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.

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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…..

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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.

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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

CHORUS
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

CHORUS

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

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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.

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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

dougalsunset

Comments on: "The Last Post" (29)

  1. I only knew Ali through his/this blog. I spent time in Applecross as a kid from Glasgow and never forgot the place, though I lived on Skye for a while after grduaton from Sussex University in the 1970s. As an international music journalist, and lover of Celtic Connections, I grew to appreciate his love of traditional music. Sounds like he had singularly fitting farewell gig.

  2. Godfrey Dack said:

    Thank you for ‘The Last Post’. The final image is beyond words.

  3. basketbob said:

    I for one will not forget our brief half-hour meeting, and the subsequent pleasure of reading Ali’s blog. Thank you for keeping the blog on-line.
    I believe the man touched my soul.

  4. Thank you and god bless. So sorry that another tragedy has befallen Applecross.

  5. Thank you for this posting, and for having Ali’s blog remain for reading as if it were a favorite book to return to for inspiration & a way to be back in Applecross while living so far, far away.

  6. The final photo breaks my heart. This is such an amazing post to complete Ali’s blog. I will read it often to remind me of what is important in life. Love to you all. Jane x

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I only ever met him briefly as he organised us at the Inn…but sometimes you just know a soul is special.

  8. Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s very, very special.

  9. Sarah Duce said:

    I have no doubt he was the finest of folk. This post sings with the spirit of the man. The 3 deaths bit has really moved me. Its ten years this month since my dad drowned in Lewis. Everytime I go home someone still speaks to me about him, I have read through this blog in awe and know that Ali will be someone sorely missed by many in Applecross and beyond.

  10. I also only knew Ali through his blog. When I stayed a few nights at the Applecross Inn in August 2016 Ali wasn’t on duty, so I never managed to have a wee blether with him although I did manage to get through a fair amount of his langoustine. Alison, thanks for sharing this with us, it’s very poignant and at times funny – and as someone else said above, the last image is indeed “beyond words”.

  11. Thank you for sharing this uplifting and moving celebration of Alisdair’s life.

  12. Appreciate you sharing all this. It’s a beautiful record of what sounds as fine a send-off as anyone can have.

  13. Marian Macintyre said:

    We were saddened and shocked to hear of this tragedy. The few times we were at the Applecross Inn during the three periods when me husband was locum minister at Applecross, Lochcarron and Torridon Church of Scotland, we were very conscious of Alasdair’s hospitable welcome and we enjoyed a good few chat with him. He certainly had a ‘presence’ ……and will be much missed by all who knew and loved him.

  14. Janet Lamb said:

    Thank you to Ali’s family for this final post. Unable to make the journey to Applecross it is good to now feel in a small way a part of his farewell. I know for certain that when I next return to Applecross I will definitely be looking out to sea and remembering Ali. His blog gave me great pleasure and I really miss his musings and photographs. I am so glad that I saw him at the inn on his return from Iceland on our last visit in October. He was enthusing about Iceland and it was a pleasure to hear how much he enjoyed his visit. I never dreamt when we shared a hug that it would be the last time I would see him. To be frank I still can’t believe he has gone. Thank you Ali it was good knowing you and sharing in your life from afar. For one last time, goodbye Ali.

  15. Joyce Miller said:

    Thank you for sharing this ‘Last Post’; Ali’s personality and humanity were summed up so eloquently by Fedor, Dave , Ruairidh and Niall and the music. We could not be there on the day but our thoughts were with you all…

  16. Ewen grant ,fisher field ,Portree.it was me who spoke to naill at the church door, I lent Ali several books ,one of which was .the ring net fishermen by Angus Martin ,Angus gave me and signed this great history of the herring fishery, can’t remember or care about other titles,but would be grateful to get this one returned,thanks

    • Alison Macleod said:

      Thanks, Ruairidh is working in Portree just now and home for the weekend, so I’ll ask him to take the books back with him on Monday.

  17. Thanks alison,if it’s easier ask Ruairidh to leave at petrol station ,viewfield rd ,I’m in every day and not far from my house ,all the staff know me .what a wonderful tribute to Ali you held ,didn’t get a chance to speak to many people on the day ,had to leave sharp.hope the family well and getting back to some form of normality.best wishes ,yogi

  18. No problem

  19. what beautiful memories from good friends about a good man’s life. how kind of you to share them with fans of the blog. as his dogs know best (that picture is a killer), amor manet. love remains.
    thank you.

  20. topherdawson said:

    What a wonderful collection of eulogies and memories. I feel privileged to have known him and you Alison.

  21. Anne Byars, Glasgow said:

    Is there any chance that Ali’s previous wonderful photos will be used for future calendars?

    • Alison Macleod said:

      Yes, we have a lot of his photos from 2017 on a hard drive which I intend to pass on our good friend Stewart Wright who publishes the calendars for us.

  22. Anne Byars, Glasgow said:

    Thank you, Alison. Glad about that.

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