A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

The Last Post

This will be our last post on Applecrosslife. It was Ali’s very personal blog about his life. We believe it was appropriate to continue it to tell how his life ended and of our celebration of his life well lived, but no more than that. The blog will remain on line but will not be updated.

Tragically, another celebration of life took place in Applecross the weekend before last, that of 18 year old Bethany Walker who died suddenly on 5th January after a short illness. Bethany was a wonderful young woman who moved to Applecross with her mum Heather, dad Andy and brother Danny as a little girl. She blossomed; a star pupil in primary and secondary school, a hard working and pleasant staff member in the Inn, a lovely girl with a beautiful smile who was to start a degree in midwifery this year. Ali and Bethany got on well and shared an interest in similar music as they worked together at the Inn; he loved her singing voice and encouraged her to use it.

It has taken some time to summon up the energy and concentration to write this final post which we originally meant to do soon after the celebration. Having been in Glasgow for Celtic Connections and getting away from Applecross has provided the boost needed to get on with it.


Several hundred people joined us for the celebration of Ali’s life on Thursday, 4th January. Many thanks to all those who attended, particularly those who traveled a long way. There were lots of kilts and woolly jumpers, smiling faces and warm embraces. We are very grateful to our good friends Fedor Bunge and Dave Hardy who were brave enough to speak at the celebration. They both knew and understood Ali well, so were able to speak about him in a meaningful and moving way, but their strong connections with him also meant that this was a challenging thing for them to do. Ruairidh and Niall decided early on that they both wanted to speak about their dad and felt able to do so.

Fedor welcomed everyone to the Clachan Church:

We are here today to honour the memory, and celebrate the life of Alasdair Macleod. He died a month ago, falling into the sea, whilst out creel fishing in the Sound. This tragic accident robbed his wife Alison, his four sons, Kenny, Calum,  Ruairidh and Niall, his many friends and the entire community of a very special man.

Ali was born in Duirinish and brought up in Kyle, and went to university in Edinburgh, where he met Alison. A year after graduating they married and moved to his father’s family’s croft at Toscaig. Ali fished out of Kyle for a couple of months and then they picked whelks for several months before buying a small creel boat which they fished together until they started their family.

We moved to Applecross and got to know Ali and Alison and their boys when my wife Pat got the job of the District nurse/midwife/health visitor in1993. This friendship with Ali and Alison has lasted until the present day, and only a week before he died, he had arranged for the four of us to attend a concert in Oban. When putting notes together for this sad occasion, I put that Ali was a searcher, not religious, but deeply spiritual, with a strong appreciation of nature, music and people. He got great enjoyment at speaking to people, and loved his time working at the Inn, where he is greatly missed, both by Judy and the staff, and by the many people he came in touch with in the course of his work there. His blog, Applecross Life, now being carried on temporarily by Alison, was a great mishmash of his musings and cogitations on his life, both at sea and on land, and was illustrated by beautiful photographs, taken on a camera that smelt strongly of fish.

He was passionate about the environment, being involved, amongst many other projects, in setting up a woodland regeneration scheme at Toscaig, and the establishment of the very successful Applecross community hydro electric scheme. He was constantly trying to live his life in a more sustainable and less damaging way. This was reflected in the way he fished, his commitment to alternative energy, and even down to his electric bike to transport his catch to the Inn. Ali had enormous energy, infectious enthusiasm, and a great capacity for enjoying and appreciating life and the world around him. His positivity meant that he trusted and saw the best in people, occasionally getting his fingers burnt in the process, when this was taken advantage of,  but how much better to live your life with this mindset, rather than being shackled by negativity.

Ali would, I know, be embarrassed and shrug off these comments if he heard them,  but Ali, they are all true, and you are a good man

The Incredible Fling Band, with Dave Hardy and Dougie Pincock played and sang Fiddler’s Green, which tells of a place where fishermen go if they don’t go to hell, where the skies are all clear and the dolphins do play…..


Ruairidh continued with the eulogy

I will be amazed if I don’t cry over the next ten minutes but I was brought up to believe that it is OK for Highland men to show emotion.On behalf of the family I’d like to thank so many of you for coming today and for the overwhelming support we have received over the past few weeks and in helping us organise this celebration. There have been many touching tributes paid to Ali in person, on social media, in blogs, e-mails, letters and cards. There is even a Spotify “Songs for Ali” playlist; we appreciate every one. Most unusual of all must be the naming of the wind turbine built by the community in Coigach; it’s called Varuna, after Ali’s boat. We’re also all very grateful for all the effort during the search for Ali; the police, RNLI and coastguards could not have done a more thorough and professional job. We were very moved by the commitment of all the local volunteers who willingly sacrificed their time to search the sea and coastline with the hope of finding any sign of him.

When trying to describe Ali there was a Cherokee story that came to mind. An elder was telling his grandson how inside all of us there are two wolves constantly fighting: a good wolf and a bad wolf. The good wolf is filled with kindness, warmth, hope and all the other positive aspects of human nature, whereas the bad wolf is filled with bitterness, envy, fear and hatred. “Which wolf wins?” asked the grandson. “The wolf we feed” replied the Elder. I never saw the bad wolf inside my dad. I imagine it starved a few years before I met him. The good wolf on the other hand was the most disgustingly, fat, overfed animal you were likely to meet. Ali fed the good wolf every day by always being kind to others and constantly thinking about how to make Applecross a better place for those who lived there. This translated itself into volunteering on an exceptional level. Between the Community Company, the Community Council, the Pier Users Association and the Creel Fishermens’ Federation he spent an average of 40 hours a month working for the benefit of others.

