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Joseph MacLeod Liberal Organiser

Edited by Joseph's great-grandson, Peter Lawrie, ©2019
This article appeared in the Highland News in 1932

A Popular Liberal Organiser

A well-merited testimonial

On Tuesday evening there was held in the offices of the Liberal agent a meeting of friends of the Liberal cause in the Inverness Burghs and the county of Inverness for the purpose of presenting Mr Joseph MacLeod with a testimonial in recognition of his service to the cause as political agent.

Mr W. J. M. Burrell presided, and amongst those present were Dr F. M. Mackenzie, Councillor Young (secretary), Mr Duncan MacTavish, Mr W. Sutherland. Missionary, Mr James MacDonald, Mr H. Rankine, Mr W. MacDonald, Fort Augustus, Mr George Ross, Mr MacLeay, Mr James Chisholm, Mr Brickmann, Mr David Anderson, Mr John Stewart, Mr Macrae, Mr Robb, Mr Dawson, Mr Isaac Mackenzie, Mr MacDonald, Greig Street, Mr George MacBean, Mr Duncan Macintosh, Mr M. Macaskill and others.

Councillor Young, secretary of the Testimonial Fund, read the following letters:-

The Hon. Mr Sinclair, Secretary for Scotland, wrote:- I shall be glad if your committee will accept the enclosed small donation of a guinea to the Joseph MacLeod Testimonial, which I send with pleasure, for I am glad, knowing as I do something of Mr MacLeod’s work, to have this privilege of co-operating with Inverness Liberals in their timely recognition of his powerful and devoted – and I rejoice to say successful – efforts for Liberalism and for the Highlands.

Mr Henry Munro, J.P., hon. President of the Inverness Burgh Liberal Association, wrote:- Dear Mr Young. – I am in receipt of your favour of the 28th inst. Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to have been present at the presentation to Mr Joseph MacLeod. I am, however, leaving for Edinburgh today, where I have to attend a meeting tomorrow, so shall have to forego what would have been to me a great delight indeed. No one is more worthy of our recognition than Mr Joseph MacLeod. He has served us well in the past, and I trust that he will be spared for many years to serve us as well and as successfully in the future. Hoping that you will have a right hearty meeting with him to-morrow.

Provost Arthur D. Ross wrote:- Dear Mr Young, On my return from Edinburgh yesterday I saw that the presentation to Mr Joseph MacLeod is to take place tonight. I sincerely wish I could send a larger contribution, for nothing would be too great by way of recognising the immense impetus to the Liberal cause and other good work which has resulted from the presence of Mr MacLeod in Inverness and the north. I regret that I shall not be able to get down to Lombard Street this evening, and perhaps you will excuse my absence to Mr MacLeod, and express at the same time to him my most sincere wishes for his health and prosperity, so that in the days to come he may again win for us a renewal of the recent splendid victory, if anyone is foolish enough to break a lance with Mt Annan Bryce.

Mr Webster, secretary Scottish Liberal Association, wrote:- I am delighted to hear of Mr MacLeod’s testimonial, as I know of no organiser who has worked more conscientiously than Mr MacLeod. My committee here realise from the reports which he submits from time to time that the Highland people have got an organiser who can be trusted to work in and out of season, and one who they believe deserves well from the Committee with whom he is connected. I am sure the Liberals in the North, in honouring Mr MacLeod, will never regret doing so, and I wish you to convey my sincere regret at my inability to be north and take part in the function when it takes place.

Mr John MacDonald, Union Street, Edinburgh wrote:- As one of the old brigade who has passed the allotted span of three score years and ten, I have great pleasure in sending my donation toards Mr MacLeod’s testimonial in recognition of the services accomplished by him for the Liberal cause throughout our Highland constituencies, and trust the young and vigorous will not forget their practical interest in the cause of progress throughout the north. Wishing you and all active natives of the Highlands and their friends who may be engaged in the cause of social and Liberal progress every success on behalf of the people.

Mr Peter Spence, Halladale, Sutherlandshire wrote in appreciative terms of Mr MacLeod’s long and faithful service to Liberalism and the cause of the Highland people.

Mr William Cuthbert, hon, secretary, Sutherlandshire Liberal Association wrote: - I have much pleasure in subscribing to the testimonial to be given to Mr Joseph MacLeod in recognition of his services to the cause of Liberalism and reform in the Highlands.

Mr Alexander MacLeod, Castle Street, wrote:- I am sorry that I cannot be present at the presentation to Mr MacLeod on Tuesday night owing to urgent business which takes me from home. Were it possible, I would like to be with you, as Mr MacLeod is a man who deserves recognition for his services in the cause of Liberalism in the north.

Mr J. G. Mackay, president of the Skye Liberal Association, also wrote in appreciative terms of Mr MacLeod’s good work.

Dr F. M. Mackenzie, president of the Burgh Liberal Association, who made the presentation (a purse of sovereigns), spoke of Mr MacLeod’s excellent services as an organiser, the result of which was seen when the struggle took place. It gave him great pleasure to hand to Mr MacLeod that testimonial from his friends of their appreciation of his work.

