Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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IKWIG 60th Anniversary
28 - 31 October 2005
By: Steve Crook
Thu 27th - Fri 28th October 2005
This one all started when I was contacted by Robert Beveridge of Napier University, Edinburgh. He suggested that we do something to celebrate the 60th anniversary of IKWIG by a group of us going to Mull. As it was also Micky Powell's centenary year I agreed we had to do something.
Robert contacted the Western Isles Hotel on Mull and, as it was out of season for them, we got a good deal on the weekend for any rooms booked. We met up at the NFT Film Cafe when he was on one of his trips to London and we started making plans. Nothing too definite or rigid, it's best to keep these things with an element of flexibility. Robert managed to arrange access to all the locations, even the ones that were normally closed to the public, and permission to film in one that has "No photography" signs everywhere. I started putting the word around amongst people that we thought might be interested and we planned a few surprises for them.
So the great day finally dawned and the journey began. I had booked myself on to the overnight sleeper train to Oban (change at Glasgow) as is appropriate for the film. Although I knew that I wouldn't be sleeping much so I didn't book a sleeping car, just a seat ("aircraft style" reclining seats) in the regular compartment.
The schedule was meant to be:
23:45 Leave London Euston Overnight sleeper 07:15 Arrive Glasgow Central
08:20 Leave Glasgow Queen Street Local train 11:18 Arrive Oban
12:00 Leave Oban Ferry 12:46 Arrive Craignure, Mull
12:50 ish Leave Craignure Bus 13:30 Arrive Western Isles
A fair old journey, but, as is also appropriate for the film, it didn't go quite to plan. In fact I'd mis-read the ferry timetables and on Fridays in winter they only do two ferries per day so I had to kick my heels in Oban for about 4 hours. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
As I live in SW London (near Wimbledon) it's an hour on the tube before I even get to Euston. I got to Euston with plenty of time to spare, I didn't want to miss that overnight train. I checked everything was running according to schedule, got something to eat, and went into the waiting room to wait. And who should I meet in there but Sally Juniper, veteran of many of the Canterbury walks. Sally was doing it in style and had booked a sleeper, just like Joan - "Everything's arranged". We had a good old natter, catching up with what we'd done since we last met and talking about the weekend we were looking forward to.
The time quickly passed and soon it was time to board the train. It's a long old beast that overnight sleeper. I thought I'd walked half-way there before I found the seating compartments in between the two sets of sleeping compartments. But Sally had even further to walk as her sleeping compartment was towards the front of the train. I found a suitable seat and got myself settled, introducing myself to a few people nearby with a smile and a nod (that's enough of an introduction for us British). They were an interesting set of passengers. Quite a few of them were quite heavily tattooed and/or pierced as there was some sort of convention in Scotland. We met Elaine Davidson from Brazil, now resident in Edinburgh, who is in the Guinness Book of Records as the most pierced woman in the world. A lovely lady. It takes a while but you soon start to look at her face rather than her piercings.
As the night drew on, we all settled down and dozed a bit, talked a bit, got up and walked around a bit, looked out of the window at the lights of the passing countryside. It was quite a pleasant journey. I managed to get quite a bit of sleep, but I've never been one to insist on my full eight hours. It seems such a waste, and with such an exciting time ahead of me I couldn't sleep much. Good job I didn't book that sleeping compartment. At least out here I had people to talk to.
We pulled in to Glasgow Central station roughly on time. I didn't see any stationmaster in a stove pipe hat to greet us so we walked the few blocks to Glasgow Queen Street station where we were to pick up the local train to Oban. There was time to freshen up and grab a coffee and something to eat.
The local train is a little, four carriage electric train. It splits part way along the journey with two carriages going to Fort William and the other two going to Oban - so you have to make sure you're in the right two carriages. One of the people I'd met on the train from London was Dave the Potter who was working at Tobermory pottery. He joined me on the train to Oban. Sally said she wanted to have a look at a few galleries in Glasgow and would get a later train.
It's a very nice journey through some beautiful countryside and it gave me a 35 year flashback to when I last went on that line. I was doing a course with the Sea Cadets, based at Loch Ewe, sailing and canoeing all around the Inner Hebrides. We would sometimes go out for a few days, landing in a convenient beach at night and rigging a tent or bivouac. I might well have landed on Mull, I'm not sure exactly where we went. I know we went through Corryvreckan. I hadn't been to the Western Isles since then so it was quite a journey of (re-)discovery for me.
We pulled in to Oban by about half past eleven, and that's when we discovered there was no midday ferry so Dave & I explored the local pubs for a few hours. I had wanted to get to Tobermory by about two so that Robert & I could sort out a few more of the details. But it was in the spirit of the film that the journey was interrupted so I didn't worry about it. Also in the spirit of the film, when we arrived in Oban it was overcast, but quite a pleasant day. Within an hour that had all changed and it was pouring with rain - and I didn't have a car.
The ferry arrives at four o'clock. It's quite a huge beast for the short trip to Craignure on Mull. A ferry that size couldn't get in to Tobermory harbour. But there was a lot of traffic, even on a Friday. There were quite a few cars and vans as well as a lot of foot passengers. Even in the summer they only run three or four times a day so it's best to book your ticket in advance.
It was quite windy up on the top deck of the ferry, where I went for a better view. But although it was a bit choppy that's OK for an old sea-dog like me. Sally and a few others that had picked up the later train from Glasgow had re-joined us by than. Passing a few interesting sights including a nice lighthouse for Michael and his lady to investigate and then past Duart Castle (Castle of Sorne in the film). We pulled in to Craignure on Mull. Then only a coach that was waiting for the ferry to take everyone to Tobermory and anywhere else along the way.
The coach dropped us off and then after a short walk we all staggered into the Western Isles Hotel where Robert was waiting in the lobby. We all greeted each other, signed in and dropped our cases off in our rooms. A quick bit of unpacking and tidying up after that long journey then we all met up in the main lounge.
There were just under 40 people there, a few more were to join us later. A great turnout given the difficulty in getting there. It had been arranged that Gin and Dubonnet cocktails were served (just like Joan drinks in the film). An interesting experience, but not many of us went back for a second one. Robert welcomed everyone and gave a short introduction, including a very nice "Wish I could be there" message from Thelma. Then I introduced myself as well and we went in for dinner.
After dinner the film was shown in the main lounge. There were a few people that had been dragged along by friends that had never seen it before. Fizz commented "I never realised that Roger Livesey could be so dishy". There were a few questions afterwards, some by Robert & myself and some by the rest of the group that we came to call "the islanders". I asked the Gaelic speakers there what they thought of the accents and use of the Gaelic, given that they weren't all Scottish and even those that were Scottish, many of them were from other parts of Scotland. The consensus was that yes, they did get it right. The accents were generally very good, as was the use of Gaelic, even when spoken as a foreign language by the Irish actors.
A nice bit of socialising and a general "getting to know you" session over a few drinks followed and then we all headed for bed. And that was the end of the first day.
Fri 28 Sat 29 Sun 30 Mon 31
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