Past tale of a forgotten corner of Morvern
ONE of the pleasures of writing this column is the interesting feedback and information which arrives from readers almost weekly. The following is a fine example.
‘Although I have passed Morvern many times – usually en route to Coll – I have had the joy of only four visits to your part of the world. One was a night anchored in Loch Aline and one was a brief visit in a small boat from Tobermory to Drimnin. Two others were nights spent at anchor in Loch Drumbuie in 1966 and 1968, if my records are correct.
‘ We were nearly at the end of a glorious fortnight’s cruising on the yacht Zuleika. She was built at Tighnabruaich in 1909 and was in good condition, but perhaps lacked some of the amenities one might expect to find on a modern fibreglass yacht.
‘We had spent two nights at the one spot – Acarsaid Mhor, South Rona – because it was so warm, and the skipper, Ronnie, had hinted at us spending a full day exploring Rona and maybe walking up to the lighthouse.
‘ “Sounds a great idea, skipper. We were just going to do a basic wash of some clothes first and put them up on the rigging. Can we do some washing for yourself?”
‘ “No. No need. I have an automatic washing machine. I will let you see it in a few days.”
‘No further questions were asked of Ronnie. We knew from the past days’ sailing that he was a bit of a wind-up merchant.
‘And, so, we arrived one afternoon at the wonderful anchorage of Loch Drumbuie, Morvern. We all went ashore, taking the cans for topping up the yacht’s fresh water supply. Ronnie led us up the hillside from the shore and removed a few small boulders from a burn.
‘He then lifted his previous fortnight’s washing and refilled the “machine”. He had been using this method of washing his clothes for many years and found it very economic in electricity and washing powder, and remarkably efficient in its cleaning power. We then filled the water cans at a suitable spot just upstream.
‘As we headed back to the dinghy, Ronnie suggested a walk along the shore would lead us to a most interesting old cottage. And, wow, we found Doirlinn! First we read all the “tourist” information that was pinned to the door.
“Please come in and enjoy our hos- pitality in our absence. You will find a little food, kettle, fuel and lamps, but please respect our trust. This is not a derelict house or a rich man’s toy, but a holiday centre for schoolchildren. Please do not damage our house or take away our equipment. Thank you! Please fasten the door to prevent sheep becoming trapped inside. If you use the canoe, watch it, it leaks. More coal in sack in end part of house. Saw for more logs in bottom drawer. If you burn timber from next door (where canoe is) please use only the moth- eaten stuff.
‘ We accepted the invitation, and went inside to find a “dream”. Downstairs, on a wall of the “lounge” was an Ordnance Survey map of the area. In the style of Arthur Ransome (of Swallows
and Amazons), some place names had been changed. So, there were locations such as Smugglers’ Cove and Shark Bay pencilled in. Upstairs, beds were ready for the arrival of the youngsters, with the blankets neatly folded and pair of boots sitting tidily with the stockings tucked in. In the kitchen, some tinned food and fuel. But, most amazing of all, was the small pile of money on the kitchen table and a log book of visiting yachts. Not to be spent at the one shop? Help, where’s the shop?
‘Ronnie later told us that he had met the leaders on a few occasions. Each year they arrived after a drive of a few hundred miles. The journey ended by following the road along the Sound of Mull westwards from Lochaline to Drimnin and then over the headland to Loch Sunart and to their cottage. The last mile or two also involved crossing an old metal bridge which we noted had a disclaimer from the local authority. I wonder how it is now?’
The cottage at Dorlin was once an inn, a shop and a school. In 1871, four young men from Glenborrodale were drowned in Loch Sunart when their small boat capsized after a party. A search was made the following day but it wasn’t until several days later the bodies were discovered close to one another near Glenborrodale Point. Shortly afterwards the spirit licence was removed.
The tenant of Dorlin for many years was a schoolmaster from mid- Staffordshire called Clifford Kershaw who, every year, brought up work parties. I had the pleasure of meeting him on Loch Sunart in the 1960s.
We were in canoes; he had a cat sitting on his spray deck and I had two Jack Russell terriers on mine. It was an interesting meeting conducted some yards apart! Dorlin is being restored and is no longer an open bothy.
Dorlin Cottage, Loch Sunart. Photograph: Clifford Kershaw