Life at the end of the road

February 17, 2011

Always a good time of year

Filed under: daily doings, shed/house — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:39 pm

In a different lifetime many years ago I always looked forward to this time of year, or at least the school half term that always came around the middle of February. I don’t suppose that every weeks holiday that I ever took on Skye at this time of year in the late seventies or early eighties was like this, but all the ones that I can remember where.

I took this week off not because I’d children, or even through work commitments but because my long time diving buddies partner was a teacher and so had to take school holidays. Skye was the place we always visited, either Lachie Gillies cottage in Staffin or the now defunct ‘Skye diving centre’ at Harlosh. They were good times, an eleven hour drive in an old Land Rover towing a boat, always after a full days work in Manchester and then straight in the sea on Saturday morning after about three hours sleep 🙂 Nowadays I need eight hours sleep after a drive to Portree 🙂

Just reading through some of my old log books there the memories came flooding back.

 feb 83

Twenty eight years ago today I was diving on a wreck called the Poseidon off Fladda Chuain and busy trying to remove the propeller with a car jack :-) . We did get it off eventually but for the life in me I can’t remember what happened to it, I remember getting it ashore at Duntulm but there my recollections fade 😦 I do remember though that the weather was fantastic and I went back to work at ‘Route one Ford’ in Manchester with a sun tan, which was a little embarrassing because I was on the sick 🙂 I worked my ar5e off at that job for fourteen years and would turn in for work even when I was at deaths door so I felt no shame or guilt at taking one week off a year ‘on the sick’, in those days I only got twenty days a year off including bank holidays :-(  I seem to remember that that particular week I was off work with a sore leg so I returned to work with a red face and blamed it on the sun lamp and a funny walk due to the nut and bolt in my shoe to remind me to limp 🙂

feb 86

By 1986 I’d said goodbye to the ‘ratrace’ but old habits die hard and I’d taken time off my new job on Scalpay to go and meet up with my old mates from my previous life. This time it was at Harlosh on the west side of Skye on the shores of Loch Bracadale and twenty five years ago we were diving a wartime casualty the ‘Urlana’

the wreck of the ‘SS Urlana’

3 star

6,850 gross tons

Barclay Curle & Co. (Glasgow)

140m x 18m 10m

September 5th 1943

Ran aground in bad weather

North of MacLeod’s Maidens

5 to 15 metres

Large ground swell in westerly winds can make this site unpleasant


Coarse white sand

Harlosh beach, Struan jetty or Caroy jetty

I lifted that from here where you’ll find more info if you want.

The bomb and the BIG BANG

Now of this particular I day I do have ‘total recall’ it was again sunny but with a bit of a swell, the wreck lies in shallow water amongst the rocks and diving was a little uncomfortable. I was first over the side and down the anchor rope which was hooked in the broken wreckage. Arriving amidst the tangle of steel and broken sheep bones ( I think she must have had a freezer hold) I came across a bomb. Well not so much a bomb but an armour piercing 4.7” projectile probably from the ships defensive gun on the stern. Being a bit of a wag and figuring that forty years of Atlantic swell had not set it off so me propping it up by my anchor was something that could hardly be described as fraught with danger. I reckoned it was a pretty safe move and would give the next diver down the shot line a bit of a surprise 🙂

The dive was very productive and I found loads of scrap, but on returning to the anchor the bomb had vanished, probably got knocked over with the swell I thought. Arriving back on the surface and then clambering on board my boat I discovered different. The frigging bomb was lying in the bottom of my boat and a rather short and red faced diver affectionately know as ‘Grumpy Pete’ was already chipping away at it with his knife.

