Trust and museum dedicated to Ring of Bright Water author facing uncertain future

The author Gavin Maxwell and his otter, Teko, relaxing on Eilean Ban. Photograph : Eilean Ban Trust. NO F31 Gavin and Teko on Eilean Ban-1
The author Gavin Maxwell and his otter, Teko, relaxing on Eilean Ban. Photograph : Eilean Ban Trust. NO F31 Gavin and Teko on Eilean Ban-1

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The future of the Eilean Bàn Trust and the museum dedicated to Ring of Bright Water author, Gavin Maxwell, who lived on the small island nestling under the Skye bridge, is again under threat.

In a plea issued in the last few days, The Eilean Bàn Trust warned it is in danger of having to close down.

To avoid this, it urgently needs a new hands-on management team to take over from the current ageing cohort of four trustees, three of whom are now in their 80s. Without a new management team, the trust told the Lochaber Times it will be forced to close.

‘This will mean the loss of the Bright Water Centre in nearby Kyleakin and the management of the six-acre Eilean Bàn reverting to the Scottish Government which, given its past attempts, may well put it up for sale again,’ said the trust in its statement.

‘The trust has twice prevented the island from being sold off by the Scottish Government, thus preserving it as a community resource, museum, tourist attraction and holiday let.

‘Access to the lighthouse and the Gavin Maxwell Museum would be lost and the unique collection of artefacts contained in the museum would be dispersed. The buildings would fall into disrepair and the grounds would become completely overgrown.’

Maxwell bought the Eilean Bàn cottages in 1963 from The Northern Lighthouse Board, after the automation of the lighthouse.

The cottages on Eilean Ban. Photograph: Eilean Ban Trust. NO F31 Maxwell island
The cottages on Eilean Ban. Photograph: Eilean Ban Trust.
NO F31 Maxwell island

However, Maxwell only came to live on the island in January 1968, after a devastating fire ravaged his cottage at Sandaig – which Maxwell called Camusfearna in his books to keep its location secret. He remained on Eilean Bàn until his death less than two years later in September 1969.

In his book ‘Raven Seek Thy Brother’, Maxwell wrote: ‘I felt drawn to Kyleakin as I had too few places in my life… I felt as if I were coming home.’

The trust said over the years it has had support from a ‘wonderful group of trustees and volunteers’ initially from the local area but that ‘natural wastage’ has now taken its toll.

The trust continued: ‘It is saddening our attempts to attract new trustees have had so little success. People show an initial interest but do not follow up to become trustees. Now our volunteer helpers come from much further afield but they are not in a position to make a commitment as a hands-on management team.’

Providing a new team can be found, the current trustees say they would stay on for a short while to ensure a smooth handover.

However, as things stand, they will still have to close the Bright Water Centre at the end
of this year because they are unable to keep up the current level of activity.

The trust told the Lochaber Times: ‘All our resources would be focused on Eilean Bàn which would remove one of the few remaining attractions in Kyleakin. Once this happens the fate of the building will be in the hands of Highland Council.

‘We find ourselves wondering if it is really worth the effort in postponing what will eventually be the complete closure of the trust.’

Anyone who thinks they can help is asked to contact the trust via email at enquiries@eileanban.org

CAPTION; The author Gavin Maxwell and his otter, Teko, relaxing on Eilean Ban. Photograph: Eilean Ban Trust. NO F31 Gavin and Teko on Eilean Ban-1

 

Extra pic: The cottages on Eilean Ban. Photograph: Eilean Ban Trust.

NO F31 Maxwell island