In our previous post we reblogged this gorgeous photo by Scottish photographer and blogger James Collett from Ian’s hometown area, Campbeltown, Argyll, on the Kintyre peninsula in southwestern Scotland. This has to be one of the most beautiful photos we’ve ever seen and it makes Ian a wee bit homesick.
Below is the promised excerpt regarding Campbeltown Loch and Andy Stewart from Ian’s memoir, “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada,” pages 31-32, copyright © 2012 by Ian Moore-Morrans.
“The loch at Campbeltown (a sea-loch) is in the shape of a horseshoe lying on its side with the opening facing east. (‘Loch’ is the Scottish word for ‘lake.’ It has a guttural ‘ch’ sound similar to that in the German word ‘ach.’ The sound is made by forcing air between the back of the tongue and the soft palate at the roof of the mouth. This is a totally alien sound to most English-speaking people, who generally manage to say ‘lock’.)
“Campbeltown Loch is about three kilometers (two miles) in length from the opening of the ‘horseshoe’ to the harbour at the western end. Guarding the mouth of this haven for sailors during rough weather is Davaar Island (two syllables, Da-vaar—emphasis on the ‘v’).
“The first lines of a song about Campbeltown Loch, I would like to think “us wee boys’ in Campbeltown gave to a certain wee man as the idea for a hit song he made famous in the 1960s— ‘Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky.’ (Some claim it was an old Scots folk song or a song based on an old pipe tune; others that it was written by Andy Stewart.) Whatever the truth, renowned Scottish entertainer Andy Stewart (now deceased) made it a very popular song in Scotland, possibly all over the world. You see, as we were growing up, three or four of us would go arm in arm down the street singing the first few words—’Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky’—that’s all we knew at the time. I like to think that Andy heard those few words sometime in Campbeltown and created a song around them. ‘Oh, Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky, Campbeltown Loch, och aye! Campbeltown Loch I wish ye were whisky, I would drink ye dry!” ‘“The verses cleverly have the singer imagining how nice it would be if the loch were full up to the brim of whisky and he could anchor a yacht in the whisky-filled bay to go in for a nip and a dip ‘by night and by day.’ Clan gatherings would feature wading into the loch with toasts of ‘Slainte Bha’ (pronounced ‘Slanj-eh-vah’—good health). The only problem would be the police showing up in a boat and shouting, ‘Time, Gentlemen, please!’ I find this a fitting tongue-in-cheek ode to a town that once boasted of 30 distilleries and still produces at least two very fine brands of single malt whisky – Springbank and Glen Scotia.
“(I’m going to jump many years ahead now to the time that my wife and I went to hear him when Andy Stewart was performing in Winnipeg, Manitoba. When he was exiting the theatre, I went up to him and asked if I could shake his hand. That got his attention! I thanked him and told him that he had put my little town on the world map. Then I told him the story of us boys singing the only bit that existed away back then. …)”
 Chorus of “Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky” a Scottish folk song popularized in the 1960s by Andy Stewart (1933-1993).
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Jeez, that takes me back! Andy Stewart on Hogmanay every year, singing this. Still catch me head-self at it!
Nice to hear from another Andy Stewart fan. Yes, he surely was someone special. We especially like his rendition of his “Donald, Where’s Your Troosers” when he adds a verse in the style of Elvis Presley. Ian has loved to perform it over the years. Thanks for writing.
I remember that too, now you bring it to mind.
Was he only a wee man, then? Perspective on tv is never dependable.
Yes, he was a wee man. As I remember he and I were about the same height and I was about 5 foot 4 inches at the time. (Now I’m even shorter at age 81!)
Great picture and interesting way to introduce the inspiration for the song. Thanks
Thanks, Nita. I hope we’ll be singing together again soon.
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Thanks for the recommendation, James. We appreciate it.
It truly is a gorgeous picture and I can see why Ian might feel a wee bit homesick seeing it. Great excerpt from Ian’s book, too.
Thanks, Fran. Glad you enjoyed both the photo and the excerpt. Good to hear from you.