And now for something completely different!!
by John Goss, Copthorne, West Sussex
Reproduced from KCFA Newsletter no 18 June 2004 with John Goss's permission. Photographs courtesy of, and copyright of, John Goss
NB Some of the details of facilities on Rum (such as shop opening hours) have altered since 2004
It was all Kathy Sayer's fault. May had never been to Rum before, and was suitably impressed by Kinloch Castle when we made the trip from Elgol, Isle of Skye, on the AquaXplore two summers ago. I had not even proposed at the time, although we both had a pretty good idea of which way we were heading. At the end of our Kinloch Castle tour Kathy announced that the castle was licensed for weddings. A gleam of mischief spread over May's face. Once we had made up our minds to get married we thought 'Why not?' The prospect if getting married in Crawley Register Office did not exactly send us into spasms of ecstasy and the local hotels were demanding a King's ransom for us to celebrate 'our special day'. My late wife Margaret and I had known May and her late husband Len for upwards of twenty-five years through our membership of Copthorne Music Society, and any second time around wedding for a couple of oldies like ourselves just had to be completely different.
First we had to tell our friends and families. Have you ever realised how difficult it is to describe Rum to someone who has never heard of the place? Watch their faces as you reel off the facts - there are no made-up roads, only four ferries a week, the shop only opens in the evenings, cars are not allowed, there are no (public) televisions, no mobile phone service, no en suite hotel accommodation and only 35kw of electricity on the entire island! Add to this the fact that we decided to hold the wedding to coincide with the Kinloch Casstle Friends Association working weekend to Rum in March, just after the spring equinox, and the fainter-hearted bottled out immediately. Luckily we were left with enough adventurous souls to make it worthwhile.
A telephone call to the registrar in Fort William threw up the first problem. Kinloch Castle is only licensed for religious ceremonies; we would have to deal with the Registrar on the island of Eigg and we would have to enlist a Church of Scotland minister to conduct the ceremony. Fortunately we were holidaying on the Isle of Skye last autumn and we were able to meet the Rev Alan Lamb. Minister for Arisaig and the Small Isles. Rev Lamb is also a member of the Kinloch Castle Friends Association and he jumped at the chance to do the honours. A more happy choice could not have been made. The next day the weather was appalling as the ferry Loch Nevis struggled across to Rum with us on board. We were going to meet Kinloch Castle manager Adrian Kay, his wife Aileen and Kendra the catering manageress, to discuss arrangements. Over the next six months the only communications were by phone or letter. It is great credit to those concerned how perfectly things panned out. During those months however I passed many sleepless nights worrying about one uncontrollable factor in the entire enterprise - the weather! The best-laid schemes would have been totally wrecked by a Force 9 gale, preventing any of us actually getting to Rum, or having got there, getting back.
As it was we all converged on Mallaig and Arisaig on a calm evening. Overnight the wind began to howl around the double glazed windows of our B&B, the Moorings Guest House overlooking Mallaig harbour. As we looked out in the morning the sea was a mass of 'white horses' under a perfectly blue sky. Loch Nevis made light work of the cruise to Rum. The major hurdle had been overcome and Rev Lamb and his wife Helen were also on board. We now knew the wedding would go ahead according to plan. Apart from May's children and grandchildren, most of us were in our sixties so the wedding party looked more like a Sussex and South London Darby and Joan club as we tottered up the ramp from the ferry's car deck and onto the island. For this reason we had arranged for Scottish Natural Heritage Land Rovers to take the halt and the lame along with our luggage, to the Castle. Being such a glorious day however, most chose to walk. Our accommodation was not in the hostel but in the main state rooms. Guests soon were at ease with the delights of the 100 year old toilets, once they had found them that is, and were further relieved to discover they had a single power point in the bedroom. May and I were given Lady Bullough's bedroom, the only en suite room in the entire castle, although it is no longer possible to use the magnificent canopied bath.
While our friends went for a walk up Kinloch Glen, we had a brief rehearsal in the Great Hall. In the evening many attended the short end of term service in Rum Primary School conducted by Rev Lamb, filling the tiny classroom to bursting point. Only one of our party had been to Rum before, so it was much appreciated when Catherine Duckworth escorted us for a tour of the Castle during which we were able to check that the Orchestrion was in full working order. It certainly was, as we were treated to Act Three of Lohengrin, one of the pieces we had chosen to play during the ceremony.
There was no stag night for the groom - in any case, with all those red deer on Rum the term takes on a whole new meaning - although there was a fairly riotous gathering in the hostel kitchen, during which we were presented with a framed three dimensional picture of Kinloch Castle by the Chairman of the Friends Association, Dr Ewan Macdonald. The groom received some rather dubious offerings of which the less said the better, before it was time to retire for the night.
The Big Day dawned and we were relieved to find that the bride's and bridesmaid's bouquets still had some life left in them. They had endured a four-day trip from Sussex in cool boxes and had spent a privileged night recovering in Lady Bullough's bath - well it had to be used for something. Kinloch Castle Friends were already busy clearing vegetation from the sea wall as we stood by the bedroom window, admiring the breathtaking view, east down Loch Scresort to the Scottish mainland. Adrian and Aileen had lit fires in the Great Hall and the Smoking Room and Sir George Bullough's dining chairs had been moved in for the ceremony. I left the bride to get herself ready and ambled down to the old stone pier for the arrival of the Arisaig boat Sheerwater, especially chartered to bring our remaining guests, those who regrettably could only make it for the day. Our organist and the Ceilidh band were also on board.
