Thursday, 10 January 2013

Jimmy Savilles Cottage Glencoe

Hells Bells!  
Jimmy Saville is becoming more of a nuisance in death than he could be at times in life.  Don't get me wrong, whenever he was on his own wandering about the area he was very personable and good conversation, however a complete pain if there were other folk about to show off to.  My girls didn't  like him and would walk the other way if he was about, and as it turns out their instincts were right. In old fashioned terms it seems he was a groper in his youth or much worse, and a bit of dirty old man when old.  Regardless, folk in the community knew nothing of any past allegations at the BBC and like any guest in the area he was given a welcome, and folk would take time to chat and have a coffee with him. 

I would say that many of us thought he might have been a bit gay as he always seemed to have a couple of male friends with him and there were never females about either at the cottage or in his company. Only when HRH the Duke of Rothsay visited and a possy of local women dressed up as bunny girls was I ever aware of a woman being at the cottage as pictures were in the papers. Given the loction of his cottage unless he was accosting women from passing citylink buses or kidnapping them in his midget Toyota van then it's hard to understand the hype about the cottage having been used for any abuse, but not having all the facts this may be totally wrong. It would indeed be a terrible thing if this had happened here. 

There has been talk off pulling down the cottage at Allt na Reigh.  Before Jimmy Saville, Jane Naismith and her partner owned the cottage and used it as a holiday home for climbing trips throughout the 1970's/80's/90's.  Before that, until about 1974 Hamish MacInnes owned the cottage using its outbuildings for making ice axes and the famous MacInnes rescue stretchers. Going back further when this was a road mans house, this was the famous Downies place with "Downies Barn". Immortalised by Alastair Borthwick in his book on inter war hardship and exploratory climbing by the impoverished youth of Clydebank and the inner city. "Always a Little Further" is a great read about the poorer non middle class SMC type of mountaineer, a dosser with no money and little time, but a huge spirit.
Allt na Reigh
These "road mans" houses are dotted all along the old A82 with most of them now climbing huts such as Lagangarbh and Blackrock.  Lagangarbh was equally famous. "Dan Mackays Barn" was the doss round the back. Both Dans and Downies barns were full of hay as the roadmen were paid a stipend for road maintenance such as filling in holes and keeping culverts clear by the then Argyll County Council, and were corfter/hill farmers wth a few sheep and some cattle. The point here is that these cottages were family homes and also places of highland hospitality and safety for a generation of war weary, penniless folk seeking the spirit of the mountains.

I know more of the Downies as "Rob" (pronounced "Rop" in the gaelic) moved with his family down to Glencoe village when he retired, staying in a council house at Lorn Drive.  Like many old men he had fought in WW1. The Downie sisters all married and their sons and daughters are now Macolls and Kemps. As a kid with  Duncan Downie one of "Rops" grandchildren I used to go to Allt na Reigh and fish for trout in the gorge below the house often with stern warnings from his grandmother about its dangers and tales of broken climbers.

Really what I am saying here is that Jimmy Saville is a small piece of that buildings history. Very small and insignificant.  If this thing with Jimmy Saville teaches us anything it's that fame and money are nothing. What the Downies and Borthwicks teach us is that kindness, an open heart and being your brothers keeper lives on longer than some blinged up tv personality, and that Allt na Reigh should stay where it is because of them and to despite him.

Sans Peur


  1. Ha my first ever climbing book Davy, he ended up as a patient of mine and signed my copy! Wise words about the house but i fear it will be torched in due course- Ian

  2. "a bit gay"
    What does "a bit" mean?

    1. Interesting article about the history of the cottage, and it's a real shame it might be knocked down.

      However, the first couple of paragraphs let your article down. You seem to downplay the serious nature of his crimes - he wasn't just a 'bit of a groper' and I doubt the women he assaulted would agree that he's causing more trouble now he's dead, just because an old cottage might be knocked down.

      Also, how on earth can someone be 'a bit gay'?! You either are or you aren't!

      Again - interesting commentary on the history of the cottage, but your rather sexist and homophobic comments lets it down.

  3. Christ whatever next! So ARE people saying that Allt Na Reigh should be pulled down just because Jimmy Saville owned it. This is totally mindless and ridiculous! As already stated Saville only owned the cottage for a relatively short part of the places history - as you say for example, Hamish Macinnes also owned it and used it as part of his Mountain Technology Business as well as countless others of good personality and the place must have a fair history. Apart from that - it is a beautiful little cottage in a fantastic landscape and a real milestone on the road to Fort William. Please leave it alone and do not subject it to this moronic mindset that says because it belonged to a one time predator it has to go!

    1. Nicola Campbell13 January 2013 12:13

      Leave the cottage alone. Despite the sad Saville connection, the place deserves better than to be torn down. As an aside, Hamish had nothing to do with Mountain Technology, that was Hugh McNicoll's business. Hamish was in business as MacInness-Peck making Terrordactyl axes which were completely innovative at the time of their introduction. Leave the cottage as a tribute to them if you like. The first modern drop pick axe.

  4. Davy

    Great comments on a difficult subject by a local - he was tiny part of Glencoe and an evil man,who was hidden by the establishment. I am afraid that the Press may have their way! To me it was Hamish's house and always will be. Thanks for sharing some of the stories of the Glen!

  5. In answer to "a bit gay" I thought he was a poof to use old fashioned parlance. The cottage is I think worth saving as a piece of heritage. However, having read the police report on the BBC I am truly shocked at the extent of his abuse and that no one stopped him as he was truly a predator. Unlike the bricks and mortar he was well worth putting a match to. Had there been any inkling of waht he was like he would have been ostracised and had no place in the Highlands.

  6. "In answer to "a bit gay" I thought he was a poof to use old fashioned parlance". Hahaha, I think that's cleared up that issue.

    Nice article.

    Have passed that little cottage hundreds of times over the years and have never once seen a light on or any sign of life about it. And even though being aware that it was owned by JS I never thought that he actually used it. A dwelling in such a beautiful spot deserves to be utilised. I hope it isn't flattened because of the actions of one evil bastard.

  7. Well, following the tear it down logic, whilst were at it we could flatten that bit where there was a massacre a few years ago. We could travel the length and breadth of Scotland and tear down any buildings associated with acts of wickedness. It would keep the demolition men employed but destroy Scottish heritage and historic buildings.
    Destroying the house won’t undo whatever bad things Jimmy Saville is said to have done.

  8. An interesting article - I learned a lot! I had heard that there was talk of demolishing the cottage but have no idea of its vibrant history. I've read about Hamish MacInnes's manufacturing of innovative ice-axes but didn't know it happened at Allt na Reigh. Likewise, I've read Alastair Borthwick's enjoyable accounts of staying at 'Downie's Barn' but similarly didn't realise that this was at Allt na Reigh. In fact, Jimmy Savile's ownership of the cottage is the least interesting fact about it! I hope that the cottage isn't demolished and that it can be put to some use, ideally for something that will add to it's mountaineering legacy.

  9. What a pity it would be to demolish this cottage. It is part of Glencoe-a piece of heritge. JS has turned out to be one of the worst characters, how he managed to get away with it for so long is frightening! The amount of abuse whether is be 1 or 400 is irrelevant, 1 is too many. I hope they allow the cottage to stand.

  10. Yep, the house should remain standing. I have only ever heard of homes being demolished if a series of horrific murders or the like took place at the property. Good blog.