Austin Drawing Office 14 was the project code name for the Austin Maxi, one in a series of similar BMC vehicles vying for the unlovely awards, another fine example being ADO17, the BMC 1800 variants, ‘affectionately’ known as land crabs.  None of these cars achieved rock or cult status in their day but the Maxi could lay claim to one unlikely pilot.

In 1969, in the space between the Beatles last live performance on top of the Apple HQ in Savile Row and the start of the recording session that would become the Abbey Road album, John Lennon and Yoko Ono made a road trip to Scotland, taking with them their respective children, Julian and Kyoko.

Heading for Durness, Lennon, the shortsighted and unenthusiastic motorist, drove the Maxi off the road on the single track A838 somewhere between Tongue and Loch Eriboll. Julian Lennon was the only one to escape unharmed, the other three being transferred to the Lawson Memorial Hospital at Golspie.  Only Julian made it to Durness where he was collected by an irate Cynthia Lennon.

John had fond memories of this wild place at the extreme northwest edge of the British Isles.  He spent many childhood holidays at a croft in Sangomore just to the east of Durness where the road briefly loops inland away from the sea.  The croft was owned by the stepfather of one of his cousins, the appropriately named Bertie Sutherland and Lennon’s time there is commemorated with a memorial garden.  Set among the winding paths are works by the local ceramicist, Lotte Glob and three standing stones etched with the words from In My Life:

There are places I remember all my life;

All these places had their moments with lovers and friends;

In my life I’ve loved them all.
John Lennon 1940-1980

The white example of the unlovely ADO14 vehicle was taken back to Lennon’s home at Tittenhurst Park near Ascot and mounted on a plinth to remind John and Yoko of the fragility of life (and BMC products).  In 1969 I would have benefited from the same reminder – I twice crashed an ADO15 (the ubiquitous Mini), a consequence of too much teenage enthusiasm rather than too little.

I mention all this because I have been literally (in the absolute sense) marooned in Durness since writing the last words of Golf in the WildThere is an echo of polite applause on a gentle wind rising across the Parph.  I pick my ball from the hole, replace the pin and we go our separate ways. I am done.  Except I am not, I need to find my way home.

Down the road from Durness Golf Club, at the western end of Balnakeil Bay, the ruins of an old church and cemetery host a memorial to the gaelic poet, Rob Donn – one character away from immortality, perhaps my return journey begins there.

Durness ...

Durness ...

Durness ...


  1. LaVagabonde · January 2, 2016

    Some places have a way of holding us captive. Here’s to finding your way home, Robin.

    • northumbrianlight · January 2, 2016

      Thanks Julie – I am heading along the northern coast to Reay and then it is either out to the Orkneys and Shetlands or down the east coast. Either way, much fun to be had 🙂

  2. Cate Franklyn · January 2, 2016

    I think I could be marooned there for a week or two with my camera.

  3. restlessjo · January 2, 2016

    I have a tendency to confuse Durness and Dungeoness, Robin! Not a good thing 😦
    I would love to see photos of that memorial garden. Do you have any?
    I take it you’re marooned with your good lady? Not such a disaster then 🙂 It looks beautiful and I’m quietly envious.

    • northumbrianlight · January 2, 2016

      I have confused my audience Jo – I am only stuck there in a metaphorical sense, working (from Hexham) on the sequel to my magnum opus which finished in Durness. I will return there but only when it gets warmer (and less wet).
      I don’t have any shots of the garden but there are plenty online if you Google Lennon and Durness. The images in the post date from August 2012.

      • restlessjo · January 2, 2016

        I obviously didn’t read it properly, Robin. Apologies 🙂 I did find the comments confusing, but the shots are lovely. Off to visit Mr. Google (not having a good day- already confused a Mr. with a Mrs. 🙂

      • northumbrianlight · January 2, 2016

        Happens to the best of us 😍

      • northumbrianlight · January 3, 2016

        PS, many thanks for the RT Jo

  4. socialbridge · January 3, 2016

    Enjoy every moment, Robin.

    • northumbrianlight · January 3, 2016

      Thanks Jean – the journey is entirely virtual at the moment 🙂

      • socialbridge · January 3, 2016

        All sorts of journeys count. I go on virtual ones all the time!

  5. littledogslaughed · January 3, 2016

    Lovely images Robin-particularly the last one-this time of year, it evokes a kind of melancholy. And I think I know what you mean by being “stranded” in a writing sense. No solution really, except to write your way out of it and onto a new path-good luck! 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · January 3, 2016

      Thanks Meg – I sot of know where I am going but I keep experimenting with new beginnings. Its an enjoyable problem to have 😉

  6. Fergus · January 3, 2016

    I woke early the other morning and there was a programme on about the craft community at Balnakeil (?). I’ve never been up on that coast but it looks fab.

    • northumbrianlight · January 4, 2016

      The Balnakeil Craft Village ( ) has been there for quite some time, starting life as a hippy commune (after it was abandoned by the MOD). I like that north coast almost as much as the west – majestically empty and wild, there is a sudden scene change as you cross the Kyle of Tongue. I recommend it.

  7. Karen Thorburn · January 6, 2016

    This is a lovely location. I spent a weekend in Durness in August and visited Cape Wrath and Loch Eriboll for the first time in years. Cocoa Mountain at Balnakeil Craft Village would be well worth a visit on a cold winter day! Have a safe journey back home.

    • northumbrianlight · January 7, 2016

      Thanks Karen – sadly, I am only there ‘virtually’ (I have confused a number of followers) but I will make a cocoa and imagine I am huddled up in the craft village sheltering from the storm 🙂

  8. meticulousmick · January 8, 2016

    Stunning reminders, thank you Robin and Happy New Year, MM🍀

    • northumbrianlight · January 8, 2016

      Thanks John and all the best to you and yours for the coming year – especially the hound 🐶

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