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A bench built to remember a happy camper is becoming a top selfie spot on Mull.
Leo Norris’s dad Peter first took his young family to spend the summer at stunning Uisken near Bunessan in 1966 and it flourished into a tradition lasting more than 50 years.
Peter and his wife Binkie were 88 when they reluctantly gave up up their tent for a cosy caravan.
For the former head of a Barnardo’s residential school in Peebles, discovering Uisken was love at first sight and after he died three years ago his son Leo wanted to find a unique way of celebrating his dad’s passion for the place.
‘We don’t have a gravestone, so the bench is special to us. I wanted to design something that would hold people nicely, a bit like the beach itself. It’s a fitting tribute to dad and Uisken,’ said Leo.
With ideas from family and fellow Uisken campers, he came up with the idea of the scallop shell shaped bench made in oak and inscribed with Peter and Binkie’s names and the message To All Who Love Uisken. Under the bench is a small plaque inviting people to email Leo with their selfies.
To date, he has received about 50 selfies and now he is ‘open to suggestions’ on finding a way to share them with others.
Leo’s mum Binkie has never returned to the island without Peter but has enjoyed seeing the images. Now that her sight is failing, Leo still describes them to her in detail whenever one arrives.
‘They keep coming. Sometimes once a month or once a week in summer. They are fascinating. Characters are captured, their positions and expressions, how they dress. They’re all very different but what they have in common is their love for Uisken. It would make a great installation. I’m open to suggestions,’ said Leo.
In the 1960s, it was just the Norris family and one other who set up their camps at Uisken but even when the beach’s popularity grew and more tents and caravanners arrived, Peter was happy to share it, said Leo who lives in Fife and was just 11 on the first holiday there.
‘We would come and camp at Uisken for a month in the summer. Sometimes it rained every day and dad would be out digging channels round the tent. But to us it was still heaven on earth. Leaving it behind was always such a great misery,’ he added.
The bench has a bell attached for people to ring. The Morning Bell, as it is called, is a nod to Peter’s habit of making porridge then ringing an improvised bell made out of a fishing float to call other campers to join them for breakfast.
‘I got the idea at dad’s memorial service from a young person who used to camp next to them. There was a little play on the word morning and our mourning for dad but it was also a way of remembering his extraordinary capacity for being inventive. Every year he’d put something in the Bunessan Show that he’d made out of found objects, often bringing a prize home from the craft tent,’ said Leo, who designs and makes things for a living.
Significantly, the scallop shell also symbolises pilgrimage. ‘It’s a measure of the place that so many of the visitors return year after year and each new generation keeps coming back,’ added Leo.
Peter also started off the first Uisken Beach Games, rounding up children to take part in the fun. The August event, with races on the sand and home-made rafts, still continues and is the biggest single fundraiser for the Ross of Mull RNLI, said Leo who brings his grandchildren on holiday every year.
‘We’ll be back at Easter,’ he added.