Location: Gigha
travel by sea, the natural world

Seagull egg collecting on Cara Island

This story is a personal reflection about an annual trip from Campbeltown to Cara Island.

"I went at least three times, must have been Spring, April or May, the early 1960s, when all the staff from Renton's Butchers went on an egg collecting trip to Cara, the little island just south of Gigha on the west coast of Kintyre. I have an old photo of myself sitting on Cara, and I was in short trousers, so I must have been 9 or 10 at the time.

"The trip started early, and we all travelled in cars and vans the 19 miles to Tayinloan, where the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry (a large open boat in those days) would transfer us all to the island. Cara was uninhabited at that time, and the house was constantly in need of a right good cleanout of dust, droppings and dead pigeons. The old cast-iron range was cleaned and fired up, and someone proceeded to cook breakfast of the best bacon, sausage and eggs (it was Renton's Butchers, remember) for 30 to 40 people. All this work was allocated and done with military precision, and everyone was allocated something to do. Hampers of food, water and supplies had been transported across, including the large cardboard egg boxes which held the double-layered egg-shaped sections. The fresh sea air must have given us all great appetites. We devoured hundreds of eggs that day! We always played a football match, and we even had a minister across one time for a service - there was a small ruined church just next to the house. The younger members were allowed a bit of time off to play, explore and gather a few eggs to blow and take home.

"The main part of the day was taken up by the adults gathering gulls eggs from all around the cliffs at the southern end of the island, which was then placed in the empty egg boxes, and these were carefully transported back via ferry and van to Renton's and were then sold in the butchers! I vaguely remember them being cooked at home and eaten by my dad, but I don't think I had the courage to taste them. My elder sister, Catherine, did, though! Fishy! It's not quite a 'Guga hunting expedition off the cliffs of Lewis' story but the fact that there was a demand for seagull eggs to eat in Campbeltown up until at least the early 1960s and I assume this was a practice that went way back, still fascinates me! The Second World War would have ended only 15 years previously, and the egg collecting was maybe a throwback to harsher times when food was not so plentiful."

As told by Gordon Macmillan

More information on visiting the area can be found here.