Lochranza: Joyce C. Orr 3rd April 2013

Lochranza Castle is superbly set on a grassy spit of land that juts out in to the sea loch.  The castle was rebuilt in the 16th century but there are remnants of the original castle from a few hundred years earlier.  Legend has it that Robert the Bruce landed at Lochranza in 1306 from Ireland at the start of his claim to the Scottish throne and it is known that his grandson came to own the castle in 1371 when he became King Robert II of Scotland, who used it primarily as a hunting lodge.   In the 15th century it was used as a base for James IV and later it was occupied by James VI and Cromwell’s troops.

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Lochranza, in the north of the Isle of Arran, was the place I loved most on our trip to the Isle of Arran and it is not surprising that other people love it so much.  This beautifully positioned bench is dedicated to the memory of Joyce C Orr.  Sitting on the bench you are overlooking a stunning view and I could sit here for a long time watching the birds, the boats and the sea.

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THIS BENCH IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF Joyce C. Orr Died 3rd April 2013 A Loving and Much Loved wife to Gavin, Mum to Alison and Nana to Stuart and Christopher “SHE LOVED THIS PLACE”

Joyce C Orr lived nearby in Ayr, on the mainland of Scotland and just a short ferry trip from the Isle of Arran.  Joyce C Orr had been treated in Ayrshire Hospice and was a member of the St Columba Church in Ayr and Joyce C Orr and her family are remembered in notices from the church.  On Saturday 21 September 2013 a concert was held at Ayrshire Hospice in memory of Joyce Orr, with music by Cantanti, a local vocal ensemble.

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Lochranza: Eddie Warren 1919 – 1994

We were bowled over by the Scottish island of Arran and one of our favourite places on the island was Lochranza, a peaceful village on the north coast of the island.  The village has a great campsite, a ruined castle, a ferry terminal, red deer that wander over the golf course and even its own whisky distillery.  We stayed here a few days and while we were there took the bus to Sannox and walked back along the craggy coast, climbing over the boulders that tumble down to the sea and following the lovely grassy paths with views to the mainland and Bute.  This isn’t a walk to be hurried and we savoured every moment.

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Looking over the water at Lochranza to the village and the ferry terminal

Coming around the coast in to the shelter of the loch, the village of Lochranza came in to sight.  Along this stretch of coastline I was amazed by the cluster of memorial benches there were to sit on and rest while enjoying the panoramic views.  The number of benches without doubt demonstrate how popular this area is with many people.

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IN MEMORY OF EDDIE WARREN (THE SINGING PAINTER) 1919 – 1994 WHO ENJOYED HAPPY TIMES IN LOCHRANZA

The plaque on this shiny green bench to Eddie Warren tells a short story about the man it remembers.  I don’t know if Eddie Warren painted on canvas or walls and doors but I feel sure that he was happy in whichever was his chosen trade as he sang as he painted.  The plaque also tells visitors that Eddie Warren had some happy times at Lochranza and I can certainly relate to that.

Kildonan: Margaret and James Potts

The village of Kildonan lies on the south coast of the island of Arran in Scotland.  Kildonan has a long and beautiful beach and on a clear day if you look out to sea you will spot the island of Pladda (from the Norse for flat isle) and the more prominent Ailsa Crag.  The houses of the village are strung out along the coast, as is often the way in Scotland.

It was a murky day when we arrived in Kildonan.  Undaunted we took a stroll around the village and found this handsome memorial bench not far from where the coastguard lookout once was.  The coastguard station closed in 1981 but the old coastguard house still stands.  On a clear day the bench has spectacular views.  We stayed at the campsite and the following morning we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine and could enjoy that view with our breakfast.

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There is a view over the bay at Kildonan in better weather

In the Arran Banner I found out a little bit more about James Potts from his grandchildren.  The paper’s Where’s Archie feature had a photograph of the black Labrador, Archie, next to this bench and it was quickly recognised.  One grandchild told the paper, ‘James (wee Jimmy as he was known) was the senior coastguard at Kildonan until he retired to Whiting Bay in 1975.  The Hagan and Kinloch grandchildren had the bench made at Kiscadale Forge in 1994 and it was designed by their grandson David Hagan.’  Another responded, ‘I was sat on it [this memorial bench] when we were up for a long weekend last week.  It’s dedicated to my grandparents Meg and Jimmy Potts who lived up the road at the Coastguard Station for 20 years.’

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IN MEMORY OF MARGARET & JAMES POTTS I.S.M. COASTGUARD KILDONAN 1955 – 1975 THIS SEAT WAS DEDICATED TO THEM BY THEIR GRANDCHILDREN 1994

Kiscadale Forge, that created this unusual and lovely bench, is based on Arran.  The design includes the letters J and M for Margaret and James and gives the bench a moving and personal touch.

Spean Bridge: Alan R Reece 1927 – 2012

There is a lovely footpath that links the stunning Commando Memorial just north of Spean Bridge off the A82 with High Bridge, a ruined bridge that crosses the River Spean.  I was walking here in search of the Jacobites as it was across this gorge that the first shots were fired in the Jacobite uprising on 16 August 1745.

The impressive Commando Memorial was built in 1952 to commemorate the soldiers who trained in this area before and during World War Two.  The views from the memorial are panoramic and this is a popular halt for visitors.

