Village Gatherings & Clashmore Hall

When people in small rural communities had to make their own entertainment, before the advent of TV and radio and cars to whisk them off to the bright lights, they would gather in a particular house to chat, tell stories, sing songs, listen to someone playing a musical instrument or maybe dance.

These houses were known as “ceilidh houses” – from the Gaelic ceilidh – visit. Larger gatherings took place in churches or outdoors, depending on their purpose.

In the 19th Century, new villages sprung up and the people had to find somewhere to meet to discuss matters of importance and to relax socially. Ceilidh houses were clearly inadequate for large numbers and so village halls gradually started to appear, often funded by local landowners or through public subscription.

Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline in 1835, left for America with his family when he was 12, went straight to work for a railway company and then went into the steel business, where he made his fortune and became “The Steel King”.

Although he epitomised the American dream and became an American citizen by choice, he never lost his love for Scotland, (he was also known as “The Star Spangled Scotsman”). On the birth of his daughter Margaret, in 1897, he set about finding a Scottish home for his family – or rather a Highland home. He found Skibo Castle Estate, bought it in 1898, and used it as his summer home until 1914, when the First World War started. He died in 1919 having been unable to return to Skibo – his “Heaven on Earth”.

Construction workers at Skibo Castle
Construction workers at Skibo Castle – around 1900

He believed that one should work as hard as one could to make it, but that “The sole purpose for making money is to give it away”, and that “To die rich is to die disgraced”. Accordingly, following his retirement in 1901, he became one of the greatest philanthropists that has ever lived.

Carnegie’s money was used to fund a wide range of initiatives, including almost 3,000 libraries, technology and scientific colleges, world peace, and around 7,000 organs for churches and halls (making him the world’s first organ-donor!), and his money is still doing good today.

Many communities in and around the Dornoch Forth benefited from his largesse, not least, Clashmore, much of which Carnegie owned and where many of his workers lived.

In 1907, for the benefit of his own workers and the community generally, he built Clashmore Village Hall, which included a small Library. It is now a B Listed building.

Clashmore Hall was for many years managed from the Skibo Estate factor’s office, though each of the many local groups that used it ran its own affairs.

Carnegie Hall in the 1920s
Carnegie Hall in the 1920s

These included big dances and concerts; sports and games like badminton, whist and beetle drives; and weekly Sunday School. In addition, church services were held on many Sunday evenings and the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute also met there. The SWRI was something that Mrs Carnegie believed strongly in and Clashmore SWRI was the first in Sutherland.

During the Second World War Canadian foresters were brought over and lived in a camp nearby. They would come along and entertain whenever the opportunity arose.

Today the Hall has a lively Committee and attracts a wide range of events on a year round basis:.

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