John Groome Diaries

An introduction by P.E.Marrison

The Diaries of John Groome are a series of hand-written and illustrated loose-leaf books compiled between 1967 and 1981. At that time John Groome lived in an extremely isolated cottage at Cuilness on the east Bank of Loch Lomond opposite Tarbet. (Modern OS Maps spell the place name as “Cailness”.)

John was anything but a hermit; he was an ex telephone engineering manager, ex Boy Scout leader, DIY expert, gardener, pianist, part-time shepherd, author, enemy of loose-dogs, rabbits and grey squirrels, opera lover, hill walker, painter, vermin hunter, conservationist, poet, ornithologist, friend of Loch Lomond, boatman, wine connoisseur, and self appointed guardian of ‘his’ stretch of the West Highland Way. All of these aspects of his life show up in his illustrated diaries.

What also becomes apparent is the quirky character of the man. He was at once frugal and generous, somewhat withdrawn but with many friends. He loved the isolation of the banks of Loch Lomond and yet made frequent trips into Glasgow. He would very quickly confront anyone whom he considered to have despoiled the countryside, but would just as quickly offer shelter and help to wet and bedraggled West Highland Way walkers.

The diaries also cover his meetings with many friends from the Boy Scouts movement, many walkers and sailors, TV crews, Chris Brasher, Jimmy McGregor, Duncan Carse and particularly his friendship with Tom, Rhona and Molly Weir.

During his fifteen years at Cuilness, John’s nearest neighbours were either a two mile walk away at Inversnaid or a mile boat ride away at Tarbet across an unpredictable Loch Lomond. To offset this lack of “convenience” he made great efforts at self sufficiency.

Even though he was in very good health, in 1981, at the age of 74, he decided that the physical hardships of living at Cuilness were becoming too much. Launching a small boat several times a week to cross the Loch for groceries and other supplies was in itself a major task. The water level in his small harbour could often be too high or too low to allow a comfortable launch. In spite of his mechanical skills, he often had difficulty starting his outboard motor or it would fail half way across to Tarbet and the oars would have to be used. The quickly changing strength and direction of winds meant that a calm launch could be followed by a rough, wet crossing or vice versa. Even fog, mist and ice would occasionally challenge him.

John died in January 2009 year aged 101 and bequeathed his Cuilness diaries to The Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. These diaries, containing over 700 double-sided sheets of small neat lettering and colourful illustrations, were scanned by me at 300 dpi (approx 1400 JPG files).

Originally, a small number of the 1974 and 1975 diaries have been printed for local circulation, but the aim also is to make them all available to a wider readership. (See link below.) There is NO intention to transcribe these diaries. If they are read as typed documents, even with added illustrations, they lose much of their charm, authenticity and originality. It is hoped that the other diaries will become available on line.

During 1981 John Groome gradually moved his belongings into Duncryne Cottage at Gartocharn. There, he was able to devote his time to maintaining and developing a wooded garden, increased his visits to the opera and concerts in Glasgow. He also became the self appointed guardian of the footpath to the “Dumpling” (Duncryne Hill).

From 1982, he continued for another 20 years with a separate set of Gartocharn diaries. In these he gradually reduced the number of hand-drawn illustrations and increased the number of photographs. The work of scanning and digitising these later diaries is now complete. In years to come, these could be a source of interest to those studying life in a small village at the end of the twentieth century. These later diaries are privately owned and are not available for publication.

As well as his diaries, John left a book of sixty of his poems plus audio tapes of his music, songs, poems and stories.

In his late nineties he would still play the piano on Friday mornings at the Coffee mornings in the Gartocharn Millennium Hall and still attended the Annual General Meetings of the Friends of Loch Lomond.

Diaries covering a period of 15 years are owned by the Friends of Loch Lomond and we are now pleased to share the contents of the John Groome Diaries here.