Musings of Provost of St John’s Cathedral in Oban – 30.12.21

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This week reader Jane Lendrum sent us this contribution to share. The photograph is from her father’s papers. Charles McAlester Copland was Provost of St John’s Cathedral in Oban from 1959-1979.

Ms Lendrum told us: ‘I was going through some papers belonging to my late father. Among them I found two photographs, which I thought you might be interested in.

‘Enclosed with the photograph of Sir Charles Maclean of Duart is a piece typed by my father, in his own eccentric style, on his ancient portable typewriter.

‘At one stage there was a plan to finish the cathedral to its original plan. This would involve much fundraising and my father’s description of the plan to go “hat in hand” to the USA was part of this. I’m not sure where the photograph was taken. Perhaps your readers could help.

‘The other signed photograph was given to my father by the late MacNeil of Barra in 1969, a year before his death. With this photograph is another piece typed by my father referring to the burial of the said MacNeil. Dad used to regale us with this tale of the solemn occasion at Kisimul Castle when the coffin was being lowered into the grave and it didn’t fit the space prepared. They had to reconvene the next day once some of the stone had been chipped away to accommodate the coffin.’

The following is the typed script that Charles McAlester Copland attached to the photographs.

Sir Charles Maclean of Duart, Mull.

Sir Charles Maclean of Duart, Bart and later Lord M, Lord Chamberlain succeeding our friendly Lord Airlie and succeeded as Lord Cham. by next Lord Airlie. No doubt encouraged  by Mrs Frances Campbell-Preston (Lady in Waiting to the Queen Mum). He a great helper towards cathedral restoration. He and I were fixed to go hat in hand to USA but our public relation man’s wife got cancer, he failed in our arrangement and a fortnight before we started it was cried off. The Macleans and McAlesters old friends and enemies.

MacNeil: We must have met them somewhere and stayed with them in the delightfully restored castle. He made me promise to take his funeral. The call came when we were on holiday in the south. I left the family and the car in Manchester Airport, flew to Glasgow; flew to Tiree and waiting two hours celebrated for the three and four piskies on Tiree. Caught the big MacBrayne for Barra and met the mourners and the coffin. At Barra, the coffin to go in rowing boat to castle: very heavy. RC priest now with me: made sure coffin did not fall through boat before we went in. He had got all ready, cement lined hole in chapel and stone ready except for date. Lyon Herald at service. All well till came to lower coffin. Lead then oak, too long by a few inches. We decreed the committal would be next day. They chipped out three inches and all went well.