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TITLE
Dr. Isabel Grant's experiences on Iona
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_I_F_GRANT_01
PLACENAME
Iona
DISTRICT
Mull
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ARGYLL: Kilfinchen and Kilvickeon
DATE OF RECORDING
1969
PERIOD
1960s
CREATOR
Isabel F. Grant
SOURCE
The School of Scottish Studies Archives
ASSET ID
1349
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

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In this audio extract, Dr. I. F. Grant tells the story of a spirit that inhabited the Free Church on Iona where she stored her museum pieces from 1936 to 1939. She is being interviewed by Eric Cregeen, Glasgow University Extra-mural department's first Resident Tutor in Argyll (1954-66).

Audio extract by kind permission of the School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh.

'The other one experience I've had was on Iona. I there had a little church that I used for the beginnings of my folk museum; it was a little Wee Free church that had gone out of use when the congregations amalgamated and it stuck out on a little promontory. And there were two doors that admitted on each side to a little passage that led right into the church; one door opened towards the village and that was always used, and the other which I think had just been put for symmetry opened on the other side almost onto the sea. It was rather a spooky place, or you might have imagined it was, because that was where the dead were landed, in the old days when - not on this side, on the side that - towards the village. The dead were landed there in the days when all the great men of the Isles were buried on Iona. But I never saw or felt anything on that bay.

But after I'd been some time in the church - I was there at all hours arranging the things and I really used it as a sitting room - I was often there at night - I became convinced that there had been, or was going to be, a funeral and I more or less realised it was a dead body of a man, a swarthy man, with dark hair, wrapped in a blanket, and I know exactly where it lay - just near the door - and I thought, 'Well, I think this must be some sort of second sight and premonition.' And I thought, 'Shall I have the door that opened onto the sea - that was the one that I'd thought it had come in from, been carried in from - nailed up? I very nearly sent for the local carpenter to shut it up and then I thought, 'No, you never can stop these sort of things. I'll leave it.' I didn't see it, I didn't hear it, I just knew, as one knows, that William I invaded Britain at the time of 1066; you don't know when you were told that, you just know it. Well, I asked the people in a very guarded way, about funerals in that church, and they all said, 'Oh no, there was nothing of the kind I'd seen, or thought I'd seen, or imagined, but of course they were very reserved to strangers.
And at last, when I was going away, a very nice old man that I'd rather made friends with, came and we have a very heart to heart talk. And he said, 'Oh yes', that 'that was the door that the stranger had been carried in.' I said, 'Oh, I thought there hadn't been anybody taken in.' He said, 'Oh, yes. In the war a man was washed up just below the church on the further side, this unused door, and rather than carry him round, they had opened the door and brought him in.' And I said, 'Who was he?' He said, 'Oh, I don't know - a stranger - because he was a thick-set and he had dark, curly hair and my sister came down with a blanket - wrapped him a blanket - and then they carried him up and buried him up in the churchyard.' But that was rather queer, wasn't it?

Interviewer: Very queer. About what year did this take place?

Well that took place about '36. Yes, I got the museum in '36. It was the first - I was there '36 and '37 and '38, so it was just about then.

Interviewer: Is the same church - Is the church still standing?

The church is now in the habitation I think, a house, yes.

Interviewer: Yes.'

Although born in Edinburgh and brought up in London, Isabel Frances Grant was 'first and foremost a Highlander, with a strong sense of belonging in the north country and in particular to the Grant country of Strathspey. She was justifiably proud of her family and their long domicile in the Highlands as the Grants of Tullochgorm' (Hugh Cheape, 2007).

Her interest in Highland life and culture shaped her writing and the museum she founded. Originally known as Am Fasgadh, (the Shelter), her collection and vision form the basis of what exists as the Highland Folk Museum today.

Well versed in Scottish history and Highland folk culture, Isabel Grant wrote her first book 'Everyday Life of an Old Highland Farm' in 1924, based upon the eighteenth-century account books of a distant ancestor, William Mackintosh of Balnespick, near Kingussie. Travelling through Europe, she was profoundly influenced by the open air museum movement and in 1934 she determined to follow by establishing a Highland folk museum. She resolved to record as much as she could of the quickly disappearing ways of Highland life as well as preserve many of its associated objects.

In parallel to her collecting activities, Isabel Grant continued writing and publishing. Her seminal work, 'Highland Folk Ways' (1961) detailed the material and non-material culture of the Highlands, primarily illustrating the former using the collections she had established herself. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1948 by The University of Edinburgh and an MBE in 1959 for her contributions to scholarship.

