THE group leading projects in west Lochaber to mark 2014’s Year of Homecoming initiative has been boosted by a transatlantic act of generosity.
Howling Events, made up of cultural and ancestral groups in the area, has announced a significant donation of material has been made to its family history database, An Diasporran.
It has come from a Scottish descendants’ organisation in Canada which has spent many years compiling a list of 114,000 names, mostly of people who left Lochaber around the period of the Highland Clearances and their descendants.
Welcoming the donation, Chas MacDonald, project co-ordinator of Howling Events, said: “This is an amazing act of generosity by those who have compiled the Mabou Pioneers database of Scottish emigrants.
“The size of the archive is massive, and at base values for professional research would cost around £1.7 million.
“The Mabou group has given it freely and we are humbled by their trust and generosity.”
However, Mr MacDonald pointed out that such generosity has its consequences.
The Mabou information – and the local databases also being freely donated – need to be digitally compiled. An Diasporran will eventually be available online as a resource for people seeking to discover their family roots in west Lochaber.
Mr MacDonald commented: “It is a real problem, albeit one we are glad to have. Compiling digitally takes time. That is why we are asking anybody who may have some time available, say two or three hours a week, to help us get the information mounted.
“We already have some volunteers in training, but we need many more.
“The aim is to have a working volume of information available for April 2014, when the database will go live. The work can be done at home or in centres, as volunteers wish.
“It is not just work. It is also an opportunity to contribute to the cultural richness of the community and to get involved.”
Tapestry project to mark Homecoming year
HOWLING Events was formed in February 2012 by a coalition of heritage organisations of west Lochaber (HOWL), including museums and family history societies.
It has two related but distinct strands – An Diasporran (The Diaspora) and An Tilleadh (The Homecoming).
An Diasporran aims to create a rich, genealogical database for west Lochaber which aims to be the single source for anybody who wishes to trace their family history in the area.
The database will be created by gifted records and major archives held by individuals and organisations.
It has already been promised nearly 500,000 entries, which Howling Events say have a nominal value of around £6.7 million but are being donated free.
An Tilleadh 2014 is an events programme which will take place over the course of next year, part of the Scottish Government-sponsored Year of Homecoming.
Confirmed events will include a Clan Donald Gathering, as part of the 2014 Arisaig Games, and the unveiling of a Diaspora Tapestry.
The team behind the tapestry project will visit Mallaig High School next Friday, February 22, to host a workshop and discussion with pupils.
Their work will contribute to the design process for the final tapestry, which it is hoped will have up to 10 individual panels depicting “feelings of Scottishness” from each of the 25 countries which have a significant Scottish diaspora.