3 January 2021
The wonderful weather is continuing. Outside is the new inside, exercising the new slumping and slouching. Wherever we go, we meet folk loving the winter sun. And of course we rhapsodise to each other about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place and with such amazing people. It is a big change. When we walked in the summer, we seldom met anyone. But then this is holiday time and that partly explains it although islanders have been becoming increasingly active year-on-year.
Hazel of Lismore Luminations and Mairi from the Oyster croft were out running. Frances Willis was completing the Sàilean ring. Gilly of the Sailean Project (check them all out) was driving, and we exchanged germless contactless New Year Greetings.
Potholes are proliferating. Argyll and Bute assure us a team will be over ‘tomorrow’ as we mark the spot on their map where those the size of plunge pools are growing. Meanwhile, we have an innovative solution to stop falling into them.
On the way to the lighthouse we dropped off our empty glass Gigha milk bottle. What a great thing Lismore Stores is doing, supplying this.
Our Aberdeen Angus bullocks were sunning themselves at the gate as we passed Craignich, posing attractively hoping to get into my blog.
We took the east coast raise beach to the lighthouse parking at John Carmichael’s shed and admiring his new 4-day-old calf who was gambolling in the field when we returned a few hours later.
Just before we crossed the field to Balure Cottage we met a party who were off on a boat trip to Eilean Musdile, where Lismore Lighthouse, a Stevenson light, stands. The Northern Lighthouse Board still owns and maintains the light, but the island is now privately owned.
The raised beach is full of interest; apart from the Mill at Miller’s Port the variety of rocks, cliffs and seashores is endless. Alas, the winds have deposited plenty of rubbish in each of the ports. Not the wind obviously but wind assisted people.
We started at Lochan Treshtil in front of Balure Cottage and walked via Port Balure, Port Ruadh, Miller’s Port and ended in sight of Eilean Musdile and the Lighthouse. The going was more trudgy as it was a lot wetter than the Summer walks; stout waterproof shoes essential. Enjoying this peaceful coast, it is impossible not to imagine that sunny morning in the late Summer of 1940 when the Firth of Lorne began to fill with ships of all sizes and in all conditions from Eilean Dubh, the Black Isle, to the lighthouse, where they were to remain for five years.
Donald Black’s book, A tale or two from Lismore, has a great chapter, ‘Echoes of War in the Firth of Lorne and Lismore’ which describes his schoolboy experience of the ships arriving and the sudden bombing raid (there was just the one) followed by the installation of anti-aircraft guns at Achnacroish, and Baligrundle 1 and Baligrundle 4. And then watching them building housing for the gunners.
For five years the island was an important protected area, until suddenly it was over and the Firth filled with old, worn-out vessels waiting to go to scrap. And then nothing but the scene we see today.
Interestingly, during that war no-one could come onto Lismore at Achnacroish without being identified. (They forgot about the crossing at Port Appin, Donald says.) A bit like Lockdown and our new sort of war.