Guided Coach Tour with Brigadier John Macfarlane

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Date(s) - 18/07/2018
9:15 am - 12:45 pm

Argyllshire Gathering Halls


July 1 Update: Some tickets remain, to be sold on a first come, first served basis at the registration desk at Argyllshire Gathering Halls starting midday, Monday 16th July, cash only (no cards, no cheques).

Coach departing and returning to Argyllshire Gathering Halls.

Brigadier John Macfarlane Biography

On Wednesday and Thursday mornings, we are lucky to have Brigadier John Macfarlane leading tours around the local area. Brigadier Macfarlane is extremely accomplished in his formal career, but is also the local font of wisdom and knowledge. He is regularly visited by people wishing to know more about their roots and heritage in the Taynuilt area.

Brigadier Macfarlane was born and brought up in Tobermory, Isle of Mull where his first language was—and still is—Gaelic.

After an education in Tobermory School, Oban High School, and University of Glasgow, where he graduated in Modern Languages, he served for over thirty years in the British Army and retired as Ministry of Defense Director of Education and Training Services (Army). During his career, he was primarily a linguist specialist and spent much of his time in language and intelligence-related posts, both in the United Kingdom and on active service overseas.

Since leaving the Army in 1994, Brigadier Macfarlane has held posts in the Arab world but has now returned thankfully to Argyll, where he lives with his artist wife, Valerie, and any members of his grown-up family who happen to be visiting. He enjoys a part-time third career in national Gaelic broadcasting, both TV and radio, where he finds his Argyll Gaelic and knowledge of local folklore to be an asset.

An amateur local historian with a particular interest in local place-names, he has, with increasing age, enjoyed non-challenging  hill-walking and is a very occasional  occasional trout fisherman. He plays a leading role in many local organisations and sings bass in his local Gaelic Choir and in the Choir of the local  Episcopal Cathedral,  where he is an enthusiastic member of the Congregation.

“All in all, both tours give a flavour of the land in which the Macintyres, including my own great great great grandmother, Mary Macintyre (Barrs, Lochetive-side) lived and flourished.”

As his next project, he hopes to complete a book on Legends Place Names and Folklore of Muckairn and find a publisher astute enough to print it.


Alison says: “I can thoroughly recommend these tours to you. I had the very good fortune to spend a couple of days with John in Autumn of 2017 and I felt as though I needed to record every minute, because he was imparting such important and fascinating local knowledge with every sentence. John easily traverses the history, folklore, culture, language, traditions, and love of our ancestral land in an incredibly interesting fashion.”

Archie McIntyre says: “Any tour guided by John MacFarlane is guaranteed to be first class and packed with fascinating information. John and I were in the same class in Oban High School in the 1950s and his enquiring mind has never left him. You cannot do better than take his tour.”

Wednesday Tour with Brigadier Macfarlane

John will lead a tour around Taynuilt. In his own words, this tour “gives a general view of the local area and touches on the history and geography of Muckairn and the surrounding Macintyre homeland from the Iron Age onwards. It is supported in two places by short but effective playlets by a local drama group (see below) which help our understanding of Macintyre history. Genealogists will find the visit to the ancient churchyard of Muckairn particularly interesting, for a return during later “free time.” The tour finishes at the historic Church at St. Conans where the Macintyre Stall in the Choir is so beautifully carved in wood. I will be giving a continuous commentary both as we travel and at particular points of interest.”

The local drama group John refers to above is known as the Three Wee Crows. They are very popular and have produced some excellent performances. 

The tour will include a running commentary from Oban to the destinations, highlighting points of historical significance.


  • Bonawe Ferry point, with views to Glenoe and Glen Salach.
    • Importance of this as a communications hub in 15-18th Century.
    • Importance of the ferry across the Awe.
    • There was an inn which was knocked down by Scottish Hydro scheme. MacIntyre of Glenoe would have used that inn.

  • Bonawe Furnace
    • History of the furnace itself.
    • A lot of Macintyres were employed there.
    • The link with Nelson and the cannon balls that were made in the furnace.
    • Playlet by the Three Wee Crows.

  • St Conan’s Kirk with engraved MacIntyre stall, recently refurbished. Playlet from Three Wee Crows.
  • A stop at the dam at the mouth of Loch Awe where the river starts. It is quite important because it’s where Robert the Bruce fought against the MacDougalls in 1308; there would undoubtedly have been MacIntyres involved.
  • A fascinating folk tale regarding an elemental force called the Cailleach Bheithir.

A ticket includes the bus and applicable entrance fees, if any.

You can buy event tickets only if you have already registered for the Gathering. Please ensure you have done this before trying to buy tickets. Your username and password were emailed when you created a user account after registering.



These activities are still “proposed” until we have sufficient registrations to cover costs of running each event or activity. We will do our very best to provide activities as listed; however, they may be cancelled or modified due to bad weather, lack of attendance, changes in availability of transport, or any other factors beyond our control.

If a tour is undersubscribed and is cancelled, we will work with you to find a replacement activity or tour.

Please read the event descriptions carefully and use your own good judgment as to whether an activity is within or outside your physical ability. If you feel it might be beyond your ability please tell us as soon as possible. We will do everything in our power to provide modifications or assistance, but in some cases it won’t be possible or feasible for some people to take part in some activities.


Bookings are closed for this event.

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