A Visit to Oban 1906

For those unfamiliar with this part of Scotland I attach links to maps of the area at that time – Map 1 / Map 2

11th August 1906

What a day it was when we left London. So sticky and muggy and yet on the trot the whole time – a mad ending moving. We finally got the things ready packed and left for the station at 6.15. As usual, with the whole staff on the door steps to send us off. A regular St Ermin’s send off. As Constance says, when we go to a new place the people begin by staring at us and go on to laugh but finally we are “seen off” most intimately by the “staff”! It’s our way, particular our own.

That was on the evening of the 9th. We got to the station, Euston, to hear that the single sleepers we had reserved were not to be had. Mother kicked up the devil of a row and eventually the station master (who saw he was in the wrong) said he would put a whole section at our disposal – six sleepers, a drawing room at one end and a smoking compartment at the other. We were in luck. We dined at the station of mock turtle soup and cheese and at 8 p.m. started our journey.

Mother and Bobie got into bed almost immediately but Constance and I sat up reading, I waited up longest. At 10.30 we passed through Rugby – I felt so glad that we were all comfortable in the train – and were not running about platforms with babies and prams looking for accommodation. I saw 2 youths saunter by our car and gaze into 2 windows. They must have had a good view of Bobie in her bunk and C undressing – I pretended to have no belongings!!

Mais quelle nuit –– What a tossing and rolling about I got. The beds don’t come up to the most uncomfortable American ones we ever been in, but it was only 12 hours, thank goodness. I woke very early and saw the sun rise. A lovely golden cherry one over the green hills with a grey mist on them. I saw purple heather again for the first time for 5 years – and real Scotch pines and golden brown burns – the water rushing over the rocks and tumbling along. Bed was no comfort.

I got up and dressed and went and sat in a comfortable seat and looked out of the window – knew then it must have been raining a good deal and was going to continue to rain. There was a grey hue everywhere and a damp coolness in the air – quite a nip. About 8 we came to the familiar stations Taynuilt, Lock Awe, Dalmally – and finally Connel. Then we saw, for the first time, the ConnelFerryBridge – that was to bring so much money to our part of the world. We got to Oban at 9 and who should get out of the next car to ours but Govey and his Mother & Father. Fancy meeting them after all this time. How strange, I must write and tell the Warrens. They will be amused.

We went straight to the Station Hotel and had a very good breakfast of salmon trout, bacon and eggs and hot cakes. Then we felt equal to facing anything – Up to that point I had felt particularly empty! Mother and I had to start forth then to find rooms; we did not know where we were going to lay our heads that night. Somewhere, we hoped. We wandered for two and a half hours and eventually got fixed up at the Park Hotel.

It reminds me of a passage in the book I was reading.Two people went to a certain hotel at Chamonix because they saw, advertised, it stood in a large park in which chamois gambolled. They arrived in the town to find no old and ruined castle converted, but a great towering modern brick structure with all the latest in water, light and phones.The next morning as they wandered down formally laid out garden paths – they came upon a café with 6 poor dejected looking beasts (chamois?); a shear and heartrending precipice was rigged up for the beasts. To these depths will a hotel man descend for advertisement. However, he must live as you and I. He chooses his way and I choose mine – or as things are chosen for us. All this means that Park Hotel is a …..a myth. The park is a park in comparison, for no other hotel has any attempt at one. I mustn’t run it down for, in a photo I shall probably take of it, it will look grand. That’s the best – or worst of my Kodak. It doesn’t tell the truth.

           (Islay did take this picture of the “Park”  at the Park Hotel)

In our wanderings we went to Toyola Villa and saw Mrs. Ellirt and her rosy daughter. I should have known them both anywhere. They could give us no rooms and I was sorry as I loved being there last time. I also saw Ross – my dear Ross who used to take me out sailing. I must go with him again. Aunt Jane came round to see us about 5.30. She also brought Dick McClymont. Aunt Jane looked droll with a tartan sash round her waist and a hat bigger than was ever any fashion.

The hotel is very nice, ever so comfortable.  Bobie and I have got a lovely room looking over Oban bay – mais, the people who frequent this place – absolute outsiders. Common isn’t the word – they are killingly funny. They hobnob with Miss Mackenzie, the manageress, who I must admit is a sweet girl and pretty but they are intensely droll –– very, very well meaning – but then 2nd rate people generally are.

