Memories of Arran childhood holidays – part three

John, Colin (with his treasured Hofner Congress guitar) and friend Ian Crook atop Dunfion in 1962.

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Colin Bowes has fond memories of his childhood holidays on Arran. Although he now lives in Lytham in Lancashire, he has compiled them into an essay which has been serialised in the Banner. This is final instalment of the three-part series. We hope our readers enjoy this trip down memory lane in these difficult times.

Part three 

Cycling and walking was a big part of any holiday on Arran. Pedalling to Sannox and back in the evening was not uncommon. On one of these occasions, and don’t tell Mr Anderson, the chain on my hired bike kept coming off and if you have tried to put an oily bike chain back several times with midges trying to eat your face and thus finishing up with an oily face from swatting them, you too would have thrown your bike into the sea at Sannox! My pals calmed me down. We recovered the bike, cleaned it up a bit and I got it back to Brodick where the next day Mr Anderson got out his spanner and tightened things up so the chain would not keep coming off.


‘There’s a good bit o’sand and salt in the workings which may have caused the problem.’

‘Is there Mister Anderson?’

We would cycle up to the castle and spend time messing about. The best bit was when we left to return to Brodick, belting down the drive at breakneck speed back to the main road and after getting up a good head of steam freewheeling with legs off the pedals and sticking out at 90 degrees. Wheeeee!

We walked up Dunfin (Dun Fionn) regularly and usually called on the way back at The Sheilin tea rooms in Corriegills for an ice-cold Coke. We thought we were so trendy.


We loved Glen Rosa and, of course, Goatfell where we would just go at the drop of a hat in our pumps.

Dad encouraged me to play golf and even made me a member at Rochdale Golf Club, but I was more keen on playing my Hofner Congress 14 guinea guitar and forming a pop group in the style of The Shadows. I took the guitar to Arran a few times to impress my pals. We would sit in the evening in a shelter near to the putting green and attempt to sing our favourite pop songs.

‘Why must I be a Teenager In Love?’

After being ‘encouraged’ by dad, I reluctantly played a few rounds of golf at Brodick with one of my chums using dad’s clubs. I was no good and the holes over the Rosa Burn were a nightmare. I tried to pretend, as advised, that the water was not there. It didn’t work. To me the waters of the burn were effectively a golf ball magnet.

‘What do you mean there are no golf balls left!’

‘Sorry dad!’

Never mind the golf balls. On one occasion I was on the tee of what is now the 8th hole with trees to my left hand side. After having lost two balls in the burn a few holes before and being a bit wound up, I thought I am going to give this ball such a belt that it won’t want to see me again. I took an almighty swing at it. The ball scurried along happily for about 15 feet now sporting a wide grin on its face. Unfortunately the club after having decided it had had enough of me left my grip and, travelling much further than the ball, finished stuck high up in a tree. Despite frantic attempts to recover it the club had to stay where it was. Dad was not happy. To this day nearly 60-years on when my wife Denise and I go on the Fisherman’s Walk I look up into the trees to see if the wee rascal is still there!

Another memorable event happened when my brother John and I plus two pals got the bus from Brodick to Lamlash to spend some time there and to sample the ice cream sodas at the Pier Café, my favourite being based on limeade. Really tasty!

Instead of returning on the bus, we decided to quick march in single file back to Brodick. A lively pace was set and off we went singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ non-stop and at the tops of our voices. We knew the hymn well as we were all Sunday School boys back at our various home towns. We did march unnaturally quickly as it was heading for lunchtime and we could sense the aroma of Baxter’s Royal Game soup wafting from the beach huts!

‘Brothers we are treading where the saints have trod.’

Which brings me nicely to one of mum’s two brothers (who were both ministers of the Church of Scotland), my Uncle Jimmy. The Reverend James L Dow minister of Lochranza and Pirnmill from 1965 until his death in 1977. I was honoured to be one of the pallbearers at his funeral. We visit his grave at Saint Brides Church in Lochranza when we are on the island.

He took up the island ministry following 23 years as minister of Cartsburn Augustine Church in Greenock. We were all thrilled when he accepted this position on our favourite island and were very proud of him and his achievements. For those who don’t know Uncle Jimmy, in addition to being a very accomplished preacher and minister to his flock, was a radio and television broadcaster, a journalist, novelist, a Robert Burns expert and an accomplished amateur actor.

I have mentioned the old pier and the unrestricted access thereto which often made the arrival and departure of The Glen Sannox an event in itself. Friends and family would gather at the pier head to greet old pals and shake hands as they stepped from the gangway. You could almost touch the boat.

We would always gather on the pier to say goodbye to any of our crowd who were leaving the island before the rest of us. Sometimes the ‘seeing off’ would be accompanied by the playing of bagpipes, trumpet blowing, guitar strumming, singing and streamers being thrown. Some of the streamers were actually toilet rolls which as ‘The Glen’ sailed away were thrown back and forth from ship to shore until the gap between land and sea became too great. It was always sad to see the boat becoming smaller and smaller on its way to Ardrossan, heralding the end of the holiday of a friend and the imminent arrival of a new school term.

‘Will ye no’ come back again?’

Oh well, I’ve reached the end of my nostalgic journey and now in my seventies can tell you that my wife Denise and I still rent a bungalow on Arran for two weeks each springtime where we are joined for a few days by uncle Jimmy’s son Tom and his wife Eilidh who live in Clackmannanshire.

We sadly lost dad who died suddenly from a heart attack in 1965 at the young age of 55. Mum, who lived in Alma Park, Brodick in the late 80s early 90s, passed away in Largs, the last town in which she lived, in 2000. Dad only knew one grandchild and I hope would be delighted to know that he has eight grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

Alice lives in Germany, John lives in Australia, Helen in Weardale, County Durham and me in Lytham, Lancashire. We are all regular Arran visitors save for John, although he was with us on Arran in June 2017 for a family gathering and for the celebration of Alice and Helen’s birthdays, both being born on the June 1, albeit 13 years apart.

According to my Letts School-Boys Diaries the surnames of the families that we befriended all those years ago are Dingwall, Gourlay, Kelso, Lindsay, Main, McPherson, Pagan, Rose, Roberts, Webster and Watson. Of those families we are only now in touch with the McPhersons.

I hope that those of you who remember the days to which I refer have enjoyed the memories and that those to whom it is all ancient history have enjoyed the read.

Colin Bowes is also the author of the book, All Claims Great and Small, which tells the story of how the insurance claim investigation system works as it follows the life of a loss adjuster from 1960 until 1977. The book is available as an e-book via Amazon or as a self published paperback by contacting the author directly at cdbowes4@gmail.com

Dad, mum, Colin, John and Helen seeing off friends in 1958. No_B13memories06

A general view of folk seeing off the Glen Sannox in 1959. No_B13memories07

Wee Helen at Hillcrest in 1958. No_B13memories08

John, Colin (with his treasured Hofner Congress guitar) and friend Ian Crook atop Dunfion in 1962. No_B13memories09