Ike in Campbeltown

Jane’s friends invited her and Ike to join them on a coach trip to Campbeltown. On the day of the visit it was raining but as the coach travelled through Loch Lomond and Inveraray, the weather started clearing up. It was over four and a half hours to Campbeltown and on the way, there was a driver’s break at Luss.

When the coach arrived at Tarbert at the top of the Mull of Kintyre the sky had brightened and the sun came out. The mood of everyone on the coach also brightened at the prospect of a sunny day in Campbeltown.

Campbeltown became an important centre for Scotch whisky. The original name of the town was Kinlochkilkerran which means ‘head of the loch by the kirk of Ciarán’, and it was renamed in the 17th century as Campbell’s Town after Archibald Campbell, the Earl of Argyle, was granted the site in 1667. Campbeltown Town Hall was completed in 1760.

Campbeltown is one of five areas in Scotland categorised as a distinct malt whisky-producing region and is home to the Campbeltown single malts. There are three active distilleries that remain in Campbeltown: Glen Scotia, Glengyle, and Springbank. The folk song titled “Campbeltown Loch, I wish you were whisky” is based on the town’s history in this industry. The coach dropped everyone off at the harbour so it was a good place to start exploring the area. The lifeboats were in the harbour but a resident told Ike, Jane and friends that they had had a busy night.

The next place they visited next was the area around the ferry terminal at New Quay. There were no ferries arriving or departing from the terminal on that day as many of the ferries departing from there only sail every few days or once a week.

Quesada Tragedy
A memorial cairn was unveiled on 21st May 2016, at New Quay to mark 50 years since the loss of the MV Quesada. Eight men died when the vessel sank as it returned to the Argyll port. The Quesada went down four miles southeast of Davaar Island in the Firth of Clyde in the early hours of Monday 23 May 1966. It had set off on a pleasure cruise the previous morning. Ten men were rescued from the sinking Quesada in a full gale, and eight perished.

Campbeltown Picture House
The Picture House, known locally as The Wee Pictures, was designed by the architect Albert Gardner and was opened in May 1913. The building is three storeys high with the projection room on the top floor, the balcony on the middle floor and the entrance on the ground floor. Gardiner was asked to refurbish the cinema in 1935, and did so in the “atmospheric style”. This included a blue sky with moving white clouds, and the inclusion of small plasterwork buildings to recall a Mediterranean courtyard. Sound equipment was also installed in the cinema as part of the refurbishment. In August 2017 the Picture House was voted as one of Scotland’s six ‘Hidden Gems’ as part of Dig It! 2017 campaign.

The Ro-Ro Project
The ‘Ro-Ro’ (Roll on-Roll off) project was initiated in 1996 by the Art Department of Campbeltown Grammar School (with funding from the Scottish Arts Council, Argyll and Bute Council and
Campbeltown Common Good Fund), to celebrate the restoration of the historic ferry link between Kintyre and County Antrim. George Wyllie (1921-2012), an internationally famous Greenock sculptor, was appointed to lead the project. Wyllie visited the school twice, the first time to discuss the project
with staff and pupils and the second time to work in the Art Department. George Wyllie’s own model, created from plywood and wire, was inspired by a combination of Saint Columba’s skin-hulled curach, the medieval Scottish birlinn, or longship, and his personal love of boats. Wyllie’s sculpture was then made up of steel and aluminium by workers at Campbeltown Shipyard, and mounted on a stone plinth at the head of the New Quay to be unveiled on 7th October 1998 by two pupils from the school. The ceremony was well attended and Wyllie took the opportunity to compliment the school
and community for working so well together. Wyllie was paid £300 in 1997 for ‘all services’ – workshops, site visits, correspondence, etc – and travel expenses, a bargain indeed!

In November 2002, the Linda McCartney Kintyre Memorial Trust opened a memorial garden in Campbeltown with a bronze statue of her by her cousin the sculptor Jane Robbins. It is located in a garden behind the Picture House. Ike, Jane and friends took some time to read the small information boards which were dotted around the garden and which gave some interesting information about
her life.

The garden is well-tended by an army of volunteers as Lady McCartney was a regular contributor to many of the activities in the town when the family lived there. She described Scotland as:
“Scotland was like nothing I’d ever lived in. It was the most beautiful land you
have ever seen, way at the end of nowhere. To me it was the first feeling I’d
ever had of civilization dropped away … so different from all the hotels and
limousines and the music business, so it was quite a relief.”

She was a strong advocate of animal rights and lent her support to many organizations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and Friends of the Earth. She was also a patron of the League Against Cruel Sports. After her death, PETA created the Linda McCartney Memorial Award. She died from breast cancer at the age of 56 on April 17, 1998, at the
McCartney family ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

Palm trees grow in the west of Scotland thanks to the effects of the Gulf Stream, which transports warm tropical water to the area. Ike was impressed with the palm trees in Campbeltown and remarked to Jane how difficult to grow on the east coast without the warmth of the Gulf Stream.

Campbeltown Cross
The Campbeltown Cross is a medieval cross located in the centre of Campbeltown. This medieval carving, with Celtic designs, dates from around 1380 CE. The cross was erected at a church at Kilkivan before being moved to Campbeltown after the Reformation.

The cross is carved out of a single block of bluish-green chlorite schist, probably from the Loch Sween area, and measures 3.30m in height, 0.46m wide by 0.13m thick at the base, and 0.34m wide by 0.10m thick at the neck. The disk-head measures 0.81m in diameter exclusive of the arms. The inscription, in raised Lombardic capitals, reads (in English):
“This is the cross of Sir Ivor MacEachern, sometime parson of Kilkivan, and of his son, Sir Andrew, parson of Kilchoman, who caused it to be made”.

Kilkivan was near Machrihanish and the cross is presumed to have originally stood within or close to the graveyard at Kilkivan. It was removed to Campbeltown and adapted to serve as a market cross some time after the foundation of the burgh in 1609.

Before walking to catch the coach home, Ike read the information board explaining whisky-making in the Campbeltown area, he learned that Campbeltown is the whisky capital of the world! This is due to the availability of water, barley, peat and coal in the area. Distilling was usually carried out in the harsh winters when farming was not possible. The utensils required to make whisky were basic and readily available and some people even distilled it illegally. With the changes in the law in 1832-33 many illicit distillers took out licences and many legal distilleries began to appear in the area. Whisky-making is now a legal business in Scotland.

It was then time to catch the coach for the journey home. It had been a good day out.

Further Information
Campbeltown is in the Mull of Kintyre and is the main town in the area.

Travel Information
By car or bicycle
From Glasgow travel to Dumbarton, Balloch, Tarbet, Arrochar, Inveraray,
Lochgilphead and Tarbert and follow the road to Campbeltown.
Public Transport
There is no rail service in the area so it is best to take a bus from Buchanan Street Bus Station. Scottish Citylink/West Coast Motors runs a regular service no 926. The journey takes 4 hours 12 minutes and costs between £24 – £35.

One Reply to “Ike in Campbeltown”

  1. To visit this Scottish cultural hub and complete a whiskey tasting tour would be wonderful! The song ‘Mull of Kintyre’ by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine of the Wings captures its sense of place very well. I love seeing the gardens and recognised the New Zealand Cabbage tree in a photo.

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