We were having a slow morning and just beginning to organise ourselves when the phone rang about 8.20. it was Morag Shiveral , our next door neighbour, with the news that Ardachuple Farmhouse, which is the next nearest building, was on fire , though she also had the reassuring information that Barbara McNaughton who lived there was safe.
Cailean is at home so all three of us rushed round to get to the farm or at least to the nearest point on the track where we could see it. But as soon as we walked out of the porch we realised the gravity of the situation , with thick smoke billowing over the hill that separates us. (and, I couldn’t help noticing , obscuring a bright full moon) Further on we glimpsed through the trees the flames shooting up and once it was in full view it was obvious that nothing was going to be able to be salvaged. The roof was fully ablaze and soon fell into the house. The flames were bright but the most memorable thing was the noise of crackling , presumably of the dry wood , glass and slates.
Fire engines converged from Tighnabruaich , Dunoon and Strachur and the police as well but there was nothing to be done except damp it down with water that was eventually drawn from a very icy burn, there being a thick frost.
In 1993 we bought our house from Archie ( who died in 2000) and Barbera having rented it for a year first. Archie was an incredible source of local knowledge and of music and I wrote about his funeral in my Herald column at the time I remember him telling me stories about the house and the land on which it sat, usually with both of us having a dram in our hands.
We have spent many happy New Years and other times and events in their kitchen and one of their sons John, who now owns and runs the farm, is a close friend and neighbour.
This afternoon Cathleen and I stood outside that kitchen with John looking in through the blackened and empty window . No matter what we felt (and we felt it very strongly) it was a thousand times worse for him , and for his brothers who were brought up in the house.
And for Barbara who got out in her nightdress, carrying only the clothes she was taking into the shower room when the kitchen door blew out, and she (as she told us when we went to see her at this afternoon) decided it was best to rush out behind it.
It is great that she is safe, but the whole thing is very disturbing and shaking, at any time but perhaps particularly on this day which is meant to be the start of a quiet, family, holiday.
Tonight and tomorrow our thoughts will be with her, and John and the rest of the Mc Naughtons. Recovery and better times ahead,....