McCaig's Tower

McCaig's Folly crowns the hill above Oban*
McCaig's Folly crowns the hill above Oban

Oban is a pretty little town on the west coast of Scotland. Nearby are all sorts of opportunities for leisure activities - sailing, climbing or walking - and the town itself is a centre for local culture, with the Gaelic "Mod" held every 6-8 years and an annual Highland Games.

The town owes its prosperity to a distillery, founded in 1794, and to tourism, which has flourished ever since the railway arrived in the 1880s. It is a major port for the Caledonian-MacBrayne ferries, which serve ports in the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

However the thing which attracts the eye of most visitors is the curious circular structure that stands high above the town. It was built by John Stuart McCaig, a local banker and philanthropist, with the alleged aim of providing work for unemployed stonemasons. The fact that it would be decorated with busts of himself and his family is, of course, irrelevant.

Alas, death supervened. After spending half a million pounds of today's money, McCaig died in 1902 leaving the tower unfinished and it swiftly passed out of the family's hands into the control of the local council, who have turned it into an attractive park.

Sic transit gloria mundi!