Comann Eachdraidh Ionadail Phortrigh


Portree Local History Society

Chair: I. G. MacDonald

Secretary: Marilyn Clarke
Treasurer: Rita Campbell

Programme of Meetings: 2008 - 2009

  • October 14, 2008
    High Pasture Cave and developments at Fiskavaig
    Stephen Birch
  • November 11, 2008
    MacLean family of Raasay.
    Iona MacDonald
  • December 9, 2008
    NB VENUE: Dunvegan Castle
    - The Castle, The Clan, The Homecoming
  • January 13, 2009
    All Creatures Great and Small- 50 Years as a Vet on Skye.
    D.J. Maclennan
  • February 10, 2009
    UHI History Department.
    Dr Jim Hunter
  • March 10, 2009
    St Maolrubha & St Columba.
    Norman Newton
  • April 14, 2009
    Col. Jock Collection and Museum of Isles Collection.
    Maggie MacDonald
  • Programme of Meetings: 2007 - 2008

    October 9 - Ian Suddaby - The Excavation at Home Farm
    November 13 - Dr Jeff Stone - St Kilda: Two Decades of Digging and Scraping
    (in association with Aberdeen University Centre for Lifelong Learning )
    December 11 - Dr Martin MacGregor - The Lordship of the Isles
    January 8 - Seonachan MacLeod - Deserted Villages of Skye
    February 12 - Professor Brian Sykes - Vikings in the Blood?
    March 11 - Murray MacDonald - Mobile Banking by Land and Sea in the Highlands and Islands
    April 8 - AGM, with guest speaker - Ronnie Armstrong - Para Handy and the Clyde Puffers

"Skye and Raasay"


Coals to Newcastle might, at first sight, seem to be a proper description of Norman Newton's talk to the Society, entitled, simply, "Skye and Raasay". Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

The talk set out to explore a range of social, economic and cultural issues, and, in Norman's own words, to be "deliberately provocative" about a range of perceptions commonly held concerning the two islands. These are some of the key points I identified. I apologise if I seem to have misinterpreted anything Norman had to say!

Norman began with the story of his own encounters with Raasay, dating back to field archaeological work carried out in and since the 1970s under the auspices of the University of Glasgow. This led to a questioning of just how much the rugged landscapes are taken for granted, how much they have been altered, and how they should be presented. Is, for instance, the Industrial Archaeology of an old salmon fishing station as valid a topic for study as the old field farming traces?

Other issues, such as the importance of "mountain tourism" and the reuse of redundant buildings were discussed, along with what Norman described as the "politics of scenery" - illustrated by the impact of EU money on the islands' infrastructure.

How should tourism be accommodated in 21st Century Skye? The destruction of the original Flora MacDonald monument was pointed to to exemplify this question. Some answers might include the development of trails, but to what extent would or should tourist images be "manufactured"?

Throughout the talk, Norman sought to challenge perceived "truths" - not necessarily to disprove them but certainly to generate discussion and thought. he emphasised how the extended availability of information and resources for study - the "availability" of History - were having an effect on thinking.


  • Does "bilingualism" - road signs, etc. - do a disservice to the Norse origins of much of the islands?
  • Has, in fact, the Norse past beem airbrushed out of history?
  • The complexities of the religious past may be in danger of being over-simplified.
  • The symbolic nature of, for instance, the landscape of Glendale, and its relationship with the Land Reform movement may disguise a story of inward migration.
  • Crofting is not a very old tradition but was created to preserve a tenant status where previously landholding had been communal.
  • The impact and significance of the Clearances may have been mis-stated in some senses, not in the fact that they were a personal disaster for many but in that, for instance, it seems many cleared villages were repopulated in a very short time, and Clearance, in any case, was not an experience restricted to the Gaeltachtd, or even to Scotland.

We hope many will take the opportunity to discuss these points(and others) through these pages.


Previous Meetings: 2006 - 2007

October 10 - Bill Cowie - Kirk Cave, Rona
November 14 - Alister Ross – Education – PHS100
December 12 - Norman Newton - Skye and Raasay
(in association with Aberdeen University Centre for Lifelong Learning )
January 9 - Pat Myhill - Telford’s Stein
February 13 - Fiona MacKenzie – Miri Mhr nan Orain -
A song-lecture
March 13 - Ian McCrorie - The MacBrayne Story
April 10 - AGM, with guest speaker - Roger Hutchinson - “Calum’s Road”

All meetings are held at Tigh na Sgire, Portree,
at 7. 30 p.m.,
on the second Tuesday of each month.

Contact us:



Published by Stephen Clarke, on behalf of Portree Local History Society - January 2007.
Photographs, unless otherwise stated Dualchas 2006
The publisher and the Society publish this information in good faith, but cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions.
Meeting dates and topics are subject to change.