Islands And Their Stories
Finding ‘Wee Peter’
On returning from my island cruise on the Lomond Lass, I went in search of the statue of a boy situated offshore in the water of Loch Lomond. The bus driver, whom I meet on my trips to Luss, knew where it was and dropped me off, breaking my homeward journey. He showed me exactly where the statue stood, but did not know how to get near it. I walked back a little ways to the bay pictured above – Alduchlay – thinking I would find a path along the shore line. I did not, since access to the water ended at the spot pictured, giving way to private property.
Approach to Bandry Bay
After walking along the road, bordered by a stone wall and dense woodland sporting signs of ‘DANGER. DEEP WATER’, I came to a place where the wall had been breached and a path led straight to the target area, another little cove called Bandry Bay. At the far left of the photo above, you can just see the figure in the water.
The following video has no sound track simply because there was no sound. The place was totally silent.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Without a boat or a good telescopic lens, I was unable to get close enough to the statue to get a good image. This one I borrowed, from Wikipedia.
So, whom does this statue represent? No one called Peter, as far as is known. The ‘Wee Peter’ title was conferred in recent times for reasons unknown. Most people think it is a memorial to a boy who drowned here. In fact, no such sad story is the case. The statue was made by William Kerr for a house in London he had been commissioned to build. While he worked successfully in London during the 1870s and 80s, his childhood was spent in Luss. When the statue was found to be ‘surplus to requirements’, Kerr brought it to the place where he had spent many happy hours as a child. Few people, if any, expected it to remain standing for long and it became known as ‘Kerr’s Folly’. Erected in 1890, it stands firm today, 121 years later, proving it wasn’t in the least ill advised and is a testament to Kerr’s skill as a builder.
I looked around, imagining a young boy playing happily in the water and in the surrounding woods. As I stood there, lost in my imaginings, I heard the sound of a horses hooves, trotting, it sounded like. When a horse and cart came into view on the road above, it was a surreal moment.
In spite of the origins of the statue being a happy tale, there is a definite air of melancholy at Bandry, perhaps leading to the belief in the drowned child. One has to look much further back in history to find a possible reason for this. The island bordering The Bandry is Inchtavannach, sometimes referred to as ‘Monk’s Island’. Here, in the 6th century, St Kessog founded a monastery, the bell of which could be heard for great distances around the loch and became a feature of the times. The sainted Kessog was murdered at The Bandry in 520 A.D. by hired assasasins. The identity of the person who gave the order has never been found. Some think the Druids were the most likely culprits. I will provide a link to a wondrfully informative history of the life and times of St. Kessog.
For me,the following video has a forlorn feel. The fallen trees lack the charm such things usually have and instead, coupled with the mud in the water, they seemed to emanate an air of decrepitude. No doubt it was siesta time for the birds in the area, but the total lack of life sounds, added to this feeling of abandonment. Or perhaps I have an over-active imagination.
St. Kessog? The effigy found inside a cairn that was dismantled by soldiers building the nearby road, was thought to be a depiction of St. Kessog, but some historians think it was hidden much later during the Reformation. It is now housed in Luss Church.
An island cruise on the ‘Lomond Lass’
Yesterday, I sailed from Luss on the independently operated Lomond Lass. What this little boat lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in charm. After boarding by climbing over the rail and down a small, household stepladder, we set off to cruise round some of the islands on Loch Lomond. Unfortunately, most of my efforts as a photographer were dismal failures this time, but I’ll do it again on a day when the sun shines and get the parts I missed. I did, however, get enough to show that, while only a half hour trip, it is still a wonderful experience and something I wouldn’t have missed.
Fraoch Eilean means ‘Heather Island’. I think of it as ‘Island of Birds’ since it seems to have developed into a bird sanctuary. However, when the heather is in bloom, it earns its name. It is also often referred to as Inchfrielechan which is possibly derived from Inch-FraochEilean, meaning island-heather island in two languages – Scots and Gaelic. Old maps show this island as ‘Luss Prison’ and at one time it was a place of banishment for nagging wives.
Barnie the barnowl sits atop the wheelhouse and does a great job of keeping seagulls away.
Today I went to Balmaha. I came away sated with the beauty of it. Balmaha is situated on the East bank of Loch Lomond in Stirlingshire (the County of Stirling). This ancient and incredibly beautiful little village is of great geological significance,nestling as it does beneath Conic Hill and the forested ridge that are part of the Highland Boundary Fault which separates the Lowlands from the Highlands. The fault continues with Inchcaillioch Island a short distance offshore. Steeped in history, this island has a wealth of interesting ruins. Unlike the rest of the area, and indeed most of Scotland, Inchcillioch is known for its peacefulness and lack of strife. There is, I hear, a spiritual quality to the place. In an earlier post I give some details of its long-past history.
