Taken from
Issue Number 87 Spring 2020



Editorial Notes

The Dolphin Press in Glenrothes has been printing this magazine since last century. In December, with its customary Christmas card, came a slip of paper informing customers that the printer, Robert Smith, had decided to retire. I was able to put together this issue in time to have it printed before the Press ceased business, but there now arises the question of a replacement printer. I suspect that finding a firm as efficient, helpful and moderate in its charges will be no easy matter, and therefore appeal to readers for suggestions. Meantime, on behalf of the Society, and primarily myself, I thank Bob and Liz for their sterling service and wish them a well-deserved, contented retirement.

The Society website is now fully functional - at - and is attracting much interest. Thanks are due to Mike Peacock and Elizabeth Marrison, assisted by Kate Watt, for creating this overdue internet presence.

Recent books by the editor My latest collection of poems, West, was published last year. So far there have been no reviews, but I am not complaining, since I effectively engineered the silence. It consists of 61 poems, largely inspired by memories of Largiebaan and the Inneans, on the west side of Kintyre, hence the title. It was published by Kennedy & Boyd, an imprint of Zeticula, which has issued most of my recent books.
West was followed at the end of last year by Campbeltown Whisky: An Encyclopaedia, which was also published by Zeticula, under its imprint The Grimsay Press. Unlike the poetry collection, it is selling well, and I am already preparing a second edition, which will incorporate omissions and correct errors (the latter always vexatious, even if inevitable). The difference in popularity has, of course, everything to do with genre. The book, by its very nature, should be reviewed in this journal, but I reckoned that since it has been widely publicised on the internet, and already widely read, a brief notice would suffice. Our valued Society member and even more valued Magazine contributor, Murdo MacDonald, volunteered, however, to write a review of the book and duly did so. It appears in this issue.
Ten years ago, I self-published a 76-page booklet, Kintyre Families. Despite its never having been publicised, it has sold steadily throughout the years and I have very few copies left. Having finished the whisky encyclopaedia, and looking for another project, I decided to turn the booklet into a full-sized book, which will be titled Kintyre Families: An Encyclopaedia. It will comprise the same mix of genealogy, mutant names, biography and history, as in its small forerunner, but will be much expanded and should be of greater interest to a wider readership. I welcome all contributions and suggestions. If you have information and stories connected with family history, I'd like to hear from you. I hope to have the book published towards the end of this year.

Second World War bombings of CampbeItown
The night the lights went out
Moira Burgess

I was three-and-a-half when World War II began and nine when it ended, so that this is very much a child's eye view of Campbeltown at war. Yet, while I was too young to be much affected - food rationing and clothing coupons weren't my problem - I did begin to grow up in a town where odd events happened as routine. We were issued with gas-masks: my sister Carol, a toddler, got a Mickey Mouse gas-mask which I greatly envied. Mine, though child-sized, was just a boring brown version in a leatherette carrying case. I think we were supposed to carry them at all times, but this was Campbeltown and I suspect few people did.

I went to a Christmas party at the WRNS quarters, a group of Nissen huts on Kilkerran green, which I'm sure the young 'Wrens', far from home, enjoyed as much as we did. We parroted 'Don't you know there's a war on?' and knew that Careless Talk Cost Lives, and sang about Hitler's wee moustache.

Early in the war there were air-raid warnings - the siren was mounted on the police station at the top of Castlehill - when we were instructed to go to our airraid shelters. We lived in a flat in Mafeking Place and our shelter was in the cellar. I have a memory of waking once in this dim, crowded, stuffy space, but that's all I do remember: I must have fallen asleep again. Much later I learned from my mother, who wasn't best pleased, that one of the neighbours had brought down her small son who was incubating measles. Punctually thereafter my sister and I came out in spots. But what a dilemma - I think now - for the young mum, her husband presumably away in the forces: whether to take her sick (if infectious) child downstairs to the shelter, or stay upstairs in danger of death by bombing? In the fraught atmosphere of the time, with air-raids, threatened or actual, reported night by night, I think most people would have made the same choice. And as things were then, we would almost certainly have caught measles somewhere anyway.

