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Chief Ruairidh D G MacLennan of MacLennan

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Ronald George MacLennan, born in 1925 was the son of George and Helen MacLennan of Loanhead, a small mining village on the outskirts of Edinburgh. After attending School in Edinburgh, both Ronald and his younger brother, Ian, joined the military - the Army and Royal Navy respectively. Ronald joined the Army Physical Training Corps (APTC) within a fortnight of attaining his 18th birthday in 1943. He served in Belgium, France and Germany reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant by the end of the war.

Following the war, he was attached to the Nigerian Regiment for over a year as their Physical Training Instructor (PTI). He developed a passion for all things physical and was in the Army boxing and swimming teams. Upon leaving the Army, he attended Fredensberg College of Physical Education, Denmark during which time he competed and represented Great Britain as an international athlete.

Ronald George MacLennan (2nd) with his parents and brother about 1942

Ronald with his parents and brother about 1942

At Edinburgh in 1952, aged 27, Ronald married Margaret Euphemia Shortland a professional ice-skater from Sydney, Australia. Interestingly, in Australia Margaret had previously been married to a William Alexander MacLennan a fellow professional ice skater from Liverpool, England. They were both well-known ice skaters. William had joined the RAAF for WWII but died in action over Europe in 1944. After a couple of years of marriage, Ronald and Margaret parted and in around 1955, Ronald, upon hearing that his wife was pregnant, applied for divorce to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, citing adultery on the grounds that he had not seen his wife for some considerable time. Margaret, by then was residing in Brooklyn, New York, having been granted American citizenship in January 1955, 6 months before the birth of the child. The case took an interesting twist when Margaret defended the court action on the grounds that the child was a result of artificial insemination and, therefore, not adultery. This action became a test case in the Scottish Courts with MacLennan v MacLennan 1958 becoming a benchmark case which held that artificial insemination was not adultery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacLennan_v_MacLennan). However, despite the outcome of the case, which created public interest at the time, Ronald was granted his divorce on the grounds that since Margaret did not take her husband’s consent, she had committed cruelty against him. Whether or not the child, that was born on 10th July 1955, was Ronald’s remains uncertain but it seemed unlikely that Margaret could have arranged such an act without her husband’s knowledge and it is more than likely that he was not the father, although not impossible. 

In the 1950’s Ronald took up a post as teacher of physical education in Harthill, a small mining village located halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. As well as his work in the School, he enthusiastically encouraged the youth of the area to embrace everything physical and soon had an active youth club formed. In addition, he founded and taught the Silver Thistle Scottish Country Dancers with whom he participated at events and competitions throughout Scotland. He often led youth club and dancing trips to Shieldaig on the west coast where he gave the youngsters opportunities to kayak, fish, climb mountains and play sports, many of which they were unable to do at home. He also had the dancers perform for the locals. The impact that his enthusiasm and determination had on the youth of the time is still talked about in Harthill by those whom he taught. After Harthill, in 1965, Ronald took a teaching post at Inchberry by Fochabers in Morayshire. From there he moved to the west coast where he taught in Schools in Gairloch, Ullapool and Achiltibuie. He had a passion for the west coast from an early age, most likely the result of family trips to Strathbran, Achanalt.

In the early 1960’s, after regular visits to the small coastal fishing village of Shieldaig, he acquired a small piece of land set in a small bay on the coast a short distance from the village. There he built a small timber building which became a bolthole for him during holidays and weekends.

Ronald and Margaret wedding day 1970

Ronald and Margaret - Wedding Day 1970

In the late 1960’s, at the peak of his research into the Clan’s history, he met Donald MacLennan of Dores, who was helping him with his research. Donald had a considerable family of eleven children and it was not long before the second eldest, Margaret Ann, caught Ronald’s eye. Ronald and Margaret were married at Dores in 1970. They lived at Ullapool then Clachan, Inverbroom, some eight miles from Ullapool. They had three children, Kirsteen Ruth, Lorna Louise and Ruairidh Donald George MacLennan.

Ronald dedicated considerable amounts of his time and energy to Clan research and the formation of an active Clan Association which saw the creation of branches worldwide. The family home saw a near constant stream of Clan visitors from every corner of the world and Ronald continued his dream of re-uniting his Clanfolk. He travelled to many countries attending Highland Games’ and Clan Gatherings and inspired many people to not only join their Clan, but to actively recruit new members and form new Clan Associations globally.

