A very fa­mous sports­man

The Oban Times - - 6 Community News -

HIGH above Lochbuie, there is a small lochan called ‘The Selous Loch’.

The word ‘Selous’, un­like most other place names on Mull, isn’t Gaelic at all and has puz­zled many peo­ple who have fished there over the years.

It was, in fact, named af­ter Fred­er­ick Courteney Selous, a guest of Mur­doch Maclaine, 21st chief and laird of Lochbuie.

Selous (1851-1917) was a well-known African hunter, ex­plorer and writer from whom the Selous Scouts, a spe­cial anti-ter­ror­ist reg­i­ment of the Rhode­sian army that op­er­ated from 1973 un­til the re­con­sti­tu­tion of the coun­try as Zim­babwe in 1980, took their name.

He is best re­mem­bered for his con­ser­va­tion work and the Selous Game Re­serve in South Eastern Tan­za­nia, which was des­ig­nated a UNESCO world her­itage site be­cause of its di­verse wildlife and undis­turbed na­ture.

Notwith­stand­ing his love of hunt­ing, it would be no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say Fred­er­ick Selous did as much for world con­ser­va­tion as John Muir.

John Guile Mil­lais, the fa­mous Vic­to­rian nat­u­ral­ist, gar­dener and travel writer, wrote a book about Fred­er­ick Selous and records that he ar­rived in Mull in Au­gust 1894 and stayed at Lochbuie for two weeks.

Selous wrote in his jour­nal: ‘On Au­gust 16, ac­com­pa­nied by the keep­ers, MacColl and Nottman, I vis­ited Loch Spelve in search of seals and ot­ters. Skirt­ing the shores of the loch in a small boat, we soon espied two seals ly­ing out on a rock. They, how­ever, winded us and slipped into the wa­ter, when we were still a long way off.

‘ We then went ashore and put the three ter­ri­ers into a cairn which the keep­ers knew ot­ters to be par­tial to, and from the be­hav­iour of the dogs we soon be­came aware that one of the an­i­mals was some­where about.

‘Know­ing that if the dogs suc­ceeded in draw­ing the ot­ter from the rocks it would make for the sea, I took up my po­si­tion amongst the slip­pery sea­weed cov­ered with stones near the wa­ter and waited full of ex­pec­ta­tion.

‘How­ever, the ot­ter re­sisted all the over­tures of the ter­ri­ers and would not bolt. Then MacColl, the wily, pro­duced some evil-smelling fuse and, set­ting light to it, pushed it into a hole amongst the stones.

‘The ef­fect was mag­i­cal, for the ot­ter bolted at once al­most be­tween MacColl’s legs. In­stead, how­ever, of com­ing to­wards the sea, it made back through the wood and took refuge in another cairn. From the sec­ond place of refuge another piece of fuse soon dis­lodged it, and this time mak­ing for the sea, it came past me in the open, trav­el­ling over the sea­weed- cov­ered rocks at no great pace’.

Selous re­turned to Lochbuie at least twice where he shot his first woodcock, a brace of ptarmi­gan and some other High­land game.

Although there were plenty of stags to be had, the tra­di­tional form of stalk­ing did not ap­peal to him and it wasn’t un­til some years later that he even­tu­ally shot his first wild red deer stag on Ben Alder.

Selous was for­tu­nate to have Ron­ald MacColl as his stalker and game­keeper dur­ing his for­ays to Lochbuie.

Ron­ald came from a long line of stalk­ers and was a first class hill man with a su­perb knowl­edge of the sur­round­ing coun­try­side and its wildlife. He was head-hunted in 1888 from the Earl of Breadal­bane, Black­mount Es­tate by Hec­tor Maclaine of Lochbuie to es­tab­lish Lag­gan as a deer for­est. He died in May 1944 at Craig­ben Lodge, Kin­lochspelve, aged 94, greatly revered by all who knew him, in­clud­ing Mr and Mrs Selous who sent him pho­to­graphs of them­selves which re­main with his fam­ily who still live at Lochbuie.

Shortly af­ter his death, a fine trib­ute to Ron­ald ap­peared in the Oban Times by Mrs Olive Guthrie of Torosay Castle.

Mrs Guthrie, who had been his stalk­ing com­pan­ion on many oc­ca­sions, wrote not only of his ex­cel­lent sports­man­ship, but his un­fail­ing sense of hu­mour - some­thing he needed badly one day when, af­ter a long crawl, she was about to pull the trig­ger. Sud­denly there was a noise like a loud tele­phone caus­ing the stag to bolt. Ron­ald, she recorded, sat up and used very unparliamentary lan­guage in Gaelic and then ex­plained, ‘I broke my watch last night, so I took my wife’s new Amer­i­can clock. I never thought of the alarm be­ing set’!

FIRST CLASS HILL MAN: Ron­ald MacColl, Lochbuie

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