Douglas King

KCFA work party to Rum March 2004

KCFA Work Party to Rum, March 2004

By E Douglas King, and reproduced with his permission from the KCFA newsletter no 18 of June 2004

Thursday the 25th March 200

Gillian Gibson, Denise Cook, Catherine Duckworth, Sheila King, Ewan Macdonald, James Kennedy, Alasdair Hosking, Douglas King, and Alistair Stewart met at the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry terminal at Mallaig ready for the 10.25am direct sailing to the island of Rum. Already at the quayside were John Goss and May Warran; they had chosen this weekend at Kinloch Castle to get married! Early wedding guests and the Rev Alan Lamb, who serves the Small Isles, and his wife, were also waiting. This must have been a tremendous relief to John, who for weeks had been trying to solve all sorts of dire ‘What if…?’ scenarios in which hurricane force winds and cancelled ferries featured prominently! His ’emergency plan’ for no minister was to eat the food and get married at Crawley Register Office the following week! Fortunately all was well, with the remaining guests and the Ceilidh band arriving on the Sheerwater from Arisaig on Friday morning. 

The weather was better than it often is in the summer, calm and sunny with the tops of the surrounding hills all clear. This ensured we had a pleasant sail, and after partaking of refreshment in MV Loch Nevis’s excellent restaurant, most went out on deck to enjoy the eighty minute journey to Rum. 

Our arrival in Loch Scresort heralded a first for most on board as the ferry adjusted her ballast tanks and gently manoeuvred into position for landing passengers onto the island. No more flit boats, or inflatables, and no more paddling in order to take account of those regular extra low Spring tides! Slowly the stern ramp lowered and made contact with Rum’s new slipway. We left via the car deck and another first, we could carry our bags with us. No more slings and hoists…… no longer worries as to whether your luggage had got put in the right bag or indeed on board at all! The island tractor and trailer drove onto the ferry to load up supplies for the island. Those leaving the island went aboard as we loaded our belongings into the waiting Land Rovers. The transfer completed the ramp lifted into the vertical and Loch Nevis readjusted her bilge tanks for departure. All in all it took over thirty minutes, and seemed a slower process than before.  A fortnight earlier I had ben in stranrare when I watched the ferry arrive from Ireland. It unloaded over 400 cars and lorries and 1,000 passengers in twenty five minutes.

Castle manager Adrian Kay and new Reserve Manger Ed Hawan greeted us on the slipway. After loading our baggage into Land Rovers for transfer to Kinloch Castle we set off along the newly surfaced road and then were allocated our rooms. After a brief rest, KCFA Chairman Ewan Macdonald and I met with new Nature Reserve Manager Ed Hawan. We discussed the purpose of our Association, our achievements so far and talked over future work projects. Following a very positive discussion Ed took us round the sites he and Adrian had earmarked for work during our visits. Certain tasks, of the more involved variety, would be undertaken as a joint effort, with castle staff, estate team, garden club, and volunteer groups all doing their bit! Ed is very keen to see the original designed landscape of the Castle policies restored, and has undertaken quite a lot of survey work towards that end. For decades Mother Nature has been doing her level best to reclaim what were once manicured lawns, rose gardens, carefully tended borders and walkways. A restoration of the policies would be of great benefit to the islanders and a pleasing addition for visitors to enjoy.  Other projects discussed included restoration of the squash (racquet) court and the old dairy, where gutters have been cleared to prevent further deterioration.

We learned that Malcolm Whitmore, Kathy Sayer, Sue Scroggins and Mick Blunt had left the island for alternative employment; to be shortly followed by Alayne Blunt and family. This meant that Ed had three posts to fill and was taking the opportunity to restructure them. Before he left for the mainland I had the opportunity to get an update on some of the more urgent work that was underway from Tom Cane, SNH Property Manager. Tom had been on Rum for a few days supervising the eradication of dry rot in the basement laboratory, removal of rotten wood, treatment of brickwork and surrounding timber and painting. The door opening onto the roof had broken away from the frame and had been temporarily boarded up; a new door will be installed soon. The Castle roof has been fully checked, all missing and slipped slates replaced, all lead work inspected and some replaced. The electrics within the Castle have been tested , upgraded and made safe where necessary. Smoke detectors have also been inspected and any shortcomings made good. The hostel has been repainted throughout.

The one mile of roadway from the new slipway to Kinloch Village has been made up wiith road bottoming shipped in last year. However two more barge loads were required to complete the job! Roll on/roll off ferry access and upgraded roads mean that service vehicles from the mainland can now land and use the village roads. One of the first things we noticed was that the electricians had brought their own van on the island; previously a sturdy Land Rover was essential. We had agreed with Ed Hawan that we would clear vegetation, bushes and trees from the vicinity of the crenellated wall facing the seashore by the Gazebo. Ed is keen to remove all injurious growth from and around structures to prevent further deterioration. In the afternoon some of us, aided by Sandy and Neil from the Reserve staff, and all requisite  tools set to work! Chain saws made light work of the more mature growth which along with everything else was put into bundles for burning.


