Scouting in Uig

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Thanks to Iain Watson for these pictures and his memories of scout camps in Uig.

The pictures were all collected by Don Laing, who used to be a Scout Leader in Stornoway for many years from the early 60’s until he died in 2000. Over the years he had collected several hundred scouting pictures; when he died his wife Mavis gave me the box.

The Scouts used to go to Uig for most of their camps. Every second year the annual summer camp was at Ardroil Beach. We’d spend a fortnight there and my own memories of Ardroil are of ancient canvas tents held together with countless patches. A lot of the gear we had dated back to WW2 (Don was in the RAF during the war and had contacts). Our climbing gear in particular seemed very threadbare but I remember Don telling us ‘if it’s good enough for the Commandos it’s good enough for you’.

We used to canoe and swim in the river, go hiking and camping up the Red River and down to Kinloch Resort/Hamnaway. We’d try and make sure any hikes happened to go past the Wee Shop at Timsgarry – back them just a tiny wee caravan – although there wasn’t much in the way of sweets there.

In 1978, a Scout Leader from Barra capsized in a canoe at the mouth of the river and got swept out to sea by the current. We had to phone for the Coastguard (the phone was in the porch of a house in Ardroil) and they sent a helicopter from Lossiemouth. We laid out a huge ‘H’ sign on the old football pitch, made out of toilet paper & sand for the helicopter to land. By this time some of the older boys had ran round the coast almost as far as the Mangersta Radar Station and luckily spotted the leader who had been washed up on a wee rock outcrop. One of the boys swam out and dragged him to shore (and later got a Bravery Award for doing so). Another of the boys ran back with the co-ordinators and so was able to tell the helicopter crew where the guy was. Apart from hypothermia, the guy was ok, but a few minutes more in the water and that would have been that. Always seemed to be plenty of excitement at Ardroil.

We used to use Valtos on a regular basis as well. Every October we had a week or ten days there, and usually in mid February as well at the Communion Holidays. When I first went to Valtos in ’76 it was nothing but old worn out mattresses and wobbly camp beds. Sometime in the late 70’s metal bunks from an old Civil Defence Fallout shelter arrived. No idea who acquired them, but I remember being over there when they arrived. Proper wooden bunks arrived at the same time as the major refurbishment.

The Scouts also used to go to the Mangersta Radar Station for camps as Don Laing worked for the Civil Aviation Authority. That was strange as the place was full of expensive radar equipment yet we had the run of the place. There used to be an old WW2 RAF camp just up the road and we used to play around the old wooden buildings. I think that was finally demolished in early 80’s.

Were you here too on scout trips, school outings or holidays? We’d love to have your pictures and stories.