Glenfinnan says farewell to stalwart Ronnie

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Ronnie MacKellaig.
Ronnie MacKellaig.

THE END of an era was marked as friends, family and acquaintances said goodbye to ‘Glenfinnan’s last survivor’, writes Monica Gibson
Ronnie MacKellaig died on November 7, aged 88.
A devout Catholic, Ronnie’s funeral service took place in Glenfinnan Church led by Father Roddy McAuley on November 11 and, during the service, his daughter Kate shared tales of her father’s life.
Kate told The Oban Times her father was brought up, grew up, married and lived all his life in Glenfinnan. He was very active in the Gaelic Mòd and won competitions in piano, as well as silver in the male solo singing competition.
It was through Ronnie’s love of theatre that he met his wife Margaret. As well as daughter Kate, Ronnie and Margaret had a son Iain, and the couple would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the day after Ronnie’s funeral.
Ronnie was known for his involvement with the Glenfinnan Gathering, which Kate said was the brainchild of Archie MacKellaig, Ronnie’s father. Kate described her grandfather as a very astute man who, decades ago, was responsible for ensuring the field the gathering takes place on could not be developed.
Ronnie became secretary of the gathering aged 17 and only stepped down at the age of 86.
He reinstated the march from Glenfinnan monument over to the main platform as a symbolic gesture of the historical event taking place all those years ago.
Kate said: ‘His strong sense of tradition and occasion enabled him to continue for so many years through turbulent times, when it was relocated to Lochailort, through the Mrs Cameron-Head times and onto the Eilean Mor.’
Ronnie’s Gaelic roots were also said to be exceptionally important to him and he ensured the opening of the gathering was marked by a Gaelic song – performed in early years by Ronnie MacLennan of Morar and, more recently, by Margaret Ford of Shielfoot, Acharacle.
Ronnie and his wife were made warden and manager for Glenfinnan monument, a joint appointment by its then custodian the National Trust for Scotland. It was for these efforts that Ronnie received his MBE.
Ronnie retired as secretary of the gathering in 2015 and Kate believes his strong sense of tradition combined with a background in drama were the ingredients for making Glenfinnan Gathering what it is today – an accurate portrayal of a Highland gathering.
She said: My dad had an enormous loyalty to his place, family, work – whatever he undertook he did so with commitment. It really is the end of an era.’