean Book Festival event, based around the theme, Pilgrimage and
Wednesday 30th October 2013, 8.00 pm, Taigh Chearsabhagh, Lochmaddy, Islands
Hebridean Book Festival event, based around the theme, Pilgrimage and
Friday 1st November 2013, 5.00 pm, An Lanntair, Islands Book Trust
Hebridean Book Festival event, based around the theme, Pilgrimage and
Tuesday 26th November 2013, 6.00 pm, Centre for Human Ecology, Pearce
Institute, Govan, presentation on theme of Island Spirituality.
Reviews, Articles & Interviews about Island
Interview with Cathy MacDonald on BBC Radio Scotland
(includes follow-on interview on perinatal loss)
by author in Third Way magazine (Church Times)
feature in Scottish Islands Explorer
Review by former
Moderator Finlay A.J. MacDonald in Life and Work
in West Highland Free Press
Review in Scottish Friend (Quakers)
Reader reviews on
Church Times report on
Island Spirituality talk at Greenbelt, 2014 (and
audio out soon)
Updated: 9 September 2013