West, Wights and Dows of Lochawe
James and Bella West
As the construction of the railway to Oban progressed along the north shore of Loch Awe, a general store to supply the needs of those working on the railway, was opened by James West, and his sister Isabella.
The original store was located to the west of Innis Chonain. As the railway progressed westwards, so the Wests moved with it to Oban.
However Loch Awe must have caught their hearts, as they soon returned to set up a permanent store in what was then the nucleus of the village of Lochawe.
The first store was erected on the site now occupied by the garage to the east of "Lescraigie", then "Cruachan" the Wests permanent home and shop were built in the early 1880s. A shop which has now served the village for over a century.
Loch Awe Stores circa 1900
In 1881, Peter Wight, son of an Aberdeen school master, came to Loch Awe for the first time. A skilled craftsman, Peter was sent by his employers, an Edinburgh firm of joiners and carpenters, to execute work at Innistrynich House, on the lochside north of Cladich.
His first impression of the district was not good, nor fortunately, was it lasting. In later years he laughingly recalled his original view "that Loch Awe was the last place on earth".
Upon completion of the work at Innistrynich House, Peter moved on to Ardbrecknish, near Port Sonachan where his firm had further work to execute.
Tam Dow, Peter Wight's close friend and work mate was sent up from Edinburgh to assist with the work at Ardbrecknish. When this job was completed, both men forsook their Edinburgh connection and settled at Lochawe, lodging with the Wests at "Cruachan".
Peter Wight set up his own joinery business in the village, whilst Tam Dow assisted Jim and Bella West with the running of the store. By this time the store appears to have been serving a large area of Loch Awe side, with regular deliveries of provisions, coal and other goods being made by boat as far as halfway down the loch.
The Wight - West Marriage
In 1886 Peter Wight married James West's sister Bella. Peter then built "Lescraigie" as their home, and Bella withdrew from the store.
Soon afterwards, Tam Dow married Annie McIntyre who assisted at "Cruachan" and with the running of the store, and both continued to work for James West in the store.
On the death of Jim West in 1893, the village store was bought by a member of the Campbell family. Thus it continued for a brief period until Tam and Annie Dow took it over and ran it for many years.
When the Dows retired, the Sheriffs took over for a short while before ~ purchase by the Bonningtons.
Peter Wight and his wife Bella had five children. Francis, their eldest son worked in the family business, taking it over when his father retired and continuing the family tradition until ill health forced his retirement in 1960. Father and son had amongst many other things been responsible for the maintenance and running of the village water supply from the tank on the hillside above "Letterawe".
Jane, the eldest daughter lived in Lochawe until the death of her father in 1951, when she moved to Edinburgh to stay with her two sisters. Jeannie was the organist at St. Conans for many years.
Isabella and Johanna, after spending their childhood and youth in Lochawe, moved away, finally settling in Edinburgh.
Peter, the youngest child, died of whooping cough at the age of seven weeks. It appears that an epidemic struck the village during the summer of 1898, as Mary Hosie lost two children, and a number of others died.
During his lifetime Peter Wight executed work at all the residences in Lochawe, at the Hotel, and St. Conans.
The following extract from the Oban Times makes a most fitting conclusion to these notes, on two men who played a central part in the building up of the village.
Oban Times. Saturday February 10th 1951
The Late Mr. Peter Wight
"The death occurred at his home at Lochawe of Mr. Peter Wight in his 94th year.
The late Mr. Wight, son of an Aberdonian dominie, was born in Turrif and first came to Lochaweside in 1881, where he was employed by an Edinburgh firm at Innistrynich. Thereafter he set up his own business in the village of Lochawe.
In St. Conans Church, of which he was the oldest member, his expert workmanship is seen and admired by thousands of visitors, for it was he who re-roofed the complete west end of the church from the pulpit, and the lovely solid communion table was the work of his hands.
Mr. Wight was respected by all who came in contact with him as a man of purpose, integrity and kindness."
The Late Mr. Thomas Dow
"By a strange coincidence, the death occurred at Reddich on the same day, of Mr. Thomas Dow, also in his 94th year, and a lifelong companion of the late Mr. Wight. Mr. Dow also came to Lochaweside in 1881 from Methven, and met Mr. Wight while working at Ardbrecknish in the same year."
Loch Awe Stores today