Alistair Maclean's Web Site
Graves at Achiltibuie

Maclean Graves at Achiltibuie

The cemetery at Achiltibuie

About 20 miles north of Ullapool is the tiny village of Achiltibuie, in an area called Coigach. It is a wild and desolate location, little in the way of vegetation to protect you from the winds and rain. From this area came my forefathers. I can only think that they were hardy people. They would have done some farming, sheep probably, dug peat, and gone fishing in and around the Summer Isles. It would have been a hard life. They lived and died here.

Effect of Wars

The area was probably always poor, but after the Glorious Rebellion of 1745, the area became extremely impoverished. Writings by travellers suggest the people were very poor and governed by an iron rod from central government. Churches were burned, their records destroyed. In 1841 one of the first census was done of the area. There had been previous censuses across Britain, but this was the first year it got to this remote area. That census detailed a small population in this village. Somehow, when the Great War came, the locals found many young men to go fight. The War Memorial lists those killed. It may seem like few names, but the village was probably not large, either.

Front of Great War memorial
Front of WW I (Great War memorial), side seen from the road.

Back of Great War memorial
Back of WW I (Great War memorial).

In 1939, war beckoned again. More young men fought and failed to return.

Back of Great War memorial
Brass plaque mounted at foot of Great War memorial.

My linkage

Some time after about 1850, my ancestors left the village and headed to the Black Isle, on the West Coast of Scotland north of Inverness. Family myth has it that there was an accident in the sea here, drowning 2 children, that lead to my great-great-grandfather leaving the area with his brother. Our beginnings were not forgotten. Members of the Family now make occasional forays to this beautiful location and try to take in what this place could have been like for those far off kin.

In late 2008 I made a trip to Achiltibuie to see the graveyard, and take in the scenery. I was struck by the wild and inhospitable beauty of the surrounding country. The village is strung out along the edge of the sea, a little raised from the shore. A sign announces the village, and white stone cottages begin to line the road. A post office. A school. The road wiggles out the far side of the village. Just a bit beyond is the cemetery; down a narrow, bendy road that drops to the shore. A raging burn drowns out other noises, as it dumps water from the moors into the ocean. Don't try to talk to the hikers - not because they are bad or anything, but because you will not be able to hear them over the din of the cascading water!


The Cemetery is split in two, the ancient, and the modern parts. The modern part is full of the relatively recently deceased, it is tidy and groomed. A wire fence separates it from the ancient part. The ancient part looks to have been surveyed and seems to be looked after, if not groomed. The stones are older, some quite worn. The four walls of a small stone building, possibly a crypt, are surrounded by what I hope are just the slates from the roof, but could equally be many more gravestones, bereft of inscriptions, and worn by centuries of rain.

Cemetery building

I took photographs of all the stones with the Maclean name on them, in both parts of the Cemetery. I could easily have missed a few. Some were quite legible, others I have had to mess with photo editing software to make somewhat readable.

Erected in loving memory 
our dear father 
John MacLean, 
died at Achiltibuie 25th June 1933, 
aged 83 years.
Also our dear mother 
Margaret Graham,
died at Achiltibuie,
9th March 1932,
aged 85 years.
Their daughters 
Dolina McLean or Mackenzie
died 27th May 1965
Wife of Donald MacKenzie
Died 12th April 1948 

In loving memory of 
Angus Mackenzie
died 22nd November 1960, aged 7[8 or 9] years
His daughter, Kenina
died 2nd July 1929, aged 6 years
his son, James
Lost with H.M.S. Repulse at Singapore
on 10th December 1941, aged 22 years
his son, Hector
drowned at Inverness Harbour
on 23rd December 1953, aged 29 years
Also his wife
Morag Maclean
died 14th January 1983, aged 94 years

(This one is hard to read. I reversed the image (white on black) to see if the contrast would make it more legible.)
In loving memory of
Allan Maclean
Died 18 Sept XXXX [1905?] Aged 82
also his wife
Catherine Maclean
Died July 1914, Aged 75 
Their sons
Died 10 sept 1935, aged 73
died 6 Jan 1906, aged 59
Their daughter
Died 13 oct 1949, aged 96

Erected to the memory of
James Maclean
Shoemaker Polbain
who died on 21st january 1940
aged 85 years
also his wife
Mary Macleod
who died on 23rd December 1935
Aged 73 years

memory of
Donald Maclean
Died 16th January 1962
and his sister
Alina Maclean
died 1st March 1966

Loving memory of
A dear wife and mother
Anne McDonald Maclean
of Altahdhu and Staffin,
who died 12th June 1948, aged 36 years
and our darling sister
Catherine McDonald
student nurse
accidentally killed at Ayr,
23rd March 1960, aged 18 years.
Also a dearly loved husband
and father
Alexander Maclean
of Altandhu
died 6th July 1994, aged 83 years

loving memory 
Kenneth Maclean
Who died 12th July 1923
Aged 85 years.
And his wife
Flora Mackenzie
died 16th April 1931
Aged 93 years.
Also their daughter 
Died 28th Dec 1893
aged 18 years

(This is the back of the prior stone)
Joan Maclean
who died 1st July 1960
Aged 87 years
wife of Donald Mackenzie

In loving memory of
Donald Maclean
Died 14 feb, 1940. Aged 86
Also his children
Died 8 Mar. 1905, aged 1yr
Died 3 Oct. 1918, aged 13.
Died 22 May 1928, aged 25.
And also his wife
Henrietta Shaw
Died 23 Nov. 1958, aged 85
And their daughter 
Peggy Robertson
died 17 June 1979, aged 69
Thy Dead Men Shall Live
ISA. 16.19

In loving memory of
John MacLean
bootmaker, Altandhu
Who died 29th Nov 1923
Age 80 yrs.
His wife
Margaret MacLean
who died 14th Mar. 1908 Aged 80 yrs
and their son
who died 3rd Jan 1913 aged 26 yrs
also of 
Margaret Mackenzie
his first wife, who died 1st Mar 1876 
age 33 yrs
and their son (and only child)
Donald John
who died 6th Dec 1906, Age 33 yrs

In loving memory
Matthew C. Maclean
Died 8th Aug. 1983, Aged 59 years
beloved husband of 
Catherine Stewart

In loving memory of
my dear husband
Donald Maclean
Died 19th March 1967
aged 72 years.
Also his wife
Dolina Macleod
died 29th March 1971
Aged 78 years

In loving memory of
Isabella Maclean
beloved daughter of
the late John and 
Margaret Maclean
Central Achiltibuie
Died 18th January 1970

loving memory of
Andrew Wilson
died 3rd Dec. 2002, aged 65 years
much loved father and grandfather
beloved husband of 
Shona M. Maclean

In Loving Memory
John Mackenzie
who died 4th November 1966
Aged 82
Also his wife
Abigail Maclean
who died 10th January 1975
Aged 83 years

In loving memory of
John Alexander Maclean. C.B.E.
Director of Education for Inverness-shire
Died 11th August 1982, aged 88 years
And of his wife
Hilda Margaret Lind Munro
Died 8th February 2003, Aged 94 years

© Copyright A. Maclean 2008
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