Carsphairn Archive

The May Sloan Collection


The May Sloan Collection


Photos from talk given to the Group by Mr Archie Thom about the photographic collection of his mother, May Sloan.

His mother had a great love for the Galloway hills and the families who lived and worked there. Before she was married, she walked throughout the area, often on her own, and her photos, taken from 1932 until 1938 are an invaluable record of hills we would find difficult to recognise nowadays. Then, they were completely devoid of the blanket forestry that we are so familiar with.

Mr Thom has put his mother’s photographs on disk, so using modern technology we were transported back to a very different local world What struck us about May was her walking gear. None of the modern waterproofs, boots etc but walking in her everyday skirts and shoes was the norm. What we noticed about the men was that so many of them were smoking pipes.

May made close friendships with many of the shepherding families who lived in the remote hills, none closer than the Wilson family at the Shiel of Castlemaddy and later with the Belford family at Bardennoch who were related to the Wilsons. There are many photographs of Jessie and her brothers, Rab and Samuel Wilson, by now old men with bushy white beards. May always had a warm welcome when she, later accompanied by her husband, visited their lonely home.

Photographs were taken outside where she is often shown holding a lamb which was probably being fed in the home. Rab and Samuel were hardy fit men who accompanied May up Cairnsmore where there is a photograph of them at the trig point on the top. After they left the Shiel they “retired” to Bardennoch but they never stopped working. Proof of that is in a photograph of them working the hay with what seems to us very old fashioned rakes.

There were also photos of Loch Enoch, Tunskeen, at Portmark, Backhill of the Bush and Loch Doon showing the castle still on an island in the loch. One photo shows Mr Thom’s father in a boat which he had rowed from Portmark, now a ruin, to the castle. All these photos are completely treeless except for the
hardwoods that had been planted for shelter from the winds. Other shepherds with their wives and families were also photographed and one wonders what happened to them, when afforestation started in the late 1930s.