The fault runs from Arran to Stonehaven but only in Balmaha is the dramatic change in terrain so apparent. The pier at the foot of the ridge, and a short distance from the village, marks the dividing line. The videos and photos following illustrate this phenomenon. Before I muse about my time there and my thoughts since, I will post some photos and a couple of videos. These were taken in the village centre and then on a hike to the point at the pier where Lowlands meet Highlands then north round the shore of the loch. The change in landscape is dramatic.
These first two videos were taken at the little park in the centre of the village. The views show, on the left, MacFarlane’s Boatyard and, in the centre, Inchcaillioch Island. Macfarlane’s operate a Royal Mail sevice on which members of the public can take a variety of cruises to the many islands in Loch Lomond. They also have a ferry service to the beautiful and history-rich Inchcaillioch.
After spending a short while with the ducks, I set out along the road to the headland where the Lowlands meet the Highlands. There is a headland there and a jetty where one can catch a waterbus run by Sweenie’s Tours. They offer transport to Balloch or Luss. Alternatively, one can take one of the cruise boats of Cruise Loch Lomond and sail, via Inchcaillioch, through The Narrows, the most beautiful part of Loch Lomond with Luss as the final destination.
The road to the pier.
The variety of scenery in the short distance from the village centre to the jetty is amazing. After the pastoral feel of the little park, the road along the loch was wilder, with the densely wooded ridge that is part of the Highland Boundary Fault on the right and trees on the left making a leafy avenue.
Soon the road climbs above water level forming a steep, tree covered bank on the left with peek-a- boo views of the water,at that time, sparkling in the afternoon sun.
In the background of the photo above, beyond the observation point, the wooded ridge that is the Highland Boundary Fault slopes down to the water. The video below shows the pier and, opposite, Inchcaillioch Island. The boat seen heading there is the Lomond Warrior, one of several sister ships that Cruise Loch Lomond operates. Towards the end of the video, you can see the difference in terrain – Highland rugged mountains to the right of Inchcaillioch and gentler rolling hills of the Lowlands to the left. This sudden change is evident as soon as one heads north from the pier.
Bridge in dappled sunshine
Bridge Along The Trail
For anyone who wishes more information about the geological fault,go to the sidebar, top left of the page, and, under Highland Boundary Fault, click on Loch Lomond and Stirling – The Highland Line. This gives you a site with a wealth of information without being beyond the grasp of non-geology students.
Luss Highland Gathering
After a June with only one glorious day amid dark skies and pouring rain, the 2nd July was a welcome change with warm temperatures and a day free of the wet stuff. Not having been to the Gathering before, I was unprepared for how like a school sports day it was – sort of a cross between inter-schools sports competition and a village fair. The setting was spectacular and I did get my Highland fix by staying with the solo piping contest. Young , budding pipers were being judged by old, seasoned experts. I felt for the nervous contestants. I’m posting some of my favourite images and three short, shorter and very short videos.
Getting it Right This young lady was one of the many piping contestants scattered around the perimeter of the action while they found a spot to practise. I love the little smile as she tunes her pipes.
Sad Song. I wish this next very short video was longer but my attention was elsewhere for most of this piece – just caught it at the end. Note the demeanor of the spectator to the left. The music seems to be having a profound effect on him.
A few moments alone
One can feel the concentration of this budding piper as he has one last practise before going before the judges.
Competing with a helicopter.
In the following video the poor piping contestant has a low flying helicopter accompanying him for the last part of his rendition. He maintains very well for a while before appearing to get a bit rattled – or so it seems. The judges in the tent watch impassively.
Loch Lomond in June
Summer begins – June
Yesterday, June 3rd, the cold, wet, windy weather of the past many weeks gave way to a glorious, warm, clear, still day. Today, we’re back to ‘normal’ with dark skies and the temperature 10 degrees C cooler than yesterday. Fearing the summer wouldn’t last, I took myself off for another trip to Luss. This time, I took a boat, the Lomond Princess, to Balmaha, stopping at the nearby island of Inchcaillioch. During our cruise through the most beautiful part of the loch, The Narrows, I was so carried away by the awesomeness, that I forgot to periodicaly stop and restart my camera video. Consequently, I ended up with too big a file that is of no use. If we ever get another day like yesterday, I’ll go back and do it right. The shorter videos I did get are pretty lovely nevertheless. The sound you hear is the boat’s engines.
