HOLIDAY ON SKYE

This is me in 1962 aged 13 outside a but and ben on Skye. Was it occupied, with a telephone? Surely not, but there is a telegraph pole leading up to it!

This is me outside a but and ben on Skye. Was it occupied, with a telephone? Surely not, but there is a telegraph pole leading up to it!

This was an exciting holiday, just me and my sister Margaret (Tiggy). She was 24 and I was 13 in 1962. This account is condensed from the diary I wrote at the time. We started off on Thursday in Ipswich where my sister had been teaching at the Girls’ High School. We arrived in Liverpool Street Station and took the tube to  Kings Cross. There we had supper. We got on the night sleeper at 9.15 pm en route for Edinburgh.

On poking my nose out of the window at Grantham station where we arrived at about 11.15 there was  the unmistakable smell of a steam engine- coal smoke and cylinder oil. We had a nice steward, a Scot. Having got to sleep at 12.30 we were awake at 6 and watched the last part of the journey to Waverley Station from the window of our sleeping compartment. I noticed that the roads went straight and then bent at an angle, not twisty roads like we have in Norfolk.  We got off the train at 6.50, and each had an orange juice. At 7.35 we boarded the train for Glasgow, going past huge slag heaps and a working coal mine on the way. We went through 5 tunnels and arrived at Glasgow at 8.40.  We breakfasted on baps filled with ham and had another glass of orange juice. I bought a comic to read and some postcards. At 9.45 we got on the train to Mallaig. We passed the Forth of Clyde and saw many stretches of canal and locks. We lunched on the train at 11.45; the dining car had double glazed windows but some condensation had got between the panes of glass, so you could see how steep the gradient was by the water level! We arrived at Fort William at two o’clock. We were shunted about for 5 minutes and then after a long wait set off for Mallaig. This time there were so many tunnels I lost count. I dozed off but was awake for the summit of the line at Currour, 1,350 feet above sea level, and for the spectacular Monessie Gorge with its amazing waterfalls.

The journey from Fort William to Mallaig took about an hour and a half. We had quite a job to find the ferry at Mallaig. Nowadays you would, unless very adventurous, go to Skye by the Kyle of Lochalsh and take the bridge over to the island, but in those days there was no bridge.  We got on the ferry-boat; at first it  pitched about, but once the captain turned towards Skye it rolled from side to side in an alarming manner. We stood in the foc’sle at first but after getting covered in spray from the bows we moved to the lee of the wheelhouse.  There was no covered accomodation and the strait was rather rough. My sister was slightly scared when we seemed roll about 45°.  An American with a knapsack was loudly vocal in his opinion of Scottish facilities for tourists; he was not complimentary.  I thought it was fun if a little bit alarming.

Once we were again on dry land at Armadale we caught a bus to Isle Ornsay; so far so good. The problems began after we got off the bus by the lane which led to Ord House Hotel on the Sound of Sleat.  (CLICK HERE for a recent picture of Ord House.) We had intended to walk to our hotel, but when eventually we reached a house in the bleak moors we arranged a lift. We had to wait while the driver milked his cows and had his tea. It was raining, so while this was going on we sheltered in a barn and made friends with his sheepdog. We arrived at Ord House in time for supper. There were three dogs belonging to Miss Nicholson who ran the hotel; one large and two small terriers. Miss Nicholson appeared to be the owner of the hotel; she certainly was in charge of the accommodation and catering. It was Saturday by now, and  we had breakfast at 9. We walked up a wooded hill; on the windward side the trees were very stunted and bent. We were chased by some sheep who didn’t seem at all frightened of us, so we walked along the shore instead. I had sat in a bog by mistake, but the wind blew me dry in no time. Then a storm came up from the loch and soaked me again.  It hadn’t looked very far on the map, but we now realized we were in the back of beyond; bleak and open with no sign of another house for miles around. My sister decided we had to have a car and phoned through to the telephone exchange; all calls had to go through the exchange because the phone had no dial. She ordered a hire car from Sutherland’s Garage at Broadford.

We had never been so glad to see a car, and this was an up-to-date Wolseley 1500 painted maroon and with lots of walnut on the dashboard. I have always liked Wolseley 1500s ever since. Now that we had a car we could explore the island, going round to see the Cuillin Mountains and  the ancient Fairy Flag at Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod. There was much more exploring to do on Skye. Another guest at Ord House was out all day catching trout which he gave to the other guests, so we had delicious fresh trout for breakfast. Afternoon tea was a treat too with all sorts of Scottish cream cakes and scones. There was a young boy on holiday with his mother, perhaps a year or two younger than me, and the two of them were always inveigling us to play them at Mahjong. It is a game I had never played before (or since come to that).

Back to the mainland we travelled on a MacBrayne steamer when the strait was calm and this was a very different experience from outward journey to Skye. Our Scottish holiday was not over yet. Now we were staying in the Edinburgh University halls of residence; it was the summer vacation so it was free of students and most of our fellow guests were attending the Edinburgh Festival. Our only interest in the Festival was to attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which we did on the evening of the day we arrived. The next day we took the train back to Glasgow. There we had two things to do. The first was to ride on the Glasgow trams (my father’s idea), which were within a week or two of finally closing for good. There weren’t many tram lines left, but we found one and waited for a tram to stop. This was mistake, for Glasgow trams did not stop for their passengers to alight, they just slowed down a bit. Of course I waited for the tram to come to a halt.  ‘Come on, come on,’ came the thick Glasgow accent of the conductor. He was cross with me, this stupid Sassenach, who expected the tram to come to halt for him; and also I am sure he was upset to be loosing his job within days.

The second task (also given us by my father)  was to call on Arthur Frank who kept an optical shop in the city. Arthur Frank had been one of my father’s detachment at Woolwich during the war, being taught the technical maintenance of optical instruments. This was in the RAOC, before the formation of REME who took over that kind of technical work once they had been formed. Arthur Frank had not been expecting us but was delighted to see us, once he had placed us, and made us each a gift of a copy of the book he had written; Frank’s Book of the Telescope. Another adventure was a visit to Edinburgh zoo; while strolling down a path with my hands in my pockets I tripped on kerbstone and fell flat on my face! We walked down the Royal Mile and climbed the 287 steps of the Scott Monument. We also saw the view from the Edinburgh Camera Obscura, It all came to an end far too soon, and we retraced our steps back to Norwich. About the return journey I remember nothing at all, but I find this usual in recalling holidays long past, and my diary does not mention it. That was a busy year, for we had a fortnight holiday in Southwold as usual that August and then in September my sister Margaret went to start her new job on Guernsey, teaching boys in the Prep School of Elizabeth College.

JOSEPH MASON

THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF TIMES PAST

joemasonspage@gmail.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: