Posted January 21, 2018
My late wife kept nagging me to write my autobiography and reminiscences of the Highlands but I never got round to it – too many characters still alive then, most now dead.
Bear in mind, when I was 10-12 there was no telephone or electricity and just single track roads with passing places in general – no TV till I was 15 as the mountains blocked it. Almost nobody owned a car and much ploughing was still by horse. Life was unimaginably tough by modern standards.
When I joined the Army I rapidly became champion recruit and shot (I had been shooting since a child), 1 mile, 3 mile and cross country champion (and boxer on the side). But to be fair, many other boys from the village or the like were as fit and would have achieved the same. The average recruit was city/town born and bred and never had the upbringing we Highlanders did.
Today my childhood is truly unimaginable to modern people – or even then at the time to townsfolk. But the best upbringing you could pray for!
Posted January 21, 2018
Further to my story about the funeral at Glenachulish, here is another Highland story from my youth in northern Argyll.
There was a local family when I was a boy whose eldest son in particular was very large and powerful. About 6ft 3” and very muscular – a real Highland stirk. He was a feller in the Forestry Commission and in those non- mechanised days that meant crosscut saw and axe – very hard work. He was very nice and allowing for our age difference was a good friend of mine. But nobody ever annoyed him. Let’s call him “Big Jock“ for the purposes of this tale.
The day came when he was called up to go off and do his National Service and he went to the Seaforth Highlanders in Fort George. I was in my mid-teens at the time.
I didn’t see him for three or four months when he came home on leave in battledress and kilt order as was normal in those days. I ran into him at a dance in Glencoe village hall. The conversation went as follows.
Me: Good to see you Big Jock. How are things going in the army?
Big Jock: Great. I do nothing since I finished basic training except get well fed. I’m in a team, and if you’re in a team for the regiment that’s all you do.
Me: What team are you in?
Big Jock: I box for the regiment. I’m heavyweight champion.
Me: But you know nothing about boxing Jock. There’s no boxing round here.
Big Jock: There’s nothing to know, Archie. You put on your vest and shorts and get in what they call a ring, but really it’s more of a square. Then another man sits across the ring from you. When the bell goes you both get up and walk to the middle. Then you hit him and he falls down. That’s all there is to it!
Me: Gulp! Great to see you home, Jock.
Big Jock went on to become Brigade heavyweight champion and then Scottish Division heavyweight champion. He then finished his National Service, came home and went back to work in the Forestry Commission.We knocked about together a bit and then I went off and joined the army as a Regular – the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.I went on to box for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for 2 years but I never perfected Big Jock’s technique. I found it much more work….
What a different world it was.
Posted January 14, 2018
First, a joke:
Next, a real story:
This joke reminds of the tale I heard as a young boy, in the area (North Argyll), of the funeral of a man from Glenachulish.
The chapel (which John MacFarlane knows well) is on the road to Ballachulish. The local men shouldered the coffin and set off along the lochside. But it was summer and very hot. So on the road to the Kirk, about half a mile from the Ballachulish Ferry slip, they put down the coffin for a rest, sat on it and pulled out their hip flasks for a dram or 2 or 3.
The upshot was that they all got “flutered”, got up and staggered back to Glenachulish, singing Gaelic songs (I like to think by Duncan Ban McIntyre) forgetting the coffin or why they were there. On return to Glenachulish, the womenfolk sorted them out, they went back and completed the funeral.
As a young local back in the early 1950s I was told this as Gospel truth. I really hope it was, as I saw plenty things of that type before I left the Highlands and joined the Army.