Categorized | Places To Visit

Local author weaves a spell with tales of Wee Cumbrae


The meeting of Ardrossan and Saltcoat’s Rotary Club was chaired by Vice President Archie Macintyre due to the absence of President Bob Sharpe. The chief guests were John Steele, local author and speaker for the evening and Greta Murray, visiting rotarian from Canada from a Toronto club, Forest Hill.

John Steele, introduced by Donnie Shedden, is hardly a stranger to the club, having spoken here on at least two previous occasions. Today, the subject of his talk was Wee Cumbrae, an island in the Firth of Clyde, which his most recently published book is all about, detailing the island’s history.

The island of Wee Cumbrae is a beautiful place which first came to prominence in the 7th century when it was settled by an Irish saint and missionary. It subsequently became a place of pilgrimage which rivaled even Iona in its heydays. It was also extremely popular with royalty, particularly of the kings Richard I and II.

Since the island was located in the Firth of Clyde, many ships ran aground in storms or foggy weather in the 17th and 18th centuties, which led to the erection of a lighthouse on the island- a round tower with a coal-fired brazier on top which had to be lit and tended by the keepers. Unfortunately, there was no way to keep the brazier burning through heavy rains and storms, when ships were most likely to run aground, so it was eventually replaced by a proper light- at present, an automated beacon does the job.

The island has not been well known for a long time, since the owners never encouraged visitors, but it has recently been acquired by an Indian lady who plans to develop it into a holiday resort and connect it by ferry to Largs.

Mr. Steel also passed on copies of his book to several club members who took this opportunity to purchase them.

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