Corpach: Iain MacIntyre 1931 – 2018

This is certainly a bench that encourages you to linger and enjoy the view.

The Caledonian Canal runs from Corpach in the west of Scotland near Fort William to Inverness in the east.  This waterway is made up of 22 miles of canals and 29 locks, joining 38 miles of existing lochs that string along the Great Glen.  Built in the early 19th century, the route includes Neptunes Staircase near to Corpach where a ladder of eight locks raises boats 70 feet.

We were cycling back to our campsite near Corpach after an enthralling evening of pine marten watching with Glen Loy Wildlife.   Seeing these elusive mammals has been on my wish list for many years and I was thrilled to have had the chance.  The day before we had climbed Ben Nevis on a perfect and unusually hot day for the month of May.  We were happy and relaxed after touring around the beautiful country of Scotland for around a month and looking forward to more weeks to come.  In the evening light we cycled down to the locks at Corpach, where the Caledonian Canal meets Loch Linnhe and had to stop to take in the magnificent view of Ben Nevis saturated by the warm colours of the sunset.

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Ben Nevis in the evening sunshine

While we watched the vibrant magic of the sun setting, I noticed a memorial bench with an enviable view and turned away to read the plaque.  The bench remembers Iaian MacIntyre and told me that he was born at Corpach Sealock in 1931.  I sat and pondered on what a different place this would have been in 1931.  Today the Caledonian Canal is mostly used by leisure boats but in the 1930s large paddle steamers would have taken passengers through the canal and in the Second World War a naval repair base was here.

Iain MacIntyre’s death at 87 years of age was announced in the Oban Times on 4 October 2018:

MACINTYRE – Very peacefully,  surrounded by his family on Saturday, September 29, 2018, Iain Neil MacIntyre, aged 87 years. Devoted husband, dad and grandad. Funeral service will be held on Monday, October 8, 2018 at 11a.m. in Kilmallie Parish Church, Corpach; thereafter to Beoraid Cemetery, Morar for approx 3p.m. Family flowers only please …

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In memory of Iain MacIntyre Born Corpach SeaLock 1931 – 2018

Ruthven Barracks: Gordon Mackie 1944 – 2003

Ruthven Barracks near Kingussie in Scotland is an atmospheric ruin, the buildings open to the sky.  I always enjoy visiting this spot and thinking about its place in Scottish history.  Built on a prominent mound in the valley of the river Spey in the early 1700s, the barracks were part of the planning to maintain order in Scotland after the uprising of 1715.  Stand on the site of the barracks and you have a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

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Ruthven Barracks

After the Battle of Culloden, Jacobite survivors gathered at Ruthven Barracks and heard that the rising had collapsed and Bonnie Prince Charlie was fleeing Scotland.  The Jacobites set fire to the barracks as they left.

On our last visit to Ruthven Barracks we walked up to the ruins from the car park and I noticed this memorial bench to Gordon Mackie.  The bench is the perfect place to sit and contemplate the layout of the buildings that remain at Ruthven with their mountain backdrop.  The plaque describes this as “Gordon’s View” and invites anyone to enjoy it.  Thank you Gordon Mackie!

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GORDON MACKIE 1944 – 2003 May all who rest here enjoy Gordon’s View

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.


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.

Kinlochleven: Tony Schwalbe 1979-2009

By 1909 Kinlochleven had a hydro-electric scheme and aluminium smelter, following the construction of Blackwater Reservoir and 6 kms of pipeline to the valley by navvies.  Crammed dozens to a hut, the navvies worked in harsh conditions among the Scottish mountains and not all of them survived.  The navvies graveyard by Blackwater Reservoir is a sobering spot.  The aluminium smelter employed up to 800 people and the isolated village of Kinlochleven grew.  During the First World War there were two prisoner of war camps around Kinlochleven and the German prisoners worked to build the road on the south side of Loch Leven to support the busy aluminium works.


Overlooking the hydroelectric and former alumimium smelting works in Kinlochleven

The aluminium works is long gone but hydro-electric generation continues in Kinlochleven.  For one family Kinlochleven has other associations and this memorial bench that remembers Tony Schwalbe who died in 2009 after only 30 years, faces the hydro-electric plant.  This memorial plaque is unusual for being engraved in German.


