The Atwater Library has many connections to Scotland and Scottish endeavours as well as a special Scottish Collection of library materials .
I recently visited the Atwater Library and was delighted to meet with Mrs Lynn Verge, Executive Director, whom through our blog, contacted us to offer the opportunity to present Scotiana.com to the library’s community during the Lunchtime Series.
The Atwater Library Lunchtime Series features once-a-week presentations by leading writers, musicians, intellectuals, scientists, and many more people sharing their knowledge and experience with the Atwater Library community.
We would like to thank Mrs Verge for her initiative in giving us an extra avenue to share our passion of Scotland!
We are therefore very happy and grateful to contribute to this event by giving a presentation on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
It is likely that a piper from the 78th Fraser Highlanders Regiment will open the Lunchtime session.
You are kindly invited to this happening where you will discover how the five members of Scotiana’s team came to meet and contributed together to make of Scotiana’s blog, born in 2009, a cozy virtual space where to share Scottish travels with lots of pictures, related stories and readings and most importantly, our profound love for the Scotttish land and its inhabitants.
Our dynamic French, Scottish and Canadian team members are: Mairiuna and Jean-Claude from Bordeaux in France; Iain and Margaret from Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland and Janice from Montreal, Province of Quebec in Canada.
Since my dear overseas friends cannot fly in from France and Scotland for the event in Montreal, I (Janice) will be talking on behalf of the entire team.
Our tour of Scotland goes on in Argyll & The Isles. Today it will lead us to the Isle of Mull, the second largest of the Inner Hebrides and one of the most beautiful Scottish islands .
Three ferries give access to Mull :
Oban to Craignure (40 minutes crossing)
Lochaber in the Morvern peninsula to Fishnish
Kilchoan in the Ardnamurchan peninsula to Tobermory
Next spring we’ll go back to the Isle of Mull for the fourth time, more enthusiastic than ever, always dreaming to climb one of its majestic summits to get a panoramic view of the whole area. I’m terribly afraid of heights but Scottish mountains always wink at me when I look at them from the road. Maybe one day I’ll brave one. Ben More (966 m) is the highest mountain in Mull and, for those who no longer consider Skye as an island because of its bridge, it is the only Munro of the islands.
Mull is a fabulous place to discover, in spring when brooms rival with rhododendrons to make a garden of Eden of the whole place or in autumn when purple heather covers hills and moorland while a profusion of red fuschia gives a last touch of bright colour to the gardens. This isle is a paradise for botanists, ornithologists, geologists, archeologists, historians, as well as for painters and photographers!
There is only one large road going from Tobermory in the north of the island to Fionnphort in the south-west but what an adventure to follow one of the many single track roads which wind their way along breathtaking landscapes and seascapes. You quickly get used to the courteous system of the passing places, letting the opposite driver pass with a friendly wave.
Have your camera ready to take a picture in case some creature suddenly emerges in front of your car at one bend of the road, as it is often the case! It can be a flock of sheep blocking the road, a couple of cows stubbornly occupying the place, and animal you’ve never seen so far: an otter as many road signs indicate, or some rare bird.
Among the birds we’ve seen during our several trips there were grey herons, a number of oyster catchers (we love them), a northern lapwing and many kinds of colourful ducks we’ll try to identify on our next trip there. We didn’t see any golden eagle nor white-tailed sea eagle. One day, in a dense wood, we also caught a glimpse of a majestic stag with big antlers!
“The habitats of the Isle of Mull are varied from mountains and moorlands to sea lochs and hill lochans, damp boggy marshes to sandy beaches. It supports a good range of resident and migrant birds, many passage birds call in to re-fuel en-route. (…)
The Isle of Mull has a coastline of some 300 miles long and the tidal lochs are very attractive to many waders and birds of passage which stop to feed whilst en-route to their summer and winter feeding grounds.”
