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Vital Papers for Archive Centre
from Lochaber News
April 17, 2008

A new archive centre for Lochaber has been formally opened by Donald Cameron of Lochiel, Lord Lieutenant of Inverness-shire.

The facility, which occupies three rooms at Lochaber College in Fort William, already houses many local historical records, papers, maps and books.

Indeed, much of the material in the initial collection is on loan from the Clan Cameron archives, formerly lodged at Lochiel's home, Achnacarry Castle.

The centre, which is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, will allow important national and international archives to be returned to the area and mean vital personal collections will be saved for future generations.

The opening follows a long campaign led by local councillors, community activists and historians.

The Lochaber centre is part of Highland Council's archive strategy based on a "hub and spokes" model with the hub facility in Inverness linking to centres throughout the Highlands.

Last Friday's official opening ceremony was hosted by Councillor Bren Gormley, vice-chairman of the council's education, culture and sport committee and was attended by around 40 guests.

Councillor Gormley said: "This is such an important facility. If we are looking forward and into the future, we have to know where we are and where we have come from, especially at this time when Scottish history is being embraced more and more into the curriculum.

"This centre is part of the council's hub and spokes model and I think we can take real pride here in Lochaber that we are opening our spoke before the Inverness hub!"

Prior to unveiling a commemorative plaque, Lochiel spoke of his delight that the Lochaber Archive Centre had come into being.

"I am very supportive of the concept of gathering historical papers, preserving them and making them available to the public," he said.

"As Sir Winston Churchill once said, 'the further back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.

"I read history at Oxford not very successfully as it turned out and was taught the importance and value of original, source documents and therefore to have this amazing facility in the heart of Lochaber is a triumph for all concerned."

Previously, lack of a building meant that many local papers had to be taken to repositories and depositories in Inverness or the Central Belt. However, many local historians and interested parties have always felt that Lochaber, at the heart of Highland history, merited an archive of its own, which was readily accessible and would encourage the people of the area to trust their own historical records to a locally-run centre.

Lochiel also paid tribute to several people in Lochaber and beyond who, from the early 1980s, had been trying to attract funding for a local archive.

He added: "Having given the Lochiel family papers to this excellent facility, I sincerely hope that others will follow suit. So, I would encourage those with collections of documents large or small to gift or lend them to this magnificent archive."

Lochaber councillor Michael Foxley also expressed his "delight" at the centre's opening.

He was part of a determined group of campaigners for the facility which included Highland historian Iain Thornber, the late Ian "Dubh" Macdonald, Drew McFarlane Slack and John Hutchison, the former Lochaber area manager for Highland Council.

Councillor Foxley said: "This important storage and research facility will develop and grow over the next few years.

"It will attract back to Lochaber international visitors who are part of the Highland diaspora and wish to research their Lochaber roots. It will be especially important to market this facility during 2009, the Year of Highland Homecoming, which will see important clan gatherings of the MacDonalds and Camerons.

"This is one reason why we are establishing a steering group to maximise these opportunities."

Iain Thornber said the centre would provide a springboard for more research into the history of Lochaber and the west Highlands and islands and could potentially bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds to the local economy by providing an important tourist attraction.

He added: "I am absolutely delighted Lochiel has made his extensive papers available to the public; this is one of the most significant collections to come into the public domain in recent years and is of national importance for its Jacobite material.

"It will provide scholars and academics with enough material for several books and academic papers. This collection ranks among the best in Scotland and Lochaber is fortunate to have been the recipient."

Caption: Donald Cameron of Lochiel (left) with Bren Gormley, vice chair of education, and Hugh Fraser, director of education culture and sport, at the archive opening.  (photo on hard drive, in Archives folder)