My dad first met my mum when they were both studying history in Edinburgh. He actually managed to trick her into their first date. When he heard that my mum was short of money he invited her to the West End Hotel where he claimed he could get her a job. As it transpired, no job was available but by the time she realised she’d already had a couple of pints and fallen for his Highland charm. Valentine’s Day came a couple of weeks later and in a gallant gesture Ali bought Alison a beautiful, red rose. Before seeing the lovely lady he popped into hospital to visit his aunt Jessie who had just broken her ankle. Jessie was delighted that her nephew was kind enough to bring her a rose and Ali didn’t have the heart to tell her otherwise. He turned up to the date empty handed but with a story that lasted longer than the rose ever did. I for one I’m very happy they found each other and together they achieved incredible things. Their personalities complemented each other very well. Ali was always an idealist: Alison ever the pragmatist. Ali could inspire others with talk of the bigger picture while Alison had the attention to detail to make it happen. Applecross has benefited hugely from their efforts and projects including the hydro scheme, community broadband and the petrol station would not exist without them. As brothers we couldn’t have hoped for better parents. The care and attention that we received during our formative years has given us the confidence to go forth, over the Bealach, and do our own things.


Ali first went fishing when he was 17 years old on the “Dauntless Star” with Ruairidh Finlayson. Within the first few days a prawn nipped his finger and drew blood. Upon seeing this Ruairidh said “Well Ali, you’re a real fisherman now”. 40 years later he was still at it. Ali loved the sea and always said that he would suffer if he spent too long away from it. He loved the solitude and the sense of perspective that it offered. All human troubles seemed less significant when surrounded by miles of sea and mountains. He had an incredible connection with the natural world and very much saw himself as part of it. From early in his fishing career Ali was concerned about the long term sustainability of the fisheries. He described the situation better than anyone so I can’t do better than paraphrasing him “What generations of fishermen have done in a very short space of time is fished down through the species. My grandfather fished for whitefish, my father fished for herring and now I’m fishing for langoustines which are bottom feeders, beautiful eating, but the end of the sea food chain.” Later in his career he began to limit his catch by fishing less and returning small and pregnant, berried prawns to the sea. To quote him again “Many fishermen say they can’t afford to fish this way but I say I can’t afford not to.” Back on land, he became involved in fishing policy at a national level. He joined talks with government officials in Edinburgh, gave evidence at a Holyrood committee and was a keen member of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation.


For the past two decades Ali combined fishing with working part time front of house at the world famous Applecross Inn. Meeting people from near and far was a nice counterbalance to the solitude of the sea and he said it stopped him talking to the prawns. Connecting with others was one of his greatest joys and one of his greatest talents. He had a huge amount of humanity and he knew how to share it. He took enormous pleasure in telling visitors that he’d caught the langoustines they were eating before launching into his spiel about sustainable fishing. He loved talking about his unique way of life in Applecross and in return hearing stories from all round the world. He had the ability to communicate complicated issues with ease and he did it all with a warm, humorous, unassuming manner.

Now after all those compliments I really need to tell an embarrassing story. When Ali was a lot younger he went to gig in Broadford on Skye. He was running late for the ferry so drove straight to the Kyle slipway parked his pickup and hopped on. His friends then took him the rest of the way to Broadford. However during the concert word went round that some eejit had parked their pickup on the Kyle slipway and the tide had come in. Ali just kept his head down, didn’t tell anyone it was him, and tried to enjoy the night. The next day saw him, a wee bit worse for wear, being towed backwards through Kyle in a waterlogged pickup as his friend drove him to the garage.

Ali was very much alive to the beauty of life in Applecross which he documented in his blog. He was never entirely sure why he blogged. It was a form of catharsis in times of stress but it also helped him focus on the best of life. Putting his experiences into words and images and sharing them with others added another layer of appreciation to his days. On other occasions he would blog to publicise causes dear to his heart such as community development and sustainable fishing. Sometimes he just wanted to share a photo of a rather stupid looking dog. He was quietly proud of the blog’s popularity and was chuffed with all the positive feedback he received. Applecrosslife was even referenced in Parliament a couple of years back.

I can’t think of my dad without hearing music. Music was the first thing we talked about when I came home so in my mind every holiday in Applecross has a sound track. The summer of 2017 was Duncan Chisholm, last winter was Shooglenifty and the year before that was Treacherous Orchestra. Perhaps the best example of the lengths Ali would go to to hear a good tune is the 500 mile return journey he made to Glasgow, in November, to see AfroCelt Sound System. I’ve rarely seen anyone happier than Ali at a good concert so I’m sure the ten hours of traveling was worth it. I know he would be chuffed to bits that Duncan Chisholm has composed a tune in his honour. He said that Duncan’s tunes were good enough to be played for generations to come and I’m sure “Ali Macleod of Applecross” will be one of them.

