Saturday, August 17, 2013

Isle of Mull

Well, the adventure was "wee," but enjoyable. Most of the time the bus was on a one lane, very winding road and we'd have to pull over for oncoming traffic or they'd have to for us. It's this way all over Scotland and the buses still manage to be on time! And it ran just to the south of the train (very popular with tourists) that appeared in the Harry Potter movie (which I haven't seen).

View from the bus

What was best was being on a "local" bus - the only tourist. People looked at me as though I were quite the oddity - with my big suitcase and backpack. I had been nervous about all the buses, trains and ferries I would have to take on this part of the trip, but I really enjoyed it. But one sign that I'm getting older is that I constantly recheck the schedules and get to pickup stops earlier than I once would have. I would have preferred to relax about that, but the buses, etc. ran so infrequently that if I made a mistake, I'd be really stuck.

Castle near the bus stop for the ferry to Mull

The ferry was just a few miles from the furthest point west on the mainland of Great Britain. I was headed to Mull - for just one day, which was a crazy idea - because Chuck's grandmother (she was a Campbell and my great-grandmother was a Campbell) and grandfather came from there and I'd heard about it quite a bit. They were from the southwest corner - not near the ferries - so I couldn't even visit their part of the island. His grandmother had hated the weather on Mull (it was perfect when I was there) and she never went back for a visit. Mostly she lived in New Jersey, which she preferred. When she was too old to live alone, she lived with Chuck's aunt who eventually moved to Berkeley. His grandmother hated that because the cool, foggy weather reminded her of Mull - she ended up in San Diego.

You are responsible for your own safety

The ferry ramp - out in the middle of nowhere - was just a concrete slab descending into the ocean - no railings, no signs to keep off, no place to buy tickets, no personnel. There had been a family sporting event that day and a bunch of parents and children were waiting for the ferry back to the island.

The ferry to Mull

The ramp became their playground and they swan and played on it until the ferry was almost upon them. Very different from the United States. No nanny state there.

View from my B&B room in Tobermory on Mull

In a post I wrote back in Paris, I wrote of the book The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee. McPhee wrote about The Clearances. At the same time the new capitalists were making life miserable for people with the Industrial Revolution, they came up with the idea of turning Scotland over to sheep. That left them with needing to get rid of the people, so they just took the people's homes away - burning many of them. People ended up living at the edge of the sea, which was inappropriate for farmers - or they emigrated, or they died. Even Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote approvingly of replacing people with sheep there. 

Tobermory is a colorful town

In a book published in 1827, the author (not Stowe) wrote, "The landlords have very properly done all they could to substitute a population of sheep for innumerable hordes of useless human beings, who formerly vegetated upon a soil that seemed barren of everything else." The Irish potato famine was similar, because England could have shipped food to Ireland (it was a lot more than potatoes that failed and there were plagues in the animal herds), but they refused. They wanted Ireland cleared of its people, too. (There's a point to my telling you this - I'll eventually get to it!) I believe that we're in a modern Clearances period. 

Dusk in Tobermory

People wonder why nothing is being done to help those losing their homes, or dying from lack of health insurance, or homeless from lack of jobs - the list is endless. Nothing is being done because we are "innumerable hordes of useless human beings." The vast majority of human beings is not necessary to maintain the lifestyles of the rich and powerful. So we are being cleared. Pipeline spill contaminating the aquifer? So what?

The harbor from above

So, that night at dinner I was reading Hillary Mantel's Wolf Hall, an historical novel about Thomas Cromwell. There were two women at the next table, probably in their 70s. One leaned over to ask me some questions about the book. She turned out to be a retired history professor (the other woman was a retired classics professor). Our conversation turned to politics (they say that's a topic to be avoided when traveling, but political conversations were usually the best ones I had). She asked me about the Detroit bankruptcy, which had just been in the news. So I told her my theory about our being in a modern day Clearances. She just lit up. 

Climbing hydrangea on a Tobermory wall

First, I imagine, because she never expected to meet an American tourist who knew about the Clearances. But principally because she thought it summed up the situation so well (I'm quit sure she has repeated it by now and I think I'll be bringing it up in the next Peace Press). She just loved the analogy. When we parted ways, this very proper woman gave me a huge hug and a big kiss. It was a great conversation!

Gardens above the town

Most of Tobermory is on a cliff above the main street and harbor - a steep, but not long walk up. The houses immediately above the downtown (gives true meaning to the word) are set back past gardens and a street (not about to fall off the edge life so many houses on the California coast). For them, their front yards are across the street. Some are true cottage gardens and several of them were vegetable gardens. Most of them had garden furniture for enjoying the view and entertaining.


I never did find out when they decided it would be more fun (or attract more tourists) to paint the main street in bright colors. I saw quite a few villages with multi-colored streets, but none as bright as Tobermory.

Whiskey distillery a few doors down from my B&B

Since Tobermory makes its own whiskey, naturally that's the one I had that night.

View from the ferry

I had to leave the island the next day and head to Kilmartin. I didn't find anyone anywhere - except in Kilmartin - who had heard of it. I'm glad I'd discovered it, because it was one of my favorite places of my 3-1/2 months. I had to get to another part of the island to catch a different ferry to the mainland - these both had tourists because it was the main tourist route to the island.

Mull castle viewed from the ferry

Seven more locations and 3-1/2 weeks still to cover. I'll finish this eventually.

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