Cha do dhùin dorust, nach d’ fhosgail dorust ~ No door ever shut but another opened

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Neil M Gunn - Light of the North

Breakachie, Strath of Dunbeath
Highland River by Neil Miller Gunn has always been my favourite book. It tells the beautiful story of Kenn a young boy of about ten, 'who makes a pilgrimage to the source of the Dunbeath Water and, in a way, to the source of himself and his cultural heritage'.

This is the river of my earliest recorded MacDonald ancestor, Donald who married Barbara Gunn from Strathalladale in 1785. They lived at a township called Breakachie, 'the speckled field' which lies on the haugh of the river about five miles from the coast and Dunbeath village.

Kenn's exploration of the river, and his hunt for the 'Salmon of Wisdom' has always resonated with my own soul. Douglas Gifford the literary critic observed that, 'The river becomes a complex symbol: simultaneously a river of time, of space, of memory, of humanity and of consciousness.'

If you have a spare 20 minutes, watch and listen to Neil Gunn talking about his life on the Scottish Screen Archive provided by the National Library of Scotland.

I took the above photo in September 1990 probably a few months after I had bought my first car, a Ford Fiesta from my uncle Donald Macdonald and travelled north to Caithness - to camp among the midges and go knocking on doors seeking 'strangers'. Donald Mackay Macdonald born 1926 died only last month.

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