Unique legacy that is Canna House set for re-roofing and other repairs

Canna House. NO F08 Canna House 2
Canna House. NO F08 Canna House 2

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Built in the 1860s by the then laird, Donald MacNeill, for his young wife, Isabella, Canna House may not be as old as many of the other historic properties in the Highlands and Islands, but a new programme of conservation and repair works will ensure it retains its place as certainly one of the most important.

The former home of Dr John Lorne Campbell and his American wife, Margaret Fay Shaw, Canna House is their legacy.

The couple dedicated their lives to capturing and preserving Hebridean culture and traditions, and it now holds a nationally important archive of Gaelic culture and language.

Recordings and writing jostle with unique photographs and even a collection of  butterflies and moths in the Victorian villa, which, along with the island itself, passed into the ownership of the National Trust for Scotland in 1981.

The trust is now in preparatory stages before embarking on an 18-month programme of conservation and restoration that will include re-roofing and repairs to the building’s fabric.

Canna House has been largely preserved intact for the time when the couple sat cataloguing their vast archive of recordings of the stories, histories and songs of native Gaelic speakers alongside Celtic, Norse and other historic cultural treasures.

Ms Shaw, in her memoir From The Alleghenies To The Hebrides, recounted her impressions when she saw Canna House for the first time in the August of 1938: ‘It had a melancholy air, as though the home of sick Brontës.’

Dr Campbell died in 1996 with his wife passing away, at the age of 101, eight years later in 2004.

Dr Campbell’s wishes were always that Canna House should ‘remain a centre of Gaelic traditions in music, language and folklore’ and the planned 18-month programme of works is designed to ensure that.

Clea Warner, the National Trust for Scotland’s general manager for the Highlands & Islands, told the Lochaber Times: ‘Canna House is at the heart of the legacy left to us by John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw.

‘At this point we are taking care of listed building consents and other permissions.  Once these are obtained, it’s our hope that, weather permitting, work will begin in the spring or early summer.

‘We are looking forward to ensuring this important centre for Gaelic heritage is once again ready to welcome visitors.’