The Island of Inchcaillioch (Gaelic for ‘island of the old woman’)
The old woman in question lived on the island in 717A.D. She was an Irish Christian missionary, later known as St. Kentigma. Much later, around the 13th century, a church was built on the island in her memory. Worshipers from the mainland rowed accross the half mile stretch of water from Balmaha each Sunday for the next 500 years.
NOTE: The information I previously gave about this island once being used as a prison and again as a place of banishment for nagging wives, in fact is true, not of Inchcaillioch, but of Fraoch Island, near Luss.
The photos above show Loch Lomond at its very best, when it not only looks good but
is easily accessible.
Having completed the round trip from Luss to Balmaha and back, I ate a
picnic lunch on the beach then walked its length until stopped by a boundery
fence. There, in a secluded corner, I found a family of swans – parents and
five tiny cignets. Last week when I was on the beach, it was noisy with the
sound of seagulls, but this time, perhaps because of a greater number of
people, there were none around. The swan family and I were in a space of total stillness. With the sun blanking out my camera screen, my aim was off now and then. The following still makes for a charming record of the moment.
Lomond Princess: For anyone wondering what kind of craft I was sailing in, here it
is. I got this picture from the website of the company that runs this and
several other tour boats on Loch Lomond and beyond. This one was built in 1973
by H. McLean, Renfrew, with engines by Perkins Marine Diesels, Peterborough.
For those who are speak boat language, the specs say – Propulsion: Diesel M6cy
95bhp 9.5kn. Tonnage: 39grt 37nrt. Length: 54ft. Breadth: 16.1ft.
Loch Lomond at Luss
This morning, I took the twenty-five minute bus ride up the loch to the village of Luss. Foul weather this month has stopped me taken many pictures, so clouds aside, I took advantage of a couple of rain-free hours to finish my pictorial record of the month of May. Storm clouds dominated, but the wind also gave it a rest.
Their has been a village on that site for at least a thousand years. It used to be called ‘Clachan Dhor’, Gaelic for ‘Dark Village’. Some say the present name came from the Gaelic word for a flower, but it more likely came from the French ‘Fleur de Luce’. The story goes that a Frenchwoman , following her wishes, had her body brought to Clachan Dhor for buriel. Fleur de Luce was her flower of choice for the interment. The flowers reproduced and later bloomed atop her grave. It was believed they had healing properties that cured sickness in the village.
At the edge of the village, the shallow River Luss flows out of the loch. In the video below is the sound of a bird’s song. I wish I knew what kind of bird it is. If anyone viewing the video can tell me, I’d be obliged if that person could leave me the answer in the comment section at the end of the post.
The Edge of the Loch
Having explored the end of the River Leven, I returned to its source, Loch Lomond. I wanted to capture images of Spring’s new growth. The best place to do this was on the banks and in the woods bordering the loch. I’m posting some of my favourites.
One day, when it’s not windy, I’ll go back and make a video of this babbling brook. I just love the sound of it. This little stream winds its way through the woods, ending in a cascade that empties into the loch. Scroll down, and you’ll find the video I made of the waterfall in March. Shortly, I’ll make a separate page for Spring On Loch Lomond as I have done for Winter.
When I look at this image, it evokes conflicting emotions. Sometimes, there’s the joy that always comes when seeing the sprouting of Spring’s new growth, particularly after this past, long, arctic winter; admiration and wonder at the tenacity of the daffodils and an altogether ”peaceful, easy feeling”. At other times, there’s a feeling of melancholy. Having examined this, I think the aloneness and otherness of the flowers perhaps strikes a chord. I do believe there is a story lurking somewhere.
Woodland covers much of the banks of Loch Lomond, well named ”The Bonnie Banks” and immortalised in a universally recognised song. The incessant winds of March and April have kept the water choppy.
A few feet away, a path follows the progress of the stream through the woods. With no one else in sight, I was undisturbed and free from distractions. I was conscious of a vague feeling of deja vu. It wasn’t until I was home and checking out the many photos I’d uploaded into my computer, that I realised from where the feeling came. It was another stream, another path, another Spring, another time, many years ago. I’ve started a new page to record that story. It may be called ”Fairy Gates”. I’ll post it as soon as it’s finished.
Spring – more musings
It’s March now and, once again, snowy. Yesterday, however was different – hail showers and gale force winds. I took myself off to the loch to try to get some pictures of a different mood than the ones already posted. While the images in the videos were fine, the wind was so strong it sounds like REALLY loud static as it rushed past the little microphone on my camera. During a short lull I did manage to get one or two with only the sound of waves and water. Here they are. At the start of the first one, you may hear some wind for just a short time before the lovely sound of breaking waves takes over.