To say that I exploded would be putting it mildly, what I said to the cat that sh1t on my uniform last Sunday had nothing on what I said to ‘Grumpy Pete’ for bringing high explosives into my boat. Pete as usual was nonplussed and refused to return his ‘treasure’ to the sea 😦 He did however agree to transfer it to another boat 🙂 A boat that I kept well clear of 🙂

Once all the divers were back on board we went ashore for a break. It’s a remote spot miles from anywhere so we decided to spend a couple of hours ‘fizzing off’ in a nearby cave below the towering cliffs. This particular cave was absolutely full of driftwood, old buoys, tyres and nets swept inside by the winter storms. Now whilst the sun was out it was pretty cold at sea, especially under the high cliffs of Skye’s western shore so someone lit a fire, the same someone with ‘the bomb’. Of course he wasn’t content with just an ordinary fire it had to be a mega fire of tyres, buoys and nets, all of which drove both us and the hibernating bats out of the cave.

Now I can’t exactly remember at what point my dear departed friend decided that putting the bomb on the fire would be a good idea. I do however remember thinking, well at least it will get it out of the boat before I departed for dive number two a few hundred yards away and left him to it. To be honest after ten or so minutes of nothing happening we all forgot about it and got on with kitting up for the dive. It was then that there was this almighty ‘KERRUMP’ followed by a huge pall of black smoke crawling up the cliff face from the mouth of the cave.

Huge rocks had fallen from the roof of the cave and the raging fire was nothing more than the odd flame here and there, my mate was very quiet 🙂

17th February 2011

Today I was up far sooner than the rest of the household and had fed everyone before 7:00am then drove down for the first ferry to go and visit my parents.

 170211 001

It was a magnificent day and I’d barely driven five miles before I just had to stop on the shore of Loch Ainort to admire the ‘Red Cuillins’

170211 003

I was well past Kyle when the phone went and forced me to stop in a lay bye,

170211 005

it forced me to stop in the lay bye for ‘Murchison’s monument’ which I’ve been driving past for over thirty years and never taken the time to wander the few hundred yards to see it.

 170211 006

Shame on me because the views are fantastic and Donald must have been a dedicated chap to deserve this. Once at my parents I was treated to even more spectacular views up and down Loch Duich.

170211 008 170211 009

After spending a good few hours there I returned home for the 15:00 ferry and rushed home to make the most of a couple of hours of daylight.

170211 013

The swineherd and her mum had been busy making a new garden path whilst I’d been away but I left them to it to go and put a strainer post in at the new shed site.

170211 017

With of course a little help from one of my boys pals,

170211 020  170211 019

the sun went down,

170211 022

the moon came up,

170211 027

and I got my penultimate post in 🙂

170211 028



  1. another good read and the photos are really lovely.

    Comment by frogsaint — February 18, 2011 @ 8:40 am

  2. Hell….doesn’t the passing of time catch you out at times? I used to visit Staffin and had friends who lived on the family croft on the side of the Bay, George and Betty Nicholson. George was one of the Nigg army at the time! It was a gloriously beautiful spot. We used to take the dinghy out and fish in the evenings – usually productive, though the Salmon/Sea Trout generally managed to reach the river unharmed! More’s the pity, we thought at the time! The weather always seemed to be fine then…the mists of age, maybe. It was certainly colder, windier and wetter when we lived a bit further North by Kilmaluig!

    Comment by Iain — February 18, 2011 @ 8:54 am

    • Aye Iain those were the days 🙂 spent a bit of time in Kilmaluag bay myself, or at least underneath it 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 19, 2011 @ 7:35 am

  3. Brilliant story Paul, if ‘Grumpy Pete’ had refused to return his bomb to the sea from my boat i think i’d have thrown him overboard with it! 🙂

    Fantastic pictures as usual, keep them coming!


    Comment by Rich — February 18, 2011 @ 9:08 am

    • Morning Rich,

      I could write a book about the dear departed ‘Grumpy Pete’s’ diving epics, like the time he removed a lobster from a hole with a crow bar or the time he sprayed my twinset pink. Aye Grumpy’s diving equipment included a four ton lifting bag and a petrol driven ‘Stihil saw’. He was indeed unique 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 19, 2011 @ 7:39 am

  4. Hi Paul
    Once again good reading.
    The Wifeys foot pathe with the upturned bottles would look good at night with little L.E.D lights placed inside of the bottles or an old set of christmas lights. Guess not, just a suggestion.


