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  • #16
    Wonderful memories for you all to treasure.

    I'm an Appin. Lovely to see that photie

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    • #17
      Tarbert and Kintyre

      We left Oban on Sunday morning and drove down via Kilmelford, Kilmichael-Glassary, Lochgilphead etc and arrived at Stonefield Castle Hotel, Tarbert, about 2 hours later. Too early to book in, we went off down to Campbeltown to eat and look around. Sadly, the Togniri’s have retired and their Italian café/restaurant I remember from years ago is long closed. So we ate at the Royal Hotel which was pretty good. Then, back up to Stonefield Castle to check in. We had two rooms, again modern and comfortable-ensuite. Stonefield Castle was originally built for a MacAlasdair who was then Constable of Tarbert Castle. However, Tarbert Castle became dilapidated through his neglect and he lost the office of Constable and Stonefield Castle in the mid-18th Century to a Charles Campbell. A later Campbell extended and updated it as a baronial home in the 1830’s, the remodeling being designed by William Playfair to embrace the romantic gothic revival of the period ,embracing all things Highland, which was sweeping the British (and especially Scottish) aristocracy at the time.

      I have always wanted to visit there, since I was a boy spending holidays and passing the sign for the castle on our way to and from Kintyre. It was a splendid old castle inside with large family portraits and artifacts and rooms opened up for the guests’ pleasure. There was a large library and board-games room with old hardwood fitted bookcases and comfy chairs and sofas, a lovely antiquated lounge with a bar and an old-style snooker room with padded leather chairs and stools and an old fireplace, old pictures of landscapes and nature and Highland hunting scenes on the walls, plus a full-size snooker table. All that was missing was the smell of cigars and fine old whisky ! Stonefield Castle would make a great venue for a “Cluedo” convention.

      The restaurant is modern and has a knock-out view over Loch Fyne. The food was really good too, much of the seafood being fresh from Loch Fyne and local area. Of course, full Scottish breakfasts were a way of life during this stage of the holiday – though one morning I had muesli as a sort of penance for my indulgence. The grounds of the castle are very luxuriant and I wouldn’t even try to name the types of foliage, but I did see lots of rhoddies (just ended blooming) and some rowans and Hazel trees plus Scots Pine. You could just imagine yourself as a toff during its heyday ! Thye must have had a tennis court at one time surely !

      Then it was time for some family-spotting ! We drove from Tarbert down past Whitehouse and Clachan, Rhunahaorine and Tayinloan till we reached a small group of buildings on a small promontory called A Chleit. We turned off the Campbeltown road and down the driveway to the pebbled car-park beside the church. The settlement comprises a couple of old crofts/cottages near the turn-off, then at the end of the drive is a two-story house, a hall and a small church. My Great-Uncle Neil Weir and his wife (Great Auntie Maude) lived in the house for many years and after Uncle Neil died in the early 1960’s, Auntie Maude stayed in the house until about 1968 when she became infirm. Gt Uncle Neil was from Glendaruel (Kilmodan), Cowal, Argyll, as was his sister (my Gran Gow, nee Weir). After my Granddad Gow (from Dalnaspidal – the Atholl connection earlier in the holiday!) married my Gran after WW1, I think Gt Uncle Neil helped get him a gamekeeper’s job at Glencaladh Castle estate nr Tighnabruaich. After my Dad was born in the castle, my Granddad became gamekeeper for the Pollock family (shipping magnates) on their South Ronachan estate, nr Clachan, Kintyre. In 1925 a ‘tied-house’ was built for my Granddad and his family near the shore, by Ballochroy Burn, just South of Clachan. Uncle Neil and Auntie Maude, from Wallsall, had settled on Loch Fyne at Dunans, Strachur and later at A Chleit, Kintyre.

