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The Here We Are Story - past, present and future

HC1-001 - Holidays in Cairndow (2006)

Ardgenavan by Duncan McLachlan son of Ian McLachlan 2006


Duncan MacLachlan (1871 – 1945) came to Cairndow with his wife Margaret (Nee McCallum, 1881 – 1961), as a young seaman, to serve on Sir Andrew Noble’s Yacht “ARMADA” before the First World War.  However his time sailing with the Noble’s wasn’t to last too long as the war had started and the yacht and its crew were sequestrated by the Navy to sail to Scapa Flow to serve as a supply vessel for the Grand Fleet of larger ships stationed in the Orkney Isles. As Duncan was a young seaman he was soon transferred onto a Destroyer where he served to the end of the First War.

The Armada never returned from the Orkney Isles and without a vessel to sail on, Duncan had to take up several other jobs to provide for his growing family.  With Margaret they toiled on the croft at Ardgenavan to cut and dry hay to feed a cow and calf, with a quarter acre of potatoes and vegetables to plant, tender and lift along with other crofters around Loch Fyne, they also had hens and ducks. Duncan’s seagoing experience allowed him to work with small boats, net fishing for Herring and other catches, that could be picked up at the roadside in the early morning and taken to the Fishmarket in Glasgow.  Rabbits and small game were another catch that were uplifted to the markets incrementing the family income.

The summer months provided much excitement to the family, as the house was evacuated to the “Black Shed”, so called as the wooden boarding was coated in pitch to preserve and waterproof it against the elements.  The house being let to a family from Paisley for their summer vacation – this arrangement continued every year for many years, with the husband returning to Paisley and visiting his family from time to time over the summer.

The summer visitors arrived in Inveraray by Steamer, disembarking with large wicker baskets which were transferred to a waiting hired carriage (taxi), which trundled up the quiet dirt road to Ardganavan.

There were no buses in those days and very few cars on the road round to Cairndow, which Duncan’s children would walk the three miles to and from school, mostly in bare feet!  Shoes would be worn for church on Sunday and other special occasions.

Duncan and Margaret had 7 Children in all, from, Janet (Nettie), Mary, Alistair, Barbara (Babs), Christine (Tina), Anne (Honey) to the youngest boy Ian, now 87 and the only surviving member of the family, which eventually spread out across the UK and the Atlantic : Glasgow; Hull; Dumbarton; Canada; and Aberdeen; with only the youngest, Honey and Ian remaining in the area. The Second World War shaped the relationships which eventually took most of the family away from Cairndow.  

As the children grew up they would leave for work in Glasgow, which was like emigrating, as the trip itself was a great adventure for 14 -16 year old girls and boy.  They set off by boat crossing the loch and then walking to the Lochgoilhead road end to catch a horse-drawn coach coming from St Catherines.  At Lochgoilhead they boarded a Steamer to Glasgow, there to work in service in some of the big houses in the West End.

Duncan took up employment at Dundarave Castle as a Gardener and handyman, supplementing his other work on the croft and worked there until he retired.

Duncan died before the end of the war with most of his family away, serving in Armed Forces and women’s ancillary services. Ian was on leave but in Glasgow awaiting a bus to Cairndow in Nettie’s flat in Toryglen, which was a regular transit stop for all the family as they came home on leave from their various service activities in the war effort.

Ian worked on the local postal deliveries, cycling all round the loch and up the Glens taking letters and papers to the many farms and cottages, before transferring to Dunoon’s Postal Service and the busier town life there. On discharge from the Royal Scots Fusiliers – Highland Division, which took Ian on tours to Italy, Madagascar, Suez, Palestine and the Caucuses from 1941 – 45, he got a start with Balfour Beattie putting up poles to take electricity into Argyll, before being employed by the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board itself, which provided a house at Inveruglas and then Tarbet, working for them for 32 years in all.  Retired now, he still resides at Ballyhennan and oversees a younger generation of Hydro workers leaving daily for the Loch Sloy Power Station, and younger members of his family as they head off to work in Glasgow, Renfrew and Alexandria.

The House in Cairndow was lived in by Margaret and Honey until they died, with Jim Aitken, a nephew and son of Nettie taking it on as he worked in the fish farm, doing a bit of crofting again for their own provisions, as well as working as a handyman at Cuil House, until he too died suddenly. The house was then sold by Jim’s family, ending the MacLachlan connection with Ardgenavan.  The house is no longer lived in, with a new property being built further away from the now busy road, which has seen traffic volume increase tremendously since the early 1900’s and the efforts of Carmichael’s men who first tarred the surface in 19XX.  

Like many lochside cottages Ardgenavan had no mains water and took its supply from the burn, with waste taken down regularly to the low water line to be discharged. In periods of dry weather when the burns ran dry, there were two options to get fresh water.  Both involved travelling by boat up the loch to a well at Cuil which came from a deep underground source and always filled the churns and canisters taken along for this purpose.  Secondly the boat was rowed down the loch to Craig Burn, which was a much bigger burn and continued to run when others had dried up. This was where the sheets and washing was taken along with a boiler, set up for a day’s laundry for the family, including of course that of the summer visitors.

Bathing and hair washing was also attended to during this “excursion”, which was fondly remembered by the youngsters who spoke of it – presumably the midges weren’t so bad then!  There was also another waterfall and pool higher up the Craig burn for bathing and washing, walked up to, from the house through the oak woods, which was always a pleasant activity for many house guests.  Fallen trees and limbs from the oak woods also provided firewood for the house with its two chimneys on each gable wall. This was supplemented in winter as storm tides would regularly bring branches and trunks onto the shoreline in front of the house. Sometimes big timbers from boats or construction work would arrive to be dried out before being sawn and axed to size for the hungry fires.

Standing alone by the roadside the household relied on many deliveries, from the post to food, provisions and goods that came from Inveraray and Strachur. Newspapers and journals would be moved around the loch side community by these vans or occasionally the service bus when routes were established by the Gray line, and McBraynes ???? News, messages and a few eggs made the rounds too keeping everyone up to date with happenings around the lochs and glens.  Occasionally walkers or travelling people would stop in for a cup of tea and piece, bringing news from further afield, some would sleep over in the barn if weather was foul, before being on their way again in the morning.  Latterly when Honey stayed there on her own she would play host to motorists breaking down or having gone off the road awaiting the arrival of the AA or a recovery vehicle.

With seven of a family spreading out and having families of their own, it is not surprising that the house has many memories for the wider family, as they all came down to visit from time to time, staying over and enjoying the Loch Fyne side location, which provided walks, fishing and general recreation along with the good company which was always in abundance, with a brew and home baking with jams and jellies always available. 

Ian McLachlan

26th November, 2006

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