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11

DUNOON OBSERVER AND ARGYLLSHIRE STANDARD, SATURDAY, 20th OCTOBER, 2001

A family affair GEORGE H. Currie, Blacksmith, celebrates its 150th anniversary this week. Here Archie Currie, the fourth generation of Currie’s, tells, in his own words, the events of the last century and a half —

{{ In 1851 John Currie, my great grandfather, came to Sandbank and built a small smiddy on land feued from Hafton Estate. He was the younger son of the Curries of Knockamillie, Innellan, and had gone to Glasgow, where he served his apprenticeship as a blacksmith in the Vulcan Ironworks. So he called his smiddy

Vulcan Place. A good name for a smiddy, as Vulcan is the God of Fire. His reason for coming to Sandbank was the gunpowder mills in Glen Lean at the village of Clachaig. The raw material to make the powder was shipped into Sandbank and transported to Glen Lean by horse and cart. The shore behind

Grandfather, Archie Currie

Wilsons petrol was causeyed and the sailing barges, or gubberts, beached at high tide and horses and carts unloaded at low tide. There was a stable at the foot of the steep hill at the rumbling bridge and the carts would be traced, a second horse hitched on to pull the carts up the hill to the Powdermill. Over a hundred horses were employed in this transport, so originally it was to shoe these horses and maintain the carts that John Currie established his smiddy. It was a small tworoomed cottage with the smiddy at the end. There was a shoeing shed alongside. Where the cars were stored behind Wilson’s petrol station in Sandbank was the cooperage where the barrels were made for the gunpowder. The iron hoops for these barrels were made in the smiddy and we still have the cone that was used for this job, but we don’t use it much now, only occasionally to true up a ring that has to be dead round. Another job would have been shoeing the cart wheels. As the mills closed, yachtbuilding yards were starting up in Sandbank. By this time my grandfather, Archie Currie had taken over the smiddy and he became a master at forging the many fittings used in yacht building. He also became an expert in tempering the chisels for the masons involved

Hardware and Garden Specialists

TELEPHONE: (01369) 702078

in building the many fine country houses. The company were involved in making ploughs,

B est wishes and L ots of congratulations A ll the best to the C urrie Family K eep up the good work S till M any more anniversaries I n the future T o come H ere’s to the next 150

(DUNOON) LTD

From one old timer to another Congratulations on reaching your 150th Anniversary

John Currie – great grandfather and founder of the business.

From one Established business to another:E. & R. Inglis Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard FOUNDED 1871

George – father of the present Archie Currie

GEORGE H. CURRIE BLACKSMITH

ESTABLISHED 1851 VULCAN PLACE : SANDBANK : ARGYLL : PA23 8PJ

All types of welding, steel fabrication, gates, railings and fencing

Archie, Iain and Finlay would like to thank all their customers and suppliers for their good wishes on reaching their 150th anniversary


12

DUNOON OBSERVER AND ARGYLLSHIRE STANDARD, SATURDAY, 20th OCTOBER, 2001

A family affair some of which were sent to Canada; also harrows, repointing plough hooks and coulters and making horseshoes for the army during the First World War. My father was a farrier in the Argyll Mountain Battery during the First World War and in the 20s and 30s, yacht work, farm work and making gates and railings for the new houses being built kept the smiddy busy. During times of unemployment, local worthies used to gather in the smiddy looking for work. Poaching and rabbiting took up the rest of their spare time in their quest for food. During the ‘39–‘45 War, there was work from Admi-

ralty and Air Force launches being built in Morris and Lorimers yard. Thereafter the business took a change of direction when welding and fabrication replaced forging to a certain extent. There were many jobs we no longer undertook, such as shoeing horses or cartwheels, pointing compressor drills or dressing masons’ hammers. The evolution of new throwaway tools and tungsten-tipped chisels, with no need for tempering or dressing, meant that it was always cheaper to buy a new tool. In the present day, the majority of the work blacksmiths carry out involves

welding, plant maintenance, repairing digger buckets, structural steelwork, making gates and railings. There are many other purposes to which our skills can be applied such as the manufacture of wheelchair ramps and handrails for the disabled. Locally, with this area being one of the largest producers of timber, we are involved in maintenance of the associated transport and equipment. We are always willing to turn our hand to any request which seems within our capabilities. The firm is old and we are proud that a great deal of the traditional methods are still

used today. We are also very proud that although we are a small company, we have kept up with modern technology and are forging forward into the infancy of the 21st century with state of the art machinery in all areas of our work enabling us to carry out larger and more specialised contracts. But as most of you will know, what goes with this modern machinery is father saying, as they always do: “how does this work again?” A firm cannot survive without customers and once again we are fortunate to have a clientele, both new and established. ||