Aside from Clan duties, his interests remained closely linked to physical pursuits. He became an enthusiastic kayaker and set up the Ullapool Canoe Club in the 1970’s. To raise funds for the club, he arranged a crossing of the Minch between Stornoway and Ullapool with the School children from Ullapool doing the crossing in a relay team. Other interests involved gardening and, after years of work at his small place by Shieldaig, so exotic had the garden become, the local School teacher would take the pupils down to the small bay to look at the wonderful garden that he had created. The beach today is known by locals as “Ronnie’s Beach”.

In 1983, Ronald was diagnosed with leukaemia and doctors estimated that he had less than a year to live. The family left Ullapool to be closer to hospital in Inverness where he would receive regular treatment. They succeeded in buying a house in the village of Dores on the shores of Loch Ness some eight miles from Inverness. Margaret’s father and many of her brothers and sisters lived in or near the village. Ronald’s strength and determination meant that his time had not yet come. He continued to lead a relatively healthy life for a further six years undertaking further Clan research, organising gatherings and transforming the garden at Dores into another one of his their three beautiful colourful creations. He died in November and was buried in Dores on 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1989. By the time of his death, he had put the relatively small MacLennan Clan on the map by creating an active and proud Clan, holding regular Gatherings in the Highlands and further afield and was regarded as one of Scotland’s most colourful Clan Chiefs in the media at the time of his death.

He was survived by his wife Margaret Ann and children, Kirsteen, Lorna and Ruairidh. After a long battle with cancer, Margaret died and was buried alongside Ronald on her 57th birthday, 4th May 1993.

In 1989, at the age of 12, Ruairidh Donald George MacLennan of MacLennan became Scotland’s youngest Clan Chief which instantly created a media whirlwind with considerable press coverage including various television documentaries being made about his new role as a Clan Chief at the age of 12. A legal challenge to the Chiefship from an Australian relative within weeks of his father’s death created yet more attention.

Aged 13, Ruairidh, now attending local secondary School in Inverness and he was appointed Head Chorister of St Andrews Cathedral Choir in Inverness, moved from home to attend boarding School at Fettes College in Edinburgh for the next 5 years. He was a keen bagpiper and became pipe major of the School band in 1994. Upon leaving Fettes in 1995 he spent a year at Knox Grammar School in Sydney, Australia, where his duties included helping the pipe band and Army Cadets. He was granted a Commission in the Australian Cadet Force and had responsibilities in the boarding houses.

Chief Ruairidh, aged 13 by Loch Ness

Chief Ruiaridh - aged 13 by Loch Ness

From 1996, Ruairidh undertook studies at the University of Aberdeen and attained a Master’s degree in Geography in 2000 followed by a post graduate Masters in Land Economy in 2002. He continued piping throughout this time and was a member of the Aberdeen Universities Officer Training Corps where he trained as a soldier as well as playing with the pipe band. After University, he transferred to 51st Highland Division (TA) pipe band which later became the 7th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland. After University he trained with Strutt & Parker in Aberdeenshire and CKD Galbraith in Inverness-shire before qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor. He then became a District Valuer with the Valuation Office Agency, part of Her Majesties Revenue & Customs, carrying out a range of property valuation work throughout the Highlands & Islands.

A keen piper, hill walker, kayaker and landscape photographer, Ruairidh has represented the Clan at events in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States of America as well as at home in Scotland. He has been guest of honour at the Fergus Highland Games, Ontario and Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta. He has played the bagpipes at more than 100 weddings and funerals on a non-commercial basis and often says, “It is amazing how many friends you have when you play the pipes”. He piped at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Nova Scotia Royal Military Tattoo, Luxembourg Tattoo, in the presence of the Queen and other members of the Royal Family at Holyrood Palace and Birkhall, on the Bridge of HMS Edinburgh, Gibraltar rock, the Malmo Tattoo in Sweden, Basel Tattoo in Switzerland and also in the middle of Loch Ness - to encourage his sister who was doing a charity swim across the loch.

Kirsteen, Ruairidh & Lorna Edinburg 2009

Kirsteen, Chief Ruiaridh and Lorna - Edinburgh 2009

 

Ruairidh’s sister is married to James Eckersley and lives in Inverness with their children Charles James, George Edward and Donald Grant; and his other sister Lorna lives in Dores, Inverness.

 

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Ruairidh married Jillian Ferguson of Netherton Farm, Harthill, in September 2014 at Shieldaig, Ross-shire.

Ruairidh & Jillian wedding Sep 2014

Chief Ruairidh and Jillian - Wedding Day 2014


This page maintained by Bruce A McLennan