Thursday, August 23, 2007

Colin Macleod and GalGael

i want YOU to read this obituary, and then go peruse the GalGael Trust site. when you're done, if you're interested and excited about these topic articles, lemme know so we can cheer and discuss them. bless up. -badger


Colin Macleod

Motorway protester known as the Birdman of Pollok

The Herald. Glasgow (UK): Nov 7, 2005. pg. 16


COLIN Murdo Macleod began life as a far-flung Gael in Sydney, Australia. He was one of the five children of Donald and Josephine Macleod. When he was four, the family came back and settled in the Pollok area of Glasgow.

Gang culture, alcoholism, drug addiction and violence were daily facts of life. Colin saw it all. He could stand his ground among the toughest of them. But what made him so exceptional was his depth of understanding and the tenderness of his heart.

That heart was, throughout childhood, always drawn to the pure wildness of nature that, at the end of the day, sustains and contains the city. And it was given wings by true nature wild - by time spent in wilderness.

"You should be a naturalist, boy, " his grandfather from the Isle of Lewis once said, for at school he'd be always daydreaming out the window, and throughout life the far-seeing eye of his eagle's mind was forever out with the stags on the hill, leaping with the wild salmon in the river and running under sail in a gale - singing heavenwards on the Gaelic ocean wave.

But the Holy Hebrides of his father's family were not his only inspiration. A saving grace of his childhood environment was that all around were the trees and creatures of Pollok Park. Colin spent endless hours there, climbing high in oak and beech trees, hunting for sparrowhawks and wrens, collecting rowan berries and ash keys, finding joy in the smallest Tawny Owl's feather.

Colin's deep connection with this nature, this Creation, inspired him to protect it when it was threatened by the arrival of a motorway. Spending nine days in a 150-year-old beech tree, he became known as the Birdman of Pollok.

It was here that he came to understand that the constant letters he wrote to newspapers, his articles (under the name of Quiet MacLOUD) and even his written poetry, were not sufficiently powerful tools for the unadulterated spiritual force he wanted to convey.

Help came from the fact that before the motorway protest in the early 1990s, he had been inspired to learn to carve stone among the Abenaki tribes of Canada and among the Lakota of South Dakota. Here, he also witnessed an indigenous people's struggle to reclaim their native language and traditions.

On his return to Scotland, he had bought himself a chisel, made a hammer and taught himself to carve - practising Celtic knots and other designs on derelict buildings and beneath railway bridges throughout Glasgow and beyond. And the carvings flew from his chisels thick and fast.

The 1990s became a prolific period of creative energy.

Respect, as a prelude to reverence, was a constant theme in all his work and human relationships. For this man, "work was worship, " as George MacLeod of the Iona Community had once put it. Animal carvings spoke in their own language, especially through an eagle totem pole that became the defining icon of the motorway protest at the prophetically styled Pollok Free State.

In standing his ground at the Free State, Colin was unafraid of derision and ridicule. He had built the necessary spiritual bravery to "hold fast". "I don't go to church, " he was to say in a Radio Scotland Life in Question interview in 2005, "but I do connect very deeply with the foundational Christian values of love and forgiveness. And when I read the Bible and you've got Jesus going to the wilderness for 40 days, I realise you've got a wilderness man, just like in Gaelic culture the songs of river and mountain anchor you."

His greatness lay in the fact that his warriorship was not that of the sword. The sword would have been too blunt an instrument to cut the darknesses that he named, unmasked and engaged. Rather, Colin's way had become the path of the spiritual warrior. He was an artist who integrated head, heart and hand.

Many people, so many people, warmed themselves round the Pollok hearth. The motorway protest became almost incidental. It was a convenient focal point. Indeed, he used to say: "It's simply about fresh air - it's just common sense." But in this world such sense is uncommon.

It has been said that Colin failed to halt the motorway. But while the outward Battle of the Trees was lost, an inner spiritual war was won. Ordinary people found their voice and glimpsed their own greatness.

He deliberately rekindled a sense of peoplehood. This was the birth of GalGael; reconnecting of people with their land and true potential. The name, GalGael, means that there is both a bit of the stranger and a bit of the native in us all. The boat - the Hebridean Birlinn - was a symbol. He set out to build one, he did so, and in May last year it carried them to Ireland where his mother's people had come from.

A legend for the modern day that he envisioned was to see the creation on the Clyde at Govan of a Hogback longhouse and a granite slipway. These would be centres for community skills that would ensure that the people were given back their river, their story.

Colin breathed life into natural materials through his carving, into the Clyde through his boats and into people through his belief in them. He was a poet who wrote his lines in wood and in stone and on our hearts.

Many of us have lost our best friend, Donald and Josie have lost a son, Gehan has lost her anam cara, and Oran Angus, Iona and Tawny have lost their beloved daddy.

He whom we consider to have been our greatest living poet, prophet and chieftain, has now flown this world.

Has Scotland seen many who embodied all three of these qualities, and from such ordinary origins, since the days of Wallace and the early Celtic saints?

He leaves a legacy that lives on in his children, in the people he touched and in his works. He was only 39.

Gus am bris an la, mo ghraidh.

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