Scotland

Before writing about my time at Westcott, I should like to recall the five trips that I made to Scotland before my marriage. The first trip was with my Father in what was, perhaps, the worst car that he ever possessed. We called it 'Chicken' because the home-made fabric covered body that his Morris now carried, looked like a chicken shed. It had less room even than the standard body, and much less ventilation. Daddy had bought it as a 'stopgap' while his beloved Hupmobile two-seater was waiting for new pistons.

I do not know, in fact, when he had the idea of spending a week in Scotland with Joanna and Diana and Rotha in the car, and Ham and myself on our little motor-bikes. Giles was then too young to go with us. I do remember that there had been no booking of rooms. This worked wonderfully well at the big Hotel in Perth, and the various little inns that we stayed in for a night at a time (always with 'cock-a-leeky' soup under various names). Then, when we were in the West Highlands, Daddy decided to ignore the likelihood of rooms at Dornie Ferry (where there is now a bridge) and press on to the Cluanie Inn. It was only another ten miles. But, in the rain, and on the stony narrow road it seemed a long way. We got there in the end; but it was then a tiny place, and even if there had been no other visitors, there would have been no room for us all. So we went another eight miles to Invermoriston, and the lights of the hotel there seemed very welcoming in the gloaming. But alas, there was no room there either. So we went along the loch side to Fort Augustus, and there was lots of room, and vegetable soup there, at the Station Hotel!

I do not now remember the details of our tour; but we enjoyed most of it very much. There was, however, the day when the girls were so tired of the stuffiness of "Chicken" that they took turns at bumping along on the back of my bike, and may even have ridden on Hamin's, which had no provision at all for pillion passengers. I remember the beauty of Loch Maree, which we never subsequently visited, and the terribly rough "old road" up the pass of Glencoe, which was badly damaged by the lorries that were beginning to build the wonderful new road. I do not remember whether we were able to persevere with that road. I rather think that we had to find another, much longer, way.

It was brave of Daddy to take the five of us 'on spec.' to that varied assortment of inns and hotels, and it must have been very expensive; but it was a wonderful introduction to the beauties of Scotland. However, as we went on the last stage of our tour, along Ullswater towards Kirkstone Pass, we agreed that no part of Scotland seemed as beautiful to us as our bit of the Lakes.

And we thought the same after each of our later trips! Our next trip to Scotland was made with a caravan. It was an 'Eccles' and it was drawn by our 18 HP Armstrong Siddeley, a lovely tall open four-seater car that had very comfortable seats but very little power. Daddy had once allowed me to drive it; but I think I only tried once, as its front wheels had the awkward habit of beginning to bounce and wobble as soon as the car reached 18 m.p.h. All became well as soon as 20 mph was exceeded; but that took a long time. So it was disconcerting for a beginner. But, for towing a caravan, the lack of power was a more important drawback. The slightest gradient was too much for 'top gear', you had to change down to the second of 'slidey's' three gears. Bottom gear was sufficient to take the outfit up quite steep hills; but it had to be used quite often, and was very slow indeed.

However, the outfit did take us right up into the Highlands, as far as Ullapool on the West coast; and we did enjoy Scotland. Hamilton and I rode our motor bikes, and slept in the little one-pole hiker's tent that I had lately bought. The three girls slept in the caravan, and Daddy's HQ was a lean-to tent that we attached to the van. In this he also did our cooking, and, in honour of Scotland (and because we all liked it) he made porridge for us each morning. While we were in Scotland he had a tot of Whisky every night. As far as I can remember, our principal item of diet was Baps and we all liked them. In spite of our slow motion, we got well over the Border for our first night's lodging. This was in a field near a small farm. The farmer supplied us with milk and eggs, and of course water. For most of the other nights we pitched our caravan and tents in roadside quarries. There were very few trailer caravans then on the road, and so there was little competition. Each day, Ham and I would go ahead on our bikes, and would suggest to Daddy where we should stop. We spent much of our time in waiting for 'Slidey' to catch us up.

In spite of the rough roads I do not remember having much trouble with punctures and the like; but there came a day when Ham's bike needed a new tyre. The little garage at Kinlochewe had nothing suitable; but that was no worry. We were recommended to send a telegram to Dingwall, a little town near Inverness, and the tyre duly arrived by the mid-day train next day at Achnasheen (just half way across Scotland). There were two or three other cars waiting with us in the wilderness on similar errands.

I well remember coming over a hill, and seeing Lock Broom, with Ullapool at the sea-ward end, and the Summer Isles in the sea beyond. It was lovely to see the sea after our long journey from Inverness, and I vividly recalled the account in Xenophon (a writer well-known to students of Elementary Greek) of his little group of soldiers trying to find their way home from Asia Minor. At last they came in sight of the sea. 'Thalassa,thalassa' they cried. (The sea, the sea ..) and now they knew that they would get safely home! For the sea was the one safe highway for those ancient Greeks. We too were delighted at last to see the sea, and we were well regarded. There was a lovely place for the caravan by the beach at Ardmair, with a view that I still recall and treasure. (It was just as well that there was no perceptible wind while we were there, as tent pegs were useless on the shingle and the tent guys had to be held down with large stones!)

