FOR Oban’s lifeboat crew – on what was their 1,000th call-out – it was also their most unusual rescue ever.
Usually they are called out to sea. But this was 80 feet up on a 15th century castle roof.
The lifeboat team assisted a Royal Navy helicopter crew to airlift an ill visitor from the top of the historic Castle Stalker, a picturesque building in Appin which is completely surrounded by water on the west coast of Scotland.
Iain Fulton, of Oban Lifeboat, said: “We were called out because the castle is not accessible by ambulance.
“The casualty had taken ill at the upper level of the castle and when we arrived it was decided it would be easier to take him to the top to be winched up, rather than tackle the massive spiral staircase down.
“The volunteer lifeboat crew provided assistance by securing the casualty on to a stretcher and carrying out the delicate operation of moving him to the roof ready for the helicopter.
“I have to admit it is slightly unusual for a lifeboat to be called out to a roof rescue. But it is nice to have something slightly different to happen for our 1,000th call out, rather than a run-of-the-mill call out.”
The casualty, aged in his 60s, is still undergoing tests in hospital. He had been staying with the castle owners when he took ill.
Ross Allward, 65, whose family live at the stunning castle, said: “At the moment we are unsure what happened, though he was suffering from abdominal pains.
“It was obvious he needed hospital treatment.
“The main bedrooms are on the top floor an it would have been nigh impossible to stretcher him down the spiral staircase.
“So they took him out on to the roof so he could be airlifted from there.
“The rescue seemed to go very smoothly. The pilot of the helicopter was quite amazing.
Mr Allward did not wish to name his friend, but added: “The doctors are still carrying out tests, so it is quite disconcerting for the family at this time.
“His wife is down with him while his children are still back at the castle.
“The family was up for a lengthy break, so for this to happen it was a bit of a scare.”
He was then flown to the Royal Alexandra Hospital at Paisley, arriving at around 4.15pm.
Aircraft commander Richie Lightfoot said: “As rescues go, this was not a particularly difficult one.
“But it was an extremely unusual setting for us. In my 20 years flying experience I have