(Mull– Alastair de Wattewille – Romsey Fine Art 1994)
To begin with, the best thing to do, is to take a map of Scotland. The Isle of Mull is situated off the coast of Argyll and opposite the Morvern peninsula. Provided the weather is good, the route taken by the ferry from Oban to Mull offers to the visitors breathtaking views along the Sound of Mull, leaving to the right Lismore island and the mythical Eilean Musdile lighthouse, and further north the Morvern and Ardnamurchan peninsula.
A moving song has been written which depicts the sadness of Scottish people having to leave their native land because of the disastrous consequences of the potatoe famne, and because of the destructive policy of clearances. There are several versions of this song, the most ancient being in Gaelic. I’ve chosen the version sang by Kenneth McKellar one of the most gifted Scottish artists.
Tears fill my eyes as swift the boat flies
And speeds me away so far from your shore
As quiet you sleep in dreams that are sweet
My dear island home Lismore.
Dawning would bring the lilt and the ring
Of laughter at milking; music galore
And high on the wing the mavis would sing
Oh joy be with you, Lismore
Gone are the days along the green braes
Gone the warm hearts behind every door
Now sadly I gaze, but ever I'll praise
The isle of my heart Lismore.
As sung by Kenneth McKellar
The landscape of Mull owes much to the volcanic origin of the island though the best example of that origin is to be found at Staffa. From Fionnporth at the end of the Ross of Mull peninsula you can go to the lovely island of Iona and then to Staffa, if the weather is fine. Iona and Staffa will be the subject of my next post.
Our starting point will be Craignure. So far, we always stayed at Balmeanach campsite to spend the night. Each time we received the most cheerful welcome from the owners of the place which is very well kept. When you pitch your tent there you feel like doing so in a thick green carpet. No problem if you want to be awakened early in the morning for the birds which nest in the nearby bay will take you in charge . An alternative to the tent, if the weather is bad and provided there is vacancy, is to settle in one of the well-equipped bunkhouses. One of our favorite place in this area is Torosay Castle with its magnificent gardens.
Torosay Castle was designed by architect David Brycefor John Campbell of Possil in the Scottish Baronial style, and completed in 1858.
Torosay is surrounded by 12 acres (4.9 ha) of spectacular gardens including formal terraces laid out at the turn of the 20th century and attributed to Sir Robert Lorimer. The castle and gardens used to be open to the public, being linked to the Craignure ferry terminal by the Isle of Mull Railway.
The garden’s Statue Walk is made up of 19 statues in the style of Italian sculptor Antonio Bonazza. The statues were acquired by then-owner Walter Murray Guthrie from a derelict garden near Milan and shipped to Scotland for next to nothing as ballast in a cargo ship.
John Campbell of Possil sold the castle and the estate to Arburthnot Charles Guthrie, a wealthy London businessman, in 1865. It served as his “getaway” and must have been ideal for that purpose, as the castle has over 60 rooms and is surrounded by an estate of over 12 acres (0.049 km2). The current owner is now the sixth generation of the Guthrie family to live in the castle. Following the sale of Guthrie Castle out of the Guthrie family, Torosay is now generally acknowledged as the seat for Clan Guthrie. Torosay was sold in 2012 to the McLean Fund and closed for renovations. Opening December of 2013 with a private family. Christopher Guthrie-James, former Laird of the Estate said “it was with a sense of relief, rather than regret, that we sold the family home at Torosay.” Kenneth Donald McLean sixth Laird has spent more than £1 million renovating the castle and gardens. The castle and its gardens were closed to the public in the summer.
The Campbell of Possil coat of arms on the south elevation of Torosay Castle incorporates three bugles (horns). These were taken from the armorial bearings of John Campbell’s third wife, Elizabeth Williamson, daughter of Donald Horne, but were never matriculated by the Lord Lyon of Scotland.The novelist Angela du Maurier, older sister of Dame Daphne du Maurier, is said to have spent some time residing at Torosay with her close companion Olive Guthrie (Great Grandmother of the present owner). Angela dedicated her book Weep No More(1940) to “Olive Guthrie of Torosay.” Other visitors during the 1930s included Winston Churchill(Olive Guthrie was his aunt by marriage) and King George of Greece.
