The house was known locally as somewhere that you could keep ponies during winter, and as I walked up every day after school I thought of it as a hidden place, something from a fairytale with its multiple peaks and stones.
Her parents were local too, and all her relatives, going back as long as the hills. ‘Old Oban’ is how you'd say it. She’s Old Oban. But even Betty hadn’t seen Home Farm, it was so secretly tucked behind trees beyond town. I left the area as a teenager, and for 25 years lived in Glasgow working in music and documentary film. Then one day I heard that Home Farm was for sale, and I thought – that’s my house.
In 1667 Home Farm was first built as a dower house for the clan widows of the Campbells of Dunstaffnage, then passed to the MacKays of the grand Glencruitten House up the glen. An elegant wing was added here in 1927 – likely designed by the great Scottish Arts and Crafts architect Robert Lorimer, who was employed to create additions to the MacKay estate at the time. The roof is very Lorimer. That peaked, delicate, descending line. But it was all falling away when I took possession, water leaching in for decades, every room decrepit. And yet so many details had survived. The little, hand-beaten brass door handles. The fine Douglas Fir boards and doors. The hulking cast iron bath.
... with master tradesmen Jackie MacKay, Ally MacInnes, Stephen Boyd, Andrew Buchanan, Dougie MacVicar, Allan MacKay and Tumby. And especially - Jim Ward. There were days in the winter when it was so gutted back to the stone and brick - open to the rain - we’d be huddled in the kitchen that felt like a bothy, and I thought it couldn’t be done. But a hot, quiet spring pushed the work forward and meant we could finish the roof. Up there, I could see the whole glen stretching distantly off towards the town and the beaches at Ganavan and the sound of Mull. And down to the stable where I’d kept the pony - but now lives a barn owl. The curved path leading to the road, where Home Farm dips suddenly out of view. It’s still my hidden place.