Old Islay Stories - Dougie's House and Wildlife

It's been a while that I wrote about Dougie MacDougall although I consider them amongst my most favourite blog posts. When I was going through some photographs today I came across a picture of Lily MacDougall and Christine Logan (picture right) and I remembered one of the many stories Lily told me when we visited her in recent years. Lily told me that on several occasions she had seen red deer swimming across the Sound of Islay which was given the often strong currents quite an achievement for these beasts. Now I have to tell you who Lily is, she is the wife of late Dougie MacDougall of Caol Ila and Lily is the mother of Christine Logan, the Lady of the Isles. Lily lives in one of the most beautiful cottages on Islay, next to Caol Ila distillery and on the shore of the Sound of Islay, the water is only a few metres away. The views towards the Isle of Jura and the Paps are breathtakingly beautiful. Thinking about all this I was reminded of a story in Dougie's booklet "As long as water flows" titled "Dougie's House and Wildlife":

Dougie MacDougall: The view from the house is second to none for there, right across, a mile distant, is the Sound of Islay with the Paps of Jura adding to the scenery. It is a very busy Sound with shipping - They pass quite close night and day on their lawful business. The britannia has passed through many a time with its escort keeping guard over her at all times. There are quite a lot of foreign ships passing through, such as Danish, Swedish, Dutch, Norwegian, French and some of the fleets of different nations are seen going through. Fishing boats, big and small take advantage of the Sound for they want to avoid the rough weather off the west coast of Islay. Continue reading......

From my window you can see and hear the wild bird life. It is really a part of one's living with nature. Firstly, there are the seagulls, heron, oyster catchers, cormorant, ducks, tern, sand pipers and many other species which haunt the shore in search of a livelihood. In the early morning you are wakened by the screaming seagulls, wheeling about, or else by the screeching of oyster catchers as they hop about from rock to rock in search of a tasty breakfast.

The otters come in quite close, swimming, diving and most times climb onto the rocks in front of the house to devour their catch. They seem to be quite friendly, for sometimes they come in so close that our pet cat would dearly like to play with one. In fact, one swam in to a creavice in the rock within inches of the cat, who was gaping down on it with wonderment. It soon jumped into the weater, whirled round, had a good look at the cat, as much as to say, "Ah, you won't get me now!" They seem to know that we mean them no harm. No doubt they see us more often that we do them.

Dougie's and Lily's house at Caol Ila - Yellow Rock Cottage

The seals pop up now and again - they are always on the hunt for fish which frequent the nearby bay in the vicinity of the house. We have named one of them "Sandy" for he seems to be always fishing around and comes in quite near in a friendly fashion. My wife and I give hime a cheery shout every time we see him. We wish him the best of fishing which he accepts with a whirl of the head as on he dives.

On one occasion during a gale of south-east wind, a young seal was flung onto the beach and was promptly saved by me from a severe battering on the rocks. I put him in a sack and carried him home to see if anything could be done to revive him. My wife and I tended to him hand and foot. In no time he seemed to have regained his strength and vitality. One had to be very careful for he would suddenly snap viciously at you. Till in the end he seemed to realise that we meant him no harm. We tied a cord round its neck so that made it difficult to snap at one. This also acted as a guide to feed him. We tried to feed him milk with the aid of an old teapot but it seemed to us that he was just not swallowing it.

We got in touch by letter with the Animal Welfare people for advice in regards to its feeding and welfare. We received a reply by return, informing us that it could be too young for feeding. They mentioned that if we made a suitable flat stick with a round hole in it for running a rubber tube down to the tummy, this was the only way to feed it. However, they thought that this method would cause some pain and adviced us that our best plan would be to let it away seeing it was too young. During the time of writing, Sandy, as we named him, was making himself at home, roaming about the house into every corner - he was very nosey! He would scramble up onto the armchair and listen contentedly to the wireless blaring away. My wife, who played the accordian, was amazed at the antics of Sandy, for as soon as she started to playing, the flippers started beating time to the tune!

The bungalow bath came in handy, for Sandy enjoyed a romp and swim in salt water which we carried up in buckets from the sea. We always dried him after his bath, for he would wet everything in the house for he never lay still. We thought that Sandy was the most intelligent pet we ever had, for inside a week he would answer to his name. In fact, he was one of us. We kept Sandy for over a week, but we knew in our hearts that the parting would have to come because of feeding difficulties. The parting came sooner than we thought, for we let him out in the garden in the early morning and when we shouted for him, he was nowhere to be found. He must have prised through the garden gate and was gone without even bidding is goodbye. In one way we were glad, but on the other hand it saved us doing this heartbreaking parting ourselves.

Tag: dougie macdougall caol ila sound of islay jura history