    Comment by Polite Scouser — February 18, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

    • Morning PC,

      the fairy lights did go through my head for a similar project of mine a few years ago 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 19, 2011 @ 7:41 am

  5. Hi Paul.UXBs always make for frightening stories.I have never seen my dad flap so much than the day us kids turned up with an old mortar round.We could not understand the need for all the fuss,so to placate him we threw the thing into a nearby lake we were camping alongside.My dad had been a Sapper and had seen active service, he knew the damage these things could do.
    Some years later a Falklands war veteran showed a group of us the shrapnel wounds he received there.There were spiral scars all around his torso from an Argentine shell splinters,his mate had been blown to pieces by the same shell.A company I was working for set a UXB off by drilling through it with a 600mm dia piling auger.The auger was 12m below ground when the bang occured shaking the whole site and scaring the life out of the rig operator.The soft mud of the dockland area,being piled, must have absorbed the blast as no damage was found.


    Comment by Andy — February 18, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

    • Good morning Andy,

      you didn’t throw that mortar round in Ullswater in the English Lake District did you ?????? if you did I found it in 1977 though had the good sense to leave it in the mud 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 19, 2011 @ 7:43 am

      • North Wales,though it could have landed in Ullswater with all the flap going on: )

        Comment by Andy — February 19, 2011 @ 9:55 am

      • Morning Andy,

        must have been another mortar 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 20, 2011 @ 7:07 am

  6. Great pics. The Aurora should have been visible there last night and I think tonight also ?

    Comment by sotw — February 18, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    • ‘fraid not. Here in Tongue, Sutherland I checked throughout the evening until I went to bed around 00:50 with my alarm set for 04:00. The expected CME (coronal mass ejection – cloud of particles thrown out of the Sun) arrived at about 01:30 and continued activity throughout most of the night but it was neither strong enough nor with a magnetic field in the right direction to cause an aurora even this far south.

      I’m going to check again this evening before going to bed but not set my alarm as it’s likely to be cloudy here (was fairly clear last night though with some haze illuminated by the full moon).

      Comment by Ed Davies — February 18, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

      • Thanks for that link Ed,

        as you say, the CME never arrived but the moon looked pretty spectacular all the same.

        Cheers, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 19, 2011 @ 7:47 am

    • Morning SOTW,

      no lights tonight or last night I’m afraid 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 19, 2011 @ 7:45 am

  7. Still following the blog and enjoying the pictures. Keep up the good work Paul 🙂

    Comment by Mary F — February 18, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

    • Glad you’re still keeping up Mary 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 19, 2011 @ 7:46 am

  8. Hi Paul
    Have been reading your blog for a while now and really enjoy it. I have been scanning in some old holiday pictures, some from Staffin where we rented a cottage in the 70’s and the name Lachie Gillies rang a bell. Was this the cottage you rented too?

    Comment by Kenneth C — February 18, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

    • Hi Kenneth,

      The very one 🙂 though you would not recognize it now with a new roof, porch, large Velux windows and a proper driveway 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 19, 2011 @ 7:51 am

      • Small world eh. They were a lovely family and we had some great holidays there, even though their goat always seemed to take a fancy to my mum and chase her everywhere

        Comment by Kenneth C — February 19, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

      • Small world indeed Kenneth 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 20, 2011 @ 7:33 am

  9. I have seen the aurora once about 50 yrs or so ago from where I live. I still remember how awesome It was. Very interesting reading and of course wonderful pictures. Especially the sunset and moon ones. The moon looked like your picture tonight on my way home. Beautiful. The wife did a great job on the garden path,wish I had it at my house.

    Comment by Mimi — February 19, 2011 @ 7:05 am

    • Good morning Mimi,

      problem with the path is that we now have to drink more wine to finish it 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 20, 2011 @ 7:44 am

  10. Remeber it well those were the days,time flys

    Comment by MW — February 19, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    • Aye they were indeed the days MW,

      scallop surprise for breakfast, fried eggs cooked on a shovel, lobsters removed with crow bars, Transit vans and Vimto and piles of scrap everywhere 🙂

      He’s sorely missed, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 20, 2011 @ 7:32 am

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