From the West coast
of Scotland

A fascinating ten-year archive of letters from one
the most beautiful parts of Scotland,
its people, places, landscape and wildlife.

map Pamela

"Strachur is a small, sleepy, sprawling West Highland village spread along the north eastern shore of Loch Fyne - the longest sea loch in Scotland. This is a very dramatic and beautiful part of Scotland, full of ancient history, magnificent forests and wildlife..."

Pamela MacKinnon's

Letters from Argyll

October 1998

Half-hung Archie

Inveraray Jail

Inveraray Jail.

Last month I mentioned a character called "Half-hung Archie" and this story is so popular I decided to relate it to you. The legend goes like this:

Several centuries ago, Archie MacPhunn was a notorious sheep stealer and all round blaguard of the family MacPhunn. His career as a sheep stealer was somewhat short lived when he was arrested and tried, found guilty and sentenced to hang by the neck at Inveraray Jail. The sentence was duly carried out, and his wife rowed across Loch Fyne to collect the body. Mrs MacPhunn was nursing their child at the time and as they made their way across the loch with the gruesome cargo, she thought she saw movement in MacPhunn's shroud. Tearing the shroud open and realising he might still be alive, she mixed her own milk with some whisky and administered the strange concoction to MacPhunn. By the time they reached the far shore, MacPhunn had regained consciousness and went on to live for several years after that!

Inveraray Harbour

Inveraray Harbour on Loch Fyne

During my research on this "legend", I found out the following facts: Archie MacPhunn of Dripp did exist, he was tried, not for sheep stealing but for murder, and was indeed hanged at Inverary. However, it would seem there may be some truth in the "back from the dead" tale because he was buried in the cemetry of Strachur Parish Church, which would suggest he died from causes unrelated to criminal activity! The one part of the story cannot be substantiated is the reference to whisky and mother's milk, however you can buy a MacPhunn whisky - a fine single malt - only in Strachur.... Makes you think!

Shirley, the squirrel

I promised to introduce you to some of our friends here a Burnside Cottage and I'd like to start with Shirley the Red Squirrel. We have been at the cottage now for four and a half years and it's only this year that we've been honoured by the company of Shirley. She started off on the bird nuts which hang outside my kitchen window but over the months has progressed round the garden and can often be seen exploring the flora and fauna.

Shirley, the squirrel

There are several cats in the area and she has to keep a close eye out for them but usually twice a day she does the rounds and in at least one of our feeding stations she will find some hazelnuts or walnuts to supplement her diet. As you may know we have had the most horrendous summer, torrential rain day after day, and one day there was Shirley, helping herself to bird nuts - a shadow of her former self. It had been so incessantly wet her beautiful fluffy red coat was dark brown and merely stuck to her frail body and that magnificent tail was a brown pencil! We haven't seen her for a couple of months but our friends - who have always had red squirrels visiting their garden - have assured us this is common behaviour and we should see her back again in the autumn. We look forward to it.

"Where the magnificence of the scenery is matched only by the beauty of visiting wildlife."

Text and photographs © Pamela Mackinnon.

Yours aye,

Till next time...


October 1998
Argyll map

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