Retro roamer – week 10

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

* Like many of you, I had a wander along the middle of the High Street on Sunday. It was a bit like the late 1940s and early 1950s when we, as members of the Viewforth Gang, could do exactly that on most days of the week, because there was very little traffic about. The main difference now is that you are inclined to incline your head most of the time, fearful that motors will bear down on you from both directions despite the alleged pedestrian priority. In fact, a surprising number of locals are now using the pavements – or taking a walk along the middle – of Middle Street!

* At the east end of the High Street – at Low’s, in fact, manager Bob Christie was down on his hunkers stocking shelves. The inevitable voice from the ‘Saaf’ percolated down to him. ‘Where’s your Bovril, please’? Bob essayed a half-hunker turn and advised ‘You’ll get that on the big stand, just over there’. Returned to his chores. Then the voice  returned to Bob. ‘If I’d wanted lavatory paper, I’d have asked for that’! Bob, upright once more, and only slightly discomfited, responded ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said Bog Roll’!

* Over at the Mill they’re building. Roads. Out of bark. So we’ll soon have ‘The Bark Road to the Helipad’, and the ‘Bark Road to Despatch’. All the members of the General Gang will become artisans – and artists, too. because the sides of the new roads are to be lined with boulders – painted white. There’s a fair amount of eucalyptus residue in the bark. So ca’ canny when you’re driving over there so that you don’t run into a Koala.

* Great weather, eh! So much so that everyone’s  getting out and about in the sunshine – and thronging Cameron Square in particular. As a result a largish group of ‘The LADS’ – ‘Lochaber Alfresco Drinkers Society’ were asked, nicely, by Tourist Officer, Bruce Simpson, if, for a change, they could find another local location to convene. They did. Round the back of Viewforth. And – I kid you not – one LAD member was heard to declare, ‘This would be a good place to hold our AGM’!

* And the Hydro came to the rescue of one of the LADS on Friday morning. This particular member was looking extremely disconsolate – and desperate – after breaking the ring pull on his can of SLR – Super Lager Reviver. Ah, but then he had a flash of inspiration, and headed over to the Hydro to seek out some engineering aid. This was produced in the shape of a very fine screwdriver extracted from the toolbox in a Hydro van. The can was  breached, the contents broached, and the electric soup supply was refreshingly restored.

* Linnhe Boxing Club’s final Fight Night was a ringing/resounding success. After Steve Martin managed to locate the boxing gloves! All over Caol, Steven went, calling at several houses.  No joy. However, when he returned empty handed to the Pulp Mill Club, the gloves had turned up. From under the boxing ring canvas. They had been ‘stored’ there for safe keeping.

* At the Fight Night one wee shaver of about eight, with a crew cut that would have been the envy of Joe Brown – and his Bruvvers, was observing the strict Pulp Mill Club protocol that, if youngsters wanted juice or crisps, they had to give the money to a committee member to buy these for them at the bar. Handing Graham Nolan a cascade of one pees and two pees, the crew-cutted one blithely requested ‘Two bags of cheese and onion, please – and keep the change’.  Graham purchased the crisps, handed them over, and then started the copper count for the required 48p.  He got as far as 41 pence when the supply ran out!

* The Beechgrove Gardens’ ‘Potting Shed on Wheels’ was beached for so long in our neck of the woods last week, that it was in danger of taking root. While on horticultural duty in Duror, the Mercedes vehicle upon which the shed is mounted, refused to respond to the tender tending of the gardeners whose ‘Hit Squad’ had to call out the AA. Hitched to Mickey the Greek’s breakdown motor the potting shed  was towed to Corpach for urgent attention to its cloche – sorry, ‘clutch’. There, the Beechgrove Gardeners advised Gordon Penman of Slipway Autos  that they were in no hurry for it, and would pick it up in a week’s time. Gordon, however, was keen to tend the garden vehicle, and fitted a new clutch right away. Thus the Beechgrove Garden was dug out, thanks to our West Highland Hit Squad of Mickey from the AA and Gordon from Slipway.

* ‘In the Briny’ – literally – at Glenuig, was Brian Steel. The lone yachtsman would shortly be setting sail, with St Kilda his next port of call. And, after victualling his yacht at its mooring, Brian took his rubber dinghy back to the Glenuig jetty. The Round the Islands sailor, the man who is about to qualify for his master mariner’s certificate , pulled in at the slipway with accomplished nautical neatness, to say his farewells. But, when he turned to step nimbly back into the dinghy, there it was – Gone! Brian had omitted one tiny detail. He hadn’t tied up his wee dinghy. And it was now, well and truly, a liberty boat, about to be carried by the tide towards the Sound of Arisaig. Which necessitated total immersion for Brian, who, stripped to his boxer shorts, had to take an early season seawater swim to be reunited with his dinghy.  Bon Voyage, Brian!