This morning Constance and I went out in a boat for an hour and this afternoon Angus came to see us. He just arrived from Coll on the 2.20 boat. He’s grown up, a nice boy – very tall and certainly good looking – but seems 25 instead of 18. He stayed till 7. Mr McClymont came into tea too, which we had in the garden. And this evening we have been sitting out in the verandah listening to a string band that Canada brought in off the front. A fiddle, a harp and a concertina. The most exquisite views in front of us. The commonest outsiders round us, in our very vicinity, but this is Scotland – and the common people grow less common with the air of something that pervades everything.

17th August 1906

A week today we have been here – and such a lot seems to have been crowded into it. Last Monday Constance and I went to Dunstaffnage – we took the rail and Angus met us at Connel Ferry Station in his pony trap. I drove the 2 miles to Dunstaffnage and imagined myself back at Stonebridge once more. Who should we find installed when we arrived but Mackintosh – the Mackintosh of 6 years ago. Mal fois to him, I never cared two pence for him – and there he was again – as large as life. Aunt Jane was there too – but the atmosphere of this drawing room overpowered Angus and myself so we escaped upstairs into his study and there I had a quiet smoke. We had a very nice afternoon and saw Christina and Mary – They are sweet children. Christina is very sweet and Mary is the smartest little imp. When we got back to Oban at 7 we found all the Destroyers had come in and there was Mother, Bobie and Mike walking towards us – fancy Mike. We had expected him to be going straight on to FortWilliam where H and Leila are staying for the summer. All this week we have been enjoying ourselves loafing about. Dick McClymont has been here and has popped in most days – we have gone boating and hobnobbing together. Angus we see every day. He comes in at all odd moments – one afternoon he took us 3 up to Dungallan to tea. Lady Belhaven has taken a house here – on the hill on Gallanach Road. There are 7 daughters – only 2 married, the Miss Hamiltons. They are very nice – 6 appeared when we were there. Angus and the Master of Napier departed to smoke after tea and the 3 of us had to entertain the 6 of them till 7 ‘o clock.  Never talked so much in my life.  It made my jaw and tongue ache to distraction.  We have had many callers here too, Lady Llangalloch, old and plain, but quite friendly – and some people called Bailie.  Plain and mouldy they were – discussed Swedish painted matchboxes.  Lively topic of conversation –––– very.

This morning as we 4 were sitting in the reading room who should come in but Miss Turnbull and Miss Engel.  I was only thinking of them this morning.  Miss Turnbull is a dear and was as lively as ever.  Miss E is a bit heavy and, poor thing, she had a cold into the bargain.  They came and told us all their experiences since we had parted in London and now they are here for a week.  Miss Turnbull came to tea this afternoon – Angus and Constance went and fetched her – also Freddy and his brother.  Those two are going off tomorrow to FortAugustus to see Flora.  She is up their staying with her sister.  The Campbell Airds are here too.  We’ve seen the great Gordon.   He’s very like Ian.  Emmie brought him in the other evening with another Destroyer man called Howell.  I remembered his face from seeing it at Wei Hai (Wei)

And we’ve just finished such a rowdy evening.  Mike and Angus have been here and we’ve been playing Bridge.  Just over, at 11.30 – and the public reading room looks like a pot house.  Ashes every where but in the trays, coffee cups, drinking tumblers everywhere but on tables, and so forth.  Yet we have been quite circumspect.  Oh! quite.  Ah, but it’s good to relax at times.  To live on the strain the whole while is bad I am sure.  But it’s a day to be remembered, a milestone in our sojourn up here has been passed.  It’s late and I must take me to bed.  Got two letters – one from Reggie and one from Nann – must write letters tomorrow.  I seem to have forgotten Shanghai completely.

20th August 1906

On Saturday Christina and Mary came to spend the day.  At first the children were a little bit shy and Mary

                                                                                   Mary and Christina

snuggled up to me.  I had seen her at Dunstaffnage and palled with her.  After tiffin they became quite rampageous.  Mary, 9, is too cute for words.  A sort of fearless cheek she possesses.  She nobbled a cigarette while no one was looking and smoked it to the manner born.  Aunt Jane would be wild if she knew.  She knows both the children like it – but made me promise not to encourage them as it would spoil their teeth and complexions.  Eventually the two dressed up in Constance’s clothes.  Mary in a trailing, blue silk skirt and a long coat looked a duck.  A sort of miniature Queen Victoria.  They both have such natural manners, no awkwardness and yet they are quite children.  They kept us amused all the day and I was awfully sorry when they had to go.  Their remarks were so to the point and so quaint.  Christina isn’t so pretty as I thought she’d be – but 13 is an off year with girls.  I think she will grow up handsome.  Mary will be the clever, smart one and winsome too.