But we weren't in the shelter the night the Royal Hotel was bombed.

Historians may know whether there was in fact an air-raid warning that November evening in 1940, but it seems to me that there can't have been. Not only were we still upstairs, but the NAAFI in Bolgam Street was open. (The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes provided canteens and recreation centres for off-duty services personnel.) My mother was helping there that night, almost next door to Mafeking Place, supplying tea and buns to submariners. My father was out on ARP warden duty in his tin hat - or steel helmet - which at other times casually hung from one of the coat-hooks in our hall. Strange occupations for them both, but those were strange times.

We were in the care of Chrissie, our mother's help. She was putting my fifteen-month-old sister to bed, but I, a big girl of four-and-a-half, evidently allowed to stay up a little later, was in the sitting-room with my colouring book of Ferdinand the Bull. (What a pleasant period detail to remain with me! Ferdinand, a popular cartoon character of the day, was a pacifist bull who refused to take part in bull-fights, but sat down in the middle of the ring with a flower behind his ear.)

All at once the lights - gas lamps above the fire-place - went out.

Perhaps it's disappointing for historians, but I can't recall - in fact, didn't notice - anything else of the bomb which, it turned out, had all but demolished the Royal Hotel and the Victoria Hall, not far from where I sat with my colouring book. There must have been a huge noise: 'perhaps it was just so huge, so all-engulfing, that it didn't register with me. I seem to recall a rush of air, and wonder if the three big windows overlooking Reform Square admittedly, facing away from the locus of the blast - blew in. Perhaps, if the windows did implode, the black-out blinds caught most of the glass; or, sitting by the fire, I was too far back in the room to be touched. All I knew was that I suddenly couldn't see Ferdinand, and I was quite annoyed.

And I experienced absolutely no trauma - as we'd say today - for which all credit must go to Chrissie. Keep Calm and Carry On might have been her motto. She was in the room instantly, and her first concern must have been to turn off the gas, hissing from the light fittings above an open fire. But she did it so quickly that at once, it seemed to me, I was scooped up in her arms, colouring book and all, and carried through to the kitchen at the back of the house, untouched by the blast. It was warm and bright and Chrissie made me a cup of cocoa. What a treat!

Again, only minutes passed before my mother came rushing upstairs. I do now recognise that there was cause for panic. At the time, cosy with my cocoa, I remember thinking - though of course I didn't say - 'What's the matter with her?'

Later, I saw the bomb damage and learned about the fatalities of that night. Yet I remember most clearly something we were told (I've no idea if it was true): that the propagandist broadcaster William Joyce, or 'Lord Haw Haw', whom we all knew about, had triumphantly announced the bombing of 'a royal residence in the west of Scotland'. How we laughed! Sorry about that. I was still only four, after all.

