Tobermory: Lens Artists Challenge #65 – Pick a Place and Catch its Spirit

The British Fisheries Society established Tobermory as a fishing port on the island of Mull, Scotland in 1788. The cliffs around its natural harbour were scoured back to make room for a road and houses along to a deep water pier.

High tide October 2016 ©MegPhilp

Tobermory comes from the Gaelic “Tobar Mhoire” meaning ‘Mary’s Well.’ One dedicated to St Mary is located at the top end of the cliff. When I got there in 2016 the well had been long capped. The tap didn’t work so I couldn’t try the waters’ healing power.

No matter what, water rushes down from the cliff tops towards the sea. Everywhere you walk you can hear, and find, running, clear water. They make whisky in Tobermory.

When the nearby Strathearn Waterworks were completed in 1883, this Cherub Fountain was presented to the Burgh of Tobermory by Robert Strathearn. It no longer spouts water but there’s still a basin at the foot for thirsty canines.

The An Tobar Art Centre, once a primary school, is now a collective, community-run gallery (since 1998). This statue high up on the cafe wall caught my eye. I’d hazard a guess that this is St Mungo, Patron Saint and Founder of the city of Glasgow. There’s the bell from the legend, though the bird on his shoulder is too big to be the robin.

Addendum – This statue depicts St Columba, who founded the first Christian monastery on the nearby island of Iona in 563AD . The piece was made in 2007 by sculptor/mechanic Eduard Bersudsky of the Sharmanka Theatre group, who are based in Glasgow. Made of oak from the island, it’s an automated sculpture, with the small shoulder-perched bird ringing the bell on cue. [Thanks to Ester Morrison (Front of House Manager) who answered my emailed query.]

Is this St Mungo?©2016MegPhilp

And you can’t go past a local hero – The Tobermory Cat. A picture book about him by Debi Gliori was published in 2012. Here’s a second generation cat who carries on the tradition and patrols the main street and houses in town.

We came upon this little West Highland Terrier in a corner one of the craft shops. The woman behind the counter said she was keeping an watchful eye on him. Her neighbour had recently passed away and this had been his dog.

What kind folk there are in the world!

There’s only a few fishing boats in the harbour these days but its still a peaceful haven for locals, visitors and furry friends.


All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Linked to Tina’s Lens Artists Challenge #65

More Sources at

Balamory children’s TV program. Downloaded 5 October 2019.

St Columba. Downloaded 21 October 2019.

The Tobermory Cat Downloaded 5 October 2019

WOMAD NZ: The days were just packed! WPC

The World Of Music and Dance is held in March each year. Peter Gabrielle started this kind of festival in Britain 35 years ago. The friendliness of the local people, this venue in New Zealand as well as the line-up,  have made it a repeated success since 2003. It attracts big crowds.

Here’s the main stage “The Bowl” in Pukekura Park, New Plymouth.


And just a few of the 20+ performances I attended –  Continue reading

Taking The Road

This week’s photo challenge is to show something that surprised or delighted me on the road taken.

(I do need to acknowledge the patience of friends & family when we’re driving along, & I suddenly call out from the backseat, “Stop! I need to take a photo.”)


In some traditional tales, taking to the road to seek their fortune was often the only way folk could solve their troubles.

In Norroway, long ago, there lived a widow and three daughters who were so poor that they barely had enough to keep body and soul together. One morning the eldest came to her mother and said, “Bake me a bannock and roast me a collop for I’m going to seek my fortune.”

Continue reading

Just a Whisker


“He came back from the war a changed man. I don’t know what to do. He hardly speaks to me. He doesn’t listen. He’s angry all the time … hardly touches what I cook. When he storms out of the house for no reason, I don’t know where he goes.”


There’s an old story from Korea, where a young woman describes her husband thus. In desperation, she travels to a distant mountain to get help from a famous hermit who has a reputation for magic potions that work. She truly wants her husband back to the gentle, loving man he used to be.