John Brown (Strone) Ltd

Did you know:–

Thomas

Horseshoes outside your house should be hung right way up (i.e. with the curve at the bottom) to catch the luck and inside (preferably back to back) it should be the other way up so that the luck flows into your home.

BUILDING AND CIVIL ENGINEERING CONTRACTORS

We are delighted to have worked with George H. Currie on many successful projects. We congratulate them on their 150th Anniversary and wish them continued success.

Tel: 01369 840387

OSBORNE SKIP HIRE Sending our Best Wishes to George H. Currie on their 150 th Anniversary – May there be many more. ( DUNOON (01369) 705267

Steve Tong, of Tilhill Forestry, toasts the company

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McNab & Weir

The Proprietors, Management and staff of the Royal Marine Hotel extend their warm congratulations to George H. Currie, Blacksmiths. It is a wonderful achievement to have been of service to the local community for 150 years!

Congratulations George H. Currie, Blacksmiths on your 150th anniversary and we wish you continued success.

WE ARE HONOURED AND DELIGHTED TO HOST THE 150 YEARS CELEBRATION DINNER FOR THE CURRIE FAMILY.

Garrel Bungalow, Strachur, Argyll PA27 8DN

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“The symbol of over 100 years service to industry”

Wish to congratulate George H. Currie on 150 years

from McNab & Weir, Strachur.

We are pleased to be associated with George H Currie, Blacksmith, Sandbank. Congratulations on your 150th Anniversary.

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W ith many congratulations on 150 years and here’s to the next 150

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Hilti (Gt. Britain) Limited 1 Trafford Wharf Road Manchester M17 1BY

Looking forward to serving you for the next 150 years 0800 886100


13

DUNOON OBSERVER AND ARGYLLSHIRE STANDARD, SATURDAY, 20th OCTOBER, 2001

A family affair ALL TERRAIN VEHICLE

AND HAULAGE CONTRACTOR STRACHUR Tel: 01369 860766 VERY BEST WISHES TO GEORGE H. CURRIE Th e sm id d y is ce rta in ly sh o win g its a g e bu t I th in k Arch ie , Ia in a n d Fin la y will g o o n fo r a wh ile .

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The big bang at Sandbank by Archie Currie (uncle to the present Archie Currie) published in Scotland’s Magazine I had often wondered what my reactions would be when I returned to my native village of Sandbank after the establishment of the American Base there. Would I find myself embroiled in the bitter local controversy over Polaris which, according to the newspapers, had split the peaceful community into fiercely warring camps? Would the allegations that the natives were too busy exploiting the Yanks to bother about graver implications prove to be the sordid truth? Or, when I actually saw it, would nothing be of any moment compared to the terrifying potentialities of this sinister instrument of universal felo de se? Now, standing on the shore of the Holy Loch, I am amazed to find that none of these things seems of any importance. I look out at the hulk of the depot ship Proteus with one of her deadly litter of Polaris submarines tied alongside, but my mind refuses to dwell on their significance. I know that the mis-shapen belly of that submarine holds enough fire power to incinerate millions of human beings in a matter of seconds, yet I cannot get my thoughts to dwell on the ethics of this fantastic tragedy. Instead, I am back at the turn of the century remembering my

father and his little home-made cannon. Unlike Polaris, this unique piece of artillery was not designed to hurl death and devastation over large areas of the world. It was conceived, designed, and manufactured for the innocent and laudable purposes of producing very loud bangs on appropriate occasions. My father was the village blacksmith in Sandbank.

Finlay Currie – the future.

