Alan Bowles 2007

Catherine takes me to Rum

Catherine Takes me to Rum, March 2007 by Alan Bowles

Reproduced from KCFA Newsletter no 25 November 2007 with Alan’s permission

Catherine Duckworth rang the doorbell of my home and said ‘are you ready for a Rum ride with me, Alan?’ ‘Rarin’ to go’ I said and Catherine drove off on a sunny morning through the Yorkshire Dales to the M6 and then the M74. First stop was at Abington for morning coffee, then north to Stirling and on to Callander for lunch. ‘I park at the far end of the street and so have a little walk to the Bank House for lunch’ then Catherine did some shopping. When we met up Catherine excitedly told me ‘I’ve met Gillian in the clothes shop’. There is a sense of excitement as the Friends of Kinloch Castle renew their friendship as I later experienced in Fort William when Elaine, Wayne and Liz were perched on a seat in the station concourse. It was now raining ‘cats and dogs’ as Catherine drove along the Road to the Isles. This was what I feared – a miserable weekend ahead. Gillian Simpson from Peebles joined Friends at ‘The Cabin’ when we arrived for a delightful meal. Torrential rain as I plodded along the Promenade to the Western Isles Guest House for a good sleep.

The sun was shining brightly as I looked out of the window at the harbour. What a transformation. After I had enjoyed Mrs Watts ‘all day’ breakfast Catherine arrived to take my luggage to the ferry. Friends were assembling and a tall good looking handsome fellow arrived to give me a very warm hearty handshake which made me feel I’d known this guy for years. This was Dr Ewan Macdonald, Chairman of the Friends. Our luggage was loaded onto the Loch Nevis and off we sailed.

The snow capped Cuillins of Skye and the mountains of Knoydart were breathtaking. Loch Nevis turned into Loch Scresort and the sun was shining on the red Dumfriesshire sandstone of Kinloch Castle [NB it has now been proved that the sandstone is from Arran not Annan as was thought for some time]. This Bullough home was more impressive than from pictures I had seen. David Frew the Manager of Kinloch Castle welcomed us to Rum and off we walked to the Castle; our gear was brought by a van. David allotted me to Oak Room 2, which had a four poster bed and I thought of the gentry who in days gone by had slept in it. I felt I had now arrived in high society. Lunch in the common room and Ewan very gently led the conversation into thinking about clearing brambles and other foliage from a castellated wall by the seashore. I gasped when I saw the foliage but as the Friends got to work an impression was soon made.  Alan, Ewan, Gill Gibson and Elaine towards the end of a long day of work

After some time I tripped over a bramble and Gillian said ‘You are tired, Alan – you must stop’. I gladly accepted the friendly advice and went for a hot bath! At dinner there were many more people than just Friends – these were students from Cambourne School of Mining who had come to stud the rocks as Rum is a geologist’s paradise. After dinner the Friends chatted to one another and Wayne and Elaine informed us about the Civil War Society, Elaine being particularly interested in the costumes. 


Next day started with Catherine showing us some of the rooms of the Castle – the Great Hall with its Steinway piano, Japanese eagle, Orchestrion, reclining sofas, triangular chairs. The portraits of Lady Bullough and Sir George looked down upon us. Then we went into the library and browsed at some of the books. Our tour was suspended because Hebridean Princess was landing visitors to the castle, part of this cruise ship’s itinerary. So off to work we went – more hacking away at the foliage at the sea wall.

Work done!


The delight of a hot bath called me and I slept for three hours. Then conscience pricked and I rejoined the Friends who had started to clear the woodland of branches and other debris> Friday night is the night teh Freinds adjourn to the ‘local’ for a wee noggin!

Saturday sunny and bright and Friends started to build up a bonfire. Returned to the hostel for morning tea and discovered Catherine at work in the library. Returend to the bonfire – Ewan poured diesel oil on it and large flames leapt up into the sky.

  Alan and Gill Gibson enjoy a little pyrotherapy

After lunch I discovered Liz preparing to light her bonfire – she believed Nature decreed that fires be set alight by carefully bunding dried leaves around thin twigs. She succeeded. I enjoyed a walk along the beach passing Ewan and Sorcha collecting cockles and mussels for starters at evening dinner.

Saturday night is when the Friends enjoy the luxury of eating in the grand dining room. The menu was Skink (fish soup from Fife), Venison and Cranachan (a delightful dessert of whipped cream, honey, toasted otmeal, and soft fruit such as raspberries, whisky and crowdie, a soft white cheese made by straining the whey from soured milk and beating up the remaining curd with salt). Ewan introduced us to Talisker from Skye, whisky from Jura and other drops of hard stuff. Ewan wore his beautiful Macdonald of Keppoch kilt and is third in line to being chief of the clan. He has also been appointed Hon Colonel of the 225 Field Regiment. He enjoys mountain walking and is re-reading WH Murray’s book ‘The Mountains of Scotland.’ 

Sunday is the day on which Friends have a day off and do what they like. I saw Ewan striding down the path at 7.30am in a determined mood, obviously preparing for his walk in the Himlayas in June. I decided to climb Barkeval. This starts with a steady climb through Coire Dubh and the geological students caught me up.

Is Alan visible?

As I ascended the snow capped Cuillins of Skye and Blaven came into view and to the east the mountains of Knoydart. I came across the geological students sat down by the dam beginning to produce a geological map> One of the tutors infomred me that there was more to Barkeval than what I thought was the summit. Still I arrived there at 12.45 ate my lunch and basked in the sun. I thought of Catherine plodding across the island to Harris to photograph the Bullough Mausoleum. I put my monocle on the Mausoleum but no sign of Catherine. However later she said that she had identified my red jacket through her ‘bins’. I slowly made my way back to the coll. Deciosion time – do I attempt Hallival and Askival? Gillian would have said ‘Leave those for another day’ So I slowly descended and enjoyed the sun and scooping water out of the sparkling burn.

Final tidy up on Monday morning and Ewan decided two trees had to be demolished.

Then he spotted two coping stones that needed replacing. ‘Too hard for me’ I said, but not for Ewan, Liz and Wayne and the stones are now back in place. Walking back to the castle I saw Zoe and Andrew putting artistic touches to Lady Bullough’s gates.

Monica’s gates in their new coat of paint


David then took us up the tower of the castle and pointed out points of interest.

Our luggage was loaded into the truck and taken to the harbour and as Ewan and I walked to the harbour he told me that it was in 1996 that he met George Randall at Kinloch Castle and felt something should be done about it and set to and drew up the constitution for the ‘Friends of Kinloch Castle’. When departing from Rum be down at the harbour early because today Loch Nevis left ten minutes early! So another lovely sail – the Cuillins of Rum slowly receding and on Mallaig Harbour, Friends said their goodbyes. I was greatly inspired by the wonderful spirit of bonhomie and dry humour and that created such a jovial fellowship and so memorable a weekend. However Catherine was anxious to show me more – beautiful Loch Morar, new territory for me and then a delightful walk on Morar’s silver sands.

I asked how she got involved in the Friends and she said George Randall the present Vice Chairman had walked into the Local Studies Department at Accrington to seek out information about teh Bulloughs. He dropped a Friends application form in her lap and this whetted her appetite for more. We couldn’t leave Mallaig without some fish and chips at ‘The Cornerstone’. Next day we headed south. Catherine has a good taste for good places for refreashments; we took our morninf coffee ar Glen Coe, lunch again at Callander and so back home.

Thank you Catherine, ably helped by your mother, for persevering to get me to Rum – I really enjoyed the weekend. Incidentally Catherine, will you chauffeur me again to Rum, please?