The made footpath below the memorial was built with funding from Alan Reece and this track makes reaching HIgh Bridge a pleasant experience these days.  The path follows some of General Wade’s military road to High Bridge, although this can no longer be crossed.

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The view over the river Spean

Follow the path and you will come to this handsome bench with a view over the River Spean gorge commemorating Alan R Reece.   Alan R Reece was a lecturer in agricultural engineering at Newcastle University and in the 1980s designed a ‘highly efficient undersea plough’ that helped protect underwater cables.  He continued to be based in the north-east and used the wealth his engineering companies accumulated for charitable purposes, including many for education and this footpath.  Alan R Reece was an enthusiastic mountaineer and almost completed all the Scottish Munros.  He died on December 31 2012 at the age of 85.

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Alan R Reece 1927 – 2012 Engineer and Mountaineer

Glenfinnan: Willison P Gibson 1932-1999 & Catherine Gibson 1934-2008

At the head of Loch Sheil in Scotland, the small village of Glenfinnan is popular with visitors for two reasons.  The Glenfinnan Monument, erected in the 19th century, commemorates the Jacobite raising of the standard on 19 August 1745 as Bonnie Prince Charlie made his bid for the British throne.  I was here to remember this historic moment but it seems that many people visit this area to make more modern connections.  The Glenfinnan viaduct spans 1,000 feet and is 100 feet high and, thanks to Harry Potter films, is a popular attraction, particular when the steam trains are running.

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At the base of the Glenfinnan Monument

We were lucky to be here on a glorious sunny spring day when undoubtedly Scotland is the most beautiful place in the world to be.  While we waited our turn to climb the steep narrow stone staircase to the top of the tower for the wonderful view over Loch Sheil I browsed along the memorial plaques on the benches around the base of the monument.

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For These Are My Mountains And I Am Come Home In Loving Memory WILLISON P GIBSON 1932-1999 & Catherine Gibson 1934-2008 Until The Twelfth Of Never We Will Still Be Loving You

These two memorial plaques on one bench to Willison P and Catherine Gibson caught my eye for their poetic story of a loving couple.  Willison P Gibson died in 1999 many years before Catherine and the plaque his family left for him conjures up a picture of a man who loved these mountains and called them home.  Catherine Gibson died in Livingston in 2008 aged 74-years.  They both left behind a loving family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will always have a link with this beautiful place.

Stromness, Orkney: George Mackay Brown

Orkney is a very special place and on a sunny day there is nowhere I would rather be.  Stromness is Orkney’s second largest town huddled around a sheltered harbour.  It is a charming place with stone cottages clinging to the shoreline and a winding paved main street behind these houses.  Walk along this shopping street and you get occasional glimpses of the sea and the busy harbour between the houses.  Behind this seafront the houses climb steeply up the hill and if you arrive by boat they appear to sit on top of each other.

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Stromness looking across to the harbour

On a gorgeous sunny morning we were exploring the many corners of Stromness and I came upon this memorial bench to George Mackay Brown in a garden south of the town.  I have been a fan of George Mackay Brown’s writing for many years and have read a number of his novels and I was pleased that his birthplace had erected a bench to remember this remarkable writer that had story telling in his blood.  He stayed in Orkney and this group of islands continued to be central to his writing.  He wove stories around the local myths, island characters and wildlife in his novels and poems.  He died on 13 April 1996 in the town that he was born in, Stromness.  In his lifetime he received many accolades; he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1977 and his final novel, Beside the Ocean of Time in 1994 was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and received the Saltire Society‘s Scottish Book of the Year Award.

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IN MEMORY OF GEORGE MACKAY BROWN POET & WRITER 1921 – 1996

“The imagination is not an escape, but a return to the richness of our true selves; a return to reality.” George Mackay Brown

Lochnagar: Gordon Haxton 1944 – 2004

Lochnagar (1156 metres) in Aberdeenshire in the north-east of Scotland is a magnificent giant of a mountain that is a popular but demanding walk.  Like so many before us we set off from the car park at the end of the Glen Muick road to climb the mountain on a fine August day.  The view across Lochnagar’s northern corrie to the curve of the ridge was awe-inspiring and our return through bright flowering heather by the Glas Allt waterfall was spectacular; I will never forget this marvellous day of walking.

George Gordon Byron or Lord Byron wrote the poem, Lachin y Gair, often known as Dark Lochnagar, framing the mountain in the romance of childhood memories and it is a line from this poem that is quoted on the memorial bench I found here.

Away, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens of roses!
 In you let the minions of luxury rove;
Restore me the rocks, where the snow-flake reposes,
 Though still they are sacred to freedom and love:
Yet, Caledonia, belov’d are thy mountains,
 Round their white summits though elements war;
Though cataracts foam ‘stead of smooth-flowing fountains,
 I sigh for the valley of dark Loch na Garr.

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I spotted this simple bench by the car parks and though eager to start our walk stopped to take a look, as I always do, and think about the person the memorial bench commemorates.  Gordon Haxton died at just 60-years old in nearby Aberdeen.  A man loved by his family and a special friend to many people, the memorial plaque suggests he had a deep love for this magnificent mountain.  As I hiked up the paths to the summit I wondered about how many times he had walked on these same routes.

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“I sigh for the valley of dark Lochnager” In loving memory of GORDON HAXTON 1944 – 2004