      When I was about 4 or 5, I came to Kintyre for the first time. We had no car and my memory is blurred but I remember it involved getting up at some ungodly hour, getting a steam-train from Musselburgh to Edinburgh, another from Edinburgh to Glasgow, lots of rushing around with my Dad lugging leather and fibre suitcases, maybe more trains and then a Clyde steamer. We arrived at Tarbert and were met by Great Uncle Neil who had a car, a Riley Pathfinder !! My head was spinning with all the excitement and travel adventure. I met Auntie Maude and her strange accent for the first time and most important, Zoe, their Cairn Terrier and my soon to be best pal. What a playground ! There was a rocky outcrop on the beach behind the church with a shallow ‘cave’ all just ripe for exploring, a white beach all to ourselves, some rocky tidal pools and a clear, sparkling sea. Heaven ! There was another playmate, ‘Auntie’ Babs MacIsaac from the croft up the drive. Though she looked old with a lined, brown, weathered face and grey bob haircut, she was very spritely, hardy and full of mischief ! She used to swim out in the sea every morning come rain or shine, calm water or not, summer and winter. She also instigated brilliant sand fights with Hamish (my bro) and me, digging near the waterline for the sloppy grey sand underneath and throwing great dollops of it at each other. Many a time my Mum would arrive on the scene to find us all, Hamish, me, Auntie Babs and Zoe all coated with this mud-like grey slop !

      Uncle Neil had a traditional varnished clinker-built boat (maybe 16 feet) for creels and salmon/sea-trout nets. He would go out with my Dad, Willie MacDonald (‘Uncle’ Woollie to me) and often bring my brother and me along. I knew it was on when I saw Uncle Neil appear in his white thigh boots and my Dad (also in thigh boots) would unhook the ‘Silver Century’ Seagull longshaft outboard from the wall in the disused hall. No-one used life-jackets in wee fishing boats in those days. One time in the boat, Willie was hooking in creel head-ropes and he leaned too far over and fell in. He was wearing chest-waders and they quickly filled and he went under. Uncle Neil and my Dad got the boat to him as quick as possible and lunging over both pulled him up by the waders’ shoulder-straps and finally heaved him into the boat. He had been very close to drowning. Little me, trying to helpful, spotted his packet of Senior Service floating on the briny. I shouted “Uncle Woollie, your cigarettes are on the water !” Uncle Woollie didn’t seem to want them, judging by some strange grown-up words I didn’t understand at all, but Uncle Neil and my Dad retrieved them and they were still bone-dry ! More than we could say for Uncle Woollie !

      Other random memories I have include:- Watching fresh red crabs from creel to pot and then mouth , Auntie Maude’s delicious poached salmon salad (local and fresh of course !) with lettuce, new potatoes etc from the garden – it was the first time I tried Heinz Salad Cream – I’ve loved it ever since !; feeding their hens and collecting eggs, my Dad bringing little brown rabbits or eider ducklings to my room to see and cheer me up when I was grounded with sunburn; always sunny days; the sound of the sea from my window. One time, a van came down the drive and stopped. I read the writing on the van and it said “Butcher and Game Dealer”. Without hesitation, I climbed up into the van and enthusiastically I asked the man if he had Ludo. I couldn’t figure out why he started laughing and later why in the house, my Mum, Dad and Auntie Maude were highly amused about something. Grown-ups are crazy !

      Back in the present, after our visit to A Chleit, we drove back up the road and stopped at Newhouse. This was the house my Dad lived in, with Granddad and Gran Gow, from 1925 to 1941, when Granddad retired through ill-health and returned to Perthshire (Alpine Cottage, Kirkmichael). This was the centre of my Dad’s idyllic childhood.The shore at Newhouse was also the scene of his first exposure to tragedy, as in the late summer of 1940, age 16, he found the body of a drowned sailor whose condition (according to the authorities) suggested he’d been in the water about 6 weeks. Unidentifiable apart from a tattoo saying “Chrissie”, it was believed he was a crewman from the SS Arandora Star, sunk by a Gunther Prien’s U-47 in early July, to the West of the Outer Hebrides. Over 800 passengers and crew were lost (including German and Italian internees and POW’s plus some Lovat Scouts among others) and for weeks bodies were washed ashore, from Ireland to Colonsay and the other islands and Western Highlands.

