Home > Event > Where the Sea meets the Road: The John Macdonald Calmac Collection

Photo of John Macdonald in Calmac uniform, standing next to a Calmac ferry, with a background image of the yellow and red Calmac logo.

Where the Sea meets the Road: The John Macdonald Calmac Collection

Caledonian MacBrayne provide vital services to island communities over some of the wildest crossings in Europe, continuing a relationship which goes back more than 150 years to the steamer company David MacBrayne helped to found.

The links between the ships and the islands runs deep. The ferries evoke powerful emotions: the joy of homecoming, the sadness of departure, the excitement of the journey, mourning for loved ones brought back to be buried in island soil.

John Macdonald – born and brought up in Lochmaddy – was fascinated by the ferries from a young age. As a schoolboy he kept tickets and timetables and over the years his collection of CalMac items grew to fill his house along the road from the pier where he works – letters, flags, models – many from the days of David MacBrayne himself.

It’s a collection which brings alive the stories of our islands and our ferries.  

The exhibition features model boats, flags, postcards, silverware, stylised posters, archive photographs, and included in the multitude of curious artefacts are rarely seen UK Government surveillance charts of west coast waters dating back to the Cold War.  

Where the Sea meets the Road presents islanders’ stories, often emotional narratives of homecomings and departures, the fun and excitement of playing at Lochmaddy pier as children, visitors’ memories of sailing to the islands, and the thoughts of business people and passengers for whom the ferries remain central to everyday life today.  You can read fascinating accounts from former skippers and crew, with tales of rough seas and challenging journeys, as well as opinions of critics commenting on the age and reliability of the current fleet.  

The exhibition is open to visit in the Museum, 10am-4pm, Monday to Saturday and suitable for all ages and interests.  Entrance tickets are available from the reception desk in the shop, £3 for adults, £1.50 concession, and free for children under age 10. Booking ahead is not required.

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