Archive for October 2010
In 2000, Margaret Knox gave an interview to Easdale People, which was published in that year’s Autumn edition (Issue no. 7). Sadly, Margaret passed away in June 2008. Her memories of the island were so vivid and revealing, that we have pleasure in reproducing the article here.
It was actually my grandma who was born and bred up in Easdale, and she married my grandfather who was a baker in Eaglesham. She met him in the Royal Infirmary. He drove the horse and cart for the bakery and he had had an accident and was taken into the Royal and grandma was a nurse there and they got together, and then grandfather came up here and started the baker’s on the other side. They lived on the mainland. My father was born on the mainland, and he was just months old when they came over to Easdale because his mother had the house on the island. Grandma went blind when my father was a boy. I don’t know what happened. Grandfather gave up the baking and went into the quarries.
Grandma was a McGregor and she married grandfather Miller. They’d both been married before and had their own families, and then they had a family between them. She used to say to him, “George, your weans are fighting with my weans, and our weans have nothing to do with it!”.
Grandmother’s house was on the square. John Hendry has it now, I think. It’s the only house on the row that has a back window that faces out over the rhu. Great-grandfather was in the quarries. My father went in the quarries up until the disaster, and then he went to Glasgow, when he was about 18, and worked on the trams. He worked on the trams for 39 years.
This house I’m living in now was my father’s cousin’s house. When he died it was left to a nephew of his, John Doyle, and he didn’t want it. My father was at the funeral and was asked did he want the house because John didn’t like Easdale, and his wife didn’t like Easdale, so they just went right up to the lawyer’s and it was put in my father’s name. This was during the Second World War. My aunt came up from Glasgow during the war. She asked if she could come up during the blitz and stay in the family home, and she just never went back.
We always came up to Easdale for our holidays. I remember playing in the square and the hens stealing my piece. That’s just about my first memory. Whenever they saw me sitting out with my piece they’d just take it!
There were thirty or forty people on the island when I was little. There was nothing modernised. We had no electricity, just the paraffin lamps and Tilley lamps. There was no water. You went to the well for your water, and you’d be away for about half an hour because that was where everybody used to meet and they had a blether. We were lucky being so near the well. We called it a well, it was a tap, what you call a standpipe now. There still is one there now, just outside the house, and there was another one in the square, and one in the back street, where Davy Duncan’s house is [behind the Coalree]. We went with pails and sometimes you had to filter the water through a net curtain because the tadpoles came through. The pail that was filtered was kept for the baby’s bottle. You had Elsan toilets, and we had a shed up the back with it. Then it was all dumped in the quarry. “The Hen’s March to the Midden”! Everybody did it! It was always the males in the house that did that. My mother used to say, “We live like tinkers, only we have a roof over our heads”.
The first time my mother ever came here she sailed to the pier on the steamer from Glasgow. Then later when she had the boys she came on the horse-drawn coach from Oban. At Kilninver everybody had to get out because it couldn’t get up the hill, but because she had the twin boys she got to stay on the coach.
In summer there was quite a mob of us kids. The old families are the McDougalls, the Coateses, the MacKays, the McCallums, the Andersons – I used to play with George Anderson, who was seven years younger than me – the Stephensons, and the McGregors, Jean Adams’ family. They all came up in the school holidays. Everybody would come and shut up their house for the September weekend, and wouldn’t open them up again until Easter.
Then after a few years, once I got in my teens, my mother and father would be up here and I didn’t come so much, just odd weekends. I was married when I was 24, and I started coming back after the children were born, all the six weeks of the school holidays, and Bill used to come up for his fortnight’s holiday.
My father’s cousin lived here permanently, and Kenzie the ferryman, of course. And Maggie McDonald; Maggie Campbell who lived where the Hills live; Jean Campbell – she was conductress on Billy Smith’s bus. And there was Johnny Fletcher, and the Clarks.
There was a baker’s across the other side, and then years later there was the Co-operative, where Taylor’s [Highland Arts] is now. It sold nearly everything, and it was quite a big shop. You went in where you enter for Taylor’s now, and it stretched back. Then there was Duncie Brown’s the baker’s, where Des’s [The Oyster Bar] is today. They did their own baking and you used to go along and queue up for bread. Then you went up to Oban on the bus. There were no cars then!
When I was a wee girl there were cows on the island. Where Rhona MacKay’s house is [Ivy Cottage], there was a byre up there and they had hens and a cow. And where Bertie’s shop is [the “Bothy” opposite the Puffer], there was a hen house there that belonged to the people who lived in Mellon’s house. I think those were the hens that stole my pieces!
You used to take your cans across to the other side for milk. The ferryman took your can over and brought you your milk back. It came from Kilbride Farm. If we ran out of milk in the afternoon we used to go up to the farm and get more. You used to go up the hill and there was a path then that went across and cut that big corner off and came out by the tin church, and we used to go that way when we went to church on Sunday, too. Everybody went to church in those days, and there was just one ferry for everybody going to church, and one when you came back.