Next day we left the bikes by the van and went to see how far North we could get. We got to Loch Assynt; but we could not see much of it, as it was raining hard.

When I told Jay and Di that I was going to write about this tour they said; "You must tell of our visit to the Cally Palace Hotel!'

Auntie May had taken Granny Jager up for & Scots holiday in their new Hupmobile Straight Eight, and they were staying in Galloway at the Cally Palace Hotel while we were up North with the Eccles Caravan. So of course we had to visit them on our way home to the Lakes. It was very gallant of Auntie May to take her Stepmother on this long trip, as she herself was ageing and small, and the new car was large and heavy. It had been purchased on the reasonable ground that it was powerful enough to climb the steep hill to 'The Hermitage' in Top Gear; but gear changing was agony to Auntie May, and it could not be altogether avoided. I have written elsewhere of my shame and shameful behaviour when Auntie May had brought Granny in the Hupp to see us at Blundells. I was in a Study which overlooked the steep little drive to Old House. Suddenly there was an agonising and continuing noise of "grinding gears". It was Auntie May! I was really embarassed to see that she was the cause of the noise, and my shame was that I did not admit to my study mates that I had any connection with the two old ladies in the yellow car!

So, when we were in striking distance of Galloway, on our way to the South-West, Daddy telephoned, and we were all invited to dinner. The Cally Palace Hotel, as the name implies, though it had evidently seen better days, was really palatial in its Scots Baronial way. So, though even female Jagers are not particularly dress-conscious, in the days before we had modern synthetics and 'drip-dry clothes', we all, after ten days' camping, had a rather crumpled look. Really, far from having 'Evening Dress', as the other diners would be wearing, we had no clean clothes to wear! We all had a problem; but we did our best!

However, Granny and Auntie May were really glad to see us, and there was safety in numbers. I remember the slightly shocked look of the other diners, who, with the exception of one twelve year old boy with his parents, were all elderly or middle aged. We were sorry for the boy; but I expect that our arrival was a welcome diversion for him on his otherwise rather dull holiday. Then, after another night in camp, we set off for the Lakes, and got there next evening in spite of our snail-like progress.

When the time came for our second caravan holiday, which must may been in 1936, as I was then at Mather's and the proud possessor of that lovely little Morris Eight tourer, Daddy was the even prouder possessor of the yellow Hupmobile Straight Eight which had been such a worry for Auntie May. I volunteered to hire a more modern caravan in Manchester, and to tow it over to Hoylake. Then we set off again to Scotland in some style, with me driving the Morris and sometimes taking a turn with the Hupp.

This time there was no difficulty about towing power, though, finding it hard to judge the speed of the Hupp engine, and sometimes making horrible noises with its "crash" gear box, my sympathy and respect for Auntie May notably increased. Daddy still had difficulty in getting the car and van over the West coast ferries. I think it was at the Kyle of Lochalsh that the steep and narrow stone ramp proved hardest to tackle. As a matter of record, Daddy managed it very well, though, even with the comfort of the stump of a 'Long Panatela' in his mouth, there was the usual impression of anxiety and tension. It was easy enough to drive the car (and van) on to the little Ferry boat; but getting the outfit safely off the boat and up the ramp was a real challenge. I think that there may have been a bang or two as the car lurched off (possibly the bottom edge of the back of the van touched something as the car and van surged up the stone ramp). There was, of course, an audience. One of them shouted to a friend a comment that we argued about afterwards. Did he say, with relief and admiration "Not a scratch!", or did he say "I don't think much of that!".

It was a very happy holiday, but I can remember little of it, except that we camped near Broadford, on Skye, on what appeared to be the ninth tee of the golf course (evidently unused at the time). However, the first two days were memorable, and on the first afternoon, I had a rare quarrel with my father. We had arranged to meet at Beattock in the Lowlands, and, somehow, having lost contact with the Hupp, I thought that it was, as usual, behind me. It was, in fact some way ahead. So I and my passengers waited awhile in Beattock village. Then, at last, having decided that the Hupp might, after all, be ahead, we went on some mile or so to Beattock Summit. Alas, this was the case, and Daddy was rather cold and quite cross when we turned up, as he had been waiting quite a while in the cold Scots wind. Beattock summit is a very draughty spot. However, the great thing about a caravan is that you can always warm up with a pot of tea when you feel inclined. Daddy had not brewed up because he had been expecting us 'any minute', and he had probably been waiting for Ham and I to wind down the legs of the van. But, as he was still chilled through in spite of the tea, he said that he would like to stay a bit longer in the warmth of the caravan. I did not know that it was illegal to carry passengers in a trailer (perhaps it was then not prohibited); but that ride prevented what could have been a serious accident.

At the next lay-by we stopped, and I asked how he was getting on. He said that there was a funny noise under the van. So we swapped places and went on to the next convenient stop. I reported that there was indeed an ominous noise of rattling. So we went on to the next garage, at Crawford, fortunately with a yard at the back where we could park. On jacking up the caravan, and taking off a hub-cap, two nuts fell out, with 'chewed up' parts of the wheel studs. That wheel had been held on by only one, worn, stud!

