adapted from the end of the highland wake (2016) on the appin of yesteryear website

Location: Oban, Lorn and the Slate Islands

The end of the Highland wake

Known by those who remembered Ann McNiven of Appin, she was referred to with the greatest admiration, a woman of more than ordinary intelligence and character. Born about 1712, she was also known for the end of the Highland Wake, a custom observed in Appin when a death occurred in the village. It was the tradition of the time for the neighbours to congregate at the house of the deceased. A period of feasting and rioting would then unfold, with the playing of the fiddle and dancing. To add to the barbarity of the custom, the nearest relative to the deceased would take part in the first reel.

Ann married her husband, Donald Campbell, when she was just 16, and they lived at Glaicheriska. Around 1752, when Ann was 40 years of age, Donald died. When the neighbours began gathering at her house, Ann barricaded the door and windows and would allow no one to enter on the death of her husband. It was her defiance that led to the barbaric ritual eventually dying out. However, a relic of the custom did continue for a period of time, when mourners would sit up by lighted candles and drink whisky in the house of the deceased.

After her husband’s death, Ann moved to a cottage at Gortan-an-Leithed, near Druimneill, on the Port Appin to Shian Road. She later moved to live with her family at Blarchasaig. Every Sunday, Ann walked a mile to the parish Church, at Annat, where her grandson would later become a beadle and bellman. Ann lived to the age of 103 (63 years a widow) and continued to walk to the church until 6 weeks before her death, around 1815.

This story was suggested by Stuart Carmichael. Read more about the traditional way of life and other historical tales near Appin

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