Admiral's Skye cottage to become artists' studios

A cottage on Skye where Second World War veteran Vice Admiral Sir Roddy Macdonald retired to paint will this week be officially opened as an artists' residence by Wasps Studios.

Sir Roddy painting. Picture: Wasps

Sir Roddy’s former home near Portree has been restored since his death in 2001, with the addition of two extra studios in its grounds.

The 79-year-old was described by Creative Scotland as one of the island’s “most remarkable characters”.

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His wide-ranging community involvement included as chieftain of the Skye Highland Games and president of the Skye Piping Society.

Sir Roddy's cottage, restored as the Admiral's House. Picture: Wasps

The keen watercolourist retired from the Royal Navy in 1979 to paint at the cottage at Ollach, overlooking Raasay.

Now known as the Admiral’s House, it will be officially opened on Thursday.

Sir Roddy learned to paint at Fettes College in Edinburgh, and is said to taken his brushes everywhere throughout his 40-year naval career.

Early evidence of Sir Roddy’s skill came in highly-skilled line drawings and watercolours in his midshipman’s journal during the Second World War.

The new Lady Joan Macdonald Studio, built in the grounds of the cottage with "incredible" views across the Sound of Raasay. Picture: Wasps

He latterly held biennial exhibitions in Edinburgh and London, and his works remain on display at several military museums.

Glasgow artist and Benbecula native Martin Campbell will be the cottage’s first resident artist.

The other studios are a converted garage for sculptors and a new timber studio with "incredible" views across the Sound of Raasay.

The project has been jointly organised by Wasps and Skye-based Atlas Arts.

A watercolour by Sir Roddy. Picture: Wasps

Wasps senior executive director for business development Audrey Carlin said: “We hope this new residency will attract creative practitioners from all over the world, drawing an international audience to this uniquely beautiful location.

“It will allow artists the time and space to reflect and develop their own practice whilst engaging with the local community and other creative people visiting the house.”

Andrew Leitch, creative industries and capital projects officer for Creative Scotland, which helped fund the project, said: “Wasps have transformed the former home of one of Skye’s most remarkable characters through a sympathetic contemporary building solution.

“It retains the original character of the original building in a remarkable new residence for artists, which is an important addition to arts infrastructure on this island.”

A watercolour by Sir Roddy. Picture: Wasps

Atlas Arts director Emma Nicolson said: “The three studios offer a beautiful setting to create new work and I am sure will be inspiring to many.”

John Macdonald, the admiral’s son, who bequeathed the cottage, said: “It’s wonderful this beautiful place will continue to be a focal point for the rest of the family to come, enjoy and share experiences.”

Sir Roddy time in Skye is also said to have included organising the conversion of an old school into a village hall, and securing a ban on tankers passing through the Minch.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1939, serving in the Norwegian campaign and against Japan in the Second World War.

He later served in Cyprus and caught an intruding Soviet submarine during the Cold War.

Sir Roddy retired as chief of staff to the Nato commander, Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe in Naples.

A church painting by Sir Roddy. Picture: Wasps

He said of retiring to Skye: “One good book to close. And another to open”.

Sir Roddy was promoted to captain in 1965. He retired as a vice admiral 13 years later. Picture: Wasps
Sir Roddy's cottage, restored as the Admiral's House. Picture: Wasps
The new Lady Joan Macdonald Studio, built in the grounds of the cottage with "incredible" views across the Sound of Raasay. Picture: Wasps
A watercolour by Sir Roddy. Picture: Wasps
A watercolour by Sir Roddy. Picture: Wasps
A church painting by Sir Roddy. Picture: Wasps
Sir Roddy was promoted to captain in 1965. He retired as a vice admiral 13 years later. Picture: Wasps