Taynuilt War Memorial Book

Taynuilt War Memorial Book

This excerpt from the ‘Taynuilt War Memorial Book’ provides a pen portrait of the cataclysmic move into war and how it changed our rural communities.

One cannot follow the brief path of each life lost without being filled with images of the vanished world which was Taynuilt: a world changed forever by experiences in war.

To a certain extent, we see a sunlit world. It is rural and sure; secure with community; soft with the sound of Gaelic, enclosed, comfortable. It is filled with village ‘characters’ and families ancient in the place. There is a sense of continuity and underneath it all, a deep and touching simple faith. And always, there is the land…

In the land, salmon run; rivers and streamlets are stippled with trout. Deer are taken from corrie and fish from pool.

Shepherds walk the hill with crook and dog. The land is a crisscross of lazy beds manured with seaweed and dug with spade. Some fields are big enough to take a ploughshare drawn by patient horses at ease with plough or cart. Far off, there is hammer on anvil.

In the hills, men cut peats and eat at midday around little gorse-wood fires where strong tea is on the brew. Women come with wicker baskets filled with oatcakes and crowdie cheese, floury scones and bramble jelly, dark as wine.

Harvest is a time of sharing work. Crofters mow immaculate fields with scythe or horse-drawn reaper. Young men come to cut and coil, to toss and turn sweet hay, to build the egg shaped stacks. Children go barefoot to the sneezy, dusty tramping of the hay in byres.

Pleasures are simple: Summer dances last till the cool of dawn and the long walk back home for milking time; Winter is a season for visiting; for home-made music, songs by lamplight, or tales told round fragrant fires of peat. Weddings are unpretentious; simple homely fare, whisky, ale and dancing in the Village Hall to pipe or fiddle, ‘box’ and drum.

Yes, there is poverty and incurable disease, child deaths and all the sorrows of life; but even in 1914, it is a sheltered world, confident, calm assured and at peace with itself.

And then comes War and the pain of goodbyes as doors slam, trains move off, shrouded in hissing steam, and a last wave at Taynuilt Station is the lingering memory.

Young men, for whom a trip to Oban Games was a novelty, go off to war in Gallipoli, Salonika and the bloodstained fields of Flanders. The clean quiet air of Loch Etive gives way to the stench of the trenches, the noise and violence of the battlefield, the lice and the mosquitoes. They face death but in confronting the enemy they find discipline, comradeship and loyalty, courage and determination, steadfastness and faith among appalling sights and sounds. People at home face hardship and uncertainty. There is worry and quiet weeping and, for many families, relief at a safe return.

But the old Taynuilt is gone forever.

Reproduced by kind permission of John Macfarlane

Taynuilt Boys 1914