Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Prose and poetry evoke echoes of the past on the shores of Loch Fyne in western Scotland. hidden europe walks the loch shore to the ruins of the old powdermills at Furnace, while Paul Hadfield weaves a web of family history.

article summary —

with a poem by Paul Hadfield

At first glimpse Scotland's Loch Fyne looks pristine, a fjord and mountain landscape fixed in eternity. But looks deceive. Shades of glaciers past in the raised beaches of the foreshore, and, in the village of Furnace, a rich industrial history surrounds the old gunpowder mills. On 29 September 1883, a Saturday afternoon, while the men played shinty down by the loch, a great explosion reverberated over Loch Fyne as dozens of tons of gunpowder ignited. The powdermills closed forever.

hidden europe walked the shores of Loch Fyne from Minard north to Furnace in search of landscape history, and (opposite) guest author Paul Hadfield, who lives by the old powdermills, evokes a moment of family history.

We are so easily baffled by appearances
And do not realise that these stones are one with the stars.
It makes no difference to them whether they are high or low,
Mountain peak or ocean floor; palace or pigsty.
There are plenty of ruined buildings in the world but no ruined stones.
(from 'On a Raised Beach' by Hugh MacDiarmid, 1967)

The walk to Furnace skirts the shingle shelf of Loch Fyne. On the left the rhododendrons that escaped Crarae; a eucalyptus by the highway, azaleas too. Scots pines where bright crossbills defy red squirrels. And a seal lies silent in the sun on the gravel shoals of An Oitir.

This is just an excerpt. If you are a subscriber to hidden europe magazine, you can log in to read the full text online. Of course you can also read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 8.


Paul Hadfield was a writer and educator who lived for over twenty years in Ireland. He was for many years a theatre director, a university teacher and joint editor of Theatre Ireland Journal. His poetry has been published in many journals including Critical Quarterly and Études Irlandaises. Paul died in January 2018. He was a good friend and will be sadly missed.

This article was published in hidden europe 8.