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Dr Robert D McIntyre
Chapter 17 - Plockton and a Boat


Plockton on Loch Carron is an example of a planned Highland village started by the Earl of Seafleld in the late 18th century and developed later on the basis of a layout by Sir Hugh lnnes.

Its design and setting was related to a concept of allowing its inhabitants the opportunity of combining crofting with fishing on a small scale. But it is not clear that this could be done with the land which was immediately available to them for cultivation.

Robert McIntyre first went to Plockton in the mid 1940ís drawn by his friendship with Torquil and Isobel Nicolson whom he had encountered during their residence in Queen Street, Edinburgh.

The Nicolson residence in the capital was frequented by a large coterie of the literary and political fraternity of the day, including Douglas Young and Hugh MacDiarmid. Isobel tells the story of a French artist being bemused by the number of folk who just dropped in for a "dram and a chat". This did not happen in France where the cafes were the gathering place for those who desired political discussions. One can imagine, with suitable allowance for literary licence, that the Nicolson household was rather like that described by Eric Linklater in "Magnus Meriman" where the nationalists of the late 1930ís gathered to solve the worldís problems. Robert McIntyre, as often as his medical duties permitted, shared in the discussions at the Nicolsonís flat and concedes that these frequently went into the wee small hours. Torquil Nicolson was an engineer who held a position with the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and based himself at Plockton. It was natural that the friendship should continue between the Nicholsons and Robert McIntyre, especially as both were sons of the manse. Nicolsonís father had been minister at Plockton preaching from the pulpit in the Telford Parliamentary Kirk and residing in the nearby Telford-designed manse.

McIntyreís love of boats has been referred to previously. It is not that he devoted any great resources of finance to these but he did give a deal of time to their construction, repair and maintenance. Torquil Nicolson, of course, knew of Robertís interest and when a boat "The Violante" owned by the MacIntosh Brothers of Applecross became available, he informed his friend. A deal was done and Robert became the owner of a Loch Fyne skiff, a sailing vessel of around 35 ft in length. These boats were designed for speed, which was necessary to get the herring to market and secure the best price for the owner.

"The Violante" was anchored off Plockton at the time of purchase and, with very few repairs to it, Robert and Lila McIntyre sailed it down the west coast and navigated it through the Forth and Clyde Canal to berth it for repair and reconstruction on the Forth at Stirling. Lila McIntyre recalls, with some trepidation, the hazards of crewing "The Violante" down to Stirling in circumstances which did not allow for any comfort especially when trying to get some sleep - there being no proper bunks fitted at the time. Here the craft was adapted from a fishing vessel to more of a pleasure boat suitable for carrying passengers. The fish hold, for example, was reconstructed and became a cabin. In this enterprise, the services of Stirling friends, including Robert Campbell, were enlisted to assist.

A current discussion of his ownership of "The Violante" with Robert reveals his response to a challenge and a regret. He has enormous pride in his good fortune at being able to sail such a boat on the Forth and around the Clyde from the Gareloch round to Bute and up the west coast back to Plockton. No one should doubt the pleasure which he derived from these experiences. Regret was in having to give up this side of his life.

Being at the helm of his boat, Robert McIntyre could dream his dreams of Scotlandís future and yet be the eternal boy, building his coracle, overcoming all hazards and eventually securing a safe anchorage. No sailor can ever speak of certainty in the face of nature. What the good sailor does is to show concern for his passengers and crew and the safety of his vessel. This means eternal vigilance and always being "Steady at the Helm."


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