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TITLE
'Gairloch in North-West Ross-shire' (4)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_JOHN_DIXON_04
PLACENAME
Gairloch
DISTRICT
Gairloch
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Gairloch
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
John Dixon
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1382
KEYWORDS
audio
lochs
mountains
landscapes
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from 'Gairloch in North-West Ross-shire' by John Henry Dixon, first published in 1886. It is read here by Norman Newton. (Image - Private Collection)

'When snow comes it gives wonderful glory to the mountains, and even frost has its peculiar charms. In the exceptionally severe winter of 1880-1, which had only once been surpassed in the experience of the oldest inhabitants, the ice displayed some of the peculiar forms described by those who have visited the Arctic circle. On the margin of Loch Maree (whose waters never wholly freeze), and especially where streams debouch into it, great hummocks of ice were formed. At the same time the brackish waters of Loch Ewe became covered with ice floes, of such extent as actually to prevent the passage of boats which had started to cross from the west side of the loch to convey persons who wished to attend sacramental services then being held at Aultbea. It was the only time I ever saw the sea frozen, and this circumstance, coupled with the phenonmena witnessed on the ice-bound shores of Loch Maree and the unnatural silence of nature, - whose murmuring streams were frozen dumb, and whose benumbed birds could give forth no note or song, - really seemed to transfer one to another world.

Perhaps the best spot in the parish to observe the sunsets is the Gairloch Hotel. Looking over the bay of Gairloch, no near mountains obstruct the view, and the aspect in summer and autumn is exactly right. Beyond the bay of Gairloch itself lies the Minch, and again beyond and above the Minch are the distant and seemingly transparent hills of Skye. The scene is as it were framed by the lines of hills on either side of Gairloch, and in the immediate foreground are strips of yellow sand and ridges of dark rock. None can tell, none can paint, the glories of the setting sun; words as well as pigments are powerless to adequately record the woundrous changes of the splendid colours that gleam in the sky and clouds, the subtle tints suffused over the sea and distant hills, and the marvellous glow pervading the whole of the beauteous scene!'

John Henry Dixon was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1838 and as a young man followed his father into the legal profession. His obituary in the Ross-shire Journal (29th October 1926) says that 'health reasons compelled him to seek a country life, and a visit which he paid to Ross-shire in 1868 led him in 1874 to settle at Gairloch, where he spent the next quarter of a century.' His residence was at Inveran, at the north end of Loch Maree. He led an active public life and served as District Clerk on the local District Committee created under the Local Government Act in a purely honorary capacity. Local newspapers speak of his patronage of the arts and annual tea parties for local schoolchildren. Census records show that as a gentleman 'living on private means' he maintained a household at Inveran with a housekeeper, housemaid, coachman, gillie and a personal piper. He never married.

Dixon commanded the Gairloch Company of the 1st V. B. Seaforth Highlanders and in 1881 attended the famous Edinburgh Review in honour of Queen Victoria.

In 1886 Dixon published a book which is still regarded as a model of what a parish history should be: 'Gairloch: its Records, Traditions, Inhabitants and Natural History'. Clearly the result of extensive local knowledge and research, it is particularly valuable in drawing together a range of local sources. It was reprinted locally in 1974.

Dixon travelled abroad between 1899 and 1902 and in that year moved to Pitlochry, where he died on 20th October 1926. In Perthshire he also took a great interest in local history and in the Boy Scout movement - he was honoured in 1924 with the prestigious gold Swastika Thanks Badge and on his death was the oldest Scoutmaster in Great Britain. His book on the local history of Pitlochry was published in 1925: 'Pitlochry: Past and Present'. It is illustrated with his own watercolour sketches. As at Gairloch, he took an active part in local affairs and founded a Young Man's Society and a rifle club.

Dixon travelled round the world twice, hunted on Vancouver Island and spent time in Japan, on which he was something of an expert and art collector. His obituary in the Perthshire Advertiser (23rd October 1926) described him as 'altogether a gentleman of wide culture and fine, genial personality, and was held in the highest esteem by all classes of the community, from whose midst he has passed, full of years and of honour.'

