Opinion: Hugh Smith’s letter from Islay

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Loch Gorm Castle
Loch Gorm in the Kilchoman district and situated a little over a mile from Islay’s western Atlantic coast is the largest body of fresh water on the island. Standing a few hundred metres from the loch’s south-east shore is Eilean Mòr which houses what little remains of Loch Gorm castle.
It had a chequered history and was built as a stronghold and regular fort for the ruling MacDonald dynasty.
In the late 16th and early 17th century, the island castle played a prominent role in the continuing conflict between the MacDonalds of Islay and the Mull MacLeans of Duart who kept a garrison at the Loch Gorm fort even if its tenure was of short duration.
The castle became an operational base for further inter-clan warfare before it was severely damaged by Lord Ochiltree and the King’s soldiers in 1608.
A further rebellion in 1614 saw a resurgence of military action at Loch Gorm before the island fortress was retaken by the MacDonalds in 1615 and who, shortly afterwards, finally surrendered to the Earl of Argyll.
Despite the end of the hostilities, the island stronghold retained a military presence and a private garrison was maintained on Eilean Mòr until the early 1640s.
Today, little remains of the castle. What is left is almost completely covered with vegetation which is also steadily encroaching on the 48 metre wide island.
The waters of the loch are now a magnet for trout fishermen but they once witnessed less tranquil scenes involving fighting, bloodshed and intrigue.

Port Mòr Burns lunch
Members of Port Mòr Lunch Club paid tribute to Scotland’s national bard at a Burns’ Lunch at their Port Charlotte venue.
Everyone was welcomed by club member Mike Senior who chaired the proceedings and the Selkirk Grace was honoured by Trevor Harvey.
The ‘great chieftain’, carried aloft by hostess Debbie Mack, was piped by James MacEachern to pride of place where it was lustily addressed by the knife-wielding Seonaid Baker.
I proposed the toast to the Immortal Memory and John MacIntyre attended to ‘the lassies’ with his customary good humour. This brought a ready response from club member Moira MacGillivray who, as well as being the moving force behind the event, poetically put Tam o’ Shanter in his place.
Rona MacKenzie fulsomely praised the organisers and the participants including singers Bronwen Currie, Lynn MacDonald and Andrew McCowan, whose selection of Burns’ favourites went down a treat.

New post for distiller Jim McEwan
Jim McEwan, master distiller at Bruichladdich Distillery until his retirement 18 months ago, is to be production director at Ardnahoe. See article above left.
We all wish Jim well as he goes on to make his own telling mark at Ardnahoe.
Hugh Smith,
4 Flora Street, Bowmore, Islay PA43 7JX. Tel: 01496 810658