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Fr. Allan Trail
Welcome to Cuairt Mhgr Ailein - The Fr. Allan Trail

Discover the life and legacy of Fr. Allan MacDonald, a cherished figure in the heritage of Eriskay, South Uist and in the wider world of Gaeldom. Fr. Allan's remarkable contributions as a Priest, Poet, Folklorist and Gaelic Scholar have left an indelible mark on the island's cultural landscape, shaping the lives of its residents, and preserving its traditions and the Gaelic language.

Fr. Allan MacDonald was born in the Highlands of Scotland and became widely known and respected, both locally and internationally, for his literary works and dedication to his community. He played a pivotal role in improving the lives of Eriskay's inhabitants through education, livelihood enhancement, and advocacy for Gaelic language and culture.

 

Fr. Allan transferred to Eriskay as Parish Priest in 1893. One of Fr. Allan's initial goals was to construct a church to replace the inadequate structure that had served the parishioners for nearly fifty years.

Donations for the new church came from several sources from around the world, including the Eriskay fishermen who donated their total catch from one night's fishing to the Church. It is said that their catch for that night far exceeded any catch previously known. The church was built and solemnly opened on 7th May 1903, dedicated to St. Michael, the patron of the Outer Hebrides.

 

The community participated in the building of the Church, with sand being carried by the schoolchildren during their break and the men giving up their time to shift the large stones up the very steep hill to where the church stands today on Cnoc na Sgrath and can be seen from many parts of the island, acting as a focal point.

 

Another of Fr. Allan’s legacies is the annual Fisherman’s Mass.  Fr. Allan wrote to Pope Leo XIII for permission to say Mass on board one of the fishing boats on the island during the fleet’s annual blessing. His prayers were answered in 1903, the same year the church opened, when he received his Special Dispensation from the Pope for the blessing to include a Mass, not in the Church, but on board one of the Eriskay fishing boats. To this day, the Fisherman’s Mass is held every Summer at the Acarsaid and is always well attended.

 

Fr. Allan fought tirelessly for the rights of the islanders, particularly during a time when Eriskay faced extreme poverty. Forced evictions from neighbouring islands to Eriskay, deemed suitable only for grazing, led to overcrowding, insufficient sanitation, and harsh living conditions due to the absence of proper housing. Fr. Allan's dedicated efforts played a crucial role in enhancing the lives of these families.

 

Sadly, due to a bout of influenza, Fr. Allan passed away at the Church House in St. Michael’s on 8th October 1905, just three weeks before his forty-sixth birthday. His passing came as a great shock to the Eriskay people and word spread very quickly around the island.

The lives of the Eriskay people changed forever when their spiritual leader, mentor and friend passed away.

Fr.Allan

Our Inspiration For Creating The Trail

Fr.Allan Trail

Growing up on Eriskay, we were very aware of the significant role Maighstir Ailean played in the construction of St. Michael’s Church. However, his influence on the island extended far beyond the building of St. Michael’s Church, we felt that we should commemorate Fr. Allan in some way to show people how he made a significant difference in improving the quality of life for the islanders, shaping our collective identity, and inspiring us to follow his spirit of generosity and compassion.

The Comann Eachdraidh recognised the need for a commemoration for Fr. Allan, prompting Angus MacDonald and Iain Ruairidh MacInnes to take the lead and create the first trail around the island. This trail featured Fr. Allan’s poem “Eilean na h-Òige,” displayed on laminated sheets inside perspex boxes for everyone to read as they walked. However, due to the challenging weather conditions on Eriskay, this initial trail fell into disrepair.

Determined to create a more permanent tribute, we sought funding and found enthusiastic support from funders willing to contribute. As the project progressed, the trail evolved from one poem on the original trail to a permanent, weatherproof trail consisting of eleven stone cairns strategically positioned around Eriskay.

 

Each cairn features plaques detailing Fr. Allan's life story, his faith, his literary contributions, and his impact on the community. His poetry is showcased on each plaque in both Gaelic and English, offering a rich cultural experience for visitors. Additionally, the plaques incorporate quotes from Fr. Allan's diaries and words/phrases unique to Eriskay, adding depth and authenticity to our project.

Fr. Allan's unwavering commitment to the Gaelic language inspires our project's mission to uphold his legacy. The plaques incorporated in the trail feature Gaelic elements with phonetic spellings and translations, encouraging visitors to engage both with the language and its rich cultural heritage.

In addition to the trail, we have created a leaflet outlining the trail's route. These leaflets are accessible locally at the Comann Eachdraidh Eirisgeidh office, St. Michael’s Church, Am Politician, and Co Chomunn Eirisgeidh.  

We invite you to enjoy the walk and step into Maighstir Ailean’s shoes, seeing the island through his poetry as we delve deeper into his life and legacy and the lasting impact, he left on our island of Eriskay.

There are 11 plaques around Eriskay allowing everyone to not only walk around the beautiful island but to enjoy the history and heritage of Eriskay.

Fr Allan Trail Map
Fr.Allan Walk

Experience The Virtual Walk

Can't visit Eriskay in person? No problem! Whether you're across the globe or unable to visit the island in person, our virtual walk is accessible anytime, anywhere with an internet connection.

Click on the link below to experience our virtual walk, allowing you to explore the landmarks of Eriskay and learn about Fr. Allan's life and legacy from the comfort of your own home.

Each virtual plaque features information points where you can immerse yourself in Fr. Allan’s poetry.  Access audio recordings of residents reading verses in both Gaelic and English, bringing his words to life, and providing a deeper understanding of his cultural impact.

Coming Soon

Creag an t-Sagairt

We are delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of our book " Creag an t-Sagairt," which is an informative guide outlining the relaxing walk around the island of Eriskay. This book offers a more detailed accounts of Fr. Allan's life, from the islanders' perspective, allowing you to delve deeper into his remarkable legacy as you explore the beautiful landscapes of Eriskay.

The book is designed to be small enough to take with you on your walk. Its portable format ensures that you can easily reference it as you explore the island and discover the fascinating history of Fr. Allan MacDonald.

Whether you're a resident or a visitor, this book serves as an invaluable educational resource. It provides a deeper understanding of Eriskay's cultural heritage and traditions, enriching your experience as you journey through the island.

Our collaboration with St. Michael’s Church to produce this book and create the Fr. Allan Walk is a testament to our commitment to work together as a community to preserve our cultural legacy.

The " Creag an t-Sagairt" book will be available for purchase later in the year. Leave your details to stay tuned for updates on its publication date and where to buy it.

Your support in acquiring the book contributes to the preservation of Eriskay's heritage and ensures that Fr. Allan MacDonald's legacy continues to inspire generations to come.

Fr.Allan Trail

Support Our Project

Become A Member

Membership offers an opportunity to actively engage with the preservation of Eriskay's heritage and receive bi-annual newsletters to stay updated on our projects, events, and initiatives.

Click below to find out further information.

Donate

Support our community-led efforts in preserving the rich heritage and culture of Eriskay and its people.  Your contribution will help Comann Eachdraidh Eirisgeidh with the redevelopment of the former Eriskay school and transform it back into a vibrant community building once again.

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