March really did live up to its reputation when I took this series of images. The hail clouds were being driven at such a pace across the sky that the colour of the water was changing rapidly, often by the moment. My little camera was having difficulty keeping up with the rate of colour change. You can see a marked example of this in the ‘Waterfall’ video following.
Swans on Loch Lomond
Photos and videos taken in Balloch, November/December, 2010
At twenty-six miles long, or thereabouts, Loch Lomond is the largest loch in Scotland. In the weeks and months ahead I will share more photos and videos of the Scottish landscape in the area in which I live. Balloch is situated at the south end of the loch where it narrows and becomes the River Leven. I will bring you pictures and videos of its journey through Alexandria and Renton to Dumbarton. However, this is not a travelogue. I will only include sufficient historical and statistical information to give a sense of time and place. There will be variety of offerings. I have stories to tell plus limericks and scribblings that will bring laughter to those with a well-developed sense of the ridiculous.
The sunlit mountain in the background of the video above is Ben Lomond
Ice-covered Loch Lomond
Only the shallowest water froze. This body of water has an average depth of 37 metres (121 ft) and, at it deepest, is 190 meters (620 ft). It has the largest surface area of any loch/lake in the United Kingdom – 27 square miles. Loch Ness boasts the highest volume of water putting Loch Lomond in second place.
Above is one of a series of photos and videos I took in November and December. We had weeks of arctic weather when parts of the loch were frozen, as in this scene. Loch Lomond has many moods with faces to match. In between creatively writing, I’ll post the best images. Being a beginner at blogging, I’m afraid the content may not be too interesting as I concentrate on the mechanics of how to make it all work. Bear with me if you can. Things will become a lot more riveting when I get the hang of it.
Trees in Christie Park, Alexandria, Scotland
This is another of the pictures I took in December. Alexandria is about two miles from Loch Lomond and Balloch. I live midway between the two.
It strikes me as I post these recent photos that they are already history. What, a short while ago was SO in the moment, the arctic weather, the new camera, Christmas approaching, is all past, a memory. Since photos capture a moment, they’re history a minute later, just some more ancient than others. Of such stuff are stories born.
The Snow House continues below. The passage in blue type was previously posted.
THE SNOW HOUSE author, lochsplus (contd. from earlier posting. Episode 2)
This year has seen a particularly cold winter in Scotland. Weeks of snow and arctic temperatures reminded me of other long, harsh winters from my childhood. One such was 1946. I was seven years old and that was the year I found out firsthand about crime and punishment.
I presently live a few yards from the River Leven, about a mile from Loch Lomond. Back then, my home was an orphanage about fifty miles from here. It was cold, with snow on the ground, when I arrived there in January of 1943. Early on, I realised that the whole of my existence would henceforth be a battle against the innate sinfulness that we unfortunate children brought with us when we exited the womb. SIN would be ever- present in our lives. Staying clear of eternal damnation was an uphill struggle. The list of wickedness possible was endless. Thinking of anything other than repentance and retribution was, well, sinful. Warning cries of ‘I am a God of wrath; I will repay!’ and, ‘Thou God see-est me!’, and ‘Lying lips are an ABOMINATION unto the Lord!’, were heard loud and often. And it was cold.
The list of punishable offences was long and varied. Most of these were to be expected – all the ‘Thou shalt nots’ in the Commandments along with no lying; putting ones foot over the edge of the linoleum when waiting in line; speaking when silence was ordered; rolling down ones ‘Hairy Marys’ (black, scratchy, woolen stockings) and umpteen more. One sin I always thought was highly unreasonable. We were reminded of it by the Head of the House, a.k.a., ‘Mother’, once a week on the evening before rubbish bin (garbage can) emptying day. This was in the days of metal bins. The Bin Man was never given the courtesy of ‘Mr.’ before his name. He was just ‘Farley’. The reason for this was that Farley was a sinner of the first order. He was going to suffer eternal damnation and burn forever in the fires of Hell. There would be no redemption for this fellow and, if we were each not VERY careful on bin day, we would be right down there in the flames with him. Unless, since ”The wages of sin is death” according to the Good Book, we got our comeuppance sooner than expected. According to ‘The Word of God’, otherwise known as ‘The Bible’, ”He that winketh with the eye, thinketh evil in the heart.” Farley was a winker, a smiler and a winker. Whenever he met one of us children on his travels around bin-emptying land, forbidden to speak to we innocents, he would smile and WINK. The problem was, and this is where the unfairness came in, it wasn’t just the WINKER who was on track for eternal damnation. Any unsuspecting WINKEES were Hell bound also. For this reason, a sharp lookout was kept for Farley. The sight of him at the end of the road would send us all fearfully hiding as far from the bins as possible lest we became the subjects of the bin man’s drooping eyelid. For three years I had successfully escaped Farley’s evil winky eye being cast upon me. Then, on this snowy day in 1946, it happened. I BECAME A WINKEE.
