It was a Wednesday in late August and we were in Scotland, meandering along the harbour footpath in the small village of Arisaig. I stopped at a stone plinth – a memorial in the shape of a parachute – and read the inscription: It had been blessed by no less than the Pope (the Pope?) – to ‘Czech agents who trained here in Arisaig in 1941-43’ (?) Beg pardon, agents who trained HERE ??.

I had read somewhere about the operation to assassinate Heydrich, the brutal Nazi overlord of wartime Czechoslovakia, and wondered if it had anything to do with that. At a corner of the harbour there was a tourist shop and lurking in there were some books about local history. I thumbed through a book and quickly found out that the memorial was indeed for the agents who killed Heydrich. I was gobsmacked that they should have been here in Arisaig, in this remote outpost of the empire. But then, reading on, I discovered to my utter amazement, that the famous Violette Szabo had also trained in this area (In 2016, the song ‘Gibraltar Farm’ on my album ‘Bubbles’ was written about her. Click here to read the back story).

Delving a little deeper revealed that the wartime headquarters of SOE (Special Operations Executive) had actually been Arisaig House. Arisaig House? What a coincidence! That house – actually a stately home now turned into a hotel – just so happened to be across the road from where we were staying! I had never heard of any of this before, and yet there I was staying a stones throw from where all this drama took place!

The books went on to explain:-
The area around Arisaig was critical to the paramilitary training of some 3,000 agents, and with only one access road, was easy to seal off as a Special Protected Area, and keep secure from unwanted attention. Although it had the advantage of remoteness and distance to keep prying eyes away, it was also convenient for legitimate visitors to reach, as it was served by a railway line. Security was rigorously maintained, with even locals being required to have passes for movement into and out of the protected area.

A few days later I visited Arisaig House: Walking into the big stone foyer, right there on the wall, framed in pride of place, was Violette Szabo’s poem – the one written by cryptographer Leo Marks and sounding for all the world like a love poem when really it was a secret communication tool for her to use. I looked at it for ages, while Violette strode past, uniformed and stern, in the corner of my mind’s eye.

I was excited by the amazing history of the place and the peculiar divine convergence that had placed me right in the middle of it. I felt led straight away to write the song ‘The Eyes of Lochaber’. It was penned on a Saturday and on the Sunday it was aired on Carol Kelso’s early morning radio show in Fort William – the fastest turn-round ever!

The song speaks about the spirit of Lochaber, with its heritage of clan loyalties and tight lips that has long served to defend it against all comers. It helped to keep the Germans from ever getting wind of what was going on here during the war, as it did two centuries earlier, when a man with a price of £30,000 on his head (Bonnie Prince Charlie), was successfully hidden during the Jacobite rebellion, which incidentally began on 19 August, my birthday! (I’m sure that £30K back in 1745 could have made a canny Scot a billionaire by present day standards! But no such Scot came forth.)

Fast forward to October 2017 and we are moving to Arisaig. By amazing dint of happenstance we find ourselves staying in a cottage on the Arisaig Estate!
Am I chuffed with that? You bet!
That’s a pic of Arisaig House at right…
Dave

You can give my song a spin here:



 

The Eyes of Lochaber A song about the goings-on in the western highlands of Scotland during the second World War when the entire area was cordoned off and used for the training of over 3,000 men and women agents to be sent into occupied Europe. The Germans never got wind of it – after all the locals knew how to keep a secret. Two centuries earlier, a man with £30,000 on his head (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was successfully hidden in this area!

On this track, Morganisation are joined by piper Robert Gardner and highland guitarist Steve Brown.

 

 

 

Dave, Alan Smith and Robert Gardner.

The Eyes of Lochaber

Oh the Eyes of Lochaber are open wide
but they won’t let on where the blue caps hide
til the Kingdom falls on the other side
Go Laddie Go, Go Laddie Go

The whistle blows as the train steams west
And the men on board are the worst and the best
but freedom rides on their success
so Go Laddie Go, Go Laddie Go

Oh the Eyes of Lochaber
from the sky down to the sea
Oh the Eyes of Lochaber
high as a buzzard in a skyscraper cupboard
looking down on me

As I’m walking down that path again
that once was trod by the best of them
and I hear that song across the Glen
Go Laddie Go, Go Laddie Go

Oh the Eyes of Lochaber are watching still
it’s every heart on every hill
when freedom calls free men will
Go Laddie Go, Go Laddie Go

Oh the Eyes of Lochaber
from the sky down to the sea
Oh the Eyes of Lochaber
high as a buzzard in a skyscraper cupboard
looking down on me

© Dave Scott-Morgan 2017.

  • The Lochaber Collection
  • #
    Title
    Artist
    Composer
    Time
    ID
  • 01.
    http://www.davescottmorgan.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/violette22-LRh.mp3
    Gibraltar Farm
    Morganisation
    Dave Scott-Morgan
    2:41
    s8
    audio/mpeg
    80
  • 02.
    http://www.davescottmorgan.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Lochaber28e-LR.mp3
    Eyes of Lochaber
    Morganisation
    Dave Scott-Morgan
    4:24
    s12
    audio/mpeg
    80
  • 03.
    http://www.davescottmorgan.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/still10-LRh.mp3
    Still
    Morganisation
    Dave Scott-Morgan
    3:14
    s15
    audio/mpeg
    80
  • 04.
    http://www.davescottmorgan.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/bigBrownSky25e-LR.mp3
    Big Brown Sky
    Morganisation
    Dave Scott-Morgan
    3:47
    s11
    audio/mpeg
    80