The world's longest loaf - courtesy of Michael Black and Charles Black
"Your Aunt Grace & I got married in 1967 – as did your Mum & Dad. As you probably know, aunt Grace was a highland dancer who, amongst her many championship trophies, held the Scottish title at one point. After we got married and until Sheona was born, aunt Grace kept up her dancing, doing two or three demonstrations per week at various hotels, one of which was Glenfinnart hotel at Ardentinny (long since burnt to the ground). She was always taken to the various venues by her "manager" Mrs Walker, who lived opposite the bakery, but, since she danced at Glenfinnart on a Thursday evening and Thursday was always a very busy day for me, I used to drive round to Ardentinny and have a few sherbets allowing Grace to drive home. This is where the story begins.
"One evening, I was introduced to a London based friend of the hotel owner. We got into a conversation during which I found out that he was the Maitre D of the very famous restaurant Simpsons of Picadilly where all the celebs would dine. He, in turn, found out about the bakery and a week or so later, he returned to Glenfinnart on a Thursday and said he had a great idea to raise money for a charity. Would we consider making a fruit loaf big enough to challenge the Guinness World Record? I said I would get back to him after talking it over with Dad, and we agreed, telling Andre that we would shape it in the letter "S", standing for both Scotland and Simpsons. He was delighted and intimated that they would cut it up and auction it for their charity, inviting some of their famous patrons to take part.
"In order to be able to bake this loaf, we had to beat the existing record, which was 33 feet long. To do so – in the shape of an S, we had to get Tyre the blacksmith to make a shape. The only oven that we could use for this was at that time a rather old but good steam tube gas oven, so the loaf tin was made to fit this and turned out to be 33feet 4 inches- just enough to beat the record! You have probably seen the photo of this in my office with your Dad and Grandpa checking it as it came out of the oven.
"We still had to be able to transport this to London – in 1968 and got the local joiner Willie Kelly to make a wooden case to hold the loaf. The wooden case was then draped in tartan, but we could not really afford to pay for transport, considering that we were giving it away. When the local paper heard about this, they made a big spread of it, and the next thing we knew was that Caledonian Airways, as it was before British Airways, agreed to fly the loaf down to London and get it to Simpsons. This was duly done with great stramash, piped onto the ferry and then piped onto the plane.
"Everything went well, and aunt Grace and I were invited to attend the event. We couldn't manage, so Mr Andre said that he would let us know how much it had raised – and please, any time you are down in London, please come in and be my guest. Andre phoned after the event telling us that he sold the loaf by the slice at 10/- or 50p each, raising over £3500 – in 1968.
"Later that year, Aunt Grace and I went on holiday to Gibraltar, flying Glasgow-London - Gibraltar and Gibraltar – London – Glasgow on the way back. Our car was parked at Glasgow airport, and we knew that we would have to get petrol for the journey back to Dunoon as we had no time to get it before our flight.
"In those days, we did not have much money, and before we landed in Gibraltar, I had safely put aside enough money for petrol so that I wouldn't spend it while we were away. On our return journey from Gibraltar, we had about 3.5 hours to wait for our flight to Glasgow, and we were broke and starving – with only the petrol money and £1 left, so we thought, "let's take Andre up on his offer". We went to Simpson's [very posh] and asked for Mr Andre, who came to the door, delighted to see us, telling everyone that we were the bakers of the loaf, then he showed us to a table. I was starving, and it was about 1:30, lunches were being served, and Simpson's was world-famous for their roast beef sandwiches, so we started with a plate of soup to be followed by two roast beef sandwiches. Andre came up to see how we were doing, and I thanked him for his kindness in supplying the meal – to which he said, "I invited you to come in anytime – I did not offer to pay for your meal"! One cup of coffee later and no sandwiches we left with only coppers in my pocket, not enough for petrol
"Fortunately, we just got home, but the next morning the car wouldn't start until I put petrol in it!!!"
As told by Michael Black and Charles Black. Their family established and has run the famous bakery in Dunoon for generations.
More information on visiting the area can be found here.