Last of the Lochranza Pierhouse Kerrs

Robert Kerr, 1933-2021

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Robert Kerr: November 7, 1933 to April 20, 2021

Before Lochranza pier was built in 1889, a small ferry took passengers ashore from bigger ships, run by the postmaster, Robert Kerr, who lived at Clachorine.

When the Duke of Hamilton decided to build a pier, Robert took on the new post of piermaster. However, it proved to be too difficult to manage the pier activities from the post office, and the Duke agreed to have an adjacent Pierhouse built in 1891, where Robert’s son, Robert Jr, took up residence and the role of piermaster.

With Kerr being the predominant family name in Lochranza at the time, the family was known as the Pierhouse Kerrs.

On Robert Jr.’s sudden death in 1925, his eldest son, John, resigned a career in insurance on the mainland to take up the reigns, and Fereneze was built next door for his widowed mother, Annie.

The house was named after the estate in Barrhead, where her father, John Macpherson of Feorline, Shiskine, had been gamekeeper.

John’s only son, Robert Kerr, was brought up in the Pierhouse, attending Lochranza primary school, the high school in Lamlash, and then leaving the island, as all aspiring scholars had to do, to be educated in Edinburgh, at George Watson’s College.

While training as an engineer at the ‘Tech’ in Glasgow, now Strathclyde University, Robert apprenticed at Polar Engines in Govan, where he met his future wife, Isobel. He was 18 years old, she was 15, and their happy marriage lasted a lifetime.

After a spell in the Merchant Navy and National Service at RAF Kinloss, production engineering eventually took Robert to family biscuit firm Gray Dunn & Co in Glasgow, where he was general manager for many years.

His instinctive passion for process improvement and his clear-headed management style ensured the biscuit factory’s efficiency and productivity, which meant that many jobs were retained in the face of buy-outs from Rowntree Mackintosh and, later, Nestle.

This passion permeated everything he did – nothing was exempt, every household item was assessed…coffee machines, Dysons, mobility scooter, all could be improved!

He returned to Fereneze in 1995, where his parents had lived since his father retired from the pier until his death in 1982. His pride and joy, his boat Aeolus, was moored in the bay for many years.

An intensely private man, Robert shied away from clubs and social groups, and although he did not attend any church, he very much valued its place in the Lochranza community. His father had been an elder at the kirk and was quietly involved in the running of the village hall, so Robert was happy to contribute to the establishment of the new hall.

His passion for continuous improvement was matched by his love of boats and his frustration at the demise of the Clyde ferry service. Coming from generations who had known the island, the sea, and the ships, it pained him to see the reliable Arran ferry service reduced to a token provision, run by people ignorant of all three. The Arran Banner received several letters from him on this topic over the years!

Robert is survived by his three children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

He will be remembered with great fondness and pride, a principled man whose practical wisdom was an inspiration to many. There will be a private funeral at Lochranza on Wednesday May 5, with the hearse leaving from Fereneze at noon. The family would be grateful if residents would wave him on his way from their gardens.

                                                                                                                           Audrey Kerr