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'Gairloch in North-West Ross-shire' (4)

ROSS: Gairloch

2000s

audio; lochs; mountains; landscapes; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: John Henry Dixon

This audio extract is from 'Gairloch in North-West Ross-shire' by John Henry Dixon, first published in 1886. It is read here by Norman Newton. (Image - Private Collection)<br /> <br /> 'When snow comes it gives wonderful glory to the mountains, and even frost has its peculiar charms. In the exceptionally severe winter of 1880-1, which had only once been surpassed in the experience of the oldest inhabitants, the ice displayed some of the peculiar forms described by those who have visited the Arctic circle. On the margin of Loch Maree (whose waters never wholly freeze), and especially where streams debouch into it, great hummocks of ice were formed. At the same time the brackish waters of Loch Ewe became covered with ice floes, of such extent as actually to prevent the passage of boats which had started to cross from the west side of the loch to convey persons who wished to attend sacramental services then being held at Aultbea. It was the only time I ever saw the sea frozen, and this circumstance, coupled with the phenonmena witnessed on the ice-bound shores of Loch Maree and the unnatural silence of nature, - whose murmuring streams were frozen dumb, and whose benumbed birds could give forth no note or song, - really seemed to transfer one to another world.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the best spot in the parish to observe the sunsets is the Gairloch Hotel. Looking over the bay of Gairloch, no near mountains obstruct the view, and the aspect in summer and autumn is exactly right. Beyond the bay of Gairloch itself lies the Minch, and again beyond and above the Minch are the distant and seemingly transparent hills of Skye. The scene is as it were framed by the lines of hills on either side of Gairloch, and in the immediate foreground are strips of yellow sand and ridges of dark rock. None can tell, none can paint, the glories of the setting sun; words as well as pigments are powerless to adequately record the woundrous changes of the splendid colours that gleam in the sky and clouds, the subtle tints suffused over the sea and distant hills, and the marvellous glow pervading the whole of the beauteous scene!'<br /> <br /> John Henry Dixon was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1838 and as a young man followed his father into the legal profession. His obituary in the Ross-shire Journal (29th October 1926) says that 'health reasons compelled him to seek a country life, and a visit which he paid to Ross-shire in 1868 led him in 1874 to settle at Gairloch, where he spent the next quarter of a century.' His residence was at Inveran, at the north end of Loch Maree. He led an active public life and served as District Clerk on the local District Committee created under the Local Government Act in a purely honorary capacity. Local newspapers speak of his patronage of the arts and annual tea parties for local schoolchildren. Census records show that as a gentleman 'living on private means' he maintained a household at Inveran with a housekeeper, housemaid, coachman, gillie and a personal piper. He never married.<br /> <br /> Dixon commanded the Gairloch Company of the 1st V. B. Seaforth Highlanders and in 1881 attended the famous Edinburgh Review in honour of Queen Victoria. <br /> <br /> In 1886 Dixon published a book which is still regarded as a model of what a parish history should be: 'Gairloch: its Records, Traditions, Inhabitants and Natural History'. Clearly the result of extensive local knowledge and research, it is particularly valuable in drawing together a range of local sources. It was reprinted locally in 1974.<br /> <br /> Dixon travelled abroad between 1899 and 1902 and in that year moved to Pitlochry, where he died on 20th October 1926. In Perthshire he also took a great interest in local history and in the Boy Scout movement - he was honoured in 1924 with the prestigious gold Swastika Thanks Badge and on his death was the oldest Scoutmaster in Great Britain. His book on the local history of Pitlochry was published in 1925: 'Pitlochry: Past and Present'. It is illustrated with his own watercolour sketches. As at Gairloch, he took an active part in local affairs and founded a Young Man's Society and a rifle club.<br /> <br /> Dixon travelled round the world twice, hunted on Vancouver Island and spent time in Japan, on which he was something of an expert and art collector. His obituary in the Perthshire Advertiser (23rd October 1926) described him as 'altogether a gentleman of wide culture and fine, genial personality, and was held in the highest esteem by all classes of the community, from whose midst he has passed, full of years and of honour.'