Looking back, I realise that we never ever built snowmen. We didn’t talk about snowmen and I, for one, didn’t even think about snowmen. Snowmen were a non-subject. It’s not surprising really, given that, made of snow or not, they were MEN. Perhaps an older girl had made, or Mother was afraid an older girl might make, an anatomically correct snowman by fashioning and adhering an appendage. This would surely turn every last one of us twenty some girls into raging, sex mad, man-hungry monsters, fair riddled with sin. So no snowmen. This winter of 1946 gave us so much snow we were able to build something much more fitting. We built a snow house, an igloo. Since The Gravel, our play area, was being whipped by a bitter North East wind, we chose our site on the sheltered side of the house. Unfortunately for me, as it turned out, this spot was overlooked by the side bay of Mother’s sitting room window.
Half a dozen or so of us younger girls worked diligently on the igloo. It was almost completed, to the delight of we budding architects. I can’t remember what exactly I was doing as I gave it some finishing touches. Suffice to say, I was totally focused on my creative endeavour. So much so, that I did not notice all the other girls had gone. Suddenly, I was awakened from my dream state by the sound of bins rattling. (to be continued)
For the complete story, you will find it in the drop down menu above the blog title. Click on the menu icon, (3 horizonal bars).
Now for something quite different – A Lomond Limerick (so called only because I was near Loch Lomond when writing it.
The wild ducks (mallards) shown came to visit the garden I was working in last year. I was planting the first of the summer flowers when the two males and a female appeared very close to me. One male took off and left the pair. I had help to name them ‘Marmaduck’ and ‘Mamalaid’ I had not yet a digital camera and took these with a little disposable one, hence the less than stellar quality.
A Nod To The Bard
To meet his good friend, a house factor
But instead of his buddy
With smiling face ruddy
He found a Shakespearean actor.
”Oh la! Who art thou?” quoth the peasant.
”I’m a farmer” said Jack, most unpleasant,
”And you? Are those tights?
But a place where we hunt duck and pheasant”.
The actor said, ”Just call me Lee.
Before thee I bendeth my knee.
Please spare me thy wrath
For I’m someone who hath
Thy friend, when he saw me took fright
And took off running into the night.
He too had supped ale
And was squiffy and pale
‘Twas a pitiful, pitiful sight.
I fear he was bingeing like me
The knave was too weak
To remain here and speak
So he bid me, instead, meet with thee.”
”Oh, get up, fool”, the farmer did say
Forsooth, fol-de-rol, lack-a-day
Prithee please do not howl
Thee and me we will have a nice day.”
Armed with guns and some bullets of brass
They wandered off into the grass
Then took aim and fired
But the actor was tired
Oh, I’d love to, but let’s just say, ”pass”.
Though well soused and all over the place
Lee, a ruddy great cow
Farmer Jack an old sow
Of the pheasant and ducks not a trace.
They roasted the game on a fire
Then sang Hey-Nonny-No to a lyre
By the dancing fire-lights
Farmer Jack donned some tights
”Fare thee well” and some tears he did squeeze.
”May you prosper and never get fleas”
He talked just like a toff
‘Til his wig did fall off
And his tights dribbled down round his knees.
The actor then squealed, ”Oh, no way
Wilt thou ever make this caper pay.
Thou might suffer and sob
But do keep the day job
And leave ME to do Shakespeare, I pray”.
With a sigh and a wave of his hand
Farmer Jack took off back to the land
But he still wore the tights
When real cold were the nights
And a skinful had left him quite canned.
One such evening when trying to dredge
Up some Shakespeare he fell of a ledge.
He was rescued of course
By a knackered old horse
And thereafter our Jack took The Pledge.
The moral is painfully clear.
Stay away from all spirits and beer.
Don’t go hunting in tights
And forego the delights
Hitherto, heretofore of Shakespeare.
For more limericks and complete story, The Snow House, click on the menu icon above the blog title, (3 horizontal bars).