A eulogy about Ali would not be complete without mentioning his dogs of which Dougal was the most beloved and stupid. My favourite story of them was the day Ali decided to clean out a barrel of putrid herring down the pier. He had been putting the job off for months so the herring had dissolved into a thick soup of bones and entrails. I was busy cleaning creels at the end of the pier but I could hear sporadic retching as Ali scraped the last of the herring from the bottom of the barrel. When he finally pulled his head out, he was greeted by the sight of Dougal rolling in the pool of rotten herring soup. His fur was matted with gunge and bones and despite being thrown in the sea several times the van was reeking on the way back up the road. Of course my dad found all this hilarious but then again he probably smelt as bad as the dog.

When I first heard the news about my dad I cried for the entire night thinking about what I had lost and how I had lost it but as time passed I was surprised to discover how much of him still remained. I have walked with him every day for the last 6 weeks. Every time I am not in company my mind will turn to the memories I have of him. The most prominent of all is his smile, which would crinkle the corner of his eyes and express everything you needed to know. With this image comes all the affection that remains as strong as ever. As his son it was inevitable that he was the man that I most looked up to and he represented many of the things I wanted to be. Which brings me to the final thing that remains: I will always be his son and he will always be the model of what a good and decent man should be.

We continued with Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia, sung by all those attending with accompaniment from the Fling Band.

I don’t know if you can see the changes that have come over me
In these last few days I’ve been afraid that I might drift away
So I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs, that make me think about where I come from
That’s the reason why I seem so far away today

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

I have moved and I’ve kept on moving, proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing, found others on the way
I have tried and I’ve kept on trying, stolen dreams, yes there’s no denying*
I have traveled hard sometimes with conscience flying somewhere in the wind


Now I’m sitting here before the fire, the empty room the forest choir
The flames that couldn’t get any higher they’ve withered now they’ve gone
But I’m steady thinking, my way is clear and I know what I will do tomorrow
When the hands have shaken and the kisses flow then I will disappear


Dave Hardy , Ali’s good friend, fellow fisherman and scallop farmer, then spoke:

The Alasdair I knew


Looking around the congregation that have gathered here to celebrate Alasdair’s life I can see that I’m not the only one who noticed his sweaters. I was hoping to devote a little time to this but it looks as if I’ve been pre-empted. However, let me read to you what I have put together on the subject before I get underway with speaking of my experiences with him.


A point of interest, I can’t avoid mentioning is Alasdair’s ‘trade mark’ jerseys. Now, I’m afraid to admit that for most of the thirty five years that I knew him I thought he only owned one Icelandic sweater. Not exactly a snappy dresser but nonetheless easily picked out in a crowd. Even when appearing on television he always looked like the “same old Alaisdair”; “smart but casual”

I’ve since been corrected. It would seem that he had a team of knitters working behind the scenes turning out these priceless items. Alison, his sister Chrissie-Ann, and his mother all produced garments to suit his fancy at the time. I now wish I’d looked a little closer.


Several years ago I was asked if I would like to take a chord at the funeral of an old fisherman from Kyle. Now I should explain that over a period of forty years we had been nose to nose growling at each other over issues to do with the sea, yet here I was being remembered by him. However, I had always greatly admired this man so I couldn’t have been more honoured. And that’s how I stand here today, honoured by being asked to speak on behalf of my long-time friend. Maybe I knew an Alasdair that few others were aware of. Hopefully you’ll know a bit more about him by the time I’m finished.


Alasdair, like Alison, had a degree in history. He once told me that when he told his teacher that he wanted to be a fishermen, the teacher replied “why not be an educated fisherman” and consequently he carried on with further education. In fact, many fishermen have a degree and many more have other equally relevant qualifications. It would seem to me that this stood him in good stead throughout his life. Being able to communicate on the same level with the various bodies governing fishing, crofting and planning was a distinct advantage and anyone now involved in these activities is reaping some of the benefits of his involvement.


Although he was insistent that he follow in his father’s footsteps as a fisherman I do believe he struggled with this at first. Somewhere within him there was a natural love of the sea. As many here will know, he had some mishaps along the way. I helped him raise his boat “True Love 3” on two occasions, but undaunted, he pressed on. There were other mishaps which might have floored the rest of us but he wouldn’t be defeated.


He would tell me of the joy of steaming out of Applecross in time to catch the sun rising. I didn’t do AM then, nor do I do it now so I showed little enthusiasm for this. However, Alasdair would relate such events as something bordering on the spiritual. This often came out in his blog. In fact, I could safely say that there was a spiritual element to most of what he did. Seemingly, he was asked once if one day he might follow the religion of his parents. His reply was: “It would have to be based a little bit further East”.


The Alasdair I got to know originally was a man who had suffered through a strict religious up-bringing. He told me stories about having to spend all day in bed on a Sunday because it caused less trouble than going along with his parent’s wishes of attending a full day of worship that he didn’t really believe in. He couldn’t take it aboard that I wasn’t also subjected to this as a child and marvelled when I told him I attended a Quaker school in Tasmania which didn’t even teach religion – they only wanted to be judged on their actions and their treatment of their fellow man. This seemed to impress him. Eventually he learned to laugh about his early experiences and took pleasure in telling me of his dad’s advice on his death bed: “Go to the church at the bottom of the hill son, not the one at the top”. This referred to the two in church road in Kyle, the top being The Church of Scotland, and the bottom being the Free Presbyterian. However, the positive side to all of this was that being in contact with such antiquated traditions encouraged him to examine the philosophy behind all the great religious traditions in the hope of getting some answers.


