This is the story of our falling population and the rising number of second homes and how the two may be connected. Part 1 looks at Point, Part 2 at why a balance of residents and visitors is vital, and Part 3 stories of those who want to live here but search in vain for a home while sometimes caring for second homes.
Part 1: The Changing Face of Point
Between Achuaran House and Point there are seven houses, two of which are occupied by residents. We have one. Jennifer Allan the other.
I will never forget Dollie Carmichael’s delight when we moved in opposite her in 1990. She had lived there all her life and her mother had died in Point Cottage aged 103. ‘I love to see the lights,’ she would say. I soon knew what she meant; black windows all winter are not uplifting. And I was glad to have such a wonderful neighbour. Sadly, Dollie was cleared from her beloved Lismore in 1998 and forced to move to Port Appin, not for health reasons but because the owners, the absentee Fells of Achuaran House, operating as the Trustees of the Rev, J.A. Fell, (one of the two large landowners on Lismore), failed to make it habitable. Point Cottage had no bathroom or kitchen. Seems amazing to even write that but it was true. And the landlords knew. Everyone knew.
The Trustees of the Rev, J.A. Fell, quickly sold Point Cottage once Dollie was cleared, and it is now a holiday home. It was not one of the estate’s sturdy cottages and had to be demolished.
Our house, An Cala, had been built for Mrs Carmichael when she sold Point House and farm to the non-resident Gilmours. She called it Strathlorn. When, for health reasons, she moved to Achnacroish, she sold it to Iain MacCorquodale from Port Ramsay, known as Iain Mòr (big Iain).
Iain subdivided the large garden, built another house and took the Strathlorn name with him. The late Bob and Grace Hall bought it when Iain died and lived there until they had to leave, also for health reasons. They sold it to the non-resident Whiteheads and so it became a popular and profitable holiday let.
Point House at the ferry is now owned by Ron Livingstone, a second homer, who is active in the community, has planted many trees in Point Farm and is submitting plans for a wellness centre in which he intends to run various courses which could bring people to the island, employ locals and sell local goods. That’s the plan!
Between Point House and Point Cottage were two derelict steadings popular with bats. Archie MacGillivray and Mandie Curry bought a steading each from the Gilmours, restored the buildings and brought them back to use, as rentals; they were most useful when Archie was recovering from Covid-19. They are a good example of residents restoring and then making a living from a second home.
There is one derelict boarded-up cottage next to Achuaran House—the gardener’s cottage. It is well built and would make an excellent home and, although many have asked, the Trustees of the Rev, J.A. Fell have so far been unwilling to restore, sell or let it to a resident.
This brief history of one small area suggests Point may eventually have no residents’ houses. (I’m being realistic here.) At one point I had neighbours beside me and behind me. There were no holiday rentals. If the other houses were empty it was because the owners had serious health issues. Like other parts of the island we were a small community and communities are part of what keep us healthy and support us when required. Today, of the five second homes, three are owned by non-islanders, and two by Liosaich, which means our community is now fragmented by temporary neighbours whom we welcome of course but seldom get to know.
The Lismore Trust has given us a lot of hope with their affordable housing scheme, and many are working hard to make that happen. but we will also need to keep the second homes and resident’s homes in balance for the island to work for all, residents and visitors. How?
And when the last two Point houses, Mo Dhachaidh and An Cala are sold, how can we ensure they will be for residents only?