The Roamer column was the highlight of a Thursday for many Lochaber readers so he has returned with a look back at the events and people that made it into his columns in the mid 1980s.
Mr MacDonald from Ballachulish on the phone to Mr Cameron in Onich. ‘Did you see that big jet that went over at 11 o’clock?’ Mr Cameron – ‘Aye, I saw it at about a quarter to 12’. Mr MacDonald: ‘Heavens, it took a long time reaching Onich!’
Lots of visitors to Riddochs these days. None more intriguing than Lochaber exile Ian MacGregor, chairman of the National Coal Board, who was shown round last week. Apparently he asked a lot of pertinent questions but wouldn’t answer any which were directed at him. Strange that for a local man who wrote he was ‘ born within sight and very definitely within sound of the British Aluminium Works in Kinlochleven’.
On Tuesday, the 14.05 passenger train for Mallaig set off on the ‘Line for All Seasons’. Between Glenfinnan and Lochailort she ‘ went over the hill, and she blew’ - and didn’t reappear for five hours. Yes, the train came to a halt out of sight of the A830 and sat there for that length of time. The few passengers on board were eventually provided with a cup of tea and a piece apiece, while the next move was being sorted out. I have a theory this was a ScotRail ploy to undertake market research into bringing back the camping coaches which were so popular on the Mallaig Line in the 1950s.
How about the Kinloch worthy, out and about on his motor bike on a post-Trials jaunt near the Pipeline? Downhill he came, negotiating – with just a few dabs - the twists and turns, rocks, boulders and burns, with great aplomb. Then, almost home, crash! He collided with - wait for it – a three piece suite! Luckily the Kinloch biker landed on the settee.
Are there spooks among the books along at our new library? Apparently everything there has been prone to breakdown. The photocopier was on the blink and, apparently, the oil-fired central heating should have had kerosene. Then a contractor arrived to mend the ‘toilet’. Closer scrutiny of the handwritten worksheet would have revealed the word ‘toilet’ was actually ‘ boiler’. The contractor was advised accordingly shortly after he left the premises, having fixed the toilet.
There have been one or two other happenings in and around the library. For example, the librarian arrived after the weekend at the same time as the pavements were being swept and asked if the two bags of rubbish in the doorway alcove could be removed. Said the sweepers: ‘They’re a bit bulky for us.’ Nothing for it, then, but to contact environmental health. As this was being progressed the contents of the two bulky bags – sleeping bags as it turned out – stirred. It was two French hikers having had an overnight kip. Then there were those nice planters and baskets of Alpines ranged outside the new library. Within two days there was one plant left. Talk about shrinking violets.
Following the official opening at ‘Aird’s Crossing’, I wonder where the next port of call will be for that group of local worthies – the LADS (Lochaber Alfresco Drinkers Society), for they had made the converted walkway between the library and Templeton’s their local HQ. Maybe they’ll change their name to WASSAIL – ‘ Winedrinkers Appreciation Society Sups Alfresco In Lochaber’ and relocate to the great outdoors.
A local gentlemen, who comes from a long line of Fort William railwaymen, has just received a missive from British Rail, the chairman, no less, in Camberley. It was addressed to him at Wallace Road, Glasgow – yes Glasgow, Fort William. I reckon BR’s computer must have gone for a ‘Damburton’.
There was a walk- out from a local hotel the other week by a gent who refused to participate in what he described as a ‘raffle’ for his lunch – get a ticket and sit at such and such a table - had an interesting sequel. For that same man gave it another go. The hotel manager approached him and asked ‘What do you think of JM? He came into the hotel last week, got shirty about the lunch tickets and walked out. He never even paid for his drink.’ If the said manager reads this he will now know he had had a case of mistaken identity and was, in fact, speaking to the ‘culprit’ all the time.
Thanks to the Pulp Mill Club’s corporate identity dress code, there are to be ‘No Jeans Behind The Bar’ from now on. Only Daisies, Dawns, Ellens, Fionas, Graces, Mairis, Minnies, Rosemarys and Sandras, presumably.
Older readers will remember The Butler, Orraman extraordinaire, his collection and delivery barrow parked, ready for action, in a corner off Cinema Lane. Tales about The Butler are legion. In the old days, half the town went down to the station to see who was coming off the late train. ‘Late’ was the operative word one night and two or three locals approached the stationmaster to ask if the train was on time. They got an honest answer: ‘I don’t know, but I did hear The Butler say it was running about ten minutes late.’ Then, in Riddler’s shop at the corner of Cameron Square, a couple of female customers caused considerable hilarity. The first, somewhat well-to- do, placed her purchases on the counter and said: ‘Could you put my provisions aside, Mr Riddler, and the chauffeur will be along to collect them later.’ This was followed by a voice over her shoulder stating: ‘Can you put my messages by, Mr Riddler, and the Butler will pick them up.’
Fort William FC’s hard-working secretary Angus MacDonald received international correspondence from football fans requesting information about ‘The Fort’. Last week Angus had a letter addressed to him in The Village as ‘Mr President of Fort William’. Not to be outdone, a missive was received by Lochaber Art Club from a European enthusiast who sent it to ‘Art Exhibition, Behind the Church, Main Street, Fort William.
With all three of us local Hearts supporters having watched Fort beat Ross County on Saturday, we took the opportunity, later, of holding the AGM of the Lochaber branch of the Hearts Supporters Club in a phone box at Claggan. The one with the door.
Roamer 06 Even the sign writing in the car park went wrong.