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Dr. Isabel Grant's experiences on Iona

ARGYLL: Kilfinchen and Kilvickeon

1960s

audio; literary landscapes

The School of Scottish Studies Archives

Literary Landscapes: Isabel Grant

In this audio extract, Dr. I. F. Grant tells the story of a spirit that inhabited the Free Church on Iona where she stored her museum pieces from 1936 to 1939. She is being interviewed by Eric Cregeen, Glasgow University Extra-mural department's first Resident Tutor in Argyll (1954-66).<br /> <br /> Audio extract by kind permission of the School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh.<br /> <br /> 'The other one experience I've had was on Iona. I there had a little church that I used for the beginnings of my folk museum; it was a little Wee Free church that had gone out of use when the congregations amalgamated and it stuck out on a little promontory. And there were two doors that admitted on each side to a little passage that led right into the church; one door opened towards the village and that was always used, and the other which I think had just been put for symmetry opened on the other side almost onto the sea. It was rather a spooky place, or you might have imagined it was, because that was where the dead were landed, in the old days when - not on this side, on the side that - towards the village. The dead were landed there in the days when all the great men of the Isles were buried on Iona. But I never saw or felt anything on that bay.<br /> <br /> But after I'd been some time in the church - I was there at all hours arranging the things and I really used it as a sitting room - I was often there at night - I became convinced that there had been, or was going to be, a funeral and I more or less realised it was a dead body of a man, a swarthy man, with dark hair, wrapped in a blanket, and I know exactly where it lay - just near the door - and I thought, 'Well, I think this must be some sort of second sight and premonition.' And I thought, 'Shall I have the door that opened onto the sea - that was the one that I'd thought it had come in from, been carried in from - nailed up? I very nearly sent for the local carpenter to shut it up and then I thought, 'No, you never can stop these sort of things. I'll leave it.' I didn't see it, I didn't hear it, I just knew, as one knows, that William I invaded Britain at the time of 1066; you don't know when you were told that, you just know it. Well, I asked the people in a very guarded way, about funerals in that church, and they all said, 'Oh no, there was nothing of the kind I'd seen, or thought I'd seen, or imagined, but of course they were very reserved to strangers. <br /> And at last, when I was going away, a very nice old man that I'd rather made friends with, came and we have a very heart to heart talk. And he said, 'Oh yes', that 'that was the door that the stranger had been carried in.' I said, 'Oh, I thought there hadn't been anybody taken in.' He said, 'Oh, yes. In the war a man was washed up just below the church on the further side, this unused door, and rather than carry him round, they had opened the door and brought him in.' And I said, 'Who was he?' He said, 'Oh, I don't know - a stranger - because he was a thick-set and he had dark, curly hair and my sister came down with a blanket - wrapped him a blanket - and then they carried him up and buried him up in the churchyard.' But that was rather queer, wasn't it? <br /> <br /> Interviewer: Very queer. About what year did this take place? <br /> <br /> Well that took place about '36. Yes, I got the museum in '36. It was the first - I was there '36 and '37 and '38, so it was just about then.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Is the same church - Is the church still standing? <br /> <br /> The church is now in the habitation I think, a house, yes. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: Yes.'<br /> <br /> Although born in Edinburgh and brought up in London, Isabel Frances Grant was 'first and foremost a Highlander, with a strong sense of belonging in the north country and in particular to the Grant country of Strathspey. She was justifiably proud of her family and their long domicile in the Highlands as the Grants of Tullochgorm' (Hugh Cheape, 2007). <br /> <br /> Her interest in Highland life and culture shaped her writing and the museum she founded. Originally known as Am Fasgadh, (the Shelter), her collection and vision form the basis of what exists as the Highland Folk Museum today. <br /> <br /> Well versed in Scottish history and Highland folk culture, Isabel Grant wrote her first book 'Everyday Life of an Old Highland Farm' in 1924, based upon the eighteenth-century account books of a distant ancestor, William Mackintosh of Balnespick, near Kingussie. Travelling through Europe, she was profoundly influenced by the open air museum movement and in 1934 she determined to follow by establishing a Highland folk museum. She resolved to record as much as she could of the quickly disappearing ways of Highland life as well as preserve many of its associated objects.<br /> <br /> In parallel to her collecting activities, Isabel Grant continued writing and publishing. Her seminal work, 'Highland Folk Ways' (1961) detailed the material and non-material culture of the Highlands, primarily illustrating the former using the collections she had established herself. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1948 by The University of Edinburgh and an MBE in 1959 for her contributions to scholarship.