Location: Mid Argyll and Inveraray
gaelic culture, travel by sea, ww1 and ww2

A Crofting Boyhood

Captain Dugald Campbell McNab was born in 1931 at Tullochgorm, the son of a fisherman, Alexander McNab, and Jeannie Campbell, but brought up with his maternal relatives at Silvercraigs after his father's death in 1935. 'Dugie', as he is popularly known, attended Minard, Aird and Lochgilphead primary schools before completing his education at Keil School, Dumbarton. His career at sea, with the Blue Funnel Line of Liverpool, spanned the period 1949-60, and he holds a Foreign-Going Master's Certificate. He has since been employed in various harbour-related posts in Aden, Libya, Netherlands Antilles and, since 1987, in South Riding Point, Bahamas, where he is marine manager, berthing master and loading master.

Captain McNab's reflection on his Silvercraigs experience - growing up on a mid-Argyll croft;

"The ancestral home of my mother's folk was situated about thirty yards from the shore at Silvercraigs, which is about four miles from the small town of Lochgilphead. The community consists of five crofts located in an alluvial "strath", the bed of which provides the land for the growing of crops and through which a burn, the Allt Oigh, runs. The strath is surrounded on three sides by hills which provide the communal grazing area for all the crofts, and the shore into which the burn empties is the boundary on the southwest side. When the water of the Loch ebbs, about one hundred yards of sandy beach is exposed. There are numerous mussel beds in this exposed area.

"Like so many men of the district, my father and my mother's family were engaged in the fishing industry, a physically demanding and dangerous business. My father died of pneumonia when I was three years old, and this left my mother with the burden of raising my brother and me. Roundabout the breakout of WW2, she took a position as housekeeper for one of the more affluent members of the local society, and, since the post was an "unaccompanied" one, we youngsters were "farmed out", so to speak, to the Silvercraigs croft. One's wardrobe, in a relatively affluent family, usually consisted of 1. Sunday clothes. 2. School clothes. 3. Play and work clothes, the garments being demoted by one grade when wear occurred. Of course, rapid growth put paid to orderly degradation, but maybe the clothes of an older sibling or cousin would be available. Today the clothes do not have that wearing ability, and they are changed when fashions change. Christmas was not celebrated as it was considered to be a "Catholic" feast, so Christmas presents were few and far between.

"As nephews and nieces came to Silvercraigs in the summer, so we who lived there all the year round got a break for a couple of weeks in summer. In these war years, my mother brought Niall and me to see Auntie Jessie, Uncle Colin Mc Brayne and the cousins in Campbeltown. There were nine siblings in the family, so there was always adequate company. Netta, Willie and Margaret were in our age group, and they really "showed us the town". After the day's work was over and the evening meal consumed, the fire became the focal point of the evening hours. A "tocher" of fire was one that gave out great heat, much appreciated on a frosty night or a night with the wind howling."

This edited reflection was contributed by Captain Dugald Campbell McNab, you can read the full transcript via this article

More information on visiting the area can be found here.