The 1941 air-raid in two letters

Dr Burgess's article, above, is self-explanatory, but some background to the following letters is required. They were found in family papers by Lady Davidson, Edinburgh, who is the four-year-old Mary Mactaggart in the first of the letters, and probably the last living witness to the air-raid, of all the residents of Low Askomil in that year, for her brother John, albeit a baby at the time, passed away in 2019. Her father, Charles Mactaggart, of the legal firm C. & D. Mactaggart, was Chief Air Raid Warden for Kintyre during the Second World War. He had survived the earlier Great War, in which he served with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.
Campbeltown was a Royal Navy base during the Second World War, for more on which see Sue Ager's 'Campbeltown's Wartime Boom' in No. 86 of this Magazine. Despite Campbeltown's great importance to the war effort - not least as the national training centre for ASDIC, the anti-submarine detection system - there were nofurther attacks on the town; but those of 1940 and 1941 certainly left their mark on community memory. Owing to restrictions on the wartime dissemination of news, for reasons of national security and public morale, the two local bombing raids - and much else, besides - were not reported in the Campbeltown Courier. The first letter, in particular, is therefore of great interest as a unique contemporaneous record of an aerial offensive which stunned the community.
On Sunday 9 February 1941, the town came under attack from German aircraft, which dropped incendiary bombs, mined Campbeltown Loch and machine-gunned shipping in the harbour. The first letter, dated 21 Febrary 1941, is an (edited) account of the raid, written by Mrs Mary Mactaggart, Charles's wife, for her family in England. Since the letter, obviously, was not written for publication, the individuals mentioned in it are explained in footnotes. The Mactaggarts lived at Eagle Park, Low Askomil, on the north shore of Campbeltown Loch.
There were two fatalities during the raid - Archibald Stewart, Procurator Fiscal of Campbeltown, and Frederick Pen die, resident engineer for the Campbeltown and Mid-Argyll Electric Supply Co. Ltd. - both of which occurred at the east end of Low Askomil.
The second letter, by Charles Mactaggart in his capacity as Chief Air Raid Warden, was written on 10 February 1941, the day after the raid, to the Commanding Officer of HMS Nimrod, the shore-based naval station in Campbeltown. The 'Stoker Bartlett', whose conduct he praised, is likely to have been Leading Stoker Alexander Smith Bartlett, who was born in Urray, Ross and Cromarty, in 1909, and died in Dingwall in 1996. The website 'Naval decorations awarded to personnel below officer rank ... 1939-1945' records that he was awarded a British Empire Medal, but there is no date, or any other information, to link that honour with the Campbeltown a air-raid. There is evidently still a Bartlett presence in the Black Isle. not least in shinty circles.

Letter 1

I have a chance of getting this letter posted in Glasgow tomorrow where there is no fear of it being censored. We have been having our letters opened for quite a long time now. Even so I can't write just as fully as I would like for fear of giving away any information that is not supposed to be passed on to anyone. Lots of people will have seen the description of the raid on a SW Scottish town which took place the Sunday before last, and a good many will have guessed that it was Campbeltown.

I suppose we ought to consider ourselves lucky for this is only the second raid we have had since the war began but it was the most horrible experience as it all took place on our own doorstep. It was far more serious than the last one, and you can imagine something of what we went through when I tell you we had no fewer than 6 planes - probably more - circling over us for an hour and ten minutes. It is established that they made 8 separate, attacks, and the 'lulls' between each were harder to bear than the actual bombardment.

They first of all lit up the town by dropping 200 incendiaries. Then they proceeded to drop magnetic mines. Four houses beside us were totally demolished and several badly damaged. Craigard next door to us had all the windows blown out by the blast and the ceiling down in their front room. We had a good many windows down and though we did not suffer as badly as Craigard our damage has been assessed at £50. Needless to say, we consider ourselves extremely lucky that we only lost windows.

One of the houses totally destroyed was a few yards from Eagle Park.1 The Campbells miraculously escaped unharmed. Two of our neighbours lost their lives ... We were in the sitting-room when it started. Churchill had just been on the wireless and we had also heard the news when it began. Mumpie and Willie2 and Melville Macfadyen3 were here. We first heard the machine gunning and then the planes. Then the sirens. Charles had gone out on the yellow warning and Mumpie and Willie rushed up through the garden to get back to Margaret Jean.4 Melville (Home Guard) also had to leave immediately, of course.

Fortunately, I was not alone for Marion's mother5 was staying the night and together we carried the two children to the hall. Mary was wonderful. Very white and terrified but she never complained or cried out during the whole horrible proceedings. Poor little John, in his pathetic innocence, only crying when he realized it was feeding time. This had the effect of frightening Mary more, so I decided to try to feed him, though I had serious misgivings as to whether I was doing the right thing, with my heart jumping all over the place. There were several large bangs which felt as though the roof was coming down over our heads, during that agonizing 20 minutes. But the darling seemed satisfied and there was not another sound from him. I realize that I was not a bit brave and the effort of sounding unconcerned and making jokes to Mary is almost beyond a joke in itself. Marion was wonderful and so was her mother and the 3 of us lay on the floor together half crouching over the children as best we could.

