Stronchreggan, Trislaig, Camusnagaul Achaphubuil, Blaich and Duisky are probably names which do not mean a lot to you. Add in Conaglen, Drumsallie and Garvan and most of you are probably even more perplexed!
However these are names from my childhood. Achaphubuil was where my maternal grandfather was born in 1893 and where as a child with my mother and father we spent a month each year on the croft – a stone built, two roomed dwelling with a corrugated iron roof, a box room and an outside toilet on the far side of the byre which was some distance away. The place where I as a five year old got his feet stuck in the midden on his way to the toilet and lost a wellington boot!
The place where I have a vivid recollection of riding my tricycle from the croft down through the hay field to get the letters from the postman, and where the old MacBrayne’s buses travelled round Loch Eil from Fort William picking up and dropping off passengers. The place which put me off porridge for life when Aunt Babs, my grandfather’s cousin who farmed the croft, would bring the porridge out of the top drawer of the dresser and expect us to eat it!
Trislaig was where my grandfather went to school, Camusnagaul is where Archie McLean, the boatman would ferry passengers across to Fort William, Conaglen the place my grandfather used to work as a gardener and the other named places I used to be taken when visiting other relatives of my mother’s.
It was to Trislaig Village Hall that we went one afternoon last month for the Church Service. There were three ladies present and the Reader who was conducting the service, Frances and me! The hymns were sung unaccompanied only because there was no musical instrument in the hall, and after the service we all sat round a table filled with home-made scones and cakes.
When I mentioned that my grandfather had come from Achaphubuil one of the ladies asked for more details and to my surprise she knew Aunt Babs and even more surprising could tell me the exact date of her death!
There was also a photograph taken in 1905 of the Village Hall in the days it was a school although the lady who knew our family said that the photo was probably 1910 which would have been too late for my grandfather to have been in the photo.
What struck me during this holiday (we were based on Ardnamurchan for a week, before the delights of Glasgow and a week in Edinburgh doing a lot of grandson doting!) was the sense of community there is (and always has been) in these communities. It is the people in these communities who keep the public toilets open, people who serve morning and afternoon teas in Village Halls during the summer months. The folk at Trislaig are hoping to have a lunch club once a month for elderly people living on the shores of Loch Eil and who are more isolated now because there are no MacBrayne’s buses passing the bottom of the field.
One afternoon we went to the MacMillan Coffee Afternoon in Trislaig Hall and discovered that the boatman was willing to run the ferry outwith the stated times to bring folk from Fort Willam (and take them back!) so they could support the community. Going the second nautical mile!
And so as we look forward to the start of a new Church Year, let’s see how even more than we are already doing, we can become a people who serve the community in which we are placed. Some ideas I gleaned during our holiday are mentioned elsewhere – you may have others. Let us know what they are. Oh, and enjoy your porridge and hang on to your wellies!