Macphail Memorial
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MacPhail Memorial Plaque ceremony at Dunlichity

By  John E. Mackfall

President, Clan Phail Society


On Sunday the 6th of August, a ceremony to the memory of the Chiefs and clans folk of the families of MacPhail of Inverarnie, took place at Dunlichity church in Strathnairn Inverness-shire.

This special day started some twelve months earlier when I realized that after years of research into the families of MacPhails throughout the world, very little had been left behind them in the old country, to remember them by. So I put this idea to the Clan Phail society committee and commissioners in the USA. I found that all the committee supported me and especially Joe Broom in the USA. So it was decided that I should go ahead and arrange the event and the Carving of the stone.

I enquired into whom needed to be involved and what design of Plaque we should have. Firstly I contacted the Minister at Dunlichity Church, the Reverend Lillian Bruce, who was a great help when I visited the Church in August 99. We discussed what we wanted and the wording and style of Plaque was contemplated. After a few ground rules were laid down I needed to go away and talk to the Lord Lyon to clarify a wording that would be historically correct and tasteful. As you can imagine the wording I started with was only vaguely what I ended up with. Then for the design of the stone, this was easy, as the Clan Macgilivray had a similar ceremony some four years earlier. I visited their stone and decided that it was perfect, it was clear, tasteful and it was sympathetic with the historical surroundings where it stood. So I discovered the Stone mason and choose the same design and type of granite, so that the plaque would not be out of place.

Next I contacted John Shaw of Tordarroch, John is very knowledgeable in these matters and whose family is buried in the enclosure next to where I intended to erect the plaque. So I wanted his support in placing and wording the plaque, infact it was Johns advice which lead me to contact the Lord Lyon.

Some time now passed before I could do any more. In June 2000 I received a phone call from Reverend Alistair Younger who informed me that the Reverend Bruce had been taken very ill and had been in Hospital for some time and would not be performing the Church service, at this point I would like to wish her a speedy recovery. This as you can imagine was a little devastating. I had sent Rev Bruce some information and history of the MacPhails so that she would be able to give an informed sermon. Luckily Alistair volunteered to perform the church service and the dedication of the plaque, so I copied the notes and history to him. Next I needed to invite guests who would appreciate the significance of the event and would add some credence to the day, even though everyone was welcome and especially MacPhails. This part was difficult but I knew that I could always depend on Clan Chattan Association members as the loyal proud clans people they are.

I was then asked to request someone to give a reading at the church service, this was easy I could only ask John Mackintosh of Mackintosh. Because as Chief of Clan Mackintosh and President of the CCA and his family being so closely entwined with the history of the Clan Phail for hundreds of years, he was the obvious choice. Luckily he accepted. So what have I forgot, yes you got it , I haven’t got a Piper!. This is where a dear friend from Australia comes in. When the idea of a memorial was first voiced Allan McBean of Melbourne, kindly volunteered to write three Pipe tunes especially for the event. Well Allan went further he not only wrote the three MacPhail tunes he also wrote two Mackfall tunes and a special one for John Mackintosh of Mackintosh, called “John Mackintosh of Mackintosh welcome to Australia 1999.” The MacPhail tunes are called “The Clan Phail” which is a march and two Piobaireachd called “The MacPhails Lament” and “The MacPhails banner”. Allan sent these fine tunes on tape, which came in useful, as I never did get a Piper.

I set off up to Inverness on Thursday the 3rd of August with Cheryl, as we always do every year. We arrived just in time to attend the Clan Chattan Association AGM and Dinner, which was well attended and a very enjoyable evening was had by all. It is a highlight of the Clan year for most of us. The next day was the Field Fair at Moy Hall and Clan association Tent who are the guests of Celia Mackintosh of Mackintosh. Moy is always a happy fun event, if you have not been, then you must. On Friday night we drove up to Kingussie for the Macpherson Ball, this is always the best dance in the year and definitely not to be missed. We were joined by our good friends John and Karen Wilson of Kilwinnet, and Robert and Pauline Macgilivray and Rob Mackintosh from the good old US of A.

On Saturday both John Wilson and myself joined in the Clan March from “Old Ralia” to the Highland games lead by Cluny Macpherson the Chief of Clan Macpherson. The turn out was excellent with about 65 clansmen and a pipe band. Believe me it is some site. In the evening I understand was the usual Celighd, although I don’t remember much about it as I am lead to believe I was a little worse for a dram or two.

On Sunday I woke up some time around lunch and tried to revive myself for the Church service at 7pm.

We arrived at the church at Dunlichity at 6pm and set up the tape player and spoke with the Reverend. All I had to do now was hope people would come. Another good omen was that the weather was perfect, it was hot and dry, and probably the nicest day of the year so far.

People arrived and more than I could of hoped for. John Mackintosh of Mackintosh gave a perfect reading without a fault, and the Reverend also gave a very ”Mindful“ sermon. He spoke of how family was so important and so were our roots as we all have a need to know who we are and where we came from. We then moved into the Churchyard to the Plaque. This was where I gave a short thank you to those involved, Reverend Younger, John Mackintosh for his Reading and Allan McBean for the Pipe music and the local residents for allowing us to invade their quiet peaceful church. I also thanked Celia Mackintosh, John and Sylvia Shaw, Pauline and Robert Macgilivray and the Kilwinnets, for attending and making the event special. I would also like to thank Rex Davidson for making a heroic dash from Inverness to Edinburgh and then to Perth before returning to Dunlichity and just walking into the church as the service started. Also Jamie Scarlet Who I was so pleased to see, as I think of dear Meta as she was a good friend and is dearly missed. Also to the Clan Phail society in North America for there donation towards the Plaque. A special thank you to all those who came and remembered the MacPhails.

We then listened to the special pipe music “The Clan Phail” followed by the Reverends dedication of the memorial stone. This was a very special occasion for me and those who attended, it showed that we haven’t forgotten our past and those who went before, because if they had not survived we would not be here to remember them, we continue their lives but in more comfortable settings. It was a peaceful relaxing ceremony with friendly caring people and great weather, what more could anyone want. The Plaque reads:

“This plaque is dedicated by the Clan Phail society to the memory of the Heads of the MacPhails of Inverarnie and the people of Clan Phail. Who lived in this area from the 15th century and held the estates of Inverarnie from 1631 and were a constituent Clan of the Clan Chattan. August 2000."