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are delighted to be associated with George H. Currie Blacksmith and we congratulate them on their 150th Anniversary G ORDON CHAMBERS, 90 MITCHELL STREET, G LASGOW G1 3NH T ELEPHONE: 0141-221 6807

STEWARTS GARAGE VEHICLE TESTING STATION APPROVED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT

Congratulations to George H. Currie Blacksmiths

on their 150th Anniversary Here’s to the next 150 years. ALL MECHANICAL REPAIRS & SERVICING PANEL BEATING & SPRAY PAINTING INSURANCE ESTIMATES ~ 24 HOUR RECOVERY ~

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are delighted to wish George H. Currie many congratulations on your 150th anniversary

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Tel: (01369) 706053

Archie Currie replies to the toast.

Ardnadam Farm, Sandbank. Tel: 01369 706294

All at Jewson Greenock would like to congratulate George H. Currie Blacksmiths on their 150th Anniversary Here’s to the next 150! Jewson Limited Block 3, Unit 1, Cappilow Ind Estate, Greenock PA15 2TQ Tel: 01475 725095 Fax: 01475 722466

Would like to wish George H. Currie many congratulations on 150 years Safety Boots • Boilersuits Work Gloves • Waterproof Clothing Workwear and Casualwear ------------Fishing Tackle Rods • Reels • Lines • Lures Accessories


14

DUNOON OBSERVER AND ARGYLLSHIRE STANDARD, SATURDAY, 20th OCTOBER, 2001

A family affair With the help of Donald, the journeyman, and Lachie, the hammerman, he made the little cannon on the smiddy anvil one quiet afternoon. The modus operandi was simple. He took a four foot length of thick steel tubing, welded one end solid, bored a small hole for the fuse, and his “do-it-yourself” cannon was ready. He always prided himself on being a very canny man who never took any risks. Before embarking on this venture he had consulted the experts at a gunpowder factory which was then operating two miles up Glen Lean. In addition to getting all the “know how” from his friends there, he had no difficulty in obtaining all the gunpowder and fuses he needed for his project. At this time the Boer War had already dragged on for two weary years of defeat after defeat. My father was one of the optimists who fervently believed that the tide must turn soon. When that glorious day dawned he meant to mark the occasion with a salute of the loudest bangs ever heard along the quiet shores of the Holy Loch. To him it seemed fitting therefore, that the little cannon that was to herald Boer defeats should be christened Oom Paul, the Boer’s own affectionate name for their leader, Paul Kruger. Everything was worked out in careful detail and all the complicated gear got ready to go into action at a moment’s notice.

Oom Paul lay beneath the smiddy bench, looking very much like any other length of ordinary steel tubing. In a shed, out at the back, stood a two-wheeled barrow laden with all the ancillary paraphernalia. The gunpowder, in one pound bags, was stored in a damp-proof box in the henhouse up at the back of the feu where it bordered on the hill.

My mother protested about the danger of all that explosive, but father patiently pointed out that it was a good seventy yards from the house and that he now kept the henhouse locked and never parted with the key. In the unlikely event of anything going wrong the only casualties would be the hens which would be no great loss as they weren’t laying very well anyway.

Archie, Iain, Finlay, John Leckie, Muir McGrory and Ben Currie (on the anvil).

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are pleased to be associated with Georg e H. Currie Blacksm ith on their 150th anniversary and wish them continued success for the future TEL: (01369) 705467/01700841253 Email: scotmfd@aol.com

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Weeks dragged into months with still nothing but bad news from South Africa. Patience began to wear a bit thin. Nevertheless, Lachie’s tentative suggestion that they might have “just a wee shoot” to celebrate the birthday of Lord Roberts was turned down flat. Oom Paul had but one mission to fulfil, the celebration of British victories, and it would be fired for no other reason. The elusive victories, however, still did not materialise, so Donald had a go at trying to coax my father from his uncompromising stand. His suggestion was that they should go through the intricate drill of fixing up Oom Paul and firing a very small charge which the villagers would think was just the gamekeeper having a shot at a rabbit. With perfect logic Donald pointed out that if a victory did come along suddenly they would look proper fools if Oom Paul wouldn’t go off! This near-blasphemy almost got him the sack and for the next few weeks labour relations in the smiddy were, to say the least of it, rather strained. Then, late one afternoon, news reached the village of the first major British victory at Paardeberg. That night they went home chuckling in anticipation of the surprise they were now ready to spring on the unsuspecting populace. Early next morning they man-handled the heavily-laden barrow up the wooded hillside behind the smiddy to a site that