You will imagine my relief when Charles came in after the All Clear had gone and told me he had been popping out incendiaries by the dozen. He was thankful to see us all more or less normal. Directly the sirens went I had to prepare for some poor refugees. There was four of them and they spent what was left of the night [with us at Eagle Park].

1. It was rebuilt and named 'Dalserf.
2. Mr and Mrs William McKersie (1883-1952), Norwood. 'Mumpie' was Margaret Stewart Beatson Mactaggart (1896-1976).
3. A neighbour in Beachhill, Low Askomil.
4. McKersie, daughter of William and Margaret in Norwood, which was on High Askomil.
5. Marion was the Mactaggarts' maid.

Letter 2

Sir, Concerning our telephonic conversation, early this morning, I now beg formally to report to you the gallant conduct of Stoker Bartlett (I do not know his number and initials), one of your men, during last night's bombing raid.
Stoker Bartlett, at great personal risk, climbed up a drain pipe at Killean Place, Campbeltown, ran along the gutter (in itself, a very dangerous thing to do) and extinguished an incendiary bomb, which had alighted on the roof of the tenement, with his hands and body. Had he not done this, the whole roof might have been set alight, with serious consequences. In my opinion, the conduct of Bartlett was beyond all praise.
I may say that this incident was only one of many where your men did grand work, but I was a personal witness of Bartlett's deed, and, consequently, think it right to draw your attention to it. I have since heard, from several of the civilian population, who saw Bartlett's action, how much they admired him for it.

Book Review
Murdo MacDonald

Campbeltown Whisky: An Encyclopaedia, Angus Martin, 330 pp., The Grimsay Press, £19. 95p.

Note the title: this is an encyclopaedia, not a narrative history. In alphabetical order you will find intermixed three broad themes: the distilleries, the families and personalities involved in the industry, and subjects relevant to the foregoing.

It may not be a narrative history, but the entries themselves are often fascinating and delightful little essays. The author has assiduously combed through one hundred and fifty years of the local newspapers, his sharp eyes picking up small, sometimes quirky, details in newspaper reports, obituaries, advertisements and family announcements, which feed into the broader story. As your attention is caught by one entry after another, the book becomes - as was said of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations - 'a treasure-house for browsers'.

No fewer than thirty-six Campbeltown distilleries are described. Some of them were short-lived, while for others there is little information, e.g. Mountain Dew, MacKinnon's Distillery and a High Street distillery the name of which is unknown.

In his Introduction, the author remarks, almost apologetically, that 'there will doubtless be an excess of genealogy for many readers'. He goes on to explain, however, that he 'never doubted the importance of exploring the interrelatedness of the Campbeltown distilling families and how these relationships powered the remarkable flourishing of the local whisky industry'. For genealogists with Campbeltown roots, this book may well be, again, 'a treasurehouse'. Even for readers not connected to the people and families described, the entries are of interest. Details emerge, such as the remarks about Peter Reid, of Dalintober Distillery, being 'at the age of 21, one of three pipers who played for King George IV when he arrived in Scotland, on 15 August 1822, for his flamboyant visit'.

In addition to accounts of the distilleries and the connected personalities, other entries explore related topics, e.g. the sources of the peat, the water and the barley essential for whisky production. Shipping, also essential for the business, is given several pages of exposition, including the astonishing statistic that in the year 1897 no less than 1,933,287 gallons of whisky were shipped out of Campbeltown. The industry gave employment to mashmen, ballmen, coopers, carters, and, of course, excisemen, all of whom are described; and the Total Abstinence movement is given its place.

If you have ever had occasion to mutter scornfully about 'Health and Safety gone mad', look under the letter 'I' and Appendix 2 in this book and repent. 'I' for 'Industrial accidents'. The list of the scaldings, the broken limbs, and the fatal falls which occasionally befell the distillery workforce is chilling, bearing in mind the extent of medical aid and financial support available in the Victorian era to working-class families. Disability occasioned by such an event could leave families with no option but to apply for admission to the Poors Roll of the Parish.