In July 2008 the then oldest bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne was discovered inside a sideboard in Torosay Castle. The 1893 bottle was in mint condition. It is believed to have been locked inside the dark sideboard since at least 1897. The champagne is now on display at the Veuve Clicquot visitor centre in Reims, France, and regarded as “priceless”.
Now, a more austere castle, an old fortress dominating the Sound of Mull and with breathtaking views over the whole area…This castle has served as a background for the film ‘Entrapment‘ ( Haute-Voltige) featuring the well-loved scottish star Shawn Connery.
Duart Castle or Caisteal Dhubhairt in Scottish Gaelic is a castle on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland, within the council area of Argyll and Bute. The castle dates back to the 13th century and is the seat of Clan MacLean.
In 1350 Lachlan Lubanach Maclean of Duart, the 5th Clan Chief, married Mary, daughter of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles and Duart was part of her dowry. In 1647, Duart Castle was attacked and laid siege to by the Argyll government troops of Clan Campbell, but they were defeated and driven off by the Royalist troops of Clan MacLean.
In September 1653, a Cromwellian task force of six ships anchored off the castle, but the Macleans had already fled to Tiree. A storm blew up on the 13 September and three ships were lost, including HMS Swan. In 1678, Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, son of the Marquess of Argyll, successfully invaded the Clan MacLean lands on the Isle of Mull and Sir John Maclean, 4th Baronet fled the castle and withdrew to Cairnbulg Castle, and afterward to Kintail under the protection of the Earl of Seaforth. In 1691 Duart Castle was surrendered by Sir John Maclean, 4th Baronet to Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll.The Campbell clan demolished the castle, and the stones from the walls were scattered. Donald Maclean, 5th Laird of Torloisk used some of the stones to build a cottage for his family close to the site of the castle.
By 1751 the remains of the castle were abandoned.Descendants of Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll sold the castle in 1801, to MacQuarrie, who then sold it to Carter-Campbell of Possil who kept it as a ruin within the grounds of his own estate to the north, Torosay Castle. He later sold his Torosay Estate which now included the ruins of Castle Duart to A. C. Guthrie in 1865. On 11 September 1911, the ruin was separated from the rest of the Torosay Estate and was bought by Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean, the 26th Chief of the Clan MacLean and restored.
On the A849, the road leading from Craignure to Fionnphort in the South of Mull follows the large peninsula which is known as the Ross of Mull. At Fionnphort you can take the little ferry which crosses the Sound of Iona several times a day. No car is allowed on Iona except those of the residents and… it’s a good thing!
Not far from Craignure, on the left, a narrow single-track road winds its way to Grasspoint, a quiet and beautiful place near Loch Don.
While following this road amidst blooming rhododendrons and broom we fell on that lovely old humpback stone bridge. It crosses the narrow tidal inlet of Leth Fionn, a good place to observe birds.
On the A 849, not far from Craignure, there is a junction at a place called Strathcoil . On your left a road leads along Loch Spelve to Kinlochspelve. We stopped there to take a picture of a lovely scene we fell on: with a view to the nearby loch (grey then), a solitary church stood amidst a profusion of broom and rhododendrons.
There is a new junction there. If you choose to go left a minor road leads to Croggan, a quiet and tiny hamlet facing the Firth of Lorne. More birds than humans seem to inhabit this lovely remote place. If you choose to go right the road will lead you to Lochbuie where there is much to see. Don’t ask me why we missed the famous Moy Castle, the stone circle dating back to the Neolithic, the little red post office.We must have been in a hurry to take the ferry at Fionnphort Anyway, we hope to be able to take some in next spring… with blue sky and no scaffolds of the ruined castle.
We didn’t miss however this strange cairn with its ball at the top. It was erected there to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902. You can see Ben Buie in the background. With its 717 m, this mountain is classified as a Graham and a Marilyn*.
