HARRIS EXPEDITION 1967
Leader Andrew Wilson
Tom Bragg, John Brooks, Peter Bundred, Steven Harris, Hugh
MacAllister, Geoff Tattersall.
Michael Ackroyd, Charles Boyle, Andrew Buchanan, Anthony Butler, Charles Clark, Anthony Conder, Paul Conran,
Jeremy Cook, Robin Cullen, Robin Dance, Michael Eden-Smith, Alan Evison, Robbie Gibbins, Chris Hood, William Kay, Bruce Kirk,
Ian Laurie, Phil Lightfoot, Andrew Lynall, John Marchment, Robert Metcalf, Richard Munro, Charles Purvis, James Ralston,
Charles Roberts, John Round, John Ryle, Christopher Smith, David Vale, Peter Watson, David Wills, Simon Wood.
When I left Aberdeen on my way to meet the rest of the Expedition in Edinburgh, the weather looked far from promising for the next fortnight, and except for a superb sunset over the Montrose basin, it rained all the time until we arrived in Stornoway, where we spent the night in the Scout Hut. However, we were again fortunate enough to be greeted at Rhenigidale by fine weather, which lasted for most of the first week.
We had the camp set in fairly good time. This year, the marquees were anchored with fence posts, and although we had high winds, the tents all stood up until the end. In this respect, at least, we learnt from Alan Bateman's experiences last year. Camp furniture was built over the first couple of days, thanks to Roddy MacInnes, whose field we were on, who lent us some sheets of hardboard with which we made some rather hilly tables. Without them, we might not have had any tables at all!
During this time, we were familiarising ourselves with our surroundings, and most of us managed to heave ourselves up the hill behind the camp. On the day I did it, we could see from St. Kilda to Sutherland on either side and many of the Inner Isles to the South-East. We were all struck by the stark beauty of the island, but soon came to see the severe limitations of the site at Rhenigidale. There are only three ways which are practicable for leaving the settlement—one is round by sea to Tarbert, another overland, and the other up Loch Scaforth, either on foot or by boat, to Maernig.
The boat ("Rock Bottom") proved to be very useful on the expedition. In it, we carried bags of lime round the coast for Roddy Maclnnes, later spreading them on the hillside as part of his grassland improvement scheme for his sheep. Many of the bags burst on handling, as they seemed to have been sitting at the landing place for months. However, most of the lime arrived where it was supposed to.
In fact, for a time it didn't seem that we were going to get a boat at all, since Admiral Harris agreed to take it round from Kyles Scalpay with a skeleton crew. As we left on a bigger boat with all our equipment, we saw him filling the tank of the outboard with what he (and we) took to be petrol. However, when we arrived at Rhenigidale, and for an hour or so afterwards, there was no sign of Steven. Later still, we saw the MacLeod's boat returning with "Rock Bottom" in tow—the engine had never started. On investigation, we discovered that he had taken the can of paraffin and not one of the three cans of petrol!
From an e-mail sent by Tom Bragg 22/06/2015, he
also sent material for Harris '65 and Dingle '66.
For the Harris ‘67 expedition to Rhenigidale, I organised transport. By then, having seriously caught the wild Scotland bug from SHS, I was volunteering, helping start Barnardo’s adventure school at Camusrory at the head of Loch Nevis. At Easter I went to Scalpay to organise a boatman who could take all the SHS gear to Rhenigidale. And I worked out train & ferry itineraries for all participants to get to and from Stornoway. Come the time, I set off from Loch Nevis, but was then really worried not to meet up with the others, as expected! What had gone wrong with my carefully arranged plans? Thinking it over, I realised that I was a day late! Walking into the already-established camp, I was met with much mockery and singing of “Why was he born so beautiful...”. All other transport had worked as planned! My memory of that time at Rhenigidale is very sparse – I now suspect that I was so mortified by my mistake with dates that I blanked it – except for one memorable incident:
One day I was “in charge” of a group of maybe 8 of us who had walked along the coast to a spot where there was a small, easy cliff, descending to a rock platform, just above the sea. We were practicing abseiling on the cliff and 2 lads were swimming off the platform. I was about half way down, when someone at the top shouted: “Get out of the water, quick!” I quickly go the the bottom, wondering what all the fuss was about. The 2 swimmers were just back on the platform, when a line of 6 killer whales appeared. They swept past us in turn, practically brushing the side of the platform with stunning speed and power. They were massive! Then they turned and headed away towards Scalpay. Ok they’re not meant to attack humans, but you wouldn’t want to be mistaken for a seal! The locals said this was quite rare and killer whales hadn’t been seen for 2 years. I’m not sure why this drama wasn’t written up in the ‘67 report –probably because none of us bothered, or was it too nearly life-threatening?
This year we stayed 3 nights in the lovely Rhenigidale Hostel with a very wet, but rewarding day cycling over the postman’s path on a circuit. Photos also on Flickr (before Crabhadhail). We had great kayaking east to the isolated Parc area. We searched for the location of the killer whale incident, but I now think we looked in the wrong place: I hadn’t even remembered the SHS camp was at Rhenigidale! We may have to try again another year!
|For those that went to Rhenigdale in the early years, here is an article by Ben Buxton about the new road that was built there. To return here use the browser BACK button