The workers: James Kennedy, Ewan Macdonald, Rhys (SNH staff), with Denise Cook and Gill Gibson at the front

Rev Lamb held his regular monthly service in the school room at 4pm and a number of wedding guests and our Association members swelled the congregation. We very much enjoyed sharing worship with the resident community and the cup of tea that followed …..we just managed to find enough cups for everyone! With two children leaving the school after Easter when the family moves to South Uist, numbers will be reduced to only four pupils.

Friday 26th March 2004

Most KCFA members continued to work in the morning. Activity was curtailed by the need to get changed for John and May’s wedding at 1pm in the Great Hall.

The Castle was now a scene of frenetic activity! Staff prepared food, moved furniture, lit fires and filled the place with flowers. Some of the provisions ordered for delivery on Tuesday’s ferry had not arrived until Thursday: this had hampered preparations, but all was tackled with cheerful efficiency and all was well.

At about 11.30pm the Sheerwater arrived with the remaining wedding guests and the Ceilidh band. At 12.30pm we assembled in Kinloch Castle’s Great Hall, along with the school children who wished to see the wedding. They sat quietly and well behaved at the front and seemed very interested.

The wedding started at 1pm with May making a grand entrance down the stairs into the Great Hall to the strains of the Bridal March from Lohengrin played on the Orchestrion. Following the exchange of vows, the Rev Alan Lamb declared Louisa May Warran and John Goss man and wife. The Orchestrion came into its own again for the recessional music, following which we gathered on the main entrance steps for photographs.

An excellent and substantial buffet was laid out in the Castle dining room. The hot soup was particularly welcome and the whole spectacular spread was attacked with delight and vigour. Well satisfied we retired to the smoking/games room to toast the happy couple in champagne, followed by a wee dram or two of Scotland’s finest malt. It was a wonderful experience to feel Kinloch Castle being used as it should, truly coming alive with a house party and fires blazing in the main rooms.

Around 5pm following this over-indulgence, the more energetic members led by Chairman Ewan went for a walk supposedly to the Harris/Kilmory crossroads, but they got carried away and continued all the way to Kilmory! With the light failing fast they had to return in the dark.

It was now time to get ready for the Ceilidh, which was held in the Community Hall and everyone was invited. At midnight, following the Last Waltz, the wedding party and those too tired to carrry on turned in for the night. But the dancing went on! Ewan, Sheila and I stayed until 3.30am. At breakfast we were told the party finally ended around 5am. 

Everyone had a marvellous time and the Community made us all very welcome.

Saturday 27th March 2004

The wedding party left on the ferry. It was a lovely clear sunny day, and as most of them had never been in the area before, it is to be hoped the good weather, pleasant sailing and hospitality convinces them to make a longer return visit before too long.

Ewan’s eldest son Ruari arrived on the f erry. Work party members again set about clearing the trees and bushes from the crenellated wall, assisted by Stuart and Neil with chainsaws. By the end of the day it was all cleared into mounds on the seashore. With a little help from some more combustible materials, we soon had a good blaze going.

This was the first time the wall had been properly seen for over fifty years and it appears to have been painted red. Sandy said that the walls of all of the houses also appear to have been painted red at one time.

Sunday 28th March 2004

Officially our day of ‘rest’ we all went for a walk. Ewan took a party on to the Cuillin hills. The tops were unfortunately covered in cloud depriving them of excellent views, which on a clear day includes Ben Nevis, some fifty miles distant. Sheila and I walked over to Harris. In the evening a good fire was lit in the Common Room and a pleasant time was spent debating who else could be persuaded to hold their wedding at Kinloch Castle as we had all enjoyed ourselves so much! The Castle staff had done wonders to ensure that the whole event went as smoothly as possible. It was Adrian and his tem’s first wedding and it was a great success and credit to all concerned!

We must of course thank John and May for not only choosing Kinloch Castle as the venue for their wedding but also their invitation to members of our assocaition to join them on their special day. We wish them all good wishes, health and happiness for the future!!

Monday 29th March 2004

Our last day and final opportunity to tidy up before catching the ferry back to Mallaig. It was a lovely sunny and calm day for the crossing, with excellent views of all the mountain tops. The weather over all was better than it often is in summer and no midges. It was a most enjoyable visit with the highlight being the wedding.

John Goss has also supplied a full report of the wedding with photographs.