Portree archive centre to research impact of World War I

The impact of World War One on Skye and Lochalsh will be researched by the Skye and Lochalsh archive centre in Portree thanks to a grant from Highland Council’s Eilean a’ Cheo ward discretionary fund.

The grant will allow the archive centre to deliver a programme of events marking the centenary of the war – “An Cogadh Mòr: Remembering the Great War in Skye and Lochalsh” – including an exhibition, an archive of local material relating to World War One and a day of talks exploring different aspects of the conflict.

Graham Ross’s ‘Roll of Honour for Skye and Lochalsh’ will be made available online and archive staff will have access to military service records via Ancestry.com. A research service for those wishing to find out more about their ancestors’ war record will also be available.

Work on the project has already begun, with Murdoch Beaton — who was an officer in the Cameron Highlanders — among those being researched. Mr Beaton was born in Ardelve in 1869, the son of fisherman John Beaton and his wife Helen. After graduating from Aberdeen University in 1895 he worked as a teacher, a school inspector, and as secretary to a government commission on healthcare in the Highlands and Islands.

On the outbreak of World War One he served with the 4th Cameron Highlanders as a captain, rising to become lieutenant colonel. He was involved in the Battle of Festubert in May 1915, where Skye suffered heavy losses with 10 men killed in just one night. After the battle he wrote a 13-page letter to his wife in which he attempted to describe “events fraught with so great disaster to my best friends”.

The archive centre is collecting material for the exhibition this summer and autumn and is keen to hear from those with photographs, documents, diaries, letters, stories, artefacts or items of uniform relating to anyone from the Skye and Lochalsh area who was involved in the war. Original documents and photographs can be digitally copied and returned.

The exhibition will be displayed in the centre and other venues from early 2015. A day of talks is planned for May of that year as part of a series of events timed to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Festubert.

If you have items you would like to share, telephone 01478 614078 or email skyeandlochalsh.archives@highlifehighland.com.

Above: Archivist Anne MacLeod is pictured with some of the artefacts that have already been gathered, including a cap badge belonging to Peter MacQueen from Braes who was with the Cameron Highlanders. Also pictured are medals belonging to Alexander MacKinnon of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who was from Elgol.