* Mind the song ‘Shrimp Boats is a Comin’? Well, the other day, one of our local shrimp boats was a Goin’. Down. To the bottom of a particular part of Loch Linnhe which, fortunately, isn’t very deep. And all because somebody left the drain plug out overnight. He must have felt a right prawn when he discovered he’d scuttled his shrimp boat.

* On the summit of the Ben the wind caught Bert Bissell’s trilby. And sent it flying away, like a frisbee, in the direction of the Red Burn. However, it was soon headed off at the pass, and ‘rescued’ by Alex Gillespie, who restored it , with a flourish, to the Bert Bissell bonce.

* Neither light blue nor maroon in the new decor of Costcutter at Corpach. Despite the solid Stafford support for Rangers and Hearts, the shop has been completely kitted out in another colour. Emerald green!

* Back in Caol at the start of the shinty season, Duncan Shearer was good crack. First of all he reminisced about playing football as a Glenkingie Street youngster. ‘We were on the green kicking a ball about’, said he. ‘And it went over  the high fence into Hugh Dan MacLennan’s auntie’s garden. Seconds later three shinty sticks were thrown back from the other side! And they kept the football!’ Then Duncan remarked  as to how, making his way to the Fort from Aberdeen, he was amazed to find that the journey from Spean Bridge  to Caol was completed in just ten minutes. ‘When I played shinty, and we had a game at Spean’, Duncan recalled. ‘It sometimes took us five hours to get back  home after the match’!

* Ian and Jackie Latto made Page 4 of The Sun on Monday. Rangers diehards, they had borrowed son Jason’s van to be on parade at the Copland Road end on Saturday, to harvest lots of rolls of the green, green grass of Ibrox. These were being turfed out to make way for the laying of the new pitch. You see, the Lattos have a mini Ibrox Park at Roy Bridge, and are currently experimenting with ways  in which they can turn the turf into blue grass! Meantime, Ian and Jackie might like to know that, in 1967, when Scotland beat England to become champions of the world, I was one of the so-called ‘Vandals’ who invaded the pitch to carry off lumps of the hallowed Wembley turf. I took the clods home in carrier bags, transplanted them – and painted them maroon. And a lot of good that did……..!

* Look out for the ‘ Nevis Challenge’ on TV.  The programme is really an elaborate plug for a new all-terrain vehicle.  And the content centres round the striving by four squads, made up largely of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team personnel members, in abseiling, canoeing, stretcher carrying, and downhill dashing on the Ben. Canoeing on Ben Nevis? I hear you ask. Aye the kayaks were cutting through the waters of the Halfway Lochan . Meanwhile the short wheelbase vehicle suffered a bruised sump in the Ben Nevis foothills, and the long wheelbase model landed in a ditch. A commercial helicopter, brought in, in connection with the abseiling on the North Face, walloped its tail rotor on an unfriendly rock. Thus the abseilers, with one Mars bar between them, were left high and wet  until they decided that discretion was the better part of hypothermia. In LMRT parlance they ‘Walked off the hill’.  To round it all off, one prominent team member, taking a well earned rest, leaned on a door  of one of the vehicles – and dented it.  How on earth – and above – can any of this go on the telly?

* Shades of the Viewforth Gang versus Alma Road and Lundavra at the Town Park. This was the grand INDOOR challenge football match between a combined Royal Bank  & Corpach Shopkeepers side versus Safeways  at the An Aird Multi-Purpose Hall. It was fought out with anoraks for goalposts. In our day we didn’t have goalposts either. Nor anoraks, come to think of it.

* Aye, well, that’s me got the car parked (I’m not telling you where). So let’s drive right in at the deep end. The long-suffering Lochaber motorists won’t need to be told that the levying of parking charges for the facilities provided by Highland Region – primarily to woo the tourists – came back into force on Mayday. Two hours maximum stay in Viewforth, for example, costs you 40 pence.  Two hours and a few minutes could turn that into £20.40 if you don’t display a valid ticket. No wonder Viewforth resembles a desert these mornings.

Roamer – The changing face of the east end of Fort William High Street