ANGUS MCPHEE - Weaver of Grass

ANGUS MCPHEE or MACPHEE was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.

This blog follows the progress of HORSE + BAMBOO THEATRE as they develop and tour a show about Angus....

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The beating Celtic heart

Reports from the tour group - Frances, Jonny, Mairi and Mark - tell me that the show on Raasay was well received by an audience of 22 (remembering that this is over 10% of the island's population), and that the show at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye (the Gaelic College) was sold out and a tremendous success. Now they have a trip to make with the show out to the island of Eigg.

Meanwhile I made a visit to the Clootie Well, on the Black Isle. This I first came across when prospecting a possible horse-drawn tour in the 1980s. It impressed me then and it did again.

Now it appears to have been grudgingly accepted, with signage and a parking arrangement. Then it was unpopular with the authorities, in the shape of the local council. An eyesore, a health hazard. But local people fiercely protected it, a site with healing properties.

Today I met a Glaswegian mother and son there; 'the Druids first built it', the son told me and it was his mothers first visit - 'amazed' she said. When I mentioned that 30 years ago the council tried to clean it up they were aghast 'they daren't!'. It's this sense of ownership that sets it apart from the normal 'heritage' site; it's still potent, still of the people rather than sterilised by officialdom; alive - in its weird way.

And of course it took me straight back to Angus. The garments on trees, the healing properties. Just another part of the beating Celtic heart.


  1. Really, why not just say that there is some provision for visitors now, rather than having a go at a Local Authority that doesn't even exist anymore? Do you even know whether it was the Region or the District that allegedly tried to clean it up?
    I think it is sad that rather than praise the present arrangements you prefer to winge about something that DIDN'T happen 30 years ago, and to rile up visitors with your stories of it.
    Not the constructive view one would hope for from someone in the arts.

    1. Well I didn't mean to whinge or have a go at anyone - I'm full of admiration for whoever did clear up the site and provide some facilities. I don't claim to be very objective - after all I've only visited the site 2 or 3 times in 30 years. But I do love it and I simply have reported back on what I picked up, informally, at the time. Long may it remain!