The ferry just used to go whenever anyone wanted. There was only one ferryman, so he didn’t get time off. And he didn’t have a ferryshed, he just had a kind of canvas hut. People used to take him cups of tea down. I remember the old ferrymen, John McKenzie; everybody just called him John Kenzie. He used to lift me on and off the ferry. It was just the big oars then, and it wasn’t the ferryman who rowed out. Anybody who went on the ferry took the oars.
You used to send your hamper up on the train from Glasgow. Then Billy Smith, who owned the buses, would pick it up from Oban, put it on the ferry and it would be in your house when you arrived.
Dougie was the first council ferryman, and that boat had an outboard. I remember my father saying to him, “Dougie, you’d be better a donkey with tinkers than a ferryman on Easdale”. If there were strangers on the island, they weren’t allowed to stay on after nine o’clock. Dougie used to go looking for them.
Don’t throw away all that juicy pumpkin flesh you’ve hollowed out to make your spooky lantern. Boil or steam it, drain well, mash, and use to make a warming soup or a wicked-tasting pie.
1 1/4 pints (700ml) milk
2 lb (900g) cooked pumpkin
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp light brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
3 0z (75g) cooked ham, cut into strips (optional)
Heat the milk until nearly boiling. Add the pumpkin, butter, sugar, salt and pepper and stir well. (You may like to put the soup through a blender at this stage.) Stir in the ham, if using. Heat (without boiling) and serve.
8 oz (225g) shortcrust pastry
2 eggs (size 3)
8 fl. oz (225ml) milk
14 oz (400g) cooked pumpkin
5 oz (125g) caster or light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6
Line a 9″ (23cm) diam. pie plate with the pastry and brush the bottom with a little melted butter.
Whisk the eggs lightly.
Combine the milk with the pumpkin and beat well.
Beat in all the other ingredients and pour into the pastry case.
Bake for about 45 mins., until set and a knife-blade inserted in the centre comes out clean.
October began sadly, with the death of Easdale’s oldest resident Peter Long on the first of the month. A week later, a Humanist service was held at Cardross Crematorium to remember and celebrate his life, and to bid him farewell. The family has given Easdale People permission to quote here the Eulogy which was prepared by Peter’s sons Chris and Tim, and his grandson Neil, and read out at the service.
“Peter John Long was born in Horningsham, Wiltshire on 2 April 1922 – the third child and only son of Cyril George Long and Ella Gertrude Long. Cyril was a First World War Veteran who had been appointed as the Private Secretary of the Marques of Bath, better known perhaps as the owner of Longleat House, now famous for its lions and safari park.
The young lion that was Peter had a fairly privileged early life. Fussed over by two devoted elder sisters, Joan and Margaret, he enjoyed his time at Longleat, where he was christened and married – and where he also had his own three sons (Chris, and the twins Ian, who died in 1993 and Tim) christened.
Educated at a nearby public school – Bruton – before the Second World War, he had a glittering future ahead of him – with both a scholarship at Oxford University and a proposal of a contract with Wakefield Trinity Rugby League Football Club – a reflection of this multi-talented academic and sportsman.
As with virtually all his generation, the War completely changed his life. An early member of the Local Defence Volunteers, the precursor of the Home Guard, he served his time with them before joining the RAF. He decided to join the more cerebral branch of the RAF as a Navigator and after training in South Africa, he returned to the UK to join an elite team which was being built up to operate the then Top Secret Airborne Radar. It was at this point that he met and was teamed with the Pilot who made up the two man team which flew together on Night Fighters in both Burma and Europe for the rest of the War.
Sundry adventures took place with Uncle Jack – some of which should not be repeated here – including ditching and escaping from a Beaufighter aircraft (a very rare feat) and crash landing another Beaufighter in Burma.
His sense of humour is neatly illustrated by the story he has contributed to a book in support of Help For Heroes. It transpired that, when yet again the Squadron was sweltering on a landing strip in the depths of deepest jungle in Burma, Jack and Peter were asked to go back to base to collect the beer and whisky for the Squadron Christmas Bash.
Jack, a somewhat exuberant character, decided to “beat up” the airfield on arriving back with that treasure. This meant, in Jack’s singular view, that you flew the aircraft past the rest of the Squadron (hopefully) watching in awe, as low and as fast as possible in front of them before making a quick circuit to land.
Well, the low and fast worked for a bit, until it became too low – crashed and broke into many smoking pieces on the landing strip. As Peter wryly remarked, the slightly dispiriting thing was that, as the Squadron ran as one man towards the wreck, they hesitated only briefly to gawp at a (for once) mute Peter who was still sitting strapped to quite a big piece of wreckage before running past it to the piece of wreckage that contained the precious Christmas treasure! True military humour!
This lucky crew were then posted back to the UK, to RAF Middleton St. George (now Newcastle airport) as Instructors on Mosquito Aircraft and it was here that he met, Elizabeth “Margaret” Davies, who was herself serving in the WRAF and with whom he celebrated over fifty years of marriage. They were married in 1946 at his birthplace, Horningsham.
