THE ROAMER column was the highlight of a Thursday for many Lochaber readers, and so this week he returns with a timely look back at the events and people that made it into his columns between 1985 to 2016...
A Danish yacht going through Laggan Locks was followed by a public-spirited report to Northern Constabulary that a woman on board was playing with ‘a large striped cat’.
The well-meaning person who contacted the police was obviously concerned there might be an infringement of the quarantine regulations. However, when an official check was made further along the canal at Banavie, the ‘large striped cat’ turned out to be a well wrapped up infant – in a striped babygro.
There was a lovely sequel to that story. A few days later, the Danish vessel re- entered the canal at Corpach. There the customs officer waved a welcome to the Danes when mother and baby appeared on deck. And, when the yacht reached Laggan Locks, mum held the child aloft and called out ‘miaouw, miaouw’ to anyone listening. What was so nice about the whole incident was that everyone – Danes, canal operatives and customs officers – took it all in great part.
A great deal of annoyance has been caused by the council’s ‘Keep Your Garden Tidy’ letter. Residents of the Fort’s higher reaches are none too amused and cite the instance of Wright’s Lane - that’ll have some Lochaber House personnel looking out the local maps – which is so overgrown it can hardly be used for the right of way it purports to provide. Over to thee – LDC.
Aye, it’s great stuff the Lochaber rain. Everyone is eyeing the skies to see when it might stop. That means they notice the rooftops of some of our long- established High Street edifices. So folk come to the conclusion that the council could send out some of their ‘Keep Your Garden Tidy’ notices to the proprietors of these buildings. Because, sprouting from the top of many of them are ‘roof gardens’ – of the wild and uncultivated variety.
It was shades of the Old Town last Thursday night when a wooden walkway and hoardings were being set up in the middle of the High Street. One of our Fort councillors was standing in the carriageway directing the traffic for an hour-and-a-half while the trial operation was in progress.
Along came a young learner driver who not only had to negotiate his way round the walkway, manoeuvre past the workmen and their vehicles, but required to be watchful for the councillor’s signals and attentive to his father’s front seat advice. He had the Lochaber Schools’ Pipe Band marching behind his back bumper as well.
‘ What’ll I do, Dad?’ he asked anxiously. ‘Just keep the heid and drive up MacRae’s Lane,’ was the measured reply. Our young hero carried out the instructions to the letter. Almost half way up the narrow lane he was breathing a sigh of relief and switched off the engine. Only then did he look in the mirror – and there, behind him, were the scholarly pipers and drummers. I gather the air wasn’t blue, though, just tartan.
Not so many summers ago a favourite local pastime was a putting competition, on a reasonably friendly basis, between the staff of local shops and offices. Now folk just cannot afford it because of the prohibitive putting green charges. So, come on Lochaber District Council, give us the rest of the summer to play the game on The Parade, at say 20 pence for adults and 10p for children. You’ll be on course to take in more money in the long run.
Interesting artefact at the sheriff court building these days – a castor oil plant. I understand that liberal doses of the resultant oil are to be doled out to the local solicitors to ensure they cut short their submissions.
Consternation in court on Thursday. Four members of the Fort legal fraternity were representing local clients, but a solicitor from Inverness had arrived to swell the ranks. Consternation? Because, in ‘a case like this’, there are not sufficient gowns on the courthouse pegs to go round.
The brief from the Highland capital, obviously knowing about Clach’s defeat by Fort William the night before, had realised how difficult it is for anyone from Inverness to get anything out of the Fort and had arrived early and immediately grabbed a gown– leaving just three for the Fort four. However, things turned out okay in the end and the cause of justice was served – eventually.
It’s not only the town’s church bells that ring out in the Fort on the Sabbath. The strident tones of a certain faulty burglar alarm in the High Street, not far from where Hughie MacGillivray’s shop used to be, are giving it laldy on Saturday night and Sunday morning, much to the chagrin of High Street residents, the passing public, those en route to church and anyone with a sore head from the night before.
Here’s an interesting sidelight on the Morar level crossing. Man drives his car onto it on Sunday morning and parks half on and half off it. Goes to the shop, thinking there are no trains on the Sabbath. Along comes the Sunday steam special. It stops. Out jump the footplate crew who push the motor off the crossing and onto the road. Get back on the train. ‘ Whistle! Whistle!’, ‘Toot! Toot!’ Off goes the train again, just as the man comes rushing out of the shop thinking, no doubt, it was church bells he was hearing. Aye, a great line the West Highland.
Down memory lane – High Street, Fort William.