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Carrie Robertson

July 13, 2013


Carrie Robertson died last week. For those of you who know the North End, Carrie owned the old grey caravan tucked into the rocks on Calva. She visited Iona and stayed at the North end every year since 1922. Yes, 1922. Last year was her 91st consecutive visit.

Carrie came from a prosperous family from Glasgow, who, like many others, holidayed on Iona. Until after the War, they came up as a family and stayed in Lagandorain. The Campbells moved out and into the simply converted byre for the summer and all the family and luggage would arrive via the old faithful ‘Dunara Castle’, the steamship that served these islands for generations. They loved Iona, Lagandorain and Calva in particular, and their times at the North End had a special place in Carrie’s heart for the rest of her life.

After the War, as was the way of things, the old ways changed and because the family was well known and liked they were allowed to bring a caravan onto the island and keep it at Calva. Apparently it cost around £800 (at the time you could buy a nice house for that!) and it was and remains an astonishing thing. Wood lined, with a stove and large folding bed it reminds me of something that Gracie Fields or Lucile Ball might have owned. It even has an aerodynamic ‘go faster’ slipstreamed roof. She even had a bath installed. Now it is a relic and is slowly sinking into the ground but not enough to have put Carrie off from visiting for a few days last summer. She was planning her summer trip with Jane (who previously owned Lagandorain) and I’ve been keeping an eye out for signs of activity when news came that she had died.

Bringing the caravan to Iona in the early ’50’s caused great excitement. It came up as deck cargo on a Clyde puffer and almost never made it as the puffer started listing with the weight on the deck and so had to stop at Crinan to have it re-secured and stabilised. The transfer from the deck of the puffer onto the old pier on Iona, with the aid, no doubt, of every available man, horse and tractor on the island must have been a sight. For the first many years it was pulled by tractor down to the beach at Calva for the holidays, but eventually the chasis collapsed and so there it remained below the rocky outcrop where it sits today.

Carrie was a fabulous and elegant character with dazzling eyes and swarthy suntanned skin like a gypsy. She was a GP in Oban for most of her working life and married to Eric, another doctor. They always must have had a great sense of fun and started the Oban Waterski-ing Club in the ’50’s. You can imagine what the Oban worthies though of that! She loved the water and sailed until just a few years ago when her eyesight failed. Perhaps six years ago she went off in the family yacht around the west coast of Ireland -aged around 86…

I loved her visits to Calva, for the stories, her sharp recall of the Lagandorain of the ’20’s and 30’s, her chic tartan trews, red wellies and lilac cardigan’s and her gift of introducing me to pink gin. We would sit in the caravan, the door wide open (Carrie immune to midges while I was being eaten alive) chattering away and sipping gin like there was no tomorrow. Like many of that age, her memory was prodigious. When I introduced Nathalie to her last summer, Carrie immediately remembered and commented upon her trip to Montreal in 1938.

And so now she’s gone and I’ll miss her sorely. Not only her, who I liked so very much, but as the last direct link to an Iona and Lagandorain of long ago.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Nathalie permalink
    July 14, 2013 2:20 pm

    I’m sorry to know that Carrie Robertson died and I send all my thoughts of sympathy to her family and to you John.

    I really considered a privileged to have been able to meet last year and I still have fond memories of it, and a remarkable woman who loved life passionately.

    Nathalie xx

    • July 14, 2013 2:48 pm

      Hi Nathalie,

      Thanks for that and I’m glad that we had that hour together drinking whisky!

      Hope all’s well and let me know how things are going.


  2. Henny Schoonderwoerd permalink
    July 14, 2013 7:42 pm

    Such sad news. But she lives on in your memories.
    Love from Holland

    • July 14, 2013 7:53 pm

      Hi Henny,

      Thanks for that. Good to hear from you and I hope you are all well and enjoying your summer. Just talking about you (good things!) with R a few days ago.

      Best wishes,


      • Henny Schoonderwoerd permalink
        July 14, 2013 8:32 pm

        All is well, John. Perhaps you’d like this: my daughter Kristel has on her Facebook page, as her profile picture a black and white photo of Iona. Today a Colombian friend of hers commented on this photo, telling her how much he liked that photo. Kristel replied that he really should go to Iona, once he found himself in Scotland. So I guess Iona keeps on touching the hearts of people, old and young, Sadly the old die, but the young are spreading the message. Maybe one day a guy from Colombia will enter the hostel, who knows.

        Best greeting from all of us, to you, to Rachel and also to Natalie (if she reads this).

      • Iona Hostel permalink
        July 16, 2013 10:54 am

        Hi Henny,

        Glad all’s well -and enjoy your summer. I’ll pass on your best wishes to Nathalie, back home now in Quebec.

        Look forward to seeing you again, whenever.


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