Retro Roamer

Want to read more?

We value our content  and access to our full site is  only available on subscription. Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device In addition your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards

Already a subscriber?


Subscribe Now

* I’ll tell you why I’m phoning’ (As we say in Lochaber) was the opening gambit by a Fort William hotelier to a kindred spirit in the Borders. ‘Have you got a party of French people in on a New Year coach tour’?  The Borders hotel was, indeed, playing host to forty Free French. ‘Aye, well, could you tell the courier to take an inventory from them all – as we’re short of seven wee vases, a dozen butter dishes, a few dinner plates and Heaven knows how many  ashtrays, after they stayed here last night, and I reckon they thought  our hotel was staging some form of Collectors Fair – for the Free French’! Two days later a very large package arrived at the Fort hotel. ‘Fragile, with care’ it said on the outside. And inside it?  Seven wee vases, a dozen butter dishes. Everything, indeed, bar a partridge in a pear tree.

* A few of earth’s treasures  were deposited at the world famous West Highland Museum the other day. Without ceremony. A  dumper truck came trundling along the High Street, clattered through Cameron Square, and came to a halt on the Museum doorstep. The driver then delivered all the exciting ‘artefacts’ unearthed in the course of the digging up of Middle Street for the ‘Service Road’. Fiona Marwick, curator secretary of the Museum, duly catalogued the hoard, as follows. ‘A twisted mole trap – minus mole, a cast iron kettle, a wheelbarrow wheel, fire tongs (looking the way you’d expect them to look after supporting a roadway for more than a century, two pickaxes, and, best of all, a length of Fort William Lighting Company cable. This latter is set in bitumen in a wooden trough, and protected by an iron plate -a quite brilliant thing to have’!

*  Incidentally, lots of people have been asking about the final fate of the Kennedy Monument, for so long the focal point within Cameron Square. but has now been demolished . Well, the many large sections of sandstone form part of the Loch Linnhe shoreline opposite Seafield Gardens. The result has been receiving universal condemnation from the locals. I don’t know where the railings ended up, but there’s a fair chance that Kenny MacKenzie’s bike was still attached to them. Kenny and his contemporaries – myself included – used to chain our bikes to the railings, having cycled into town from the Village and Claggan. Then we went up to the YM to play billiards. For some reason we frequently forgot our bikes – and walked home or got a lift to the Road End in the chip van. Kenny was the most forgetful of us all, however, and frequently had to come back into town to collect his bike from in among the railings and Sydie’s posters and placards.

* Fort William’s temporary tourist attraction finally flew away on Friday. After being laid up in the West End Car Park for three days. Aye, the Sea King helicopter was on its holidays from Lossie. But it suffered an ailment. Something to do with the Lochaber weather, apparently, and was grounded for treatment. And, during each day the ‘Paraffin Budgie’ certainly drew the clouds, including classfuls of pupils from Fort William Primary. and cameramen and camerawomen galore.

* Crossed carrier bags caused problems for Alan Worsdall. Alan arrived back in the Fort after a short visit to Manchester, during which he had arranged his baggage for the return trip
by way of two Poundstretcher bags. In one was his accumulated washing, and the other contained, sausage, bacon, and eggs for next day’s Paper Mill breakfast fry-up. However, in all the rush to get in to work, you can guess what happened. Yes, Alan dropped off one bag at home, and opened the other one at the Mill. It contained semmit, socks and drawers.

* That naturalised Highlander from Stockbridge, Willie Anderson, ken, has bought a budgie. ‘I’m calling it Ken, ken’, Willie told me. ‘I couldnae get a maroon one, otherwise I’d have named it Willie Bauld. Like masel, ken’.

* Interesting sight outside the Grand Hotel last Wednesday afternoon when a ‘Blue Maria’ pulled up . The police driver got out, opened the back door, and ‘let out’ Rotarian Alistair Grant. Alistair had been running late at the Belford and looked like missing the 1pm start of the Rotary meeting. Luckily, he was ‘lifted’ by the Polis who were just leaving the Belford Carpark . Somewhat unfortunately for Alistair, however, his exit at the Grand from the Blue Maria coincided with the arrival there, on foot, of a few Rotarians. So, he hasn’t heard the end of it since.

* Claggan Park groundsman, John Sandison, is getting ready  for the arrival of Celtic for Sunday’s friendly against the Fort. John has indented for new, environmentally friendly green overalls to replace the light blue issue he normally wears. And John is hopeful of getting a new cap to swap for the blue and white one that goes with the job, and which has the initials DSO emblazoned on it.  If he doesn’t get kitted out in time for the wearing of the green, then he’ll deserve the DSO if he puts in an appearance sporting his usual light blue gear. Meanwhile, if all else fails, Florence has bought a tin of white emulsion so John can go out into the park prior to kick-off and paint the tips of the grass blades white!

* The atmosphere has been electric around these parts this past while. ‘Tis known in Appin, for example, that the sparks flew during the filming of a TV commercial. The activities of technicians from a Glasgow-based television production company were such that they soon had a highly charged impact on the local populace. They needed power, you see, to heighten the lighting effects on, among other local focal points, Castle Stalker. So they linked up their generator to the Appin supply. Then, flash, bang, wallop they blew the lot, rendering out of action the village cookers and kettles, fridges and freezers, TVs and table lamps. Locals say the film company personnel were totally embarrassed. Which was hardly surprising. As they were attempting to produce a Hydro Electric TV advert.

* Meanwhile the power base was shifting to Seagull City. Mallaig High School was receiving a Building Energy Efficiency Award. But the wording of the caption which accompanied the promotional pictures to mark the occasion was set to flash through the minds of quite a lot of consumers – young and old. It read ‘Highland Region’s Energy Manager presents the PLAGUE to Forbes Jackson, Rector of Mallaig High School.

* There was a lot of power – water power, surging past the Courthouse last Friday for the West End to have harnessed it all to generate their own hydro electricity. What a pity the legal eagles, Constabulary members and the public couldn’t have been captured on video as they tried to ford the rushing waters of Allt a’ Phriosain to get into and out of the Courthouse.


CAPTION: A bit quieter in Ballachulish in earlier days.