To some extent both of us became course junkies, looking for something cosmic that might permanently change our lives. Unfortunately, we were both in agreement that although there was much out there that would be a positive benefit to mankind, once Western man got hold of it he tailored it to suit himself and you would then have to abide by a new set of rules; maybe part your hair in a certain way or chant a new mantra. Certainly it would be more expensive.


However, it was always enjoyable to exchange views on how some of the alternative courses were run, and who actually ran them. There would be the ‘larger than life’ lady bedecked in a vibrant flowing dress, referring to such things as opening chakras, the extent and colour of someone’s aura, how crystals are important to one’s life, the importance of pendulums for medical diagnosis, biorhythms in a person’s life, star signs, essential oils, chanting, etc, etc. The lady in question would often guide you through a meditation where you were supposed to visit crystal castles, journey to distant galaxies and have a frank discussion with Jesus about the state of the world today. Wonderful, yes, but the most I ever got was a sore bum and cramp for sitting in a lotus position for so long. Alasdair was not far behind and well aware of the pitfalls involved with embarking on such adventures.


Between us we looked into such pursuits as sweat lodges, re-birthing, awakening through dreams, and various forms of meditation. When I even think about the fact that I paid to be nearly roasted to death in a sweat lodge for the sake of my spirituality it makes me shudder. Then, of course, there was always the question of how much did you pay for all this? Possibly a lot more than we told our wives. Fortunately for us both of us they accepted these eccentricities, or seemed to at the time.


So, Alasdair embarked on a journey of discovery based much on Eastern philosophy. He introduced ‘Pujas’ to Applecross (in Buddhism these refer to an expression of honour worship, and devotional attention). I can only imagine that many Applecross locals must have thought that someone had left a croft gate open when they saw the cross section of society that arrived on their doorstep during these celebrations. I don’t think they ever caught on. However, he genuinely seemed to get a great deal out of both the philosophy and the practice behind them.


A big step for Applecross, yes, and only rivalled when the first gay marriages were held in the Hartfield House hotel. I have to own up to being partly responsible for supplying the music for one of these gay weddings some 18 months ago in the same venue. What a great evening it was. Once again, Alasdair’s hand was behind this in recommending us for the job in the first place. Everything has to move on, yes?


Not everything was negative. Over the years we discussed many weird and wonderful things and arrived at the assumption that “anything and everything is possible”. However, when it came to debating the continuity of consciousness after passing from this life, he, like myself was emphatic that there was no dispute about it, consciousness survived. The problem was, in what form, and what was it all about. Mainly we concluded it couldn’t be too bad.


I don’t know how many of you here would have read Kahlil Gibran’s book ‘The Prophet’, maybe not many even though it has sold in millions over the years and boasts second place to the bible in sales in the Western world. At one stage this was Alasdair’s bible and he often quoted extracts from it. I’m going to quote a few words of wisdom from the famous book because any celebration of Alasdair’s life wouldn’t be complete without it. I’ll have to ask you all just to be patient if you find it too heavy.

A good example would be something relating to today, and the heartbreak of loss; Kahlil Gibran wrote: ‘Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding’ – a beautiful quote if you take time to think about it. He also wrote: “Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful”. Was that a reflection on Alasdair’s famous jerseys?


He was always insistent that no one should tell anyone else what to believe, only to seek what lies already within themselves. Consequently he fell back on another of the Prophet’s quotes: Don’t say; ‘I have found the truth, but rather, I have found a truth’. And don’t say I have found the path of the soul, Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking on my path’.


We shared the same interest in books. I have already mentioned Kahlil Gibran but I once gave him a book, whose title evades me. However, a couple of months later he informed me that he need read nothing else because this book answered all of his spiritual questions. I quite agreed with him but never let on that I hadn’t really understood it when I first read it. That’s pride for you, if only I’d asked him to explain it to me maybe I would now also understand the meaning of life. Unfortunately we’ve not been able to find the book in question.


Along with my wife Maggie we suffered the loss of our son Michael when he was twenty years of age. When this kind of thing happens in life it fairly directs your thoughts and makes you realise the fragility of life. Maybe difficult to believe is the fact that if handled in the correct manner it can also produce experiences and insights of a positive nature. It’s a bit like standing on a scales waiting for something to correct the imbalance. And yes, it does happen, life evens itself up if you allow it, but not always in the way you might expect. Alasdair knew this and my association with him at that stage took on a deeper meaning. He was always truly understanding, knowing heartbreak himself with the passing of his sister Chrissie-Anne. He wrote me a letter pouring out his thoughts’ which I have kept to this day. Many years later I spoke to him once again about it and thanked him for being so thoughtful. Often, it can be just a word in the right place that sets off the healing process.