      On a lighter note, we decided to visit the island of Gigha, a beautiful wee island off the West Kintyre coast, along with the smaller Cara and Gigalum islands. The last time I was in Gigha was in the early 1970’s, when my brother and canoed over there, with my Dad following in our wee motor boat. This time we took the regular CalMac Gigha ferry which takes about 20 minutes. The day was a bit dreich but our kids would be trying out their first canoeing over at Gigha Boats so getting a bit wet didn’t matter. The tide was out, so for boating and an introduction to canoeing, it was a bit shallow nearer in and oars and paddles were scraping the sand-bed at times.

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      • #18
        However, my wife was worried about them going out too far on their first outing so we complied and stayed in the ‘kiddies’ pool’ near the shore ! They also had a shot at cycling while us 2 older ones strolled and had a coffee at a local nearby inn. I hadn’t taken our mini-bus on the ferry as it just seemed somehow inappropriate to drive on Gigha instead of using our own legs etc. I remember many years ago they used to make cheese on Gigha, a type of Dunlop cheese, which had a local legendary reputation for enhancing fertility for couples who ate it, with unintended results. My Dad brought some back to one to his workmates at Ferranti who liked cheese and who he previously warned about the power of the Gigha cheese (she didn’t believe him of course). She had been married for several years and had a couple of older children and none since. Not long after she tried the cheese – she was surprised to find she was pregnant after all that time ! They don’t make Gigha Cheese any more but the milk gets sent to Campbeltown to add to their Kintyre Cheddar. You have been warned !

        Then, all too soon, it was time to leave Stonefield Castle and my fond childhood memories head back to Edinburgh. But not before I bought a bottle of that elusive Springbank from the wee shop in Clachan. We stayed the night at the Airport Hilton and in the wee hours we flew out of Edinburgh and back to Oman. I am so pleased we decided to come to Scotland, it meant the world to me ! I hope to be back some time – soon !

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        • #19

          Stonefield Castle, by Tarbert, Loch Fyne. Hmmmm – I wonder if there are any ghosts ?


          Arrived !


          One of many old family and scenic paintings in the halls, stairways and corridors of Stonefield Castle. Are they children or the naval crew off a Victorian midget sub ?!


          View of Tarbert Harbour with a lovely calm surface. The TT on one fishing boat denotes it is based in Tarbert, while OB on the other means Oban. CN on a boat would mean Campbeltown.


          Ma and Pa Gow on the floral roundabout at the esplanade, outside the Royal Hotel, Campbeltown.


          Hazel chilling out in Tarbert


          My wife chilling out in Tarbert. Oh-oh – she has that “let’s shop” look in her eyes.


          Vicky Pollard ? What are you doing lying here in a planter at Tarbert harbour ? “Well, yesbut, nobut, yesbut, nobut – don’t go giving me the evils ! Shuddup !”


          A Chleit. This is the house my Gt Uncle Neil Weir and Gt Auntie Maude lived in for many years. It certainly brings back happy memories !


          The parish church at A Chleit. I remember for simple amusement my brother Hamish and I used to sometimes stand stock still in the two lower wall recesses and pretend to be statues, like at Edinburgh Castle. I was 37 at the time. Actually, Auntie Babs (MacIsaac) used to clean the church and put fresh flowers in the vases. When she was toshed up for church on Sunday, she looked great in her best outfit, a wee drop of make-up and with her false teeth in. A far cry from being coated with sloppy sand on the beach !


          Looking from the church toward the Tarbert-Campbeltown road. Auntie Babs’ croft is way up on the left. Now that she’s passed on, I noticed that the hens, ducks and geese she used to keep are long gone. They were always milling about the drive, with the geese chasing any car which went past.


          The rocky outcrop at A Chleit my brother and I used to climb and also sit in the wee ‘cave’.


          Hazel and I on the shore at A Chleit


          The island of Cara. Legend has it that it is not just an island, it is a sleeping giant. Maybe the giant had been one of those involved in the Giant’s Causeway stramash !


