Thanks again to Photographer James Collett for this terrific picture of Ian’s hometown as seen from Ben Guillion, the mountain pictured in our previous post. We have made the following comments on James Collett’s Photography page where we found this photo:
“Another beautiful view of my hometown, Campbeltown, from Beinn Ghuilean (Ben Guillion mountain). I have a story in my memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” which takes place after World War II when I, as a boy, “salvaged” a machine gun from the wreck of an aircraft on Ben Guillion and lugged it to a hiding place in the middle of some whin bushes, much like those shown on this picture. I never was able to find it again (probably just as well.) Here’s the story which happened around 1946:
I think I was about twelve when the following happened. Just to the south of the town, and bordering on it, is Ben Ghuilean (the Gaelic spelling; normally now it is referred to as Ben Gullion. The word “Ben” in Scot’s English means “mountain.”) This is a reasonably-sized mountain. I have already referred to a small airfield five miles from town. This airfield was still used after the war to some extent for training Royal Air Force pilots. One foggy day a two-seater aircraft plunged into the side of that mountain, killing both airmen.
It was quite a climb to the crash site and, needless to say, there were lots of (morbid-minded) townsfolk who just had to make the climb, though they would never have considered doing so at any other time. Apart from the strenuous effort, it was well known that there were adders on the mountain. (Adders are a type of viper, a little over two feet long. The bite of this snake, while it wouldn’t kill you, would make you very ill for some time.) This thought didn’t bother us brave (or stupid) lads, as we spent quite a lot of time on various faces of the mountain. (I had killed an adder some time before and preserved it in alcohol in a glass jar to keep in the house. No one objected at first, but later I had to keep it where we kept our coal.)
No one was allowed anywhere near the crash site until the bodies of the two airmen were removed. People were collecting bits of this and bits of that—stuff that probably went into the rubbish bin (garbage) a few weeks down the road after they had lost interest in the incident. Not so with “yours truly.” I noticed that there were two machine guns, one on each wing, and I set about removing one. What did I want a machine gun for? Maybe I was going to take it to class for “show and tell.” Na, we didn’t have that silly exercise in those days. I really had no idea why I was taking it. I guess it is what the modern kids would call “cool.”
Anyway, I struggled with it for ages and finally got it free. Even today, I still marvel at the fact that I got a machine gun from an aircraft without having a spanner (wrench) or even a pry-bar. I carried the heavy thing down the mountainside on my shoulder to the foothills, where I hid it by throwing it into the middle of some “whin bushes” (furze or gorse). These bushes were evergreen, covered all over with long, sharp dark green needles, standing three or four feet high and at least that across, with nice yellow flowers. (They grow wild in Scotland, but I don’t believe they grow in North America, unless maybe on the east coast.)
I hid the gun because it was still daylight and I didn’t want anyone to see me walking into town with a machine gun over my shoulder. Besides, I had to walk past the police station! I would probably have been arrested (or worse still, maybe even talked about). So, what did I do when it was time to retrieve it? Well, I got hold of some old potato sacks (gunnysacks), my friend Ian McKenzie and his four-wheeled cart, and the two of us headed back up to where I had hidden the gun.
What do you know? It wasn’t there! Did I have the correct bush? “Look over there …. No … try this one … .” There were lots of clumps of bushes. We just about went crazy! I was quite sure that I had taken note of where I had hidden it so that I would find it again. It should still have been there. Well, the two of us searched for ages, all around where I thought it should be, but with no luck. Since the bush was very prickly, I had to get flat on my belly, as low as possible to try to avoid the needles and crawl into the bushes at every place I thought the gun might be. It was awful! We got all scratched and thoroughly disgusted before we decided that it wasn’t there. Remember that during this “carry-on” we little boys were wearing short trousers that came only to our knees.
What I finally figured was that someone had seen me hide the gun and, after I had gone, removed it and took it to the proper authorities. Either that, or I had got really screwed up and there is still a machine gun hidden among some bushes for future archaeologists to find a long time down the road. Anyway, it was a very stupid thing to do and I don’t know what my mother would have said if I had walked into the house carrying a great big machine gun. One thing’s for sure—I would have got a thick ear!
Quoted from “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” by Ian Moore-Morrans, copyright © 2012. Friesen Press.