Wir widmen diese Bank unserem Sohn 1979 – Tony Schwalbe – 2009 als Ort der Errinnerung und der Begegung Your footprints on this path may have faded, but your heart never left.



Glencoe: Miss Barbara Fairweather MBE 1917 – 2001

If you have never been, Glencoe Lochan is a real treat.  Take the steep road from the village, park up and you walk in to a fairy tale.  This is Hansel and Gretel and Snow White on their Scottish holiday, an otherworldly place to lose yourself in.  The woodland and lochan were designed with love to ease the homesickness of Donald Smith’s (Lord Strathcona) Canadian wife, Isabella.  The couple met in Labrador and Isabella came to live on Donald’s Glencoe estate but, despite the planting of numerous red wood trees and a lochan with a view of the Pap of Glencoe reflected in its still waters, Isabella never settled and they spent much of their time in North America.


Overlooking the picturesque Glencoe Lochan

This bench with a view over the lochan has a tree stump next to it with memorial plaques to eight different people.  I read them all but it was the plaque to Miss Barbara Fairweather MBE that caught my eye.  This wasn’t just because she was described as a ‘very special lady’, although I have no doubt that she was, but also because we had also visited the lovely Glencoe Folk Museum on our trip.

Barbara Fairweather MBE co-founded the Glencoe Folk Museum with Mrs Rae Grant in 1966 and for Barbara Fairweather this was a life’s work and she collected many of the items on show.  In 1971 the museum was given the two cottages it is now housed in and the museum opened a year later.  The museum collects, preserves and exhibits items relevant to the history of Glencoe, including photographs and is a perfect example of a community museum that has grown with dedication and love.  This isn’t a dry collection of objects, it is a lively and interesting museum that brings alive the people who have lived in the village of valley of Glencoe over the centuries and I can only urge everyone to visit.

Barbara Fairweather also wrote The Folklore of Glencoe in the 1960s and contributed to other local history books.  She was the first editor of the 1745 Association‘s Quarterly Notes and left £500 to the Association for a seat in Kilmuir Cemetery on the Isle of Skye in her will.


In Loving Memory of MISS BARBARA FAIRWEATHER M.B.E. 1917 – 2001 Founder Of The Glencoe & N. Lorn Folk Museum A Very Special Lady

I do not always get to see a photograph of the people whose memorial benches I write about but in the case of Barbara Fairweather there is a portrait seated in her home with a cat on her lap.  The portrait can be seen in the Museum and Barbara Fairweather looks very relaxed and content in her lovely home.

Barbara Fairweather was the great grandaunt of a young woman from New Zealand, Rachel, who has written a lovely blog post with stunning photographs of her visit to Glencoe where she explored some of her family history.


The collection of eight memorials on the tree trunk alongside the bench

Culcharry: Archie Morrison 1916 – 2005

Culcharry is a small group of houses and a very pretty spot near to Cawdor and just a few miles from Nairn on the Moray Firth in Scotland.

We had followed a beautiful spring walk to Nairn, stopping for lunch overlooking Nairn’s attractive harbour and then followed the river Nairn to Cawdor, with its medieval castle.    Cawdor Castle is an impressive building full of legends, the 14th century tower of the castle is intriguingly built around a holly tree but it was built too late for King Duncan and Lady Macbeth to walk its corridors.  We walked through Culcharry as we were taking the lanes back to our starting point, enjoying the fine weather and the sense of summer to come.


In memory of Archie Morrison Culcharry 1916 – 2005

This lovely bench overlooks the group of houses and has a clump of cheerful daffodils behind it.  The commemorative plaque tells us that Archie Morrison of Culcharry lived a long life, which must be testament to the clean air in this part of Scotland.  An obituary adds to the story by telling us that Archie Morrison’s wife Annie Morrison lived even longer, dying peacefully  ten-years after her husband at the age of 100-years.  I am sure she got chance to sit on this bench and remember her husband.


Culcharry near Cawdor in Highland