Dating from the earliest history of Scotland, but primarily today reflecting a material history that goes back to the early 19th century, Strachur in Argyll is typical of many remote and semi remote rural settlements in Scotland today. Strachur sits on the shores of Loch Fyne about 60 miles NW of Glasgow. As an incomer to the village my experience is one of a village dependent on tourism and ‘passing’ traffic on the main road from Dunoon to Glasgow and the Highlands. But this has not always been the case as this brief account will describe.
In terms of the housing in Strachur, as you can see from the photographs there is a mix of owner occupier, mainly built from the early 19th century to date, one small scheme of social housing built in the 1970s and a small sheltered housing complex. Quite a few of the privately owned houses are now part time or holiday homes. This reflects not only a change in fortunes of owners of these properties but as importantly the development of road links to Glasgow and beyond.
On the scheme, in the area known as ‘The Clachan’, we can also see the results of national policies and political ideologies at work in the number that were purchased as part of the then ‘right to buy’ scheme and the number left in social ownership. The development of Strachur reflects many changes in Scottish society that has made and re made the area and its people’s lives several times.
The cottages in the photograph known as ‘The Bay’ were built by and occupied by fisherman and their families who made their living from the resources of Loch Fyne. The village shop, post office and tea room remain in this area. At its height, although the amount of fishing was always small, it still however resulted in the major effort of creating a harbour to protect the boats. As you can see, that harbour is now disused and has silted up to the point where it is hardly recognisable. Employment and income is still derived from the water. There are 2 local companies which farm salmon and other fish as well as harvesting oysters, mussels and prawn.
The other ‘part’ of the village remains the estate, steeped in history but still demonstrating changing times and social relationships. Strachur House is still occupied by Charles MacLean, (son of Fitzroy Maclean of World War 2 fame in Yugoslavia), and the estate continues to be a source of employment. Farming, stalking, tourism as well as the maintenance of the estate form the basis for this employment where once it was the self provisioning of the house and farming.
There is a strong identification with the village and its glen by residents who were born here or who have lived here for many years who identify with being from the glen. Amongst these is a strong nostalgia, reflected in a vibrant local historical society and efforts to maintain village events and interests. This is best characterized by the community’s raising of funds to provide a sports field mainly used by the village’s successful shinty team.
Strachur demonstrates how a society and community is made and remade over time through the changing material world and connections to it such as road systems and communication. Where once access to the village was mainly by steamer as evidenced by the photograph of the remains of the jetty, now the road system is predominant. Many individuals, (including me), now rely on internet and e mail availability for their work.
Differences are produced and reproduced in no more different ways than in a large city. ‘Coming from the village’ or being part of a demographic group such as the elderly and membership or support for the shinty team play a large part in connecting people to their ‘place’. Inequalities exist in the same manner. Through age, income, employment, gender, and yes even nationality the village can reflect inequalities. As a whole, inequalities can be observed between the village and other ‘places’ through lack of access to services and resources, which whilst disconnecting local people from the ‘city’ also connects people within the village. Whilst casual visitors to the village may see a quaint way of life preserved since time immemorial, as this account shows Strachur like society, is continually being made and remade.