After the War, he obtained his Degree in Economics, French and German at Swansea University. Chris, Ian and Tim were all born in Wales and Peter started his civilian life first of all as a Teacher at Marlborough School – but that palled – and he joined the Westminster Bank, in whose employ he remained until he retired in 1975.
The family came first and foremost for this couple, who really never had the means to have any extravagant hobbies. Typically of this generation, camping holidays, spent under war-surplus tents and equipment, were the order of the day.
However one particular passion started to emerge. Peter always had a love of cars, and early models included a monstrous ex-military Humber Staff car which was hand-painted in a garish maroon and yellow – not something one could fail to notice! In due course this was followed by a succession of Jaguars, each more imposing than the last. On one classic night, there was a major rush to deliver one of the sons back to his Army post before dawn, when his Weekend Pass ran out. It was the first time a sustained 100 miles per hour plus in a Mark Ten had been seen by the family – and said son was delivered in time!
The Bank was always just a way of earning a living and although he was offered fast promotion (when first promoted to Manager he was the youngest Manager in the Westminster Bank) – it was only a comparatively short time after the family had grown up and fled the nest that he took early retirement and moved to Easdale.
This was after Margaret and Peter had so enjoyed a holiday on the island that the idea of moving permanently emerged. Within weeks the plan had been launched and their house, which was close to Bristol, had been sold and they moved north.
Thereafter he was able to live a life free of the formal constraints that he had been forced to put up with whilst raising his family.
Gone were the suits and ties, never to return. In their place there were jeans, sloppy sweaters and a beard. Gone forever the pin-stripe-suited classic “Bank Manager” look. Instead of the purely cerebral tasks when tied to a desk – the pressing need to find soil to build up his garden and the essential requirement to hand-build a wall to protect the tender plants – occupied his waking moments. The return to physical effort and reward brought a great contentment and satisfaction.
Not that his brain was idle. As he absorbed this new world he gradually developed the wise- counsellor reputation which continued right through the rest of his life. He was ever careful in his judgement when sensitive political issues were concerned – although as those who knew him recognise all too well – his sense of mischief would frequently have him deliberately promoting a controversial view to play the Devil’s Advocate!
As all those who knew them are very much aware, Margaret and Peter loved to have dogs around them, and the most recent canine member of the family, Beau – named after his favourite wartime aircraft and who began life as a racing greyhound – to the family’s great relief will remain on Easdale where he, too, is relishing retirement!
Peter was ever willing to help both full time residents and holiday makers and frequently took on such tasks as lawn-mowing and house-caring for those who needed the help. Having bought a small dinghy – Unity – he pottered happily around the island and out to Insih and Belnahuah when the mood took him. Although the immediate family were geographically distant, he adopted new technology as it arrived to maintain strong contacts with that family as it grew and coped with the joys – and pain – of life using Internet and Skype with considerable ease and success!
Few people are so blessed as to be able to enjoy the fruit of retirement for thirty four years, and even when the vagaries of old age started to catch up with him, the astonishing thing was that there was never a complaint or moan as the reduction of his physical activity started to limit what he could do.
This was exemplified by the way he coped with Margaret’s illness during her final years. He took on the duty of carer without drama, and tended to the increasing demands on him as her condition deteriorated. The island rallied around him and helped with meals and support, but it did take its toll however, and when she finally passed away in 2002 he was physically exhausted both from the care he delivered and, towards the end, with the daily trips to the hospital in Oban.
This stoicism continued once he realised that he himself was not long for this world. There was no self pity or reproach. He simply started planning how he wanted to manage his path, and set about it without any fuss. With no show of temperament of the fate which was so obviously playing its hand, he managed to see all his family across the generations being so very proud of his grandchildren Neil, Lorraine, Mark, Annette, Julia and Peter and his eight great grandchildren Alex, Abigail, Cain, Felix, Ben, Alisha, Henry and Sunny.
One indicator of how well he had put roots down on Easdale is the esteem in which he was held. Nowhere was this more evident than in the astounding support which has been shown during the closing chapter of his life. As one would hope, there was the support network from the “normal” services, but the extent and range of that support simply could not have been surpassed – it was just fantastic. He most recently spoke of his conversation with the Helicopter Pilot who casevaced him to Oban when they discussed the delights of flying Night Fighters in the War!
What was even more remarkable was the unstinting help and support generated by friends and neighbours on the island. If there is common belief that the world no longer recognises the responsibilities of neighbourliness, then as ever, Easdale steps a long way outside the norm and shows what life could and should be like. True values still exist.
We have no choice about where we are born, but some are fortunate enough to be able to choose where they make their real home. That Peter’s heart lay so firmly and for so long at Easdale and had made his mark there so indelibly was most clearly shown as he was piped on to and off the ferry for the last time a week ago.”
Argyll & Bute Council planning application no. 10/01729/PP
Applicant: Eilean Eisdeal.
Description: Installation of solar PV panels and air source heat pump.
Location: Easdale Island Community Hall.
Current status: Pending. Representations accepted until 6th January 2011.