The following article first appeared in The Corncrake about 15 years ago.
Poem by “Colonsay Exiles” June 16th 1943
We wandered up to Clark’s Hotel, to meet Mine Host so True,
So when we hear “It’s all Sold Out” we don’t know what to do;
It dis-na maitter David Boy, some other game we’ll play,
We’ll sing you sangs on Lemonade, we’re here in COLONSAY.
Just think “One Month” on Colonsay, in Davie Clark’s Hotel,
Fishing off the Harbour Bar, some stories fresh to tell;
Then wander round to see the Waves, on Fair Kiloran Sand,
Returning just in time for bed, contented happy band.
Dear Old Dunara Castle, what Great service you have been,
Sheltered in that smoke room, Maid, Wife Mither, Grannie sen;
We like your “Great Odd Whistle” and should fortune favour me,
Some happy day, a wish complete, your whole round trip to see.
That Whistle, mostly, welcome sound, but Oh! If it could talk,
What scenes of Life, it could unfold, of Folks in every walk;
Young ones leaving home first time, Two Sweethearts newly wed,
Some Tourists “sittin oot the nicht”, they couldn’a find a bed.
Success to you Good Captain Clark, come join our happy throng,
The Mates, The Purser, Engineers, let’s sing one parting song;
The Boys on deck, The Cabin Boys, The Boys who tend the fires,
Cook, Steward and Stewardess, praising too, the man of many wires.
Another line for Kirsty Mae, once more before we’re parted,
That Gracious Manner, kindly Smile, this Long, Long story started;
May Roses on your path be spread, each hope and wish come true,
Your favoured Lad, the Smoke Room Chums, be Steadfast, all life through.
Oh! COLONSAY, Dear COLONSAY, bright theme of this fair song,
Let’s back to peace and comfort soon, those kindly folks among;
Yon Motor Chuggin’ for the Beach, “Dunara” sails away,
We’re more than happy on this isle, on COLONSAY we’ll stay.
The above lines were collected by the late A.S. McNeill (“Andrew Oransay”). David Clark and his sister, Mary, had the Colonsay hotel throughout the war years and up until 1952; David was a renowned hotelier with an enviable reputation in the trade. There are many tales – for example, a rather grand guest left a pair of shabby, well worn shoes outside his bedroom door, having retired early. By chance, a cargo ship was coming up from the Clyde that night and David telegraphed an order to Kelvin Hughes, the famous chandlers (“Everything, from a needle to an anchor”). The cargo boat was in and out of Colonsay long before breakfast and David was able to leave replacement shoes outside the bedroom door, correct in every detail. Nothing was said, and the hapless guest was suitably chastened.
Even in the war years, when the drink was rationed, guests regularly stayed a month or more. In an almost cashless society, David devised an elegant solution when he obtained a miniature printing press. Arriving guests were issued with a suitable supply of personalised Visiting Cards, and given to understand that these could be used as currency – any recipient could redeem the card against the refreshment of his choice, to be charged to the Visitor’s account.
S.S.”Dunara Castle” was up in years by 1943, but was one of the most beloved in the fleet of M’Callum, Orme & Co. Captain Clark was David’s brother, a highly respected master who is still remembered on the west coast; he was a gifted poet and songwriter – (examples of his work have appeared in these pages, KB 2014). The “Dunara Castle” (with her sister ship, S.S. “Hebrides”) supplemented her income by Circular Tours of “About Seven or Eight Days”, offering “Cabin for the Round, Board included … £9”. The above line [“Some Tourists “sittin oot the nicht”, they couldn’a find a bed.”] reflects company policy at the time: “Cruise Passengers have priority of choice of Cabins over Intermediate Passengers, the latter only being booked on board subject to there being room.”
Some features of the “Dunara Castle” are missing in the modern fleet – no open fires, no Smoking Room, no “Motor Chuggin for the Beach”, now that there is a pier and ships can lie alongside. On the other hand, the attitude of the ships’ companies has changed little and we can be grateful for that.