Kirsty & Alasdair

Kirsty agus Alastair, Gubh Gradh Innleachd – as told by Angus Macleod, Calbost and Marybank.
Usually there was a moral to the stories told in the village Ceilidh House and romance had a prominent place on the agenda. The following story is true….
In the mid 1850s parents took a keen interest in their daughters’ choice of a prospective husband and if he did not meet with their approval, they withheld their consent to marriage, and very often nominated a candidate of their own choice. Usually the young ladies had no alternative but to suppress their amorous feelings and gracefully accept the choice of their more mature and wise parents? Obviously it worked well because divorce was unknown.
Some of the young ladies however, had a mind of their own and they were not always prepared to accept their parent’s choice. One such young lady was 21 year old Kirsty Macaskill, 17 Gravir, who was born in 1836 (Kirsty Dhomhnuill-a-Phiobair) she was not prepared to substitute her own lover, Alistair Macleod, Marvig for her parent’s choice of Norman Matheson, Gravir, nicknamed ‘Cigar’. Her parents, and particularly her mother, Anna Bard, who was a formidable lady, a daughter of Iain Mhurchaidh Bhard, Gravir, forbade Kirsty to associate with Alastair from Marvig anymore.
Undaunted by the opposition of her large family of both parents and her six brothers, (her two sisters, Mary and Margaret were on her side). She and Alastair set about secretly planning to elope and be married at the nearest Church at Crossbost in 1856. As there were no roads in Lochs at that time they needed to arrange for a boat and crew to take them to Crossbost.
Kirsty would also need to plan her escape from home without raising undue suspicion and it was here that she needed the cooperation of her 24 year old sister Mary who was unmarried and living in the family home. Her older sister, Margaret who was born in 1831, was already married to Alastair Maclennan, Alastair Dhonnachadh, 18 Marvig.
It was customary at that time for young folk to go to the peat banks on the moor daily, first thing in the morning to bring home a creel or bag of peats because there were no roads and no tractors. Kirsty and Mary were in the habit of going to the moor for creels of peats each morning, and they conspired to pass out secretly, some of Kirsty’s clothes through the bedroom window (unnag-na-culaist) each morning to the other girl who would hide the clothes in her creel and carry them out to the peat-stack on the moor, awaiting the appointed day of elopement.
When eventually, all the arrangement were ready, including Kirsty’s clothes, and a boat and a stalwart crew of young Marvig men, ready waiting at the departure point at Leck-Dubh with Marvig Bay, the girls got up early as usual and went off with their creels to the moor, ostensibly for the usual daily quota of peats, only this time they knew they were going to race over the moor to Marvig where Alastair and his team were waiting to whisk the Bride and Groom off in a boat to Crossbost Church to be married by Rev Robert Finlayson Free Church Minister of Lochs.
No one suspected that anything unusual was going on, and the girls reached out to their peat-stack on the moor and Kirsty dressed up in her Sunday best and both girls set off across the moor on the four mile walk to Marvig at top speed.
Alastair the Groom and his team of six oarsmen, as well as a sail, was ready waiting for them and they sped off at once. Mary waved them off after wishing them well and she hurried back home to Gravir to break the news to her family. She filled her creel with peats as usual and as she was coming within earshot of her home, somewhat later than usual, she cried out excitedly that Kirsty had run off to Marvig in order to be married to Alastair Macleod. Mary solemnly maintained that she did everything she could to persuade Kirsty not to go, but in vain, hence the reason she was so late reaching home.
Their mother, Anna Bard MacMillan was dumbfounded but she quickly recovered her composure and gave urgent instructions to her angry men folk to hurry off at full speed to Marvig to prevent their deluded sister from throwing her young life away in her folly.
No time was lost by the Macaskill men folk, they hurried off to Marvig, but on reaching there, they were told that the young couple were already on their way to Crosbost some time before. There next move was to hurry along to their sister Margaret in order to borrow a boat to see if they might catch up with the couple in time to save them from themselves. The Macaskill men strongly suspected their sister Margaret of complicity in this act of madness.
Before the MacAskill men reached Crosbost, the happy couple were already married and on their way back home to Marvig where they set up home and lived a long and happily married life, rearing a large family of three girls and three boys.
Years passed before Kirsty ventured to go anywhere near her family at Gravir. However, one day she declared a wish to visit her family at Gravir and Alastair her husband, warmly approved and offered to assist her with the young child by accompanying her across the moor and as far as the Gravir boundary wall, which was as far as he would dare go into that hostile territory.
On arriving at her parents’ home unnoticed by anyone, she felt her courage failing her and she decided that prudence was the best form of diplomacy. She decided to send her young child into the house ahead of herself and she would wait at the back of the inner door, (aig culaidh dorus-an-t-allain) for her family’s reaction to her peace offering.
The MacAskill household was surprised to see a bright young child marching up to the fire in the middle of the living room floor. The men folk were puzzled as to who the girl was and they declared she did not belong to their neighbourhood. Anna Bard, the mother was more discerning however and she called out in a loud voice, ‘cloidh mo chaoraich fein‘ (wool of my own sheep), ‘come on in Kirsty, what are you doing out there at the back of the door?’.
Kirsty advanced to a cordial welcome from all the members of her family and they were reconciled that day as they rejoiced round ‘Jean’ the young child from Marvig, who subsequently married Donald Morrison 7 Marvig, (Domhnuill Aonghais ‘ic Allan).
At that time all the crofts in Park were grossly overcrowded because of the clearance policy of the Lewis Estate, and Marvig was no exception. In the circumstances Kirsty and Alastair indicated a willingness to build a new house near the MacAskill family home at Gravir, but Anna Bard was not impressed by that idea. It is said that as usual local humour surfaced and someone composed a Gaelic song about Anna Bard’s antipathy to the proposed new house. Unfortunately the words of the song are lost, like so many others.
Ironically, it was with Kirsty and Alastair her son-in-law, that Anna Bard was tenderly cared for in Marvig in her old age.