The cover of the book consists of a very fine wrap-around photograph of two men cask-filling from a spirit vat in the Loch-head Distillery in 1897. The men calmly gaze directly at us, caught and held by the camera as they go about their work. The quality of this photograph may cause some readers to regret the lack of illustrations in the book.

Campbeltown Whisky: An Encyclopaedia, by Angus Martin, is indeed the definitive account of this local industry. It is the work of an experienced writer immersed in his community and in his subject, and the product of many years of research in archives, libraries, and, importantly, oral history. Like the finest malt whisky, this knowledge has been distilled and then warehoused in the author's mind, where it has matured over many years. Our Editor deserves our congratulations for producing another sterling piece of work. And, so, 'Well done', clink glasses, and Slàinte mhath!

'A dove' (1870)
Some time ago, a young lady, treating herself to a walk down Kilkerran Road, overtook a herd-boy on his way home; after some amusing and pleasant conversation had passed between them, the lady asked the boy, 'And do you know who I am?' The little rustic, looking up in her face with a smile, replied in his broad Scotch, 'A dove' (I do.). Argyllshire Herald, 19 November 1870. NB. The form 'dove' would normality be rendered 'duv', but the standard usage was 'div', with 'divna' the negative. These words died out locally in the 1980s.

Oddities of Speech in Campbeltown (1915)
'It's a dirty thing a cleaning,' remarked a woman who was engaged in that domestic turn-up this week. 'Aye,' was the rejoinder, 'it's a guid job it has only to be done now and a very odd gain.' Campbeltown Courier, 29 May 1915

Kintyre Roots Geographic Project
Greg Wick

I am the volunteer administrator of the Kintyre Roots Geographic project hosted by This project is focused on folks who have known or suspected ancestors who lived in Kintyre or the surrounding area (i.e. the Isles of Islay, Jura, Colonsay, Scarba, Gigha, Bute, Arran, Sanda, and the lands of Knapdale and Antrim in Northern Ireland). The purpose of the project is twofold.

The first goal is to help advance project members' own genealogical research by comparing their autosomal and Y -DNA test results for close matches. The second goal is to discover the ancient origins and historical migration patterns of the various clans and families who have geographic ties to Kintyre and the surrounding area. This project is a space for those of us researching our Kintyre ancestry to see all of the different paternal lines that make up the great diaspora of clans and families that once (or still do) called Kintyre home. This is something that cannot easily be accomplished through the various surname and haplogroup projects that already exist at FamilytreeDNA.

Besides using genetic evidence, there are many extant parish records, census records, rent rolls, and lists of 'fencible men' for Kintyre that many people are unaware of and that could be very helpful in their genealogical research. Hopefully, through open collaboration by project members we can all help one other advance our own personal and shared interests.

In order to join, you must first either purchase an autosomal or Y -DNA test at or transfer your existing test results from another company. If you are new to genetic genealogy and are interested in joining, you can learn more about the various testing options here:

If you would like to join and are already a FamilytreeDNA customer, simply login to your account and then visit the project website: Click on the 'Join' button in the upper right comer and then enter in your most distant known ancestor information.

Please feel free to contact me directly at for more information.

'She'll no' go' (1898) This school story has the merit of being true. A teacher in one of our Campbeltown schools was giving a little boy his first lesson in writing, and, catching his hand, with the pen between his fingers, she traced the characters he was to write. After releasing his hand, in order that he might commence writing, she was greatly amused by him remarking, 'She'll no' go'. He thought the pen was self-acting. Campbeltown Courier, 10 December 1898

Copyright belongs to the authors unless otherwise stated.

The Kintyre Antiquarian & Natural History Society was founded in 1921 and exists to promote the history, archaeology and natural history of the peninsula.
It organises monthly lectures in Campbeltown - from October to April, annually - and has published its journal, 'The Kintyre Magazine', twice a year since 1977, in addition to a range of books on diverse subjects relating to Kintyre.

CLICK HERE for Correspondence and Subscription Information.

The Society website is at

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