ONE of the great days in the life of lnveran
was when the Linside crofters brought their sheep stock to my dipping
tank to be dipped. After a few refreshments of John Barley Corn it
became a lively scene. My dear old shepherd Norman Campbell directed
operations, which I am afraid would not have stood up to the scrutiny of
a board of inspection.
Politics was the general topic, with Liberalism predominant, and if a
Tory dared to raise his voice he got epithets hurled at him that could
hardly be termed parliamentary. They were a fine body of men ever ready
to give a helping hand if need be to a neighbour. They have all passed
to their rest leaving behind them with those who have taken their places
an influence that will survive the inroads that threaten to destroy
Highland tradition and Highland hospitality.
The Linsdale crofters have now a dipping tank of their own, and my old
dipper will not long be seen for forestry trees. In years to come, like
the many old crofter ruins on the lnveran hill, it will be looked upon
as a relic of the past, the first of its kind to be built in the
district, of sound concrete, nineteen feet long, with a concrete dripper
to ensure no waste of the precious fluid.
In May, 1949, my sheep stock and hill grazing were taken over by the
Forestry Commission. I now contented myself in the anticipation of
putting all my energy and mind to my hotel business, but fate proved it
otherwise. On the 19th June, on a beautiful Sabbath afternoon,
disastrous fire broke out in the building which left little standing but
the bare walls where only half an hour before could be heard the
peaceful ripple of the river in some uncanny way, which one might almost
think predicted some unusual happening.
My telephone being yet intact, help was sought for and in a miraculously
short time three fire brigades, Dornoch, Golspie, and Tain were on the
scene, but despite their best efforts and that of a willing but saddened
crowd of people from all over the district, my happy home for
thirty-five years became a gaunt ruin. At this time I had the Shin
angling tenant and party and other guests in the hotel, who, for the
remainder of their time had to take up accommodation in a neighbouring
hotel. They all did everything in their power to lighten the blow which
had so unexpectedly come upon us.
To Mr Gerald Addison, the Shin tenant, a man with a heart of gold, and
his two daughters, Mrs Burdick and Miss Addison and also Mrs Ronald
Baillie I should like to record my deepest gratitude for all they did
for me on that fateful day, and during the remainder of their month’s
fishing. Mr Addison and his party are more recent anglers to the Shin,
and right worthily do they uphold the fame of that great river and
maintain the affection of the community, and for me to be favoured still
with several visits during their annual sojourn by the Shin is indeed a
very great joy.
My long connection with Inveran and the Shin river is now severed and I
am staying at Achany House, Lairg, Sutherland, the one-time seat of the
Mathesons of Achany and Lewis, and still in sight of the river Shin.
Whilst sitting on its bank one day, the following lines came to me. I do
not profess to have poetical ability, but they may serve to express the
depth of my feelings:—
THE SHIN RIVER
Gone are the days when sprightly and young,
The spring silvery salmon with my rod I did win,
On that river with charms second to none,
I raced o’er the rocks of the rugged flowing Shin.
Life has its joys and surely I have had mine,
When oft in nature’s bosom with my rod I’d recline,
With the murmur of the river making music in my ear,
And the perfume of birches and primroses so dear.
Now I sit and I think of those anglers I’ve met,
Whose charms and friendship I can never forget,
And that wonderful ghillie, old John Ross,
Who caught not a few salmon but many a gross.
My first introduction to this river so grand,
Revives sweet memories of the Carnegie four-in-hand,
I can see the guests luncheon and dance on the green,
To the music of my bagpipes and the swift flowing stream.
The Laird and his Lady so blythesome and free,
In the midst of that company in ecstasy and glee,
No more will return to that table of moss;
They have crossed the great river that all must cross.
When no longer I can wander as in days of yore,
And listen to the falls, with its loud-swelling roar,
I will roll up my gear and grease my good line,
And join the great anglers I’ve lost for a time.
During my years in Inveran farming was an
uphill job. Excepting during the years of war, prices were ridiculously
low, and often at the end of the year the balance sheet showed a debit
rather than a profit balance. How different today; if the farmer
produces the goods, he is assured of at least a fair minimum price, and
now that at last it is realised that the town depends upon the country
and not the country upon the town, our long-neglected arable land will
be turned to the plough and the industrious farmer and his employees
will no longer suffer the penury of a wasteful and senseless policy.