The story of a small ford

Once upon a time there was a small ford which had served the few cottages above it in High Corrie well for as long as anyone could remember. Artist and leading Scottish colourist, John Maclauchlan Milne, had lived beside it and dramatist Robert McLellan lived a few yards up the track from it. Mr McGarrity’s cart horse would haul coals for us across it having brought them all the way up the hill from the famous puffer the ‘Roman’ at the Sandstone Quay below.

The ford long ago. It is just visible behind the sheep.

And so the years passed.

Then one night in June 2005 (the night of 18th to 19th) all was changed. The ford was destroyed. A mighty storm poured vast amounts of water into all the Arran rivers and also into the little burn that fed the ford. A footbridge constructed a year or two previously beside the ford channelled thousands of gallons of water through a narrow opening between its piers. So narrow was it that several of its stones had already been dislodged by lesser storms not long after it was built. (A microbiologist on holiday in a nearby cottage whose hobby happened to be drystane dyking had actually predicted it would not last six months).

But this night the destruction was far more serious. The whole bed of the ford was gone scoured by the mighty force of the water. There was a very deep channel right across it and the only way a car or the post-van or any service vehicle could access any of us above was gone with it. It all looked extremely serious for the five or six cottages which were so dependent on it.

By a bit of good fortune one resident had happened to have left his car below it and he was able to make the first of many trips to search for and collect a number of large stones. These he manoeuvred into holes excavated with his pick-axe deep in the bed of the ford working below the water level. So it became just possible for cars to cross. Over time more and more stones were brought up and at last the ford became not just serviceable again but with an appearance of considerable strength to give some confidence to all above it that their access would be safeguarded for hopefully a long time to come. And (wonder of wonders) all the stones are still well in place 17 years later! Indeed so many stones were brought up that many more could be used to repave more of the track itself higher up.

August 2019 – the ford in action, 14 years after it had the new stones placed in it.

Not that long before all this happened a commercial company had been quoting considerable sums to build a causeway across where the ford lies. So at least the storm brought us a new ford at no cost whatever!

A once upon a time story that is surely not just a fairy tale! And who knows – with what is happening to the world’s climate there may well be far more testing times to come even for such small communities as High Corrie.

Many thanks to the reader who sent this wee piece of local history into the Voice.  All photo credits to the author (apart from the old postcard image). Featured image, taken in January 2004, shows the bridge that was put in place a month previously, with a good deal of water in the burn but nothing to what it was in June 2005.