The Wayfarer - Big history for a little island in the Firth of Clyde

We must always keep an open mind when we wander looking for tales of interest.

One such tale concerns a 19th century minister on Cumbrae the Revd. James Adam who used to pray for blessings on the Great and Little Cumbraes and for the adjacent islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

He obviously knew where his priorities lay, well after all the only town on the Cumbraes is Millport which was important enough to receive in 1812 the first ferry crossing of James Bell’s Comet, the world’s first steam boat.

The town also houses the Cathedral of the Isles, the smallest cathedral in Britain which was consecrated in1876 with a nave of 40 feet by 20 feet seating a congregation of 100.

The ceiling is interestingly painted with all the wild flowers of Cumbrae, well worth a visit.

Little Cumbrae is sometimes considered of little consequence being 684 acres of farmland which is privately owned.

But it has a significant history of its own confirmed by finds of prehistoric bronze and iron age archaeological remains. If we look deeper into this wee island we discover that the missionary Saint Baya is reputed to have landed here in the 7th. century. Now Saint Beya was an Irish princess who against her will was betrothed to the King of Norway’s son. The princess had always desired to devote her life to Christ and fled the court to become a Christian missionary known as the Maiden.

She devoted herself as a devout follower of Saint Columba of Iona and built on Wee Cumbrae a small chapel which was held in such high esteem that it is recorded that ‘an army of men came to hear her preach.’ It was at one time considered as a place of pilgrimage equal to Iona.

In 1931 a talking beacon was installed at Little Cumbrae lighthouse in the form of a gramophone record being played over the radio when the fog horn was in operation. A ship’s radio operator would pick up the following message ‘Cumbrae---one two three four five six seven eight nine then a ring of a bell after which a voice would state one mile. This was then repeated another four times counting up to five miles letting the ship’s radio operator know the distance his ship was from the lighthouse. It seems a little hit or miss to me, but it apparently served its purpose. So, before you dismiss the importance of the Cumbraes as being in the fanciful imagination of the Revd. James Adam just reflect on what has been achieved here. See you next week.