It was Christmas Eve and once more we were down at Fort William, to do a bit of winter climbing. We decided to celibate on Christmas Eve with a drink. All the pubs would be closed in Fort William, as it was Sunday. However if we travelled down to North Ballachulish and cross the ferry to South Ballachulish the hotel there would welcome us with open arms, we would be bonafide travellers. You would have to sign a book to say where you were travelling from and where you were travelling too, this would be checked out with the local bobby. We put all sorts of places from-too in those books from Bute to Inverness, today it was Fort William to Oban.
Returning on the ferry we decided that no one should have to pay on the ferry, not on Christmas Eve, (we as Mountain Rescue were already exempt). The vehicles that were coming down Glen Coe and onto the ferry were piled high with snow so we gathered snowballs and climbed onto the superstructure. When the ticket master came to collect the fares we pelted him with snowballs until he retreated into the safety of his office. The passenger then came from their cars and joined in the snowball fight. Our captain, who we knew well, one of our members would later marry his daughter, was happy to laugh along with us. It was a glorious and unforgettable Christmas celebration, on that ferry crossing at Ballachulish.
As we passed through the village of Onich we spotted a little canon on the forecourt of the filling station. Back at base, a plot was hatched to take the canon back to Kinloss with us and have a small brass plague made and screwed onto the canon that would read:
This canon was captured at the battle of Ballachulish by RAF Kinross, Mountain Rescue, and returned the following weekend to the filling station.
The best laid schemes of mice and men…..
A plague was ordered at the jewellers in Forres but did not arrive for weeks rather than days. When it did finally arrive the canon was taken from its hidey-hole, given a good clean and the brass plate screwed in place. There did not seem any reason to put it back in the underground storage bunker so it was left on the barrack table in plain sight.
Someone happens to mention the canon in the presence of a Snowdrop (RAF Policeman) and rather than turning a blind eye, he, in turn, reported the canon to his superior, who in turn informed the local police of a stolen canon on the camp. Something that had started as a bit of a laugh had now suddenly become very serious.
The local police would have been happy to simply leave this until the canon had been returned but were put in an untenable position and charged the three lads that had put their hand up, with theft. When the case came up before the judge at Fort William Sheriff Court, the Judge listened for a short while, then stopped the trial, and said to the owner of the canon,
“Has the canon been disfigured to a point that it has now been devalued in any way?”
“No Sir,” was his replay, “I believe it has been enhanced by the plague”.
Bang, bang, when the judges gavel “Case dismissed”.