Well, a little more than a childhood as I emigrated to New Zealand at the age of 24. I consider my upbringing at Ardfenaig to have been be the most fantastic thing that could have been. Sadly whilst it was in progress one does not truly understand the value of such freedom even though it was utterly enjoyable.
My parents had purchased Ardfenaig House in 1949, in an almost derelict condition, and thirty acres of land comprising about half pasture and the other half woodland, some of it contrived and some just ancient. The property lies at the head of an inlet called Loch Caol and we had a sturdy granite pier on the foreshore where we kept an equaly sturdy clinker dingy or two. These were powered by a 40 plus Seagull engine which was kept clamped to an iron rail fence on the pier road when not in use. It always went when the string was pulled and in fact the second edition I still have to this day about half a century later and it goes just as well.
I have three brothers, two older and a sister who is the youngest. We all now live in New Zealand. My sister lives near Christchurch which is getting a real battering by earthquakes at the moment. 166 dead to date, 8 March '11.
But to return to Ardfenaig.The house was finaly renovated in about 1958 after we had lived there from about 1955 or 56. I remember having my 6th birthday at Creich School and I had just started so that was June 1956. We had moved to Ardfenaig from Aberfeldy where I and my younger brother and sister were born.
Electricity arrived in 1958 and we were the first connected as the dignitary opening the scheme stayed at Ardfenaig, I think that was the tale anyway. It was quite sad in a way as it was great fun helping the bodach light the lamps in the old kitchen. This was in fact a rather frightening room to a wee boy. It was always as black as night in there as it was filthy with soot and grime and unused untill the renovation, so black as to reflect no light whatsoever from the two small windows. Once cleaned up, painted and new flooring over the old flags it was the one room we spent most of our time. It was always warm and bright with the coal range going day and night. We all lived in there, seven people with numerous cats,dogs,canaries, pet mice and for a short while a tame kestrel who just flew in and out untill he tried it through a closed window, poor Kes he died a few days later.
My brothers and sister and I all went away to boarding school which my two older brothers and I loathed with a passion, it was in England of all places and Cheshire at that. It probably was a nice place really but it was not Ardfenaig.
I was not much good at school anyway even at Creich I would gaze aimlesly out of the windows longing to be outside. As the windows were purposfully high up so as to stop people like me from gazing out all I could see were seagulls wheeling about, how I wished I had been a seagull. I got the strap a lot and learnt very littte there.
Ardfenaig House has been sold many times since my parents bought it from the Duke and it has changed, not always for the better. It now sports a rather grandiose sun room and for quite some time it has had ridiculous external shutters for the windows. These are so out of character and would be more at home in the Cotswolds where they should be. There is absolutly no point to them as there are very good internal shutters which were excellant at keeping out the winter gales!
I return about 5 yearly and truly there has never been a day in the last 60 years that I have not longed to be there. This April 2011 we are to stay in the converted cow byre now called The Coach House, an English expression I think. It was probably the Duke's coach shed but also housed the horses, cows and a substantial laundry of all things, I guess the Duke and his shooting party needed to be cleanish! We just had the cows and a horse called Ben. The old laundry was where the cows, horse and hens food was kept, it also served as a workshop where we were banished to on wet days not being allowed in the house during daylight except to eat. Never did us any harm and we kind of preferred it that way
Now I could ramble on for ever but I shall not. I do opologise for my spelling but as you can see I should have been that seagull.
A memory shared byon Mar 7th, 2011.
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