Friday 21 August 2009

A Visit From The Carmichaels

The project team had the pleasure this week of a visit from Alasdair Carmichael, great grandson of Alexander Carmichael and Sean and Calum Carmichael, his great great grandsons. Alasdair, Sean and Calum dropped in to say hello and to see what we are up to. We are currently focusing on Alexander Carmichael’s field notebooks so we were able to show Sean and Calum some examples of their great great grandfather’s at times rather unruly handwriting.

By happy coincidence on the day of their visit Alexander Carmichael's portrait, which is on long term loan to the University, was being hung in the Conference Room of the School of Scottish and Celtic Studies. Alasdair remembers the portrait when it used to hang in Tigh-a-Bhet in Fort William when he was a boy. Alexander now hangs across the fireplace from his daughter Ella.

The three generations of the Carmichael’s can be seen pictured together above.

Portrait of Alexander Carmichael

Alexander Carmichael, writing on St Michael’s day 1899, in his preface to Carmina Gaelica acknowledges the portrait in oils as a “generous gift of Mr. W. Skeoch Cumming” and further that it was “inserted at the request of friend’s outside my family.” Kenneth MacLeod writing in an obituary of Carmichael states that “Mr. W. Skeoch Cumming has given us a portrait of the man which is both true and striking, and which has earned for the artist himself the gratitude of all readers of Carmina Gadelica, and will earn for him still greater gratitude from our children. If one may put into words what the artist has put so much more vividly on canvas, what one saw first and last in Dr. Carmichael’s personal appearance was a fine stateliness touched with emotion.” It would appear that Carmichael is holding a Bible, perhaps even a family one, in his right hand, while he clutches a crook in the other. It seems likely that the portrait was painted in 1899 or just prior to this, when Carmichael was around sixty-seven years of age.

William Skeoch Cumming (1864-1929) was an Edinburgh-born artist and designer, specialising as draughtsman, painter and designer of tapestries. Cumming studied in the Edinburgh School of Art as well as the Royal Scottish Academy School, also in Edinburgh. Service during the Boer War, led to Cumming sketching many incidents of the campaign in watercolour as well as painting portraits.

Image of Alexander Carmichael's portrait courtesy of Ian MacKenzie, Photographer at the Dept. of Celtic and Scottish Studies.

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]