Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Lewis connection

Roderick Mcleod and the Gaelic Society of London (An Comunn Gaidhlig Lunnainn or CGL)

I came across Roderick and the Society on account of my research into WW1 casualties from the Isle of Lewis. One of my sources mentioned an Ian R. Mcleod (logged as J. R. Mcleod on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website) as having Lewis roots. According to the information from CGL, his father, Roderick, had lived in London from at least 1889 onwards. His son Ian lost his life on 9 April 1917, and the army death record states his place of birth as London.

CGL works for the promotion and encouragement of Gaelic Education in the Highland Schools. Roderick Mcleod was a hard-working and enthusiastic fundraiser for the CGL’s Education Fund, which financed the Capitation Grants give to Gaelic teachers and Headmasters. During the 1914-1918 war, the Society’s efforts were geared more towards supporting the troops, and prisoners of war, particularly those from Gaelic speaking areas. What was left of the POW fund after war ended, £50, was sent to Stornoway in the wake of the Iolaire disaster.

Roderick joined the Society in 1889, becoming a life member eight years later. In January 1917, he was elected president, an office he held until 1922, when he was made honorary president. Roderick continued to attend CGL meetings on a regular basis until 1928. He was mentioned as deceased at the end of 1930; a little research has put his date of death in the first quarter of that year.

Roderick served in the Metropolitan Police after first arriving in London. He was married and had three children: Iain, Anne (who became a doctor in Tasmania) and Donald (prisoner of war of the Japanese during WW2). I have not been able to ascertain Roderick's parentage, but investigations are on-going.

Any further on Roderick and / or his son Ian is greatly welcomed. 

Below are the abridged minutes of Society meetings between 1917 and 1928, with translations kindly provided by Kirsty M. Stewart. 

Minutes of meetings
21 January 1917 [translated]
The President R[oderick] MacLeod gave a short speech giving thanks to the Society for the honour they gave him on electing him president for a year.

The Society’s respects and condolences are to be sent to the people of the Isle of Lewis on account of the disaster that has come upon them, as expressed by the Chief Executive and the President supported him. John Farquhar, L. Campbell, Finlay Shaw, William Martin, James Watson [and] John Forbes gave a few words and the Society agreed [the motion]. Tunes on the pipes were heard from George Taylor, songs from M[r] Aithison, and the piano from Mrs MacMurray.

24 May 1917 [translated]
As it was not possible for the President, Roderick Macleod to be present, the Vice President, William Grant was called upon to be Chairman. He informed the Society of the great loss which has befallen the President with the death of his son in the war and he proposed and Sighich [Sheehy?] Matheson seconded that the Society’s respects and condolences would be with him at this time.

The Chief Executive gave a speech in Gaelic and in English on the topic that today’s Gaels were making their way in strife in the same way as their ancestors had. After this the cèilidh got underway with the Misses Kennedy Fraser, E Cameron and Mary Matheson and it was a hearty, musical evening. Allan Riach and James Garrie gave tunes on the pipes .
Thanks were given to the Chief Executive by Stuart Bogle and Ewen Cattanach and the Secretary gave thanks on behalf of the Society to those who helped make a joyful, musical evening.

14 October 1919
A dinner to be held for Society members who had served in the recent war.
Any funds remaining of the POW fund be put into general funds.
HM the King wishes to present to the Society a volume in Gaelic of Queen Victoria’s life in the Highlands.
£ 1/1 be subscribed for the improvement of conditions in the Highlands

25 October 1920
Roderick Mcleod said it was time to leave the post of President to a younger man, but he was reelected and he agreed to stay on for another year

19 January 1922
A Resolution was rejected which called upon kindred societies and Scots at large to agitate for more provision towards Gaelic education – as evidence was presented which prompted to the Society to disallow that Resolution.

27 April 1922
Roderick Mcleod resigns the presidency of the Society due to the pressure of business. He stresses he continues to support the objects of the Society. He was hailed has having served the Society “loyally, enthusiastically and faithfully”; and it had prospered under his presidency. Mr Mcleod could not be prevailed upon to withdraw his resignation.

15 October 1928 (translated)
A big cèilidh was held, supported by the London Gaelic Choir.
The President and John MacMhairich [Currie?] who was with the Society at the Mòd in Inverness gave an account of what had taken place at that great gathering. The Society was very pleased to hear about the success of London Gaelic Choir and some of its members especially the great honour James C M Campbell got, taking first prize in the Gold Medal for the first time for London.
Angus Duncanson was welcomed as a new member.

Information supplied by Comunn Gaidhlig Lunnainn, courtesy Mrs J. Seymour-Chalk.

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