RETRO Roamer

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...

The Oban Times - - News -

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.

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