Around fifty people from all parts of Lewis and Harris were present in Pairc School, Gravir, on the evening of Friday 27th October to hear the 20th Angus Macleod Memorial lecture. They were joined online by many more, from as far afield as Skye, London, and the Faroes.
The lecture was given by Will Maclean, Emeritus Professor of Fine Art at the University of Dundee, internationally recognised as an outstanding artist and designer and winner of many prestigious awards. But, on the island, Will is best known as the designer of the ‘Lewis Land Monuments’, the iconic structures which have become part of the landscape near Balallan (the Pairc Cairn opposite the end of the Eishken road), Aignish in Point, Gress in Back, and ‘An Suileachan’ at Reef in Uig.
In his illustrated lecture, Will described how he was first commissioned by Angus ‘Ease’ Macleod to design the initial monuments for the ‘Cuimhneachain nan Gaisgeach’ project in 1991, following a competition and a follow-up phone call:-
A stentorian voice demanded: ‘Are you the artist Will Maclean?’ ‘Yes’, I replied. ‘And where are you from?’ I explained that my mother was from Kyleakin in Skye and my father was from Coigach in Loch Broom. There was a pause … and then I added: ‘My father’s Macleans were originally from Uig in Lewis. The tone of the voice on the telephone became warmer: ‘Well, Well, that’s fine, when can you make a start?’
Will went on to describe in detail the thinking behind each of his inspirational designs, appropriate to the history and location of the Land Struggle episodes which they marked, and how they had been expertly constructed by stonemason James Crawford with engineering support from John Norgrove. His slides included some of the original drawings.
The discussion which followed the presentation brought out how the monuments had helped to transform the public narrative concerning the Lewis Land Struggle more than a century ago. No longer was this a hidden, even faintly embarrassing, part of the island’s history. Rather, the monuments now proudly and publicly celebrated the story of how many ordinary crofters or landless cottars had fought bravely, often at considerable personal cost, against injustice and the authorities of the day.
IBT and Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc are most grateful to Professor Maclean, and to everyone who helped make the evening such a memorable community occasion.
An illustrated booklet containing Will Maclean’s lecture is available price £8 plus P and P from firstname.lastname@example.org
Video of the lecture is available on YouTube