*The Grahams are mountains between 2000 and 2499 feet high (609.6 and 762 metres), with a drop of at least 150 metres (492 feet) all round.
The Marilyns are mountains and hills that have a prominence of at least 150 metres (492 ft), regardless of absolute height or other merit.
We stop at one point to take a few pictures of ‘the three lochs’, or at least of what we can see of them from the road in a weather not so good and not so bad, but not the best anyway to take photos. Their quiet waters lie amidst vast stretches of lonely moorland in the shadow of Ben Buie. Don’t ask me to pronounce the names of these three lochs: Loch an Ellen, Loch Sguabain, Loch Airdeglaiss. I always feel baffled by the gaelic language though I find it frustrating not being able to understand its mysteries and appreciate its beauty…
When you discover this bay with the cliffs in the background you can understand why the place has been chosen to shoot a film. It features, as many other places of Mull, in the film I knowWhere I’m Going…
Michael Powell & Pressburger’s 1945 film ‘I know where I’m going’
I Know Where I’m Going! is a 1945 romance film by the British-based filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It stars Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey, and features Pamela Brown, Finlay Currie and Petula Clark in her fourth film appearance.
Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) is a young middle class Englishwoman with an ambitious, independent spirit. She knows where she’s going, or at least she thinks she does. She travels from her home in Manchester to the Hebrides to marry Sir Robert Bellinger, a very wealthy, much older industrialist, on the (fictitious) Isle of Kiloran.
When bad weather postpones the final leg of her journey—a boat trip to Kiloran—she is forced to wait it out on the Isle of Mull, among a community of people whose values are quite different from hers. There she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a naval officer trying to go home to Kiloran for some shore leave. They are sheltered for the night in the nearby home of Torquil’s friend, Catriona Potts (Pamela Brown).
The next day, on their way to catch a bus into town, they come upon the ruins of Moy Castle. Joan wants to take a look inside, but Torquil refuses to go in. When she reminds him that the terrible curse only applies to the Laird of Kiloran, Torquil introduces himself: he is the laird, and Bellinger has only leased his island. As the bad weather worsens into a full-scale gale, Torquil takes advantage of the delay to woo Joan, who becomes increasingly torn between her ambition and her growing attraction to him.
Desperate to salvage her carefully laid plans, Joan tries to persuade Ruairidh Mhór (Finlay Currie) to take her across to the island immediately, but the experienced sailor knows conditions are far too dangerous. Joan manages to bribe young Kenny (Murdo Morrison) into attempting it by offering him enough money to buy a half share in Ruairidh’s boat and marry Ruairidh’s daughter Bridie (Margot Fitzsimons). Torquil learns of the scheme and tries to talk Joan out of it, but she proves adamant and they have a blazing row. After Joan has gone down to the boat, Catriona tells MacNeil that Joan is actually running away from him. Armed with this knowledge, he races to the quayside and invites himself aboard. The boat’s engine gets flooded and they are caught in the Corryvreckan whirlpool, but Torquil is able to restart the motor just in time and they return safely to Mull.
At last, the weather clears. Joan asks Torquil for a parting kiss before they go their separate ways. Torquil enters Moy Castle, and the curse takes effect almost immediately. A narrator relates that, centuries earlier, Torquil’s ancestor had stormed the castle to capture his unfaithful wife and her lover. He had them bound together and cast into a water-filled dungeon with only a small stone to stand upon. When their strength gave out, they dragged each other into the water, but not before she placed a curse on the Lairds of Kiloran. Any who dared to step over the threshold would be chained to a woman to the end of his days. From the battlements, Torquil sees Joan with three pipers marching resolutely toward him. They embrace.
The A 849 ends at Fionnphort, a fishing village and harbour where you can take a ferry to Iona. From here you can have a view of the island of Iona with its Abbey and if you have enough time to take a walk before embarking you can take the little road which turns off the main road on your left just after the village. It leads to the island of Erraid, mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in Kidnapped. This little island is accessible at low tide.