Only an hour and a half later, the great moment, the culmination of all our efforts over the six months arrived! And what an occasion it was! May swept into the Great Hall bang on time, on the arm of her son Richard, accompanied by her grandchildren, Bella (bridesmaid) and George (pageboy), to the strains of the Bridal Chorus from Wagner's Lohengrin, played somewhat hesitantly by the Orchestrion. I am sure you will understand that from that moment we both went into autopilot for the service. For the fashion conscious, the bride wore a coffee and cream lace matador style jacket and trousers in taupe, matched by the bridesmaid's full length satin dress. George was decked out in full Highland rig, complementing his Father and Grandfather who were wearing the Murray tartan. The Great Hall was packed with our guests, the children and teachers from the school and members of the Kinloch Castle Friends Association who had taken a well earned break from their labours among the gorse bushes.
Rev Alan Lamb's organist, Andrew Simpson, accompanied us on the Steinway Concert Grand as we raised our voices to the hymn 'Praise My Soul the King of Heaven', a tradition at all Goss family weddings and funerals as the tune was composed by my Great Grandfather; followed by 'Lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us' . We then signed the register to the accompaniment of the 2nd movement of Beethoven's Pathetique sonata in celebration of the 177th anniversary of the German composer's death. May's daughter Angela read from 1 Corinthians 13 and all the while Rev Lamb guided us through the wonderful service.
The wedding march!
Finally to peals of laughter from the congregation, we marched out to the accompaniment of John Philip Sousa's 'Blaze Away!' and 'The Liberty Bell' which everyone recognised as the theme tune to the television series 'Monty Python', both played on the Orchestrion.
The rain had stopped as we emerged from the Great Hall onto the steps of Kinloch Castle's main east entrance where my cousin swung into action taking all the official photographs. The children of Rum presented us with a home made card and a single rhododendron bloom.
Photographs: Left shows the family and friends, Centre the Rum school children present a card and flower and Right the party including KCFA work party
And then it was time for the reception. Kendra had prepared a sumptuous buffet that was laid out in the castle dining room, the table positively groaning under the weight of food.
The whole place came alive as guests and friends spilled over into the Smoking/Billiard Room and Great Hall, giving the whole affair a resemblance to one of Sir George and Lady Bullough's house parties. After my Best Man, Colin Simpson, had made his speech and donned a silly tartan helmet for reasons now lost in the mists of time, it was my turn to make a garbled reply, somwhat reminiscent of an Oscar winner, thanking all and sundry and in the process nearly forgetting to toast the bride! Then it was time for whisky. Thus began the prepartions for the evening's Ceilidh to be held in the Community Hall. While May's grandson George took on all comers on the snooker table, we said farewell to the guests who were returning on the Sheerwater and also to Rev Lamb and his wife who had to get back to prepare for Palm Sunday services in Arisaig.
The Gillespie Boys played at the Ceilidh and all the islanders joined in the fun. We made complete fools of ourselves on the dance floor but May's son-in-law Callum and his parents, being Scottish, knew what to do and did their best to educate us in the intricacies of the Eightsome Reel. I never got the hang of it and retired to take photographs, most of which were out of focus, due no doubt to the large intake of whisky. Most of us returned exhausted to the Castle at about one am Saturday and Douglas King arrived around 3am. I belive the Ceilidh continued until dawn!
On Saturday we and our guests were all leaving Rum, but still had the morning to explore a bit more of the island. At last I had time to show May the Japanese style Bridge the Kinloch Castle Friends Assocaition had funded and erected, and the bit of masonry walkway I had been involved in three years earlier.
Time passed all too quickly and soon we were packing for our departure. It was another lovely sunny day and many chose to stroll along to the slipway. It seemed that most of the islanders and Kinloch Castle Friends had turned out to wave us off. I don't think anyone really wanted to leave! I had one last and very happy duty to perform when the Loch Nevis docked at Eigg. Here we met Marie Carr, the Registrar. I handed over the Wedding Register bearing our signatures from the day before.......finally it was all legal. May and I would be able to hold our heads high in the streets of Copthorne once more.
There were several emotional farewells on docking at Mallaig, before we set off on the 140 mile road trip to our honeymoon cottage on Skye, the cottage could in fact be seen as we stood on the pier at Mallaig. For the first time in six months we were able to relax completely. Was it all worth it? You bet it was! Neither of us can remember having spent such a wonderful three days. Our thanks go to everyone who helped to make it such a joyful occasion; to our families and friends for enduring the whole thing; the KCFA for their wonderful support; to the Rum Community for making us so welcome; to Rev Lamb for conducting the service; to Andrew for playing the Steinway; to the Ceilidh Band; and to Adrian, Aileen and Kendra indeed all the staff at the Castle for bending over backwards to look after us and feed us so magnificently. A word of thanks to Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries and Arisaig Marine who managed to get us all there and back safely. Finally thank you to Kinloch Castle itself and to the shades of Sir George and Lady Bullough. Without them and particularly Lady Bullough's nominal sale of Rum and Kinloch Csstle to the nation in 1957, none of this would have been possible!
Douglas King gave further details of the wedding and the KCFA work party which took place around it.