Tag Archives: Comrie

The Banks o’ the Linn o’ Chullaich

The Story of The Banks of the Linn a’Hoolich

 

One Monday evening, at my second home, the Glenfarg Village Folk Club, I was chatting with a stalwart of the club, Jim Douglas. Jim, a wonderful artist, poet, writer and songsmith, made a comment that struck an immediate chord with me. He observed, “Isn’t it strange how you never hear a sequel to a song?” If a film was successful, then it was a racing certainty that before long a sequel, or even a prequel would be released, so why not with songs?

It was something that had never crossed my mind before. But now that Jim had planted the seed, my brain went into overdrive. Driving home that night from the club I was thinking about all of the songs I had written, looking for a candidate to write a sequel to.

The song ‘Maggie Ann’ finished in a way that didn’t suggest a relationship blossomed between us and I thought that it would be a good challenge to write a romantic, non-funny song for a change. So as soon as I was home I put my mind to work.

Writing romantically was quite a challenge fro me. I am a romantic at heart, but not so brilliant at expressing it. There are so many cliched lines and phrases out there that sound unbelievably naff. I turned over countless possible scenarios in my head as a storyline for a serious song and none of them worked for me, until I hit on the idea of skinny dipping.

To pluck up the courage, not only to strip off in front of someone , but to then plunge naked into a freezing river with them requires a bond of mutual trust and insanity. The scary challenge of getting into that icy water generates screaming, giggling, hysterical laughter which in turn allows you to overcome any embarrassment or discomfort from exposing your body. To skinny dip with a group of people is a totally different experience to only skinny dipping with somebody you are romantically involved with. To share that adventure with someone special is a romantic and intimate experience. You emerge from the water triumphantly having overcome your fears. There is a joint sense of euphoria, achievement and delight. Feeling utterly alive, that mutual experience brings you so much closer together, rapidly followed by an immediate and urgent need to get warm.

The truth of the matter is that the ‘new girl who moved into the Glen’ and I became good friends, and whilst there were romantic overtones to our friendship for a while, the chemistry was not present in sufficient strength to underpin a lasting romance. There was also the ever present image of my first love, Florence, in my mind. I still missed her desperately. I would have happily given up all future chances of skinny dipping to be back with her.

So whilst the sequel that emerged was about my new neighbour Maggie Ann, the sentiments towards the end of the song were much more about Florence.

The song is set around the Linn o’ Chullaich, which is a large pool on a bend in the River Ruchill. Chullaich is pronounced ‘Hoolich’.  The ‘Linn’, as it better known is located about a mile outside Comrie at the foot of Glen Artney, and is a favourite, if chilly, swimming hole. The car park beside the pool is also a favourite parking place for courting couples.

The story is, as is often the case, a mix of fact and fiction built around real people, real places and real events. I never intended the song to finish on a sad note, but my romantic relationship with Maggie Ann had not survived the test of time and my relationship with Florence had fallen victim to separation. So it seemed only right to reflect that in the lyric. Because the song was so different in style and mood from the original ‘Maggie Ann’, I also wanted more than just her name as the connection, hence the inclusion of the line about Wester Migger Farm and the feeding of her chookie hens. “Maggie Ann” was a beginning, and “By the Banks of the Linn o’ Chullaich” would be about what followed and conclude with the ending.

I went on to write another two songs that feature Maggie Ann. But more about them another time.

If after reading this you fancy a wee skinny dip in the Linn yourself, or with others, check out this link:

Wild Swimming in the Linn o’ Chullaich

 

By the Banks o’ the Linn o’ Chullaich

In the shadow of Ben Halton, when the evening air is still

And a crimson setting sun sets fire tae a’ the hills

And the waters o’ the Ruchill, run dark and peaty brown

By the banks o’ the Linn o’ Chullaich, young lovers will be found

 

It was on an evening such as this, that I walked a lassie hame

Her hair was dark, her skin was fair, and Maggie Ann it was her name

We passed the Linn o’ Chullaich pool, that warm summers night

And sat doon by the water’s edge in the fading light

 

The darkness fell aboot us, and the evening it grew cool

But laughing as we ran, we dived intae the pool

And in waters that were cauld as ice, we swam entwined as yin

And our love it kept us warm that night as we swam across the Linn

 

We lit a fire by the water’s edge, and watched the flames dance

We cuddl’t close th’gether, enjoyin’ the romance

A heron skrech’t its eerie cry, frae somewhere in the night

An Maggie cuddl’t closer, and begged I haud her tight

 

The stars they lit our way, as we walked up through the glen

Wi Maggie on my arm, I was the happiest o’ men

We said goodnight and kissed goodbye, at Wester Migger Farm

While her chookie-hens were roostin’ in the quiet of the barn

 

Now, whener’ I think o’ Maggie, I aye think o’ the Linn

The reflection o’ those flames in the water on her skin

The coldness o’ the river, and the warmth o’ Maggie’s heart

And the sadness o’ the day that we decided both tae part

 

In the shadow of Ben Halton, the evening air was still

And a crimson setting sun set fire tae a’ the hills

And the waters o’ the Ruchill, ran dark and peaty brown

And on the banks o’ the Linn o’ Chullaich, Maggie’s love there I found