On Sunday Miss Turnbull and Miss Engel came to tiffin.  I like Miss Turnbull very much.  She’s sweet and actually pretty.  Mais l’autre – Ah, but she is a heavy German.  Angus came too and we got a dose of talking to from our fair American.  If she hadn’t been funny she’d have been absolutely insolent – England and English etc. etc. was rotten and going to the dogs.  She got absolutely wound up.  Called the women ‘cows’ and the men ‘effete’. “Why,” she said, “the men about town had no bones and their teeth were green”.    One would think she was a dentist’s “help”.  Ah, but she was cutting – and how amusing – she didn’t know that though.  She’s very sweet and we only smiled and drew her out.

At 4.30 mother and Constance went off to tea on the Llangalloch’s yacht – and at 5 Bobie, Angus and self went off to the (HMS) “Eagle” with Mike.  The others joined us later on.  I’ve been before to tea in a Destroyer – it’s nothing new but I did have an experience.  I steered the gig and brought her up in grand style to the foyle(?).  We met one Muller of the (HMS) “Cheerful” and Mike’s King of Greece.  We none of us took to him.

He reminded me of Beth’s husband.  He would be, just: but (he’s) a howling bounder.  Good looking in a way but with horrid insinuation in all his conversation.  And he did talk.  He’s the Johnny whose wife has bolted with a live Baronet.  I don’t wonder she left him.  He’s coarse – and a coarse man to woman is the vilest piece of creation.  However poor devil, I suppose, he doesn’t know it – and it means nought to him.  He’s (a) very evil man.  Heaven preserve me from ever being let in for such a partner for life.  I’d leave him like a shot, with no compunction.

We came off at 7 and Angus stayed to dinner.  He’s a nice boy and I’m sorry for him.  He doesn’t have sufficient to occupy him and I’m afraid he’s not happy.

It began to rain last night and today we have had torrents – and such a gale.  It must have been blowing like the very devil outside.  In harbour it has been bad enough; However, I wish I had gone out.  I’ve been in the whole day except half an hour before dinner.  Tomorrow I shall go for a real live roam.  One of my very own, I hope.  I got a letter from Alice yesterday at last.  Ah well, such is life.  Marriage and babies make a deal of difference especially if you haven’t always looked upon them as certainties.

It’s blowing now tonight.  The sea isn’t making a deal of a noise – but I can hear it washing up the shore and there’s a moaning sound.  It’s lovely when you are on shore and even at sea itself if one has the needful.  It’s wonderful what difference the elements make – if you are alone or dismal or downhearted.  Not only the elements but all things.  All the yachts are lighted.  You can’t see the boats themselves.  I look out of a cheerful room and hear the moaning sea but the sea doesn’t seem lonely.  The flickering lights keep it company and the dim outline of the hills of Kerrera and Lismore.

Ah, yesterday I had a fine ramble in the morning – one of my own promised ones.  I only smoked one cigarette after breakfast, then waited for the post and sauntered off.  First, down town to do some commissions and then off to the beach, past Dunollie and to Ganavan sands.  The road stopped at the beginning of Dunollie entrance before but now a lovely wooded path has been opened to the public, sea on one side through trees and high rocks on the other.  I passed the usual trippers – but they didn’t count or interfere in my thoughts.  There is a most lovely view of the castle.  Such an old ruin – and a sketch would be better than a photograph – but alas it is beyond me.  I walked for 2 hours.

22nd August 1906

I got back to the Corran Esplanade at 12.30 and there I met Miss Turnbull and took a ramble with her on the beach.  She looked so sweet in a cherry coloured cap and scarf to match the trimmings on her dress.  We met Mrs McClymont who had just come back from FortAugustus from seeing ******.  Mike and Angus came to tiffin.  Afterwards, Mike and C went for a sail – Bobie and Mother went to call on the Dasnacloicks(?) and Angus and I went for a stroll.  He took me all over the Gathering Hall.  It looked very small to hold 500 odd dancing – but it was be arranged for a bazaar – so I expect the stalls took up some of the available space.

