National Geographic : 1965 Jul
Dour Scots? Not THERE IT WAS, close in to port. The Mull of Kintyre, a rocky headland like a crouch ing lion, dwarfing the ship. Fifteen hundred feet high, barren and rugged, yet soft in the dawn sun that pastelled every color-the browns, the greens, the blues, the yellows. I drank it in for a long time, for this was my first sight of Scotland in 20 years and three days. I had left it as an emigrant with a hole in the seat of his kilt. The two decades had brought a mod est success on the slick surface of Madison Ave nue, but never enough free time to return. Not until now, and nostalgia had grown with the years. American citizenship hadn't weakened the yearning. Why should it? Does one love one's mother less because one takes a wife? But could the mother country be as beautiful as memory's painting? The warning of Thomas Wolfe's novel You Can't Go Home Again had dirged in my ears all the way across the Atlantic. "Och, it's bonny, bonny!" whispered a little old lady beside me. No sleeping-in for the Scots born this day. "Aye. It is that." I gave her back the dialect, not to break her mood-or mine. War Leaves Relics as Calling Cards After six days on the Atlantic, Parthiacruised a calm sea with a following wind to still the air of a perfect August morning. The Firth of Clyde is 35 miles wide, and there was no other land in sight except the dim blue cloud to starboard that was Ireland. The Mull is all one sees of Scotland at this point (maps, pages 86-7). We leaned on the rail in the morning sun and let it all wash over us. Parthiaaltered course to the north at the San da lighthouse. Sanda. I remembered the light, but not the two sunken ships careened below it, red-rusted obscenities against the rocks. A war had come and gone, and this had been the north ern route to the European Theater of Operations. "That'll be Arran," said the old lady, pointing, and I nodded. "Johnny Morey's island?" Jeannie asked softly, joining us at the precisely correct moment. She had our six-year-old son by the hand. I nodded again and put Jamie between us. Johnny Morey. Johnny Morey. A Glasgow flat in winter and my mother's knee at pajama time, my bare feet to the kitchen fire. Mellow gaslight popping and the long, gloomy December night rattling its sleet and rain against the window. 82 PELL OF ARRAN, luring visitors to its shores sum mer after summer, lies not only in the island's beauty but in its people. With their wry humor, shy smiles, and genuine ways, they make the off-islanders feel like friends, never strangers. John Henderson, "the quiet one," rents boats and bathing huts on Brodick Beach (top left). "I asked him what happened to Gracie, prettiest girl on the island," recalls the author. "He grinned and said, 'I married her!'" Sandy Ribbeck (top right), a boyhood idol of Mr. How ells, feeds his Sealyham. Wee Geordie, as islanders and outsiders alike call George McCabe (left center), meets the ferry. Recently re tired, he helped haul in the hawsers for decades. Each Saturday, Brodick's "big night of the week," the bartender of the only pub (right center) keeps busy passing ale and stout. "My ancestors believed in the fairies," says Bess Mac millan, a hairdresser of Bro dick (bottom left), "and I too believe there are fairies still on Arran. I am very interest ed in island folklore." She makes tea in her spotless "wee hoose," a small annex behind the cottage that she rents to summer visitors. In an old church in Whit ing Bay, sculptor Claude Gill (bottom right) fashions a carving. His family shop, Arran Gallery, produces jew elry with Scottish stones and prints greeting cards.