On his many visits to my house, the first thing he would do would be to give us an update of what his boys were up to. Kenny, Calum, Ruairidh, and Niall would be spoken about with almost reverence, as would Alison and the work she had undertaken. Yes, he was very much a family man. Falling back on Kahlil Gibran once more: “You may give them your love but not your thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls. For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams”.


I shall miss him walking past my window in his trade mark Icelandic sweater, uncombed curly hair and misted up glasses. We had arranged to get together soon to discuss some of the magical things that have happened in our lives and some of the subsequent conclusions we had arrived at. Unfortunately this meeting never took place.


So what would be my conclusion as to what Alasdair had achieved? Well, I would emphatically state that he arrived at a truth within himself that gave him an acceptance of his role in this life and the inevitability of its passing. It’s not what you know, it’s how you behave that really counts. That’s the problem we all face but in this case we were only referring to ourselves and not making a judgement on others. We can all hide behind a spiritual mask so to speak, but what really counts is how we treat others.

So this was Alasdair’s final hurdle. He will now be putting his theories to the test so let’s hope we were right in our assumptions. Maybe one day he’ll let me know. His life, a job well done. It’s not necessarily the quantity but the quality,consequently he succeeded admirably.


And how, in Alasdair’s words, might he have summed up his own life?  Nice one!

Duncan Chisholm was one of Ali’s favourite musicians and, more importantly, a fine human being he enjoyed meeting and sharing the craic with occasionally, from early days of Wolfstone performing in the Applecross Hall (organised by Ali), to a great performance with Jarlath Henderson and Ali Hutton at Sahbal Mor Ostaig in September 2017, after which Ali blogged “I have a really strong connection with this man’s music. His tunes are phenomenal and you wander through the glens with him as his fiddle playing makes you forget all the things you should have done. His tunes feel ancient, as if they have been around for centuries, and I reckon they will be played for years to come.” It was very fitting that Duncan and Hamish Napier composed a tune in Ali’s memory “Ali Macleod of Applecross” which they filmed and which we showed at the celebration, particularly as it is a cheerful quickstep rather than a slow, sad tune. Many thanks to Mel and co for organising this and for giving us a beautiful framed version of the tune. We hope that it will become well known and be much enjoyed.

Niall then added his contribution to the eulogy, having grown a ginger beard for the occasion:

So, when I was asked if I wanted to say something today I knew that I did but I didn’t know what it was going to be. I hope not to be too dour here, I don’t want to mourn, this is a celebration of life after all and not a funeral.

What I realised I wanted to share was the main thing I learned from Ali, and routinely fail to put into practice, to always be learning and discovering new things. You could see that in so many aspects of his life. He never stopped discovering new music and he would shamelessly steal my CDs. I would never have to say, “You should listen to this” I just had to leave a CD on the computer desk and two weeks later it would be on the pub playlist. That never seemed to work for William M. MacDonald’s Piboreachd Volume 5 but there’s no accounting for taste. He never stopped sharing his music either, whether it was through writing about gigs on the blog or lending people CDs that weren’t necessarily his to begin with and not being overly fastidious in getting them returned.

It was the same for spirituality. There was never a religion or philosophy that he wasn’t interested in or open to learning about. I don’t think you’ll find many West coast fishermen with boats named after Hindu deities. I think if he was any more open minded his brain might have fallen out. He would often try to see things from another point of view, not so much if you were a trawlerman but nobody’s perfect. I genuinely don’t think I ever had an argument with Ali, mostly because whenever you tried to make a point he’d just say, “Well you say that.” There’s a lot to be said for a non-confrontational attitude especially in times like these.

He also never turned down the opportunity to meet new people. That’s why I think he enjoyed working at the pub so much, because it gave him the chance to meet so many different folk from so far afield. He’d always do his best to get the craic with folk not just get them served and out. I certainly hope we can all learn from him in some respect.

As a secular man I believe that author and neuroscientist David Eagleman may be on to something when he wrote, “There are three deaths. The first when you take your last breath, the second when your body is consigned to the grave. The third is when some time in the future when your name is spoken for the last time.”  I know that I won’t be able to wear a wooly jumper, listen to Johnny Cash or watch a Scandinavian crime drama without him coming to mind. And I’m glad to say that given the size of the gathering here and Duncan Chisolm’s tune dedicated to Ali’s memory means that that third and final death will be far, far in the future.


Fedor thanked all for attending and brought the celebration to a close with a reading from Margaret Mead: To the living, I am gone. To the sorrowful, I will never return. To the angry, I was cheated, but to the happy, I am at peace and to the faithful, I have never left. I cannot be seen, but I can be heard. So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea — remember me. As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty — remember me. As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity — remember me. Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved, the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed. For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.

Judith, chef Robert and staff at the Applecross Inn welcomed everyone for soup and sandwiches, feeding the hordes amazingly quickly and well. We are very grateful for their support, so willingly and generously offered and given. We thank all who traveled from near and far, all who helped in any way, providing accommodation, transport, sorting out flowers, music and film, home baking.

