The extracts comprising this article are from the Strathard News Issues of May 1986, April 1989, May 1989 and December 2008. They describe an interesting local landmark, also the nature of dialogue between the magazine and the local population at the time. Because of its historical interest, the article was re-published in Strathard Life, Issue 112, Spring 2019, as part of a series entitled ‘Stories from Strathard’.
On a Saturday Afternoon in April 1930, Mr J Ramsay McDonald unveiled a tablet and dedicated a Wayfarer’s to the memory of his lifelong friend, Mr Willie Smith, a Falkirk Businessman, and a Member of the Orpheus Choir. About 1000 people, including Mr Hugh Roberton, Conductor of the Orpheus Choir, were present for the ceremony on ground donated by Captain Ralph Joynson who played host to the Prime Minister. Willie Smith came year after year to Loch Ard. It was his favourite place… The site is very neglected and we are looking for volunteers to clear away scrub, make a proper path and repair the seat. It has been used by numerous locals in the past as it was a convenient courting place.
Tom Reay, Strathard News, May 1986
We are trying to have something done to improve the access to the commemorative seat which was unveiled by Ramsay MacDonald. It is in a lovely setting and affords a delightful view across Loch Ard, but is in a poor condition and is difficult to get to. For those of you who don’t know where it is…it is sited several feet above the road overlooking the loch, a hundred yards or so on the Aberfoyle side of the Altskeith Hotel. It is a memorial to a singer by the name of Smith – perhaps someone can enlighten us further?
Community Council Notes, Strathard News, April 1989
REPLY TO THE COMMUNITY COUNCIL In the Community Council notes of the April edition, you asked for enlightenment regarding the memorial seat near the Altskeith Hotel. The facts broadly are these; William (always known as “Willie”) Smith, was for a number of years, until his death in 1929, a member and principal tenor of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, and during this time, he also gave many solo recitals (sometimes with guest artistes) throughout Scotland, of Scottish and other national folksongs. He was also privileged to sing with the Glasgow Orpheus Choir for the then King and Queen, the Duke and Duchess of York, also at No 10 Downing Street, during the residence there of Mr Ramsay MacDonald. After his death, members of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, and many friends contributed to a fund for the purpose of making some kind of memorial for Willie, and it was well known that he was very fond of the Aberfoyle district, (he had brought his family here for about 10 years in succession on holiday from their home in Falkirk) and was a keen angler from the shores of Loch Ard and Loch Chon. It was decided to erect it for the use of wayfarers in his memory. The ground was donated by the late Mr Ralph Joynson, of Altskeith. Willie’s family appreciate the concern and help of the Community Council, and if the question of path maintenance can be resolved, we would like to see the seat replaced by another in a longer – lasting medium than the original teak.
Strathard News, May 1989
…Picture in your mind a murky day. A flotilla of small boats quietly rippling the tranquil waters of Loch Ard, Ben Lomond’s peak shrouded in mist and the sweet harmonious strains of “By Cool Siloam’s Shady Rill” echoing across the hillside. This was the scene all those years ago when over a thousand people gathered to pay tribute to and honour a man whom they loved and admired. The man was William Smith. The singers were members of the prestigious Orpheus Choir….I was six years of age at the time and was with my father and elder brother in one of the small boats on the loch. My mother, who had a phobia about water and had opted to stay on dry land, was fortunate enough to obtain Ramsay MacDonald’s autograph…
Recently I was fortunate to discover his (William Smith’s) son. George told me of his father’s love of the countryside…I gathered that William Smith was a man of compassion and understanding with a strong sense of devotion to whatever cause he believed in…His friendship with Ramsay Macdonald came through his involvement with the Labour Party…The stonework of the seat, designed by a Mr Watson, is symbolic in style and depicts the cutting off of life. William Smith died in his prime. He was 50 years of age…
Agnes Ford, Strathard News, Dec 2008
We are grateful to James Kennedy (Chair of the Loch Ard Local History Group) who kindly provided us with further pictorial information to add to the Strathard News Magazine Archive material.