Everyone needs potions! Can we cure a sick world with potions?” the hermit declared.

However,  he listened to her complaints and offered to make such a brew, provided she supplied one essential ingredient – the whisker of a living tiger! The woman gasped and shook her head. She had always been afraid of tigers.

After many months she overcame her fears, persisting with her task. Night after night, she brought food to a tiger that lived near her village. She was able to get closer and closer to that wild creature. She always spoke gently to him and never reproached him. She gained the tiger’s confidence till she was able to rub his head and smile with him. He didn’t even notice when one moonlight night, she finally snipped off one whisker.


When she gave the hermit that whisker, he inspected it and then tossed it into the fire. The woman cried out that now she had lost that which she held most dear …  the love of her husband…  it all had been for nothing.

When she was quiet and while the fire crackled, the old hermit replied,

Is a man less responsive to kindness and understanding? If you can win the affection and trust of a wild and bloodthirsty animal with gentleness and patience, surely you can do the same with your husband.”


All photos and text by Meg (except quotes highlighted in italics).

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


I’ve read this story in many folktale compilations. Here, I have abridged the tale and quoted text  from this version –

CROSSLEY-HOLLAND, Kevin (ed.) “The Tiger’s Whisker” in The Young Oxford Book of Folk Tales. Oxford, OUP, 1998: 15-18.

There are many other versions available on the www.






Mother of the ANZACs


… In the darkened world of warfare, a bright and shining flame, She was mother, sister, sweetheart to them all.”

 These words were in a song Dermot Dorgan sang at our local folk club recently. He’d written it about an Australian, Annie Wheeler during World War 1. I was drawn to the story. Who was this woman?

During the Great War, a century ago, any mail simply addressed to “Mrs Wheeler, Mother of the ANZACs, London” was delivered to her door in Westminster Gardens. One Xmas her daughter recalled, the mail that had arrived from Australia was 3 feet deep all through their flat!

A widow in her 40s, Annie had sailed from Australia with her daughter in 1913 so that Portia might finish her education in England. When the war broke out in 1914 they couldn’t return, so Annie Wheeler worked as a nurse and then took the initiative to become a ‘hub’ of news and support for Australian soldiers, between England and, particularly, Central Queensland where she’d lived.


All through the war, Annie gleaned what she could from the nearby Army
Headquarters and wrote fortnightly bulletins, which were published in Queensland
provincial newspapers, giving many families the only news they ever got of what
was happening to ‘their boys’ with the Australian Imperial Force in France … Egypt …
Palestine …
 She and her daughter organised letters and gifts from Australia,  between brothers,
and family in different battalions, to be forwarded to wherever those ‘ boys’ had
been posted or were in hospital. They sent off supplies of extra clothing & food etc,
wrote countless letters, visited hospitals and were kind to anyone who needed to talk
about home or the mates they missed. By 1918 she had the contact details of 2300
soldiers in a card file (currently held by State Library of Queensland).
One soldier drew a sign and stuck it on their front door showing the distinctive AIF
Rising sun hat badge and a kangaroo with the words “Hop Right In, Dig”
After the war, when Annie and her daughter arrived back in Rockhampton in 1919,
over 5000 people met her train and cheering soldiers (Diggers) pulled her car
through the streets to a public reception. She was given a house to live in paid for by
public subscription!
[State Library of Queensland Image no 69293. Out of copyright]
Here in 1920, she sits in one of the grandest cars in Springsure, I’m guessing from the l
local supplier, a Studebaker Big Six, decked with bunting. Annie Wheeler is about to
unveil a Memorial Fountain at the school.
She was presented with an O.B.E that same year, in recognition of her contribution
as a ‘military welfare worker.’
For kindness itself.
Text by Meg Philp
Dermot Dorgan. Conversation. 13 March 2014.
See also
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright@ under Australian Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License