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Gairloch in North-West Ross-Shire
Part II.—Inhabitants of Gairloch

Chapter XXIV.—The Poolewe Artist


THERE are few, if any, traces of the existence of artistic knowledge or skill to be met with in the history of Gairloch or among her inhabitants. True some of the ancient weapons display a little artistic decoration, but these or their patterns may have come from other parts. One or two silver brooches of old Celtic designs are to be met with in the parish, and may perhaps be considered evidence of native taste. The arts of architecture, sculpture, and painting, however, have never been practised in Gairloch, at least there are no remains that shew it.

In these later years of the nineteenth century an instance has occurred of an intense love of, and feeling for, the art of drawing and painting in a native of Gairloch, so remarkable as to call for special mention here.

rIlie instance referred to is in the person of a young man barely yet "of age," named Finlay Mackinnon, a crofter at Poolewe. Whilst doing his duty as a crofter he struggles to progress in art, and has in fact made painting his profession. Enthusiasm for art is his absorbing passion. He is a fine well-built and well conducted young man, above middle height. In manner he is modest and unassuming, and his native Highland courtesy is conspicuous. He has been educated at the Poolewe Public School, and lives with his mother at Mossbank, Poolewe.

In the autumn of 1877 I was going out for a sail on Loch Ewe; the boatmaster, requiring a boy to assist, engaged Finlay Mackinnon (then a little barelegged lad), who happened to be standing by, and with whom I was scarcely acquainted at the time. During our trip I got into conversation with Finlay, and asked him whether he was to become a fisherman or sailor. He answered, "No." "What have you a fancy for?" I inquired. The quaint reply in his then rather imperfect English was, "All my mind is with the drawing."

He afterwards shewed me his childish efforts with his pencil, and some very humble attempts in water-colour achieved by the aid of a shilling box of paints ! I started him in a course of instruction, and Mrs Mackenzie of Inverewe gave him great assistance. He progressed rapidly. About 1881 it was his good fortune to come under the notice of Mr H. B. W. Davis, R.A. (who has so splendidly rendered some of the scenery and Highland cattle of Loch Maree), and Mr Davis kindly helped him forward, and in 1883 had him to London where he gave him a session's teaching at South Kensington. Other gentlemen, including Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, Bart, of Gairloch, the Marquis of Bristol, Mr O. H. Mackenzie of Inverewe, Mr John Bateson, lessee of Shieldaig, Mr A. Hamond, also lessee of Shieldaig, and Mr A. W. Weedon, the artist, gave Finlay Mackinnon material aid, and he was enabled to spend the winter session of 1884-5 at South Kensington.

Some of Finlay Mackinnon's sketches in water-colour already display considerable merit, and there is every prospect of his becoming an able delineator and interpreter of the beauties of Gairloch and Loch Maree.


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