At 4.30 we bundled along to tea at the Great Western to have tea with Miss Turnbull.  We had a grand feast there.  Mother had to go at 5.30 but Bobie, Angus, Dickie and I stayed on – and we only broke up at 7.  Miss Turnbull did not get onto green teeth and decaying bones.  I suppose she thought, as she was entertaining us, it wouldn’t be quite the thing!  Angus gave her a large piece of white heather.  He generally produces a bit whenever they meet!  She’s greatly taken with him and his kilt.  It’s quite a case!  Dickie and Angus both came back to dinner and we had such a merry evening.  Mike came in too afterwards and we played Bridge.

Today, it’s been raining and I haven’t been outside at all.  Not because I minded the rain but visitors kept dropping in.  Aunt Jane, both before and after tiffin and Dickie twice too, at six to say a final fond farewell.  I’m sorry he is off while we are still here – Angus was, of course, here the whole afternoon – in trousers.  It seemed so funny.  Bobie went off with Aunt Jane to tea in the Llangalloch’s yacht – while we three played Cut Throat (bridge) at home.  Angus brought in 2 Winning Post for me to glance at.  The first I have been able to procure.  There was a very funny picture in one that I cut out.

The China Mail came in and there was rather a good cutting about the names of Destroyers – I cut it out to show to Mike.

This evening at 7 who should suddenly turn up but Uncle Henry.  I was surprised to see him he is on his way to G***** to stay with George Coutts.  It was nice seeing him and learning about his cousins.  We sat out on the terrace till 9.30 talking and listening to a man playing the pipes.  Most soul stirring.  Uncle Henry said all the Scotch in him coming to the fore.  His maternal grandfather has a     [Islay leaves a blank, presumably intending to fill it in later.]

Mike turned up eventually to play Bridge – I was dragged in off the outside where I could see the harbour.  There was a beautiful light over Lismore.  The clouds over Kerrera were black – out, just a way to the West, where the sun had set, there seemed to be an open door to the beyond – giving us only just a glimpse of what was behind. A hint of blue and gold.

25th August 1906

This morning at 10.30 after the post had been delivered, Uncle Henry turned up and I went out with him to look round the town.  We bought a bunch of grapes in our wanderings and eventually sat on the pier and eat them!  Beautiful muscatels and they brought back to me the flavour of Baszard’s grape water ices.  He had tiffin with us and directly afterwards we 3 and Mike went down to the station pier to embark on the Princess Louise to go to Dunstaffnage.  We got to the boat late – but quite in time for this craft.  An ordinary tripper’s affair – the indispensable band consisting of a fiddle, a harp and a concertina.  Miss Turnbull and Miss Engel were of our party and Angus was to join us at the Castle. It was a fine afternoon and Lismore looked lovely.  I took two photos of Dunollie as we passed.  I hope both will be good.


In half an hour we landed at Dunstaffnage pier and were met by Angus with a bunch of keys.  We had a lovely time looking over the place and went into hallowed spots where trippers couldn’t come.




There is a wishing well where ladies had to cast in hairpins and wish.  I wished a wish – may it come true.  After we had gone over the ruins we went to the chapel.  The rusty keys were truly ancient.  Several attempts were made to open the doors – and at last we got in.


Sight seeing over, we all went in a bunch to Brown’s cottage.  Where he gave us glasses of milk and made himself pleasant.  He’s a gem is Brown and his daughter, Maggie is so pretty.  Brown also gave us each a p.c. (postcard) of the castle – and in true vulgar style we all signed ours with our Christian names.  Much chattering went on the whole time.

It was then about 5 and we had to get back to Oban.  Well, it was arranged that we should walk to Connel Arms, have tea and then take the train from the station.  However, as Miss Turnbull was tired, we were going to save her a mile of the walk by pulling her over the loch to the road instead of walking round.  Conkie and Mike deserted us and went ahead.  We got into a dirty, wet, tub of a boat and pulled.  Angus and I, fine and strong against wind and sea.  Mais hélass, Angus dropped his rowlock into the water and we were helpless – bang out in the middle.  Miss T and E were very agitated and gave all sorts of contradictory orders – however nothing could be done so we let the boat drift into shore.  It was a good thing wind and waves were shoving us inwards.  The landing was shallow so Angus and I had to jump in stockings and shoes and carry the other 4 ashore.  A most humorous ending to the boat episode.

Then we had to walk 3 miles.  I was looking disreputable – no hat, blown hair and smoking, but little I cared.  At last – a long last, we got to the Connel Arms and there had a most excellent tea which C and Mike had ordered.  Finally, we left the station by the 6.10 train.  It was a merry afternoon and we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  I’m sorry Mike leaves on Saturday and Miss T and E.  However, all good things must come to an end.