E . J. W H I T TO N

BUILDER Congra tu la tio n s to Ge o rg e H. Currie on the ir 150th An n ive rsa ry May the y co n tin u e to bu ild o n the ir su cce ss M I N I E X CAV AT O R F O R H I R E can easily access narrow paths or driveways Hour, Day and Week Rates available Phone/Fax: (01369) 840690 Mobile: 07957 376921

PENNINE

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Congratulations to George H. Currie Blacksmith on their 150th Anniversary

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INSURANCE BROKERS FOR BUSINESS

Wishing George H. Currie Congratulations on their 150th Anniversary

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Bill, Iso be l & Jo h n wish to congratulate George H. Currie Blacksmith

on their 150th Anniversary

Th e La za r e tto Po in t Ho te l & Re s ta u r a n t ARDNADAM, SANDBANK Telephone: (01369) 703166 and

LP

Dhailling Lodge Tel: (01369) 701253

Wis h th e Cu rrie fa m ily co n tin u e d s u cce s s fo r g e n e ra tio n s to co m e . Ou r w a rm e st re g a rd s Valter & Caroline


15

DUNOON OBSERVER AND ARGYLLSHIRE STANDARD, SATURDAY, 20th OCTOBER, 2001

A family affair has been prospected and prepared for months before. They unloaded the gear and set to work. They dug away the earth from the foot of a large oak tree. Oom Paul was slipped into the hole beneath the root, whose function was to stop it from flying up into the air when it was fired. A large flat boulder was dropped into the back of the hole and the solid end of Oom Paul pushed hard against it. This it was confidently expected, would take the recoil and prevent Oom Paul from burying itself when driven backwards by the force of the explosion. Large wooden wedges were hammered in between the roots and the barrel till the little cannon was clamped as securely as if it were in a vice. Each now proceeded to carry out his final firing duty. My father made the other

two stand well back while he gingerly slid one of the bags of gunpowder down the barrel. Donald then advanced and filled the cannon almost to the muzzle with dry sand. Lachie, itching for his turn, placed a wooden plug in the cannon’s mouth and drove it home with enthusiastic swipes of his fore-hammer. Donald inserted the fuse through the touch-hole and all was ready. With great reluctance, but knowing the uselessness of arguing against my father ’s safety-first ideas, Donald and Lachie retired to the shelter of a large rock some fifty yards away. When they were safely under cover my father struck a match, applied it to the end of the fuse, then sprinted the fifty yards to the rock in good Olympic time. It was a thirty second fuse, but never had half-a-minute

Congratulations

to Ge o rg e H. Cu rrie o n a ch ie vin g 1 5 0 ye a rs in bu s in e s s a n d w ish in g yo u c o n tin u e d s u c c e s s . Tel: 01369 707844 Unit 16 Sandbank Ind. Estate Dunoon Argyll

EVAN MALCOLM Jo in e r a n d Gla zie r Cong ratula tions and bestwishes to George H. Cur rie on their 150th Anniv er sary

MAINTENANCE REP A IRS A ND A LLTT E R ATIONS PA RA “WHINLEA” - BULLWOOD DUNOON PA23 7QN Telephone: 01369 830457 Fax: 01369 830244

seemed more like an eternity as they crouched there, pale with apprehension and suppressed excitement, not even daring to look at one another. Doubt was just beginning to nibble at their confidence when the tense silence was shattered by the mightiest explosion they had ever heard. For a moment they stood, dumbfounded by their own success, then, as the heart-warming reverberations rolled and echoed away up the glens, they shook hands like excited schoolboys. Emerging jauntily from the sheltering rock, they hurried back to reload Oom Paul. With such a primitive contraption this was rather a lengthy business. They had to knock out all the wedges and pull Oom Paul out of the hole. The inside of the barrel had to be washed with cold water to cool it and make sure that no stray sparks lingered which might set off the next bag of gunpowder prematurely when it was dropped down the barrel. The gun then had to be thoroughly dried, replaced in position, and the final firing drill repeated. Though they worked like inspired Trojans, this meant that there was an interval of fifteen minutes between each shot. Nevertheless, a dozen perfect rounds were fired before all the gear was trundled back to the smiddy. Ladysmith was their next field day. They got off another twelve ear-splitting detonations to mark that memorable event. Then came the glory of Mafeking which clearly called for a special effort. With only a short break for lunch, which they had taken up the hill with them, they treated the startled countryside to a whole day of deafening volleys. The morning after this magnificent Mafeking cannonade my father was surprised, and not a little hurt, to get a visit from his old friend Angus, the Bobby. Angus explained confidentially that on previous occasions when the shooting started he had deemed it diplomatic to get out his bike and do one of his monthly tours of duty away up the remote glens. Now he could turn a blind eye, or rather a deaf ear, to these goings-on no longer, for complaints had been lodged and he had no alternative but to take action. At this point he dropped the friendly tone and adopted his

