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BBC ALBA documentary discovers what life was like for the children of island ministers

9 November 2022

A new two-part BBC ALBA documentary delves into what life was like for the children of ministers from the Western Isles – from the 1960s to the present day.

As a part of the award-winning Trusadh series, Cathy MacDonald presents Trusadh: Children of the Manse – a warm and moving glimpse of the experiences of the sons and daughters of the manse, who also consider how their upbringing has informed their worldview.

The two-part documentary largely focuses on clergymen who served in churches in the Outer Hebrides and features archive footage from the 1960s and 70s, alongside interviews with their children, some of whom have continued to practise the Christian faith.

For some, like Donald John MacAulay, being  a son of the manse was a heavy burden at times. Despite a rebellious youth, Donald John describes how his faith has strengthened over the years.

Some felt stifled, under constant surveillance and in the spotlight. Others profess to feeling they were ‘escaping’ to university.

For others, like Reverend Iver Martin, they have turned to God and become men of the manse themselves.  Following in the footsteps of his father, Reverend Murdo Martin of Lewis and latterly Inverness, Iver is now minister, moderator and principal of the Edinburgh Theological Seminary.

Cathy also chats with Jessie Mary Little, daughter of Reverend Angus Smith, the well-known minister who protested against Sunday sailings in Skye in 1965.

Rachel MacPherson, daughter of Reverend Donald MacRae, shares warm-hearted stories about her father and others tell of the camaraderie of communion season, creating a portrait of the communities in which they grew up.

Everything they learned growing up in the manse, shaped the minds of these youngsters and made them the people they are today.

In episode two, we hear from children of the manse from more recent times.

Cathy speaks to a younger generation, who share memories of the upbringing they had, the interesting people they met and the values they have been taught from a young age and how that has influenced their lives.

Among those who Cathy meets up with are Gilleasbuig Ferguson, who was brought up in a busy manse, where people from all walks of life were warmly welcomed and shown hospitality, Kirsteen Murray, who pursued a career in music and Rachel Kate Macleod, an artist, who created an exhibition about the culture she was brought up in.

Part one of Trusadh: Children of the Manse airs on BBC ALBA on Monday 14 November at 9pm, with part two on the channel on Monday 21 November at 9pm.

Both episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast.