But from then on, and over the next three years - and despite some
very wet summers - things got much better, and it was a most imaginative
scheme - we brought up canoes, we bought an elderly inshore fishing
boat and taught some of the boys to sail it - we had barbeques and
expeditions - and it only came to an end when the owner of the peninsula
decided to let the whole area to, I think, Sandeman's Sherry. The
cottage, which we felt we had patched up pretty well, was largely
rebuilt, this time as a Highland Bothy - and in 2009 some of us
hiked over there and had a great night in it. We had also scattered
Geoff's ashes there - it was one of his favourite places on earth.
In 1971, my wife and I and the family left Gorbals and for the
next five years lived and worked on Iona. During that time, Geoff
moved the caravan from the centre of the hillside down to a corner
by the trees. We visited it from time to time. My next clear memory
of it is of coming up to spend a three-week family holiday in it
in 1979. By then, sadly, Geoff had died, and we had acquired his
car. We had also acquired an old frame tent, which we brought up
and pitched beside the van, for the children. There were by then
one or two other vans on the hillside, but it hadn't yet turned
into a proper site - I don't think there were any toilets yet.
These three weeks were almost constant rain - I remember one morning
waking up and being amazed to find that the sun was shining, so
we rushed out and drove to Arisaig and took a trip to the Small
Isles. But otherwise, it was three weeks of drying wet clothes,
sliding about on slime, and keeping children happy with games in
the caravan and the tent!
On the pitch where our present van stands, a Dutch couple had a
van then. In conversation with them, we discovered they were planning
to move - so we negotiated with them, and with the owner of the
site, for their pitch. We borrowed money to purchase a second-hand
towing van, from a place just outside Glasgow. Two of us towed it
up to the site and put it on the pitch in 1980, and we had many
happy holidays in it, and entertained many friends in it too, from
then until we replaced it with the present one in October 1999.
Over the 1980's, the site grew to its present size. At one point,
when the Hydro Board were bringing electricity into the area, Mrs.
Clegg offered us electricity on the site, but all the owners turned
it down. Sometime during that period, calor-gas-fired hot water
and showers were installed, much to everyone's delight. (And we
now also have piped water to all the vans on the site!)
The site has never been a touring site. Very occasionally, a touring
van will draw up for the night. Mainly, though, its regular users
are people like us who own the static vans, and who come up between
mid-March and mid-October, when the site is open.
Our present van, with its separate bedroom and spacious living
room, we bought from Brian and Jill Mooney, who had it on a pitch
just below ours, and were planning on replacing it with a new one.
(Jill sadly died in 2008 - a lovely, lively Geordie woman). A few
years earlier, we had arrived on the site from a holiday up north
in a lovely modern van, to discover our own wee tatty one with plenteous
mouse droppings and surrounded by midges in swarms, and had decided
to move - but when push came to shove, and we had by then found
a new site near Rhu and even ordered a transporter to shift our
van, we found we just couldn't drag ourselves away, it's such a
beautiful spot (despite the midges!). In 1999, we decided again
we would have to move, and had actually agreed to give our pitch
to some other people on the site, but then discovered that we couldn't
find a suitable site for our caravan anywhere else in the area -
so we reneged on the agreement, much to our embarrassment (but the
folk were really very understanding!). Then we discovered that the
Mooneys were replacing their van - so we bought theirs, had ours
taken to bits and removed (how we ever thought it would have survived
being transported to Rhu!) and put theirs on our pitch. In 2000,
we added the deck.
And so it's still there now (in 2012). We try to get up roughly
six times a year - we don't have a car, but bus to Fort William
and then the school bus to the site entrance works very well- but
in reality we often only manage three times, sometimes even less.
One of our family, and friends, goes up twice a year on average,
to play golf at Arisaig, and other people use it as and when they
ask. We feel it's such a gift to have it there - a real bolt-hole,
and even if we can't get up as often as we like, just to know it's
there is lovely. And from the bedroom window, we can look across
the loch and see the Bothy at Peanmeanach, and remember . . !