Well, we made it to Edinburgh airport’s Quality Inn. While we tried to avoid anything “American”, this trip i.e. no McDonald’s or Starbuck’s, we could not avoid Quality Inn. There are only a couple of hotel options near the airport and Hilton was going to cost us an additional 40 pounds, so for 125 pounds we have a night’s stay in two twin beds in a dorm-room sized space. 125 pounds translates roughly to $200 plus a 4% foreign transaction fee on Visa. An expensive night for a dorm-room stay!
Today we left Fort William in low cloud covering. The trip through several glens was actually quite breath-taking despite the clouds. We have come to appreciate the clouds and rain as only adding a more dramatic feel to the landscape. And, we believe the phrase about Scotland’s weather should be, “Wait a Scottish minute to check the current weather”, for it changes that quickly.
Yesterday’s time in Fort William was low-keyed as we stayed in town and didn’t drive except a couple of miles later in the day. Steve enjoyed newspaper reading in a coffee shop and then the local library, while I shopped for “light-weight” souvenirs and gifts. Then as the weather seemed to break a little from rain, we drove to Neptune’s Staircase. There is a carefully-engineered series of 9 locks all within 200-300 feet, known as Neptune’s Staircase, which connect the Caledonian Canal to Loch Lochy on which Fort William lies. Then Steve & I walked along the Caledonian Canal for about 2 miles, taking in the view and feeling the connection to great-great-grandmother Catherine, her son Lachlan, and several other of Lachlan’s siblings as they made their way from Inverness to Glasgow, then to Liverpool, and to America. I must say that it was quite emotional to walk along the canal, just 5 feet away from where they traveled!
According to great-grandfather Lachlan’s journal, they departed Inverness traveling the Caledonian Canal, aboard a steamship, on May 29, 1869. Their destination was Kewanee, Illinois to join friends of the family, the Murchison’s. In 1866 John MacLennan, Sr. died suddenly while living in the Lochcarron village. At the time of his death, wife Catherine was working in the Lowland’s, which would have been south of Glasgow. It was quite common for family members to become seasonal workers as living off of the 3 acre crofts was no easy feat. As it was, Lachlan was working in Jamestown, on the Black Isle, as a stable boy at the age of 10. He was 11 years old when word reached him of his father’s death. He writes of “the anguish of his boyish heart” upon the news.
The family disbursed for a period of what seems to be 6 years to work wherever they can. Working on farms, in grist mills, or as domestic help. Then after saving up money six family members headed for America. Perhaps they pooled together their resources to make their trip. Two sisters remained behind while the others left their homeland. One brother, John, and a sister Isabella, already were in America. He was in California and she lived in rural Brooklyn, Iowa with her husband Alex Logan. I wonder if they knew of their family’s impending trip, or would they be literally surprised when they arrived?
The family did make it to America via the City of Washington boat, which was likely loaded with other immigrants. They came through Queenstown, Ireland (which was a temporary name of the community between 1849-1922. It is actually Cobh, Ireland) and Halifax, Nova Scotia before arriving in New York City. From there they caught rail passage to Chicago. They boarded the train bound for Kewanee, Illinois without money, so when they arrived in Kewanee, their kind friends, the Murchison’s, paid for their baggage to be unloaded. Lachlan writes in his journal that he worked for a spell in Kewanee on the Murchison’s farm, but eventually gained rail passage again towards Iowa. He got off the train in Brooklyn, Iowa and on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, 1869 only to walked miles north to his sister’s home. Now that would be one wonderful Christmas gift for everyone!!
I must say that our trip to Sweden and Scotland has certainly inspired curiosity in us as we will likely continue a quest to find out more information about our ancestors. The Swedes and Scots are trying to capture what they can as far as immigrant history. We look forward to sharing parts of our archives with them.
Today we made a two-hour stop at Falkirk Wheel to watch the fascinating feat of lowering boats via a rotating boat lift from the Union Canal down to the Forth and Clyde Canal. The difference in the levels of these two canals is 79 feet! Steve and I also found a walking path back to Roman Ruins, which was pretty dog-gone awesome to tread upon. In the U.S. we get excited about our colonial history or at the very least, the phenomenal ruins and cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people of Mesa Verde National Park. To walk where the Romans walked, was pretty amazing too!
Scotland has been a thrilling, beautiful, and very emotional time. We are so grateful. How I wish there was a way to turn back time about 25 years ago so that my parents could have realized their trip to Scotland. It has been such a thrill to have a photocopy of their map, with their details carefully noted on it, and to use it as part of our traveling guide. Great-grandfather’s journal has been an incredible connection to our pathway through the Highlands as well. We would read sections of it and glance up from the print to see what he most likely would have been recounting.
Tomorrow we’re off to Sweden on Ryan Air and likely another bit of juggling with the baggage contents to get the weight within their restrictions. Once we land at Stockholm’s Skvasta airport we need to gain a quick link on their airport bus. 80 minutes on that to Stockholm Central terminal. Then we need to catch the train to Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport. Once there, we need to call for the Park Inn hotel shuttle to get us.
Thursday morning shuttle back to Arlanda from the hotel and then off to Chicago.
So, with a very full and grateful heart, from Steve & I to you, we sign off from Scotland. “Beam me up Scottie!”