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
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.
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."