Photography was provided by Annie MacDonald, Culduie, who (for those missing Ali’s Applecross photos) has a FB page: AIM photography, and an account on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anniemacd

We invited writer and journalist Peter Ross to attend Ali’s celebration and write an article about him. This appeared in the Herald’s Saturday magazine in February: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16045411._We_ve_put_his_ashes_in_the_sea_because_he_s_athome_there_/

We managed to give Ali the celebration that we wanted him to have with all your help. It was great to speak to so many of those who attended and we are sorry that we did not manage to speak to everyone or indeed to anyone for as long as we wanted to. We also thank those who were not able to attend but sent letters, cards, flowers and food supplies. A collection for Applecross Community Company and the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation at the Clachan Church raised over £1,200. The Crowdfunder for both organisations closed on 27th January having raised a total of £6,945. Many thanks to all who contributed.

If you missed the chance to contribute to the Crowdfunder, or would rather contribute direct, the Applecross Community Company bank account number is 80870468 and the sort code is 87-39-03.

A fisherman from Skye who attended asked Niall if we could return a book about ringnet fishing he had lent Ali. We are happy to do so, but don’t know the name and address of the person to send it too. If this is you, please comment at the end of this blog and we will arrange to get the book to you. 

Alison, Kenny, Calum, Ruairidh and Niall Macleod


Bike SilhouetteWe’re putting final arrangements in place for the celebration of Ali’s life. It will take place at noon on 4th January at Clachan Church, Applecross. All are welcome, including children, if parents wish to bring them. Friends and family will be speaking and there will be lots of music. The wearing of woolly jumpers and/or kilts is encouraged but is not compulsory.
We are removing most of the chairs from the church, as we anticipate that there may be too many attending for everyone to get a seat. There are seats upstairs in the balcony, and there will be some chairs available downstairs for anyone not able to climb stairs, or if the balcony is full.
Parking at the church is limited, so we encourage those attending to walk, cycle or share cars if possible. There will also be a minibus service from the car park at the Applecross Inn.
Soup and sandwiches will be served at the Applecross Inn afterwards. Many thanks to Judith and her staff for their support.
Weighing prawnsWe have set up a Crowdfunding page for Ali https://www.crowdfunder. co.uk/manageprojects/core/in-celebration-of-alasdair-macleod/ so anyone who wishes to can make a donation in his memory.
There are still Applecrosslife calendars for 2018 (featuring Ali’s photos) available at the Applecross Inn; all profit from these goes to Applecross Community Company.

There will be a collection dish at the celebration for anyone attending in person who would like to contribute that way.
Creels at Sunset





Ali’s body was identified much more quickly than we’d expected; we had been warned that it would take several weeks take to do this using DNA. However it was suggested that dental records might be used instead, and since Ali had visited the dentist now and again his records were detailed enough to make this straightforward. By Monday evening the fiscal’s office had phoned to say that ID and post mortem were complete and his death certificate could be issued. Alison went to Inverness on Friday to register his death. The cause of death is recorded as “drowned while creel fishing”, although we believe he had finished with the creels for the day and was on his way back to the mooring when he went overboard. All the prawns had been tubed and were in the vivier tank. We were told that the Varuna was travelling at around 5 knots when she grounded on Saint Island, which is much faster than she would have been going if Ali had been shooting creels. The Marine Accident Investigation Board is investigating what happened and will issue a report. This is done with the aim of producing recommendations based on what has been learned with a view to safety being improved for others as a result. Sad to see that there were two more fatalities on British fishing boats this November: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/marine-accident-investigation-branch-current-investigations/marine-accident-investigation-branch-current-investigations . The MAIB guys who visited Applecross to investigate Ali’s accident spoke of their frustration that there have been four fatal incidents on UK based fishing boats this year, particularly as there had been none in the previous year and they had believed that this demonstrated that progress was being made.
Ewen took the Varuna round to his yard at Kishorn last weekend, so we don’t need to worry about her on the mooring during winter gales. He has some work to do on her before she goes up for sale and the yard is busy as always.


We had already decided that we would organise a celebration of Ali’s life in Applecross, before a private cremation in Inverness the following day, and that we would eventually scatter his ashes in the Inner Sound. We had planned to go ahead with the celebration early in the New Year, whether his body had been found or not, but when the identification went ahead so quickly we briefly hoped that we might be able to move this to before Christmas. However there is too much to organise for this to be realistic and Applecross is so busy with visitors during New Year week that finding accommodation for family and friends would have been impossible. So the plan is to hold the celebration on 4th January at the Clachan Church, time as yet to be decided. Judith and her staff at the Applecross Inn will do their best to feed those who attend at the Inn. We’re yet to work out the details of who is doing what at the celebration, but plan to get that sorted out soon.
This film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79qtGuS0ygU was made as an advert for Volt E- Bikes but is also the story of Ali’s way of life. He mentioned the filming of this at the end of a blog post describing three hectic days; https://applecrosslifeblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/three-days/



Ali’s body was found yesterday (Saturday) in Staffin Bay, Skye, by a member of the public. This wasn’t where it was expected to find him and there had been no official search in that area. Although official ID will have to be carried out by DNA tests, there is no doubt in our minds that this is Ali, from descriptions of clothing remaining on his body. We don’t yet know how long the ID and post mortem process will take.