One of our memorable travelling experiences in Mull is, on our way back from Iona & Staffa, to follow the scenic road which winds its way from south to north on the western coast, around Loch Na Keal, then along Loch Tuath up to the famous Calgary Bay with its lovely sandy beach. From this picturesque and sometimes dangerous single-track road you can get good views of the little islands dotted around: Inch Kenneth, Eorsa, Ulva, Gometra and, in the distance, the Treshnish Isles and Staffa… the landscape is truly breathtaking, especially if the weather is nice but I’m not sure we would follow this road if it was black and the wind blowing… indeed, maybe it’s closed in time of gale !
It’s a pity this lovely church be hidden amidst vegetation. We’ll try to visit it on our next trip there and to know more about it. It was built in 1755 to replace the Old Parish Church of Kilcolmkill.
Now alas it’s time to leave the beautiful island of Mull and to sail off the place in music…
‘Le voyage continue’… next time it will lead us to Iona and Staffa… un “voyage à reculons” to use the expression given by Jules Verne as the title of one of his books. Le voyage à reculons (Backwards to Britain) is a semi-autobiographical novel written in 1859-1860 and published posthumously by Le Cherche Midi in 1989. It describes a travel from France to England and Scotland. Jules Verne was a great admirer of Scotland. At least two of his books take place there: Le rayon vert (The Green Ray) et Les Indes noires. Indeed, a major part of Le Rayon Verttakes place in Iona as we shall see in my next article
Bonne lecture ! A bientôt…
On my desk today:
Mull Alastair de Watteville Romsay Fine Art 1994
Alastair de Watteville first went to Mull in 1959, on holiday, and was immediately captivated by the island’s charm and splendour. In 1972, following fifteen years in the Army and fifteen years in the computer industry, he bought a house on the north shore of Loch na Keal, with spacious views over the water to Ben More and its surrounding shapely summits.
From that base, with friends and helpers he ran a summer excursion service for holiday-makers, taking them in his passenger launch to see the nearby islands and to revel in the sense of space, the prolific wild-life, and the grand vistas of Mull from the sea.
He would like this book to convey the delights of Mull to every reader who has not yet visited the island; and to furnish a stirring reminder to those who have.
(Mull – Alastair de Wattewille - Romsey Fine Art 1994)
Robert Louis Stevenson Kidnapped and Catriona Polygon 2007
‘The Ross of Mull, which I had now got upon, was rugged and trackless, like the isle I had just left; being all bog, and brier, and big stone. There may be roads for them that know that country well; but for my part I had no better guide than my own nose, and no other landmark than Ben More.
I aimed as well as I could for the smoke I had seen so often from the island; and with all my great weariness and the difficulty of the way came upon the house in the bottom of a little hollow about five or six at night. It was low and longish, roofed with turf and built of unmortared stones; and on a mound in front of it, an old gentleman sat smoking his pipe in the sun.’
(Robert Louis Stevenson – KidnappedChapter 15 ‘The lad with the silver button: Through the isle of Mull’ )
Robert Louis Stevenson Kidnapped Louis Rhead illustration Harper & Brothers Publishers
Kidnapped is a historical fiction adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, written as a “boys’ novel” and first published in the magazine Young Folks from May to July 1886. The novel has attracted the praise and admiration of writers as diverse as Henry James, Jorge Luis Borges, and Seamus Heaney.A sequel, Catriona, was published in 1893.
The novel is set around 18th-century Scottish events, notably the “Appin Murder”, which occurred near Ballachulish in 1752 in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rising.Many of the characters were real people, including one of the principals, Alan Breck Stewart. The political situation of the time is portrayed from different viewpoints, and the Scottish Highlanders are treated sympathetically.
Jules Verne Voyage à reculons 1859-1860 Cherche-Midi 1989
Jules Verne Le rayon vert 1882 Syros Jeunesse 2004
This post introduces a new series of articles which will lead us to some of the best places of Scotland. We’ve visited a number of them during our seven trips there and we’ll share with you a selection of our photos focusing on what we love best. Our last [...]