Pensioner enjoys Iona trip after 40-year-old ticket accepted

Marlene Gullon finally got to take the ferry to Iona. Picture: Robert Perry
Marlene Gullon finally got to take the ferry to Iona. Picture: Robert Perry
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A pensioner fulfilled her dream of sailing to the island of Iona yesterday on a 40-year-old ticket after the ferry company honoured a pledge made in 1977.

Marlene Gullon, from Newcastle, originally booked to travel to Iona and the neighbouring isle of Staffa 40 years ago. But the trip was cancelled when the ferry operator, Caledonian MacBrayne, diverted the boat to South Uist to pick up livestock.

Mrs Gullon and her husband decided to take the ferry to South Uist instead but missed the opportunity to visit Iona, the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. Afterwards she received a letter from CalMac saying if she ever returned to Oban, the company would honour the original ferry 
ticket.

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Yesterday ,Mrs Gullon finally boarded the Iona-bound ferry after CalMac saw the letter and kept the promise. Mrs Gullon, whose husband was unable to travel, and a family friend, 
Colin MacPherson, sailed to Iona, Mull and Staffa.

“I can’t remember how much we paid for the original trip but just think CalMac have been wonderful to do this after all this time,” said Mrs Gullon.

“When the trip was cancelled 40 years ago I got a letter from the company saying that if we came back to Oban they would honour the original trip.

“I kept the letter and it’s been a laughing point for some time – every time people go on about going on a cruise I have mentioned it.”

She added: “My husband doesn’t travel well now so I arranged to come on a trip to Oban with our friend Colin. Colin wanted to see Staffa and I have always wanted to see Iona because my maiden name is MacKinnon and MacKinnons are associated with Iona.

“I contacted CalMac last week to see if they would honour the offer from 40 years ago. They told me to send the letter I had first class, which I did, and I got a special delivery back on Saturday, two days before we were coming to Oban, to say they would honour it.”

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When Mrs Gullon was growing up, holidays were a luxury few working class people could afford.

She said: “When we were kids we used to get the boat train from Newcastle to Glasgow, then we got a boat which went round the local islands and then we went home to Newcastle the same day.

“So it was really exciting when we booked to go on the ferry trip because it meant sleeping on the old Columba ferry (now the Hebridean Princess) overnight.”

Robert Morrison, CalMac’s Head of Service Delivery North, said: “I am sure Mrs Gullon will find the 40 year wait was worth it and that the trip is every bit as enjoyable as it would have been in 1977.”