MORVERN lines

The Oban Times - - News - Iain Thorn­ber iain.thorn­ber@bt­in­ter­net.com

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

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