Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

John Maciver. "Na Cnamhan"

While I could never understand the origins of the names "Glass" and "Shoudie" for my two grandfathers,the nickname, "Na Cnamhan", for old John Maciver(10 Dalmore)was at least explicable by virtue of his rangy appearance. Tall and thin, Iain was known as "Na Cnamhan",which translates as "the bones". Note the use of the plural here. We are not talking of a single bone,but a collection. Addressed in the first person,he was known as Iain,but otherwise it was always "Na Cnamhan"(Bones). "Taigh na Cnamhan" was the last house as you left the village,and was the only other "taigh gheal" (white house)in Dalmore, when I was a young boy. Na Cnamhan and his wife had connections in Carloway and Doune(I think),and he was one of the original ten to secure a croft in Dalmore in the early 1920s. I only knew Iain and his wife to see them in the kitchen of No.10,but I do recall his slow sonorous voice. Seoras and Iain Shoudie,my uncle,were testament of Na Cnamhan's quick,and at times acerbic wit,delivered in a slow monotone.
They had a family of four boys(Donald,John,Murdo,Archie) and one girl,Annie,the youngest,who was ages with my own mother(Anna Glass). Donald married one of Seoras'sisters and they settled in Stornoway. Mudd na Cnamhan(Murdo),whom I often spoke to while he was weaving, married a beautiful woman from Shawbost called Mairi Anna,and they went off to live in Barvas. The one member of the family who looked like his father and with a similar physique was Archie,who inherited the croft,and whom I got to know well. Archie lived up to the "Cnamhan" moniker. He was tall,thin and gangly,but could he move on these long legs of his? He had a fine turn of phrase,very dry and very witty. He was a likeable man. Archie obtained his driving licence later in life(like many others in the district)and bought himself a Bedford Dormobile van,de rigeur among the fashionistas of the island,the whaling fraternity. Archie,I don't think,ever mastered the proper use of a car's clutch,and consequently his van travelled along the roads in a peculiar series of leaps and shudders. One tended to pull into the first available passing place at the sight of Archie's chariot in the distance. Maybe this was the reason for Archie's unblemished driving record. Archie often called into Taigh Shoudie for a wee bit morning ceilidh,and even the odd dram.
Archie was called up as a private in the Cameron Highlanders during WW2,and he was one of the unfortunates to be captured at St.Valery in France,when the entire 51st Highland Division were taken by the Germans in 1940. When Archie returned to Lewis after his captivity,he was literally a bag of bones, and very weak. Still,years of good Lewis feeding,especially from his wife Chrissie,was to put that to rights.
N.B. It was only recently that I realised that the Gaelic for Archibald was "Gilleasbuig",which means the "follower of the bishop". Now boys,don't fret. This was in pre-reformation days. A bit more on Clann na Cnamhan in the next post.

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