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Islay Museum celebrates two brave Islay men

Jenni Minto writes for the Ileach: Two Islay men are currently being celebrated in the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte. In two new displays, the Museum Life remembers Dr Rev Donald Caskie and Captain Godfrey McNeill.

Dr Rev Donald Caskie, the Tartan Pimpernel and author of the book of that name, was born in Bowmore in 1902. When World War 2 broke out, he was serving as Minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris. Having denounced the evils of Nazism from his Paris pulpit, instead of returning to Scotland, as advised, he headed south, arriving in Marseilles. He set up a refuge for stranded Britons and helped around 2,000 Allied service personnel to flee France. He was twice captured by the Nazis, the second time being sentenced to death by firing squad, but was saved by the appeal of a German pastor. For the 30th anniversary of Dr Rev Caskie’s death, the Museum, with the help of his family and Bruichladdich Distillery, has created an exhibit marking his life.

Captain Godfrey McNeill of Ardnacross, was a brave soldier, a keen sportsman, a superb athlete and a fearless rider. Captain Gorry, as he was known, was involved in rash exploits and fast races; it is said he was once chased across the island by the Devil! In 1785, the cargo vessel ‘Jeanie’ was wrecked in Laggan Bay, and Captain Godfrey organised the recovery of both crew and cargo. As a mark of their gratitude, the owners of the’ Jeanie’ presented Captain Godfrey with a silver bowl. The bowl has remained in the McNeill family for 11 generations, until being kindly donated by Jeannie McNeill, the last owner, to the Museum, where it is now on display.

The Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte, is open Monday to Friday, 10.30am to 4.30pm.

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