Waiting blogpost Sunset

It is more than two weeks since the Varuna grounded with no sign of Ali. We are in limbo; we know that he most likely died fairly soon after he fell into the sea, and yet we have no body. We’ve been informed by the police today that there will be an intensive search on 17th December (28 days after he went missing) in a specific area well north of Applecross. The search will involve two police teams, lifeboats and the coastguard. The decision to search this place on that date is based on the advice of a forensic oceanographer based in London. But it makes sense to us; we know John Newsome was found in the Gairloch area after he went missing off his boat in the Inner Sound not long after we started fishing. We know Bruce Fewell was found 28 days after he went missing off Plockton in April. It is good to be in touch with Sheila, Bruce’s partner.

Sad to say, since Ali disappeared, another Applecross fisherman has died, after a long and very stoically borne illness. Donald Cameron (Don to his close family and Taddy to most of the rest of us) was from a family which had fished for many generations, and the extent of his knowledge about fishing and the heritage of Applecross was legendary. He had an astonishing memory and was a mentor and role model for the younger generation and will be very much missed. His funeral was on Saturday and Kenny represented the Macleod family.

We’ve decided that we’ll organise a celebration of Ali’s life here in Applecross, but that we will wait till we know the result of the intensive search before deciding the exact date. We think it will most likely be towards the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018. If he’s found the celebration will also be his funeral. If not, we’ll go ahead with it anyway and if his body is found at a later date we’ll have a private cremation.

Life stops and life goes on. Visitors spend time with us and we have (almost) normal conversations, indulge in local gossip and laugh.The dogs need walked and Dougal bounces along as ever, though his mother seems sad at times, missing cuddles on the couch with Ali. The hydro scheme churns out its 2000 KWh plus each day, earning income for Applecross. Kenny produces warm and comforting meals and nags me to give up caffeine. Calum, called home from New Zealand after five years away from Scotland, adjusts to jet lag as he quietly continues his studying. Ruairidh is back in Dundee where the situational judgement test he sat on Friday went all right, he thinks. His fellow students provide good support as does Mariclau by Skype, from faraway Florence. Niall spent the week on a kayaking course near Ballachullish and then, back home with Rachel in Glasgow, he recognised the flooded slate quarry where the course had taken place in the Landward episode dedicated to his dad.

There have been many very lovely tributes paid to Ali on social media, in blogs, e-mails, letters and cards, a Spotify “Songs for Ali” list and in person; we appreciate every one. Most unusual and surprising of all must be the naming of the wind turbine built by the community in Coigach; it is called Varuna, after Ali’s boat: https://www.facebook.com/CoigachCDC/posts/1546302978768351



We’ve decided that we want to use Ali’s blog to let people know what’s happening in the search for him, provide any news and to thank everyone for their support. We can see that there have been several thousand hits on the blog in the last few days and would like to tell the story ourselves through a post or posts instead of providing information to the press to do what they want with. Ali’s blog was a very important part of his life; he used it to work through his own feelings and thoughts as much as to provide information for others. So it is appropriate and helpful for us as his family to use it in the same way.


Ali is still missing; the first intensive search has been called off and it is clear that there is no chance at all that he will be found alive. There is still some official and unofficial searching going on, as and when resources allow. We’re all very grateful for all the effort that people have put into this; the police, RNLI and coastguards could not have done a more thorough and professional job. We are very moved by the commitment of all the local volunteers who willingly sacrificed their time to search the sea and coastline with the hope of finding any sign of him. Thanks to all who have offered support of all kinds, calling in with food and flowers and warm hugs, finding words to say that explain what Ali meant to them and to comfort us. We have been inundated with messages of support. It has really meant a lot.



We want to share some of our fondest memories by posting these photos, including two of a collection of pictures and words put together by the children at Applecross Primary School, next door to our house, which explain what Ali meant to them. The photos show Ali laughing as he listened to speeches at Niall and Rachel’s wedding in July, and Ali with his arm round a new found friend, Anders the reindeer herder from Lapland, who he met in Reykjavik when he was at the Arctic Circle Assembly last month. The photo was taken at a reception hosted by Nicola Sturgeon who headed straight to our group when she came into the room and happily agreed to pose for photos with Scots who were to speak at the Assembly.


My Wee Scallop Farm

Although it meant going down the engine room hatch and guddling about in emulsified oil and water, the heat exchanger is back on and the gear box oil is changed again. Instead of going fishing I decided that the first run out of the moorings would be to check on the long-line. At this time of year there is still a lot of growth in the water and the line gradually sinks as there is added weight which overcomes the buoyancy which keeps the line below the surface and off the seabed. If it is too near  the surface the scallops suffer from motion sickness and poor salinity. Fresh water for scallops is deadly unlike mussels and oysters. I have to admit I was pretty nervous thinking the surface buoys may have sunk under but was relieved to find them heavy but in sight. Picking up the first buoy I was pleasantly surprised at the huge amount of scallops on the ropes and the pearl nets

I had filled using the creel caught spat earlier in the year. Looks like I will not be bothering with that monotonous task again. Worked my way around 3/4000 queens,

putting them in clean pearl nets and adding a bit of buoyancy to the line. Looking forward to a new source of seafood next year and good to see there is still a lot of health in the local waters. Made me forget the messing about earlier in the day, I had batteries ashore as well due to long lay off, (a varied load on the dinghy this morning)

although it reminded me of the cold and sore backs of years in the 1990s when the scallop farm was going great guns.

