Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Small Mysteries...

The dramatic scenery of our new home has captivated me…over and over I write about the beauty, the wild, rugged, gentle, landscape; the tempestuous, glorious weather. A land of contrasts but there is so much more to this country than views and weather; abandoned ruins, enchanting castles, interesting stories, so many small mysteries like the one that I drive past every few days.

If you were to take the winding, single-track road from Otter Ferry over the hills through the hamlet of Kilfinan, you will pass one of the oldest churches in Scotland. This tiny 13th century stone church silently bears witness to centuries of turbulent upheavals that it’s peaceful setting belies; a serene and ancient venue for weddings and worship. Its history dates back to sometime between 1231 and 1241 when the church of St Finan first appeared in official records.

If you cross the bridge over the burn that runs alongside the church grounds you will follow the road as it heads up between old and pristine stone walls behind which sheep graze on deep green pastures. A handful of houses, both old and new, mark the road and as you reach the crest, the stone walls give way to fences, hedges and glimpses of loch. Further on, past holiday homes and old farmhouses, through patches of trees and down another hill and there, at the side of the road, you’ll find this fountain; angled in such a way that it is all but hidden and unnoticed in the sweep of view as the valley unfolds below.

In days gone by, horses would have drunk from the trough below the running water, now a plank provides a shelf for mugs. The water flows day and night, constant, refreshment for any weary traveller…the mugs have been there as long as we have been making the trip toTighnabruaich and probably long before.

The inscription on the stone reads, in memory of Patrick Rankin, of Otter and Auchengray, 1880. This was not Otter Ferry but Otter Estate, at the hamlet of Kilfinan, and who was Patrick Rankin? Is this fountain a living monument to the same Patrick Rankin, whose gravestone in the Kilfinan church yard reveals that he died in his early thirties?

I’ve been told the water from this fountain is full of minerals (unlike our normal water here, which is very soft), and that it has many health benefits. That might explain why an elderly man (word has it he is in his 80’s) cycles some seven or eight miles every few days to replenish his supply. This same robust octogenarian apparently rides many miles more in the opposite direction to his favourite golf course every week for a round or two. I have passed him a few times on the road…tackling the long rises with seeming ease! If only someone reading this can add to the story of the fountain, the cyclist and the water...?


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