Iain MacKinnon of Tobermory – a tribute

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Iain MacKinnon, who died on the first of May, 10 days after his 75th birthday, was a proud son of Tobermory, a well known and popular Muileach, and a highly respected Gael and islander who will be sorely missed on his native island and far beyond.

He was the only son of John and Netta (née Maclean) MacKinnon: his father from Mull and his mother a native of Tiree, who was a beautiful Gaelic singer and it was a huge source of pleasure to Iain that his daughter Kirsty studied and continues to sing the songs of his mother’s native island for which he had a special affection.

He often talked of his very happy childhood in Tobermory and his native roots were a crucial part of his life reflected in the recently recorded interview with him – he was very modest about his knowledge and tradition-bearing but he was incredibly well informed and had a prodigious fund of stories about the people, landscape, wildlife and culture of his native island.

After his schooling at Tobermory he first worked for Macbraynes in the pier office in the town before moving to his long career in the council offices where his local knowledge and caring nature endeared him to all and his exemplary service first to Strathclyde regional council and then to Argyll & Bute Council was much appreciated both by his senior managers and by the local community. He was no stranger to early mornings and late nights on election days, overseeing distribution of ballot boxes to polling stations in Mull and Iona; and in his registrar role he was of much assistance to many locals and visitors, including those choosing to get married on Mull.

In addition to his council career he was a prominent local crofter who took great pleasure in keeping the crofting tradition going in Tobermory with cattle, sheep and horses; his animals being regular prizewinners at the Salen and Strontian shows. He also found time to be a volunteer fire officer and his conscientious contribution to that service has been rightly acknowledged. Among his many other interests, he was a talented and successful badminton player, was a volunteer at the museum, and through his love of Gaelic music he enjoyed his years singing in the Isle of Mull Choir and served as chairman of the local mod committee.

He married Ishbel (who had come to Tobermory High School as teacher of French and German) in 1982 and, as he often told me, his marriage to Ishbel and their two daughters Rhoda and Kirsty were the greatest pleasures of his life: he was highly supportive of Ishbel’s teaching career and, inter alia, of her involvement in the church recently as session clerk; and he took enormous pride in Rhoda and Kirsty being committed to Gaelic both spending a year at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and their other not insignificant achievements at school and university, including Kirsty now being a primary teacher in Gaelic-medium education. He also derived much pleasure from Rhoda’s rallying, Kirsty’s Gaelic singing and their many other shared interests. And it was such a blessing for him to have seen the happy wedding of Kirsty to Ross only four weeks ago.

Our two families, and Iain and myself, became great friends when I came to Tobermory in 1986 and we have wonderful memories of picnics, holidays in France and Ireland, rugby internationals, shinty finals, an informal late-night ceilidh or two: great times always enhanced by Iain’s love of fun and his incredible sense of humour.

In more recent years all admired him as husband and father giving tireless support to Ishbel dealing with her MS and to Rhoda coping with ME. As we who were his great friends and feel so privileged to have been part of his varied and full life mourn the loss of this honourable and thoughtful Muileach, we think especially of Ishbel, Rhoda and Kirsty who have lost such a devoted, loving and proud husband and father.

Iain was always much amused by the reaction of visitors from all over the world who came to the museum in Tobermory and would ask him ‘Have you lived in Tobermory all your life?’ to which he would reply with his typical wit ‘not yet!’.

That revered son of Tobermory will now lie at rest in the graveyard of his native town.
Duncan Ferguson

Iain ‘Shonaidh’ MacFhionghain, Tobarmhoire – A Gaelic verse in memory of Iain MacKinnon of Tobermory

Chaill sinn ar caraid còir
Air là buidhe Bealltainn
Muinntir Mhuile ga ionndrainn
A chàirdean ga chaoidh
Beannachdan leis gu bràth

We lost our dear friend
On the first day of May
The people of Mull will remember him
His friends will mourn him
Blessed he will be forever.