On the Road
On the Road

With an old bike ...
... by Bill McLaughlin.

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Quiet Glencoe
Run for Home

Quiet Glencoe

I set out for Glencoe, late in the day, and this time I decided to use the Ballachulish Ferry.
The trip down was magnificent. I stopped to pay my respects at the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge. It had been a training ground for them during the last war. This was desolate moorland, but high on a ridge with terrific views right down across the Aonoch Mor range of hills, with Ben Nevis towering behind them.
I let the bike run almost by itself, on the long drop down through Fort William; running parallel to Loch Linnhe until it was time to find the ferry.
Coming off the other side, I got the best view of Glencoe, with peaks on either side of the entrance to the glen, standing sentinel to welcome me in.

That night in the hostel, I was able to feed decently thanks to me previous 'employer'. The guy had tipped me half-a-crown for my efforts, and I felt rich. I splashed out on some cake, a tinned steak-pie, and a pack of 'Instant potatoes'.

I walked a few miles that night; the summer darkness being reluctant to appear until late. The sky was clear, and I could see right up into the corries cutting through the surrounding mountains.
I stopped at a small bridge crossing the river, and realised I was at the site of the 'Massacre of Glencoe', where the Cambells stayed the night with the MacDonalds, before slaughtering them, on the orders of the King.
It was a haunting place, and the thought of the people running from the village with soldiers in pursuit, filled me with sadness.

In quiet times Glencoe can be a sad place, haunted with folk memories.
I was glad to get back to the warmth of the hostel, that night.

Run for Home

Next morning, I headed up the glen. Most of the time, I pushed the bike; the road was about 5 miles of unrelenting uphill struggle!
My reward, when I breached the top, was the magnificent panorama from the Black Mount, the sweep of Rannoch Moor, shining tarns with miniature islands At this height, I felt like 'The King of the World'.

I let the bike run free, down the steep drop that is the Mount; no pedalling required here! This was a free ride for about 3 miles.
It was a beautiful day, and I felt good, so I kept going pushing onwards, right down to Tyndrum. I considered stopping, but thought that I was doing so well, I would stay the night at Crainlarich.
I had made good time, and it was early afternoon when I arrived. Then I hit a dilemma!
I had only enough money for one more night's-stay at a hostel! If I stayed here, I would face a run home of over 50 miles. The miles were not the problem - food was!
With the money almost gone, I decided to make for the hostel at Inverbeg - hanging wardens or not!

Running down Loch Lomondside was again a joy; this time seeing it from the other side. The Loch still sparkled, and any morning mist was, by now, washed away by the sunshine. Running under the overhanging trees with the sun jumping through the gaps, I played a game. If I sped along, the dappling effect was like someone switching a light on and off. If I moved slower, I got to enjoy the warmth of the sun on my back.
The miles drifted past. Suddenly, I realised that I was almost at the hostel!
I now had a choice.
I was feeling pretty good but getting hungry, and there were no bashed-up bread or tins of Spam in the bag!
Do I spend my money here; stay the night but don't eat. Or should I get some food, and try a push for home?

I bought a packet of Chocolate-Digestive biscuits, brewed some tea. There was no milk, no sugar. It was burning hot, and I nearly scalded my mouth with the stuff!

Off again, on the final push for home.
Driving on past Luss, and coming down towards Balloch, I suddenly realised that I had made a mistake. I had travelled around 70 miles, there was another 20 odd to go, and I felt strangely tired.
The earlier sunshine had slipped behind some clouds, and it started raining. Hard!
I had lingered overlong on my previous break; remembering all that I had seen, and wondering at the magic of the places visited.

Now it was late, I was broke, and I just wanted to get back.
The ankle. which I had hurt a few days earlier, was beginning to throb again, and I suddenly lost the urge to pedal on. The rain was now coming down in buckets, and things were getting a bit uncomfortable.

I resolved to make Dumbarton, then try to get a train back into Glasgow. Without money, this was going to be a tricky challenge.
I pulled into Dumbarton's big red sandstone station, and walked through to the platform. The place was deserted, except for a uniformed station-hand. I asked if there were any trains due through to Glasgow, and was told there was one in about half-an-hour.
I settled down to wait. Eventually it came slowly into the station, steam billowing everywhere. The train stopped; nobody got off, nobody got on!
I walked down to the guard's van, and the guard looked out.
"Are you going to stand there all night? We've got a timetable to keep!" he shouted.
"Get that damned bike in here, and let's be moving."
I needed no second bidding. I scrambling the bike inside, and leaned it against some parcels.
"Right! Away you go,and find a seat." said the Guard.
So far so good! No-one had asked for a ticket!
I moved up a couple of carriages, going through the connecting corridors, and settled in. I had a compartment to myself.

It seemed like only a couple of minutes later, when I heard the voice ...
"Tickets please! Tickets please!"
I had nowhere to run to; nowhere to hide. I decided to brazen it out!
The compartment door slid open, and before he could say a word, I blurted out my plea; the words running into one another.
"Yesee, ah hurt ma legana ranooto money an ah thought itwouldbe awright, mister, if ahjist gaveye manamenaddress and ma Da wullpey ye when ah get hame!"
I ran out of breath, giving the ticket collector time to break in.
This is a serious offence son - getting on a train without a ticket. e can go tae jail for these things, ye know. But gi'e me your name and address - an nae lies mind ye!"
The details were recorded in a book with pink pages, and I had to sign it. He gave me a copy, which I was told to hand over at Queen Street Station, in Glasgow.
The collector then became quite friendly; chatting and asking where I had been, where I had come from that day. When I told him some of my adventures, he laughed.
"Wish I had your nerve son. Here, let me see that paper."
At that, he inserted it back in his book, then wrote something on it.
"You won't be hearing from us about this. All you've got to do now, is get past the Inspector at the gate in the station, and you'll be OK."

When we arrived at Glasgow, my friendly Inspector appeared back on the scene, this time with the guard beside him, who happened to have a firm grip on my bike.
"Right!" he said to the guard, "Take the bike through the gate. I'll talk to Jimmy, and tell him the story."
To my amazement, I was walked through, told to get on the bike, and 'get the hell out of here!'

I fled out of the station, down the steep slope, and right into George Square. It was beginning to get dark; the street-lights had come on and were glistening on the cobbled street, as I headed down through Ingram Street and on to Trongate.
It was only then I stopped laughing at my good fortune, or the thrill of 'Getting away with it!'
As I headed up along Gallowgate, homewards, I was imagining the welcome I would receive on my arrival.
A Hero! An Explorer! An Adventurer!

I pulled into Barrowfield, ready for anything. I hauled up to the close and banged on the door.
My Mother opened it.
"Oh! yer back!" she said, before walking away.
I walked through the hall, stopping to shove the bike into my bedroom, then looked into the living room.
We had just recently acquired a television set, and around it, with their backs to me were Ma & Da, Davie and Margaret, and Andy & Jean - my two brothers and their wives. Nobody looked at me!
They were watching 'The Invisible Man'!

   Go to Chapters ...
Quiet Glencoe
Run for Home

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Original story and material © 2005 Bill McLaughlin
Layout, editing and additional material © Dave Sloan 2005, 2016
'tachras' and 'Winding Yarn' © Dave Sloan 2005, 2016

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