Mike dinned here and we had gay and riotous bridge till 11.45 and now to bed, for I am tired.

26th August 1906

I seem to ache in every bone today – and no wonder, yesterday Bobie and I with Angus escorted Miss Turnbull, Miss Engel and Uncle Henry as far as Ardrishaig on their different destinations.  Uncle Henry was only going as far as ****** — and the others to Glasgow.  We had breakfast at 7.45 and got on board the Chevalier at 8.15 down at Columbia pier.  There was a great crowd on board but we managed to get the stern of the lower deck to ourselves — some sitting on coiled up ropes and others on camp stools.  Dear Totsie (Miss Turnbull) happily brought some eatables in a basket which came in very handy like!  The scenery as far as the CrinanCanal was lovely.  I didn’t take any photos as it was too dull – but the mist and the cool morning air made the colours grand.  At 10.30 we changed in the CrinanCanal tub.  It was only a tub and the canal itself was like a little toy


arrangement!  After about 20 minutes we got to the first lock.  There we got out as the progress was going to be slow – we had to go through 15 in a row.  So we took the opportunity of stretching our legs.  There was a grand highlander there piping for all he was worth and so I snapped him.

There were little bare footed girls also who ran here and there selling white heather and other bunches of flowers. The one I photographed had most glorious, curly, deep golden hair – it tumbled in her eyes and over her shoulders.

We were one of the first to get off the boat and looking back down the winding path the passengers looked like a moving snake.  Many of them had Kodaks and all of them bunches of flowers – such a crowd too.  Common – but happy I suppose.  Commoners and ***s predominate in this world.


Cairnbaan was the name of the first village we came to – Milk and cakes were set out on tables for thirsty and hungry passers by.  Here we got on board again glad to rest our legs.  Not that we had gone more than one and half miles.

We arrived at Ardrishaig about 12.30.  That was where we parted company.  We stayed half an hour and returned the way we had come while the others went on.  Ardrishaig is a funny town – hardly more than a village.  The canal terminates and you cross the road and come to the sea.  There the rest took the Columba to go south.  We kissed Totsie farewell and she was sorrowful to have to leave Angus out!

We dived into the Temperance Hotel and got a packet of sandwiches to eat on the Linnet as there was no time for a proper lunch.  As it was, we might have known, nothing was punctual in this part of the world, instead of going at 1 it was 1.45.  However ******** – we had a rubber of Bridge in the cabin.  Stayed there till it was too hot – then went on deck.  I took a photo of a little darling boy in a kilt with Angus; they were both in the same. (Tartan)  The difference of size was too quaint.


Angus took one of me too.

We passed all the same things on the way back including the piper at the first lock.  This time I took the photo of his little girl,

a wee red haired lassie, who collected the pennies for him.  A fat little duck she was.  We were glad to get on board the Chevalier again at Crinan – we were nearly two hours late and were pretty damp.  A drizzle had come on and we were pretty well blown about.  We returned to our same spot in the stern and made ourselves as comfortable as we could under the circs.  Water seemed to rush in at odd places, splashes came down from the boat deck and Bobie threatened the whole time to be sea sick.

At last we got home.  We were so hungry that we raced up to Kennedy’s and bought one dozen scones which ******* hotted for us and we eat till we were flup!  Angus stayed on to dinner and we played Bridge.

30th August 1906

The 27th was Mother’s birthday – Angus came in and spent the day and we had a champagne dinner.  I sipped a mouthful and drank to a happy India.  Mother promised to stand us each a velvet cap like Totsie’s.  One can’t refuse things on one’s birthday – one day at least in the year one has to be amiable.  Perhaps it would be a good thing for us all if we had these once a month.  On the 28 Tuesday we went to spend the day at Dunstaffnage, just Angus and the 2 girls were there.  We had chosen our own tiffin – rabbits, herrings and home grown mutton!  Neil came in from the farm just for a few moments at 4 – he presented us each with some white heather – very lucky.  Bobie dressed up in Angus’ kilt and I photographed her.

When I came home I found a letter from Mrs. Taylor.  She enclosed two photographs of our house in Shanghai.  Sweet they were.  And such a long letter telling me all the news.


Here’s the end of August and the end of this book.  I must start a fresh one in Sept.  How I wish I had written up the first part of London [So does the transcriber!] but I couldn’t, it was too new to put on paper.  I was reading the Evening Herald last night and found this topic: – “Dancing in the Navy”.



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