Young shepherd’s death remembered in Barr

TRAGIC: Christopher "Kirsty" McTaggart, who died in a blizzard aged only 19, will be remembered by villagers.
TRAGIC: Christopher "Kirsty" McTaggart, who died in a blizzard aged only 19, will be remembered by villagers.

BARR villagers are to mark the 100th anniversary of the tragic death of a teenage shepherd in a memorial service this weekend.

Organised by lifelong Barr resident Wilma Gracie on behalf of Barr Community Council, the service of remembrance will pay tribute to Christopher “Kirsty” McTaggart, who died in appalling winter conditions on January 11, 1913, after leaving his Changue Stables home to look after his sheep.

Not having returned some hours later, Kirsty’s twin brother, David, and friends Robert and Angus Swan headed into the hills to look for the 19-year-old.

They only found Kirsty thanks to his faithful collie Wag, who remained by his master’s side. But only 15 minutes after he was discovered, Kirsty died.

The Howe of Laggan terrain and blizzard conditions made it impossible for the three men to bring Kirsty’s body home and they were forced to abandon their efforts until the following day, when they returned with 20-30 others.

But Wag refused to abandon his master, and lay with Kirsty in a makeshift shelter a few hundred yards from where he spent the night.

At Kirsty’s funeral, the Rev John Angus of the Free Church of Barr charged the village men with building a memorial cairn in Kirsty’s honour, and it is at this monument that mourners will remember him on Sunday.

Kirsty’s niece, Nan Fynes, who will be in attendance along with her sister, Betty, and cousin, May, said she was very happy her uncle is to be remembered a century on.

“It is a really nice gesture, and a lot of it is thanks to the people of Barr,” she said.

A small memorial service will be conducted at Kirsty’s Cairn at 2pm followed by a service at Kirsty’s grave in Barr Kirkyard at 3pm. Limited car lifts to the cairn will be available at 1.30pm, and soup and sandwiches will be put on at Barr Hall from 3.15-4.45pm.