Making my way back to the north lands, a beautiful day and stunning countryside flashing by.Travelling solo as Alison is heading south to spend some time with her Dad. I still have the residue of last night’s stunning visual and sound experience which will keep me going through the mundane routines making even them special. Our accommodation was based on price, 50% reasonable reviews and proximity to the centre, but having a little experience of Front of House can be a curse at times. Like in Iceland you cannot help but gauge how you are treated /helped through your day. Had a wee cringe when I heard the French chappie ask for some tabasco for his scrambled eggs, the waitress had never heard of tabasco despite this foreign person spelling it out for her, going for help maybe was on the cards but he never got his tabasco. Place was clean, maybe not Grace/Irena clean but clean enough and served its purpose, but maybe another venue for Celtic Connections. Booked most of the tickets for a five-day venture in January. Had a scare when one of the key concerts, Mandolin Orange was booked out, at least that is what CC said. I went onto their own website and was fortunate to get a couple of tickets so with Lunasa, Bothy Culture, Lau and a couple of others to be confirmed the winter will be less bleak.

Sights that I never see in Applecross bring home to you how fortunate one is in life. Last night I had the “great” misfortune to run out of battery in my camera, having left my backup at the accommodation and not having a second battery to hand. I called in to Jessops on the way to the station this morning and could not help comparing my good fortune in going to buy a back up battery, paying £90 for the privilege, while thinking about the guy who was making his bed up in the same doorway when we passed the night before.Maybe it helps to think it is a beautiful country and day when you have a home, family and structure to ones life. Passing through the lush farmlands of Perthshire, the bleak, snow-covered moors of Dalwhinnie and the the birch woods around Aviemore one can only hope the homeless chap has a couple of good experiences that will see him through his day. If a ticket machine not accepting my card and a camera battery running out is a problem in my life, I think I will settle for that.

The concert from beginning to end was stunning,


and a rocking good sound. Dhol Drummers, Kora,



Bodhran,Flute and singing were all top drawer.

All familiar as I have seen the Dhol boys with Shooglenifty and have followed the Afro Celts for some time. The cross over of the Celts with the Asian and African sounds seem very natural and the evening was topped off with Griogair singing a fine Jacobean Gaelic song, aimed I think to get people’s feet back on the ground so they could wend their way home. Met up with other guys from Applecross, Sheildaig, Plockton and South Uist with other musicians spotted, a feeling of Scotland being just the right size of country where huge amounts of talent and camaraderie abound. Been asked to write an article and blog post for another site so going to have to put deadline on myself to get both done. May be away for a couple of days……but then something else may happen.

But get home means a trip over our little hill.

On the way south to see and hear Afro Celt Sound System and leaving Inverness behind finally. The ticket collecting machine did not like my Visa card. May be a west east issue. As a result by the time I had picked them up from the ticket office the planned train had left. So now after an M and S coffee, couple of music purchases, Lau and Julie Fowlis, it is south we go. Another difference between east and west is Christmas seems to have arrived on the east coast, horribly early. These little jaunts are essential to life in Applecross where believe it or not one does suffer from cabin fever. However a meander around the community,


and without the dogs allow for some good viewing of colours

and bird life.

Keeping the dogs off the beaches at the time of year is good for the seabirds, enabling them not to fly off trying to avoid mad spaniels and terriers. One or two little hiccups at the Hydro, a couple of tripped switches but no significant lose of power out put. Angus is always about.

It still uses up a bit of volunteer time, getting the key for access, checking over the switches and returning the key and you are three-quarters of an hour down, that as well as a screen clean and before you know it well over a couple of hours are taken up. But to counter balance there is always the views.

Events of the week have involved our Community Council no longer having enough elected councillors to continue, still have to check up to make doubly sure but an election is in the offing. Another meeting this week to progress the Community Company consultation, something that should not surprise anyone as the Community Company is obliged to find out what the Community want and for it to carry out its wishes if it is feasible. There may be consulting fatigue in the Community but this one is quite important as it is a Community led one. Yet more volunteer time but gradually cutting back on the overload.

Going back a little further in my “wait for a part fortnight”. Seems it may be in Belgium on Thursday and Muir of Old by Saturday. Today is only the second day I have missed, still slightly frustrating, but the wood and paper work may all be done by then. Unfortunately our internet is down, we have been switched back to BT and for some reason our router is not picking it up, I’m in the Inn and Alison is at Kenny and Jill’s. So back to the missed day between Awards and breakdown, a helicopter trip round the Black Isle,

courtesy of PDG and the “Flying Farmer”, John.

Never met him before Iceland and now the third time in a couple of weeks…….just like buses. Only discovered there was a space for a passenger

and Jolene jumped at the chance.

Early start so sleep almost all the way and way back, but I think it went down quite well. John’s enthusiastic commentary was excellent and really informative, apart from Cromarty

I am not able to remember where the photos are,

telling us how locally sourced the barley was going to be, stored locally and malted locally, this as well as the renewable energy has persuaded me to add a little more to the investment that gave me the chopper ride. Local and sustainable distillery with the still and biomass boiler being fired up this week. Promise myself to call into the site itself sometime this winter, may even like the dram. Good to get back though.

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