Many times throughout my life I have walked south-westwards from Reudle Old Schoolhouse to the deserted villages of Glac Gugairidh and Crackaig. On a beautiful sunny day in April 2018 I repeated the walk with more purpose because I had recently re-read my family history, discovering that my great-great-grandfather, George Maclean, had lived in both settlements for a total of about ten years in the first half of the 19th century, before moving to nearby Burg at the age of 33 where he stayed for the rest of his life.
In the sunshine of April 2018, Crackaig seemed a perfect place to live: sheltered from the cool south-westerly breeze with beautiful views across the sea towards Tiree, the Ross of Mull and Iona. However, my gaze was drawn towards the ash tree which I had seen many times before but had not really given due attention.
Apart from the short stubby scrub trees which are a remnant of Atlantic hazel woodland, clinging to the cliffs below, this is the only tree in the area and certainly the only tree of any significant size. The ash tree is one of our native trees and this one in particular is quite memorable. It’s branches are wide spread and some of its moss-covered rangy limbs rest on the ground. Perhaps it has fallen over at some point but somehow managed to continue growing. How long has it been there? Anyone who could answer this question has long gone from here.
When I returned home, I tried to find out more information about the two deserted villages but there is very little written about them. However, I did discover a very sad tale. Crackaig and Glac Gugairigh were abandoned, not because of the Highland clearances but following a typhoid epidemic in the late 19th century when the disease almost wiped out the populations of both villages. It is rumoured that the last remaining resident refused to leave his home and hanged himself from the only tree in the area. I wonder if the old ash tree witnessed this sad event?