Morvern Lines with Iain Thornber 13.06.19

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‘They say there used to be a haunted room in the old house at Dorlin. It looked like a haunted room, too, because they never had a bed or anything in it. It was a nice room right on the very top flat of the old house, which was built by the MacDonalds.

‘They said that this lady used to meet them outside but we never saw her. But when the soldiers [the Commandos] were down there during the
war [1939-45], a strange creature was seen coming through the main entrance. The sentries saw her often and challenged her but she would disappear.

‘They told Commander Vyner about this but he told them if they saw anything of that nature not to take their gun from their shoulder and not to
pay any attention to it.

‘From Dorlin House there is a walk right round to Kinlochmoidart and they call it the Silver Walk. How it got its name was when they were making the walk they had to remove some big boulders and a lot of money, silver coins, was found. They gathered as many of the coins as they possibly could but a lot fell into the sea. They were very thin coins of the reign of Queen Elizabeth and they were kept in Dorlin House by Lord Howard of Glossop in a glass vase. After Lord Howard’s death they were sent up to the museum in Fort William and they are there now.

‘It is not a right of way as it was a path made by Lord Howard of Glossop himself. We were talking about ghosts and about the White Lady of Dorlin House, the ghost of Caolis and so forth. Well, there are ghosts and I don’t care what anybody says.

‘We had a keeper at Dorlin, a MacGregor, and he said to me one day, “I heard you working in your workshop last night.” “What?” I said. “I was nowhere near my workshop.” “I heard you hammering away. It won’t be long before you are making a coffin.”

‘I used to do undertaking work after hours. I paid no attention to what he had said but one very nice summer night, not long after, we were sitting on the wall in front of the house when all of a sudden we heard the noise of hammering and sawing coming from the workshop. “Do you hear that now?” MacGregor asked me, “Yes,” I said, and then it stopped. A fortnight later I was making a coffin. I heard it myself. It must have been my own ghost that was working away!

‘But I will tell you a more peculiar thing. During the war, three Mustang aeroplanes used to join the mock battle above Ardtoe. One of these days they got a message from Dundonald Port that there was fog approaching. They started back to base but got lost.

‘Two weeks later they found the wreck of one of them on the Isle of Coll and then about two months after that one of the Ardnamurchan shepherds was out after his sheep on the hills when he came across the wreckage of another of them above Kilchoan.

‘A few nights later, while I was sitting by the fireside waiting for 12 o’clock to come to switch off our own estate electrical power, after which the Navy would put on their own oil engine, I heard the garden gate opening. I heard steps coming along the passageway and up to the door.

‘I heard someone fumbling with the doorknob; we were in total darkness because of the blackout at the time, so I shouted, “Come in”. No one appeared to I went to the door and looked round but couldn’t see anything. As I was closing the kitchen door I swear I could see the face of a man in the passage. I had a strange feeling so I said to myself supposing the dawn would be blown to bits, I am not going out of here tonight.

‘A fortnight afterwards I was in by the fireside again, it was a stormy night too, when I heard the gate being opened and footsteps coming up the passage. I jumped up and opened the door and in the dark I saw the face of the very same man I had seen before. It was Dr Leach, the naval surgeon from the base at Dorlin. “Sandy”, he said, “I suppose you will have to
come with me. I got the body of that airman who was killed at Kilchoan. I brought him over to a shed at Salen. Will you come with me to measure it up for a coffin?” “Is the body just kind of ordinary doctor?” “Yes, I have got it well shaped.” “Ah well”, I said, “there is no need for me to go, I’ll get started right away.”

‘The next night we went over and coffined it and the Air Force people took the remains away. And I can swear I saw that doctor’s face before the event happened! I told our own doctor at the time, Dr Ferguson, “Well, I can’t dispute you,” he said, “We don’t know anything, we know nothing of these things.” That was a new thing coming into the place we had never seen before – aeroplanes coming to grief.’

Ardnamurchan estate was sold to Charles Dunell Rudd in 1897-98 who started reconstructing it. First, he built a castle at Glen Borrodale, then the house at Shiel Bridge; he altered and made new roads and built all the houses in Ardnamurchan to be seen to this day that is of any consequence.

After he died, his eldest son sold the estate to Kenneth Clark of Paisley, the cotton thread weavers. Even Mr Rudd’s yacht, the Mingary, was sold along with the estate. She was a boat of 639 tons. He had a smaller one called the Maloom (71 tons) and another one on Loch Shiel named the Rona (14 tons) which were all sold at the same time.

Salen, Loch Sunart, was noted once upon a time because Coates of Paisley had a bobbin mill there and you can see part of the water wheel down by the bridge at the Post Office to this day. Salen Hotel was leased by Rudd to a tenant by the name of Cameron who made a lot of alterations to it. He put a manager in it to try and keep drinking down. When a break in his lease came he built the Loch Shiel hotel.

Iain Thornber