The bench on the edge of Loch Ard, just before the Kinlochard sign, is there in memory of my wife Liz Myles who died in 1985 aged 36.
It was placed by myself and our son Gregor who was aged just 5 years old at the time of Liz’s death.
Liz and I visited Kinlochard many times before and after our marriage in 1973 and never tired of the scenic route on the B829 alongside Loch Ard.
Liz’s Mum and her siblings grew up in the Aberfoyle area and her aunts, Margaret and May, and her Granny all lived in Kinlochard.
Granny – Maggie Smith – lived in the former Blairhullichan Cottage. Aunt May and her husband Willie More lived in the house at Blairhullichan whilst Aunt Margaret and her husband Wilf Luke were at Lochard Cottages.
We loved visiting the area and going for long walks up the forestry track, across the field to the loch and, in the summer, swimming in the shallows of the loch.
Whether or not Liz’s aunties knew we were coming, they each always managed to produce a feast of home made cakes, scones, biscuits, sandwiches and pots and pots of tea from seemingly nowhere.
We both loved Kinlochard and visited often. When Gregor arrived in 1979, we immediately introduced him to the family there and a year later he took his first steps in Blairhullichan Cottage.
In 1975 Liz and I went on holiday to Cornwall during which we visited the village of Cadgwith. Before lunch at the pub, we climbed up from the harbour along part of the South Coastal Path which gave a lovely elevated view of the village. Along the path were a number of memorial benches and quite a few of them bore the legend “he/she loved Cadgwith.” As we sat on one looking out to sea we both thought the wording quite poignant.
We were not long married and on that day we made a pact: Whichever of us passed first, the survivor would arrange a memorial bench at the place that meant a great deal to both of us. It would bear the legend “he/she loved Kinlochard.” At the time such a pact seemed a very long way from being realised.
On 29th December 1984 Liz was diagnosed with Cancer. Despite no previous sign of illness, the disease was too far advanced and she died just under four months later on 24 April 1985.
A few weeks before she died, Liz asked me if I remembered our holiday 10 years previously when we visited Cadgwith.
After her funeral service, I spoke with Wilf and told him that I’d like to arrange a memorial bench at Kinlochard, probably up the hill on the forestry track overlooking the loch. Wilf, being pragmatic, suggested instead that a site on the roadside would be more appropriate. That way people would have good access to it and we would be able to reach it easily for maintenance. He said he’d find me a spot.
Peter Joynson owned the foreshore of the loch and when Wilf told him of our plan both he and his wife Kate were only too pleased to help. Wilf and his son Ronnie cleared the chosen site of brambles and undergrowth and his daughter Margaret Stewart set about sourcing a quality bench. With a determination to succeed, the whole job was done in less that two months.
On the 18 June 1985, which would have been Liz’s 37th birthday, Gregor, who had himself just turned six, travelled with me to see the bench in place.
At the time, we lived in Cheshire and the flight from Manchester to Glasgow was Gregor’s first. We then drove on to Kinlochard. The site chosen was wonderful and the bench was superb – as it is to this day.
Wilf had angled the bench perfectly so that when sitting on it you look straight across the loch to Blairhullichan, a place which holds so many happy memories for our family.
From its installation up until just a few years before his death in 2011 Wilf maintained the bench before passing the baton onto me.
I’m indebted to Ian Williamson who regularly strims the grass around the bench and to Andrew Roberts at Aberfoyle who has carried out any of the repairs which have been necessary to the bench over the years. My thanks must also go to James Kennedy who arranged the boulders at the lay-by to protect the grass area from becoming too muddy for visitors to the bench.
On our visits over the years, Gregor and I have planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs on the site but sadly only a few have survived the attentions of mice, rabbits and ducks – but then the view itself is the principal attraction with or without flowers.
Gregor and I moved around the UK in our respective careers and he, his wife and two children now live in the Scottish Borders. A few years after my retirement I moved into the same village.
Kinlochard will always hold a place in our hearts and visits there are made as often as we can. It’s wonderful that the bench is so well used, well respected and with care and attention should be there for everyone’s enjoyment for years to come.
Editor’s Note: The area where the bench sits is very popular for rest and reflection. It is also an area that gets used for launching of boats and other activities. As the result of concerns about the erosion at the bench site, both from loch water and heavy footfall, Ian Williamson with the support of the Community Council and the permission of the Joynson Estate undertook significant repairs at his own expense. The loch edge was reinforced and large boulders were placed to deter traffic and the launching of boats. The grassy area was also repaired and reseeded.
Ian: Thank you for your ongoing care and attention–it is much appreciated.