Published in the Stornoway Gazette, 17 November 2005, p. 18. For other tributes see or .



As was reported in last week’s Gazette, Colin Murdo Macleod (39), founder of the GalGael Trust in Govan, was laid to rest last Wednesday in Gravir.


He was the eldest son of Donald and Josephine Macleod, husband of Gehan, and father to Oran, Iona and Tawny.


During this past week, major obituaries have poured forth – see . The Independent  “put him up there with some of the important folk of Scottish history.” The Daily Telegraph said his “work was a reverence for traditions … in which all work was integrated into worship.” And The Herald spoke of a prophet and chieftain who had “deliberately rekindled a sense of peoplehood … a poet who wrote his lines in wood and in stone and on our hearts.”


Colin was a Gael who fought for the environment. His passion came from a profound reverence for the Creation. But he also collected people. In the GalGael Trust, people from all walks of life learn to reconnect with their creativity through natural materials, boatbuilding and other Gaelic crafts.


Colin was a spiritual warrior. His sword, as his wife put it, “was love of the purest order.” He’d say: “I believe in the buoyancy of the human soul,” and he’d prove it by rescuing those drowning in hopelessly lost modern lives.


It is no coincidence that his mother’s people were Irish, and his father’s from Barvas and Gravir. Colin drew on these communities of place as through a spiritual umbilical cord. And this is the sacred gift to the world of the Hebrides. The spirituality of our culture is our great invisible export. We need to understand that.


Back in July, Colin was invited by Radio Scotland to address the nation on Thought for the Day. The leaders of the world, the G8, were then in summit at Gleneagles. However, his message was dropped because of the London bombings.


But the morning after we laid him to rest, the BBC broadcast Colin’s voice in an unprecedented posthumous Thought for the Day.  Here, then, are his last public words to the world he so loved.



I'm going to tell you a wee story that I sometimes tell my kids. It comes from the Clan Macleod tradition. Many years ago there was a big feast at a clan gathering in Argyll, a kind of Highland G8. Right in the middle was a wooden stake with a poor clansman tied to it. 


Word was, his only crime had been to take a deer from the hill to feed his family. Now, as a punishment, he was to be gored to death by a wild bull for the entertainment of all. But nobody said anything. Naebody, that is, until the chief of the Clan Macleod could stomach his dram no longer. 


Quietly he stepped forward and faced the host. "Why don't you let the man go," he suggested, "as a gesture of your generosity?"


The host raised his arm. He pointed to the man at the stake. "You can secure his freedom, but only if you can stop the bull." 


The gate was thrown open. The bull charged. Quicker than thought, Macleod leapt into its path. He grasped it by the horns. With all his power he wrestled it. At that, the crowd erupted, "Hold fast! Hold fast!" And he held fast.


The captive was set free and there was great feasting and what a party they had that night. 


And to this day the motto of Clan Macleod is "Hold Fast."


This is how it is with the G8 today. The poor are tied to the stake. Our leaders have a chance to show whether their power is for greed or for service. They must decide whether or not to confront poverty and help end these injustices.


Let the cry of the people be heard: "Hold fast! Hold fast!"