So, next morning, Ham and I drove off to Glasgow (a city which we had not hitherto visited) with our damaged wheel, to get a replacement. We thought that this would be an easy task, as the hub-cap was stamped 'Wolseley'. Alas, the Wolseley agent, when we found him, reported that Wolseley had never yet used such a wheel. So we toured Glasgow and found the Dunlop and the Sankey depots, as we had been told that these were the two likely suppliers of such wheels; but they could not help us. So we went back to Crawford and rang up the people who had hired the caravan to us. They promised to put a replacemeent wheel on the train, and it duly arrived the next day! Those were the days!

We went on to have a very happy holiday, camping, as before, at the roadside: and this time we had no difficulty with towing, though, of course the little Morris sped on with us ahead to find suitable places. I remember going on the long road round Loch Leven (to avoid the Ballachulish Ferry) and rejoicing to see the yellow car and its green trailer, far away across the Loch.

My most memorable Camping holiday was alone with Ham on our bikes. For my first week I was a lone camper, carrying our faithful little tent on the tank of my New Imp. I wisely spent my first night in Aunt Annie's field at Grasmere, and found that I still lacked a tin opener! Then I went on to camp in the Highlands, camping on any little level plot out of sight of any habitation, with the bike supported by one of the little gullies running off those highland roads. I enjoyed my lonely adventure, but was longing for Ham's company when, after his week at a Clydeside works, we met at last at our West Highland rendezvous.

We camped at two notable places on Skye. The first was at Elgol, at the SE end of Loch Scavaig, looking Northward to the Cuillins, and Southward across the sea to Rhum and Eigg. The only place level enough for our camp was on a little island below the village, almost on the sea-shore. Our plot was out of sight on the village; but we found, with some embarassment, that the slope down from the village, also conveniently out of sight of the cottages was used in the early morning for toilet purposes! Soon after our arrival while we were cooking some fish (sold to us by the lads who had just caught them) we heard an agitated shrill voice. We thought at first that the old lady was speaking Gaelic; but what she was saying, in her sing-song English, was that the Highland cattle were "verra destructive", and that she feared they might damage our "Guid coats" that were protecting our bikes. In those dates the "three-in-one" riding coats that we used were good value, at (I think) 2.50, and, with their layers of gaberdine, oilskin and blanket cloth, gave very good protection. However, with the gaberdine blackened with oily dirt, and the yellow oilskin showing through in places, they looked as if no further destruction could harm them!

The next day was a Sunday, and we thought it would be impolite to use our bikes on a Holy day. So, though the 4 mile path to Loch Coruisk, at the foot of the Cuillins, was marked on the map in a way that in England would have denoted a bridle path, we decided to walk it. We very soon found that it would have been not only impolite but impossible to use our bikes on the narrow path across screes and over rocks. The point marked on our map as "bad step" was just that! The path was along the ridge of a rock at the foot of a cliff. There was sea water on either side of us, and the "step" was a place where you had to step upwards across quite a gap. It being Sunday, we found that, after our adventurous walk, we had the lake side to ourselves. Cigarette packets showed that, on any other day, we might have encountered excursionists who had come by motor-boat! It was a warm sunny day with occasional showers, so that we were alternately soaked and sun-dried. I cannot remember a more agreeable walk! When we got back to Elgol, we found that the cattle had not disturbed our bikes or, more seriously, our tent, though the guys had loosened in the wind!

Our other, unforgettable, camp site was near the North end of Trotternish, within the last 'hair-pin', near the Quiraing, on the pass over to Uig, where the steamer goes across to the Outer Hebrides. We were above the cloud level, and so, in the morning, could see through the clouds a little tarn and then the sea. But our rather sloping site meant that our feet were well out of the tent when we awoke!

On our way home, after triumphantly getting over the famous hill from Tornapress to Applecross (the mail then went by sea to "Applecross and the outer isles"), we were intrigued to see the pipe-line leading down the hill from the famous 15 mile long tunnel that takes water from the bottom of Loch Treig to the Ben Nevis Hydroelectric Power Station, which devoted all its vast power to the making of aluminium in a near-by factory. We decided that, as Engineering students, we should like to see this unique power station and its 'Pelton wheels'. We had a good deal of difficulty in gaining admission, as, though the Power Station was a source of great pride, the details of the making of Aluminium was a closely guarded international Trade Secret. So they tested our bona-fides by sounding us out about imaginary contemporaries at Cambridge, and then, after deciding that we were, after all, genuine, our host told us of some of the expedients that had been used on them (and by theml) in the course of industrial spying. Our visit to the power station was brief but very impressive. The vast amount of (DC) power generated was illustrated in two ways. There was the sheer size of the rectangular aluminium bus-bars carrying the current, and the magnetic force that, without the reinforcement of any coil made a ring of keys tug hard at their retaining cord against the magnetic repulsion. No wonder we had to leave our watches at the office!

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