GEORGE H. CURRIE BLACKSMITH

ESTABLISHED 1851 VULCAN PLACE : SANDBANK : ARGYLL : PA23 8PJ

All types of welding, steel fabrication, gates, railings and fencing

full official voice with phraseology to match. He informed my father that unless he gave an undertaking not to fire Oom Paul again the Law would have to take its course. He was being dealt with very leniently because of his good name in the district and the fact that the misdemeanours had been perpetrated out of a misguided sense of patriotism. He was, therefore, authorised to say that if the undertaking were given, no Court proceedings would be taken. Incensed by this lack of official appreciation, my father immediately cycled over to Dunoon to consult a lawyer friend. This gentleman, knowing him well, had the good sense to suppress an initial inclination to treat the matter as a huge joke. Instead, he listened gravely to the whole story then adopted a solemn legalistic air as he proceeded to inform my father how heavily the dice were loaded in favour of the law. It seemed that a formidable assortment of charges could be brought against him. Disturbance of the peace; trespass on the hill; damage to growing timber; danger to the lieges from bolting horses; were a short selection of the less serious offences. The really serious ones were the manufacture of a lethal weapon without an arms licence and the illegal possession of gunpowder. Serious charges could also be made against the persons who had illegally supplied him with the explosive. This last point really decided the issue. In his outraged frame of mind my father might have

had a go at defying the law on all the other counts, but to get his friends at the Powder Mills into trouble was the sort of thing he would never do. He cycled home sadly, calling on Angus the Bobby to whom he gave the undertaking never to fire Oom Paul again. Then he went over to the smiddy and broke the news to Donald and Lachie. Silently they placed Oom Paul on the smiddy fire, heated it to a red glow and cut off the welded end at the fuse hole. Their pride and joy was once more an uninteresting bit of steel tube lying unheeded beneath the smiddy bench. Standing here by the beautiful Holy Loch, beneath the very hills which echoed those commemorative salvoes so long ago, I try to understand why Polaris should awaken such seemingly irrelevant memories. Am I sub-consciously trying to escape from the terror, the

turmoil, and the dust of the day? Can it be the ludicrous contrast between that harmless little cannon, made in a small village smiddy on a quiet afternoon and this macabre monster embodying man’s latest scientific advance towards his own annihilation? Or is it just that my father made absolutely certain that if Oom Paul was going to hurt anyone it could only be himself? Editor ’s Note: Extract: “Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard” — 26/5/1900. “Relief of Mafeking: At Sandbank there was much rejoicing on receipt of the good news. The bells of both churches were rung for some time, and cannon were fired in the morning and again in the evening. There was a good display of bunting, and quite a number of yachts lying on the Holy Loch were gaily decorated.”

sends its CONGRATULATIONS and BEST WISHES to GEORGE H. CURRIE on your 150th ANNIVERSARY Holy Loch Marine, Rankin’s Brae Sandbank, DUNOON, PA23 8QB Tel: 01369 701800 Fax: 01369 704749 E-mail: berths@holylochmarina.cco.uk Website: www.holylochmarina.co.uk

STEWART McNEE (DUNOON) Ltd BUILDING CONTRACTORS

Highland Avenue, Sandbank Business Park, Sandbank, Dunoon PA23 8PB 01369 702578 After Hours 01369 704941

Congratulations to The Currie Family onachieving150yearsinbusiness. Bestwishesforthenext150years. Archie, Iain and Finlay would like to thank all their customers and suppliers for their good wishes on reaching their 150th anniversary


G.H.Currie Family Affair - 150th Anniversary