Home   News   Article

PICTURES: Rena's diary sheds fascinating light on girl's wartime experience on Wester Ross croft near Little Loch Broom


By Hector MacKenzie

Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.



The diary is a precious treasure trove of memories.
The diary is a precious treasure trove of memories.

A REVISED version of a successful book based on a Wester Ross girl’s diary offers a fascinating glimpse into family life in a small crofting community in wartime.

Rena’s Diary: Life in a Scottish Crofting Community, is built around a diary Rena MacLennan kept in 1943 when she was 16 and living on a croft in Durnamuck, Dundonnell, at Little Loch Broom in Wester Ross during World War II.

Rena records the day-to-day activities involved in a crofting community, working at seasonal jobs on local estates and living close to the wartime activities taking place at Gruinard Island and at Loch Ewe.

Her dad, Kenny MacGregor, was the farm joiner and was in charge of the farm sawmill.

Rena with her family at Keppoch farm, Dundonnell. Her dad, Kenny MacGregor was the farm joiner and was in charge of the farm sawmill.
Rena with her family at Keppoch farm, Dundonnell. Her dad, Kenny MacGregor was the farm joiner and was in charge of the farm sawmill.

Her brother Duncan, known as Sonny, worked at Balnagore and Balnagown Farms in Easter Ross producing food supplies for the war effort.

Sister Ella had seasonal jobs too but would later travel south to join up with the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

The entries in the diary have been annotated by the book’s author, her nephew Ken MacLennan, giving further information and added local history.

The book includes photographs of the period, paintings and illustrations. Friends and relations in Ross-shire and as far afield as Canada and New Zealand contributed information towards the book.

Mr MacLennan was formerly principal teacher of art and design at Milne’s High School, Fochabers. Originally from Little Loch Broom, he was born and brought up on a croft at Badluarach, just along the road from Durnamuck where Rena wrote her diary in 1943.

The family left the area in 1962 to move to Dingwall. Ken now lives with his wife Heather in Fochabers.

Ken MacLennan: Keen to preserve his aunt Rena's words.
Ken MacLennan: Keen to preserve his aunt Rena's words.

Mr MacLennan said of the revised book: “When the first edition was published there was encouraging feedback with a number of people getting in touch. Extra information now came to light to further enhance Rena’s story requiring a revised second edition.

“The major update to the diary is a fuller account of Rena’s mother’s side of the family, the MacSwans, who came from Waternish on the Isle of Skye. The revised second edition also includes extra images, illustrations and paintings.”

He added: “I had a very favourable response to the first edition. It seemed to revive other people’s memories of their childhood. Many wrote to me about how it instilled in them an interest in the lives of their ancestors.

“As time are changing so fast nowadays people sometimes yearn for a more settled way of life.”

He said: “I felt that if I didn’t document Rena’s words, this period of life in Little Loch Broom would have dispersed into the ether.”

Rena and her daughter in later life.
Rena and her daughter in later life.

Rena’s Diary is on sale at the Ullapool Bookshop, Ullapool Museum, Laide Post Office and at boco.org.uk


Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More