Mr MacLeod in acknowledging the testimonial, thanked his friends for the great kindness they had extended to him that evening. It was beyond anything he had ever anticipated. Words failed him to adequately thank them for the kindly feeling which prompted so valuable a recognition of the small service which he had been privileged to render the party which he so much admired.

While it was his duty and privilege to instil the true Liberal doctrine from day to day, he could not forget those of them who so ably aided in that great work, as well as those who had received and accepted that doctrine, which had produced such an abundant harvest at the General Election.

His heart-felt thanks were due to those who had so ably manned the political ship while sailing through the storms of undue influence and misrepresentation, which were directed against them. These storms were of no effect, largely on account of the ability and tact displayed by the crew of excellent workers who so energetically and determinedly combated the fury of the forces which assailed them.

He rejoiced to look back on the achievements of Liberalism and the vigorous agitation which exposed the wrong that had been done to their countrymen. If during those twenty odd years he had in any way helped along with so many others of the old brigade, to advance the cause of land reform and Liberalism in the Highlands, he felt amply rewarded in the consciousness that he had done his duty to the best of his power in pressing for those reforms necessary for the happiness and prosperity of the Highlands.

Although much had been done to secure redress of grievances to their people, yet there remained much that they still hoped to see accomplished in the very near future, which, if they were united in their aims, would restore to the Highlanders their inherent right to the land. A new era would arise, when the straths and glens would once more blossom as the rose, and when their healthy glens and bens would again, as in the past, re-echo with the songs of the milkmaid and the hearty laughter of happy sons and daughters.

The recent election fight had been a glorious one. Indeed, the enthusiasm and energy put forth by their large staff of workers surpassed anything he had witnessed in any political fight during the past twenty years. Of the kindly feelings which prevailed on all hands he could not speak of in too high terms, and he felt certain that to them, as well as to him, the work was a labour of love.

In conclusion he would say that while he highly cherished the testimonial for its intrinsic value, yet the kindly feelings and warmth of heart which prompted such a token of respect and appreciation for his feeble efforts were of much greater value. The sovereigns would soon slip through his fingers, but the warmth of heart which prompted so tangible a token would ever be treasured by him as the greatest political gift of his life.

Mr D. Mactavish, president of the County Liberal Association, spoke in high terms of the herculean work which Mr MacLeod had done in the Liberal cause.

Mr Sutherland felt himself honoured in honouring Mr MacLeod. He trusted that soon the straths of Sutherland, once inhabited by the ancestors of Mr MacLeod and himself, would be inhabited once again. He was proud that the election in Inverness had resulted as it did and that greatly through the excellent services of Mr MacLeod.

Mr J. MacDonald spoke in warm terms of Mr MacLeod as an organiser. He had never worked more agreeably with any man or with one who knew so well how to handle his men.

Mr Rankine spoke a few complimentary sentences, as did also Mr MacDonald, Fort Augustus; Mr George Ross, solicitor and Mr MacLeay.

Councillor Young proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman, who, in replying asked for a similar compliment to Dr Mackenzie for making the presentation.

Dr Mackenzie at the close moved that the meeting express sympathy with Mr MacLeod on account of the continued severe illness of Mrs MacLeod. He expressed the hope that Mrs MacLeod would soon be restored to full health.


Mr Joseph MacLeod, liberal organiser, who has just received a well-merited recognition for his strenuous and successful work on behalf of Liberalism and the cause of the Highland people will be remembered by many for the prominent part he took in connection with the crofters’ movement prior to the Lord Napier Commission visiting the Highlands, which was the stepping stone to the Crofters Act of 1880, and which brought so much contentment to the crofter population.

Mr MacLeod is one of the “stalwarts of Sutherland”., one of the men who, by devotion and perseverance raised the county of Sutherland from being merely the territorial possession of a lordly house, the pendicle of a ducal family, to the position it occupies today. Mr MacLeod was born in famed Kildonan in 1862. His ancestors were amongst those who were burnt out of their homes and harried out of the county by Sellar and Co. It is interesting to know that Mr MacLeod’s grandfather was the only man in the strath who had the courage to resist the common enemy, and which he did to the bitter end. Mr MacLeod, like his ancestor, has the fighting spirit in him, and is never daunted in standing up for what he believes to be the right.

He was one of those who inaugurated the Kildonan branch of the Highland Land League, which was the pioneer society in the land agitation in Sutherlandshire and the Highlands. Mr MacLeod will also be remembered for his deep interest in the people of Assynt during the Clashmore “Riots”, as well as the prominent part he took in the struggle which culminated in the return of Mr Angus Sutherland to Parliament, visiting and organising the county amidst great difficulties.

As a county councillor for his native county, Mr MacLeod rendered invaluable service, which commended him to the goodwill of his constituency and to those who lived around him. Mr MacLeod’s valuable assistance and evidence given on behalf of the crofters of Sutherland before the various commissions have been recognized in the public acknowledgement extended to him when leaving his native county.