Friday, 10 July 2009

Over the sea to Skye

I live in Edinburgh.  I haven't always lived there though.  For virtually all my childhood years my father was constantly moving job.  Many times I would be in a place for less than a school term.  My education suffered as a result, naturally, but my biggest loss was constantly saying goodbye to my friends.  Sadly, I have no childhood friends in my address book now.

Around 1970 my father used to be the gardner for Commander Clark, a retired naval officer who had served during the second world war, and who's estate was behind the Ballachulish Hotel, not far from Glencoe.  I recall he used to have a ship's bell on his lawn, and I would dare to sneak across his lawns at every opportunity to ring it and then run away.  How very brave I was.

During my school summer holidays I would help out on the turntable ferries that plowed the short distance across Loch Leven, to save people having to go the long way round through Kinlochleven, to cross to the other side on their way to or from Fort William.  Leather satchel strapped to my waist, I would collect the fares from the waiting cars, then get my reward backwards and forwards on the ferries.  Nothing lasts though, and now the ferries have long since been replaced with a mechano-style hideous bridge, and Commander Clark's estate has long since sunk into disrepair.

The cars would await their turn to cross, which was never too long as there were always two ferries going back and forth.  One of them that made the crossing was called the Glenachulish.  Another was called the Ballachulish, and there was a third, but I cannot remember its name.

During a recent TV series starring Monty Hall, living in a croft at Applecross, during one of the episodes I virtually leapt from my seat.  He was taking his Landrover onto a turntable ferry at Glenelg, to make the short crossing to Skye.  The name of that turntable ferry?  The Glenchulish!

On Sunday 19 July I am leaving Edinburgh on a motorcycle tour of the west coast of Scotland, and on Tuesday 21 July I intend to drive to Glenelg and take that same ferry, and once more enjoy a trip on the Glenachulish.  I may have to pay this time of course.

It is my intention to film most of my trip and edit the footage on my return, and I am hopeful of interviewing the current owners of the Glenachulish.  This is, however, part of a bigger, longer term plan.  I am on a quest to find out what happened to the other two ferries.

I will of course be blogging as I go, so you should be able to follow my journey if you want to know what happens.  Whether or not you'll see a photograph of me with a leather satchel collecting fares though, remains to be seen.

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