Friday, 18 August 2017


Following on from the first filming trip for The Lost Ferries of Ballachulish, I once again set off north, this time with a specific goal in mind.

Along the way I filled in some of the blanks that have arisen whilst editing the original footage, including recording a piece-to-camera to introduce the film, on the South Ballachulish slipway of the old ferry. Fourteen takes later and I think I got it, but knowing this game as well as I do, I'll probably end up shooting a different beginning at some point.

The Folk Museum in Glencoe Village had been in touch to say they had a couple of items that might be of interest to capture, one being old ferry tickets and the other a waiting sign, now badly in need of preservation. These were placed at various intervals along the roadside and gave drivers an estimate of how long it would be to get across from that point. If you were at this one, saying 50 minutes, you would be just as quick driving round the loch via Kinlochleven. But where's the fun in that?

I continued north, stopping in again at the supposed remains of the Glen Duror, this time armed with original dimensions and a measuring tape. With some difficulty I was able to compare the dimensions I had, with those of the wreck, and unfortunately the wreck is four feet longer than the Duror. This casts further doubt on her identity.

The following day I was once again in Glenelg, at the Glenachulish, last survivor of Scotland's turntable ferries. I decided to approach the ferry this time from Skye, first taking the elegant bridge across at Kyle of Lochalsh.

As I crossed over to Glenelg using the Glenachulish, I could see a crowd was gathering for a celebration. This was the main purpose of my journey, for this was the day that the bell from 1969 was to be reunited with the ferry.

A few weeks ago I had interviewed Kate, daughter of the last ferryman at Ballachulish, Peter Mackenzie, and she had made the journey to witness the celebration. In her hand she was holding a photograph of the wheelhouse, as it was back in her fathers day, but the bell was not visible.

It was then that a puzzle I've had in my mind for decades was finally solved.

In the early 70s, when my father was head gardener at Commander Clark's house, the person overall in charge of The Ballachulish Ferry Company, I recall whilst playing on his lawns that there was a ships bell. My memory had told me that this was a bell most probably from some naval ship, given he was called Commander. But through further chat up at Glenelg as to where the bell had been all this time, it transpired that the bell on the lawn from my childhood was from the Glenachulish, and here it was now, in my hands.

There was a nice size crowd gathered for the hanging of the bell, enjoying good chat and a barbecue to raise funds. As I went to pay for my burger, a kindly lady took my £5 and then asked, how much change would I like? Clever. Naturally, I said none. Then, around two o'clock, a piper played as we all made our way down onto the ferry. Finally, after more than 40 years, the Glenachulish had her bell.

Back down the road I met up with Fergus Mclean, last person to have seen the Glen Loy almost 40 years ago, for a quick interview. He gave me a further lead to Strontian on Loch Struan, but this has also turned up a dead end.

The final part of this journey may be some time in coming, as I continue my hunt for the fate of the Glen Loy, and probably the Glen Duror as well. Shortly I will journey to Liverpool to the archives of GL Watson, and document the plan drawings of the last seven Ballachulish Ferries.

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