RETRO

The Oban Times - - Districts -

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.

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