          Kirkmichael, Perthshire may be the natural home of the Llama, but Tayinloan, Kintyre is the home of the Alpaca !


          Newhouse, on the A83 Tarbert-Campbeltown coastal road between Clachan and Rhunahaorine, was the house where my Dad, Granddad and Gran lived from 1925 to 1941. Built as a tied-house for Granddad’s job as gamekeeper at South Ronachan estate, it looks much as it did when my Dad spent his idyllic childhood here. The tall grasses weren’t there of course ! The main road only became tarmac around 1937.


          Just over the road from Newhouse, the shore where my Dad played, fished and learned to row a boat.

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          • #20

            New day, new adventure – the Gigha ferry on an overcast morning


            A pile of creels on Gigha


            Hazel’s first try-out in a canoe


            Lach’s turn


            The auld yin trying to keep his ‘pech’ while the young folk paddle about !


            Aluminium boats be damned ? They’re heavy !


            All together now - “Lach fell out the canoe – Lach fell out the canoe !” Twice ! You can’t learn to canoe without a capsize or two !


            A wee spot of cycling on this beautiful island of Gigha


            And when you’ve finished cycling, you can always gallop around like a daftie with your sister on your back !


            Back at the Castle, admiring some of its beautiful gardens


            The restaurant wing of the Castle, with a beautiful view over Loch Fyne


            The view over the Loch


            Another view


            Admiring the view from the loch-side


            Barmore Island, at the base of the further side of which forms a large hole, far deeper than the surrounding sea/loch bed. It is locally renowned for being a hotspot for cod, skate and deeper sea fish.


            Relaxing in the library


            Original Scottish baronial style in the lounge


            Let’s see you buy one of these in Ikea !


            A quiet wee pint before getting dressed for dinner


            Venison (or was it beef tenderloin ?), Hazel’s last dinner on holiday (sigh…)


            Our last free night of the holiday ! Back to Edinburgh Airport tomorrow ! BOOHOO !


            Then all too soon, it was over and I was back at my desk in Muscat !
            Last edited by Lachlan09; 17 September 2013, 14:04.

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            • #21
              Great trip, Lachlan.

              'Haste ye back'.

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              • #22
                Thanks ! It was great to be back in Scotland !

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                • #23
                  Then and Now

                  Just as a wee ‘then-and-now’, here are some old snaps of some the houses and scenes you saw above, but ‘back in the day’ when they were connected with my family:-



                  My Granddad Gow, my Dad and Gran outside their house Newhouse, nr Clachan, Kintyre in the late 1920’s. Granddad is wearing his gamekeeping work-clothes.



                  At Newhouse, in the 1930’s. My Gran Gow, 2 visitors, my Granddad Gow in his gamekeeping clothes.



                  My Dad with his pal Tinker, the Cairn Terrier, on the step at Newhouse



                  Just a country boy, looking spruce for school !



                  Where’s he going in that kilt ? Church maybe ? My Dad always reckoned he had porridge spirtles for legs when he was a boy !



                  Gran Gow's friend at the spinning wheel, Newhouse. My Gran used to spin the wool and then knit it into jumpers and socks etc. She won a medal at the Mod one year in the late 1920’s for Gaelic singing while spinning at the wheel.



                  Gran Gow at the wheel again, this time in Alpine Cottage, Kirkmichael, 1941 or later.



                  Inside the front (good) room of Alpine Cottage, Kirkmichael. The photo over the piano is of my Great Granddad in his Atholl Highlanders uniform in the 1870’s or 80’s. The piano was a player piano, a sort of 19th/early 20th Century programmable keyboard !



                  Change of scene – Gt Uncle Neil Weir and ‘Uncle Woollie’ Willie MacDonald about to go fishing, A Chleit, Kintyre, 1950’s.



                  Gt Uncle Neil and Willie MacDonald in the boat. As a lad, I was in it a few times, as in the ‘Uncle Woollie’ cigarettes incident !



                  A Chleit from the boat, 1950’s. You can see the back of the church nearest.



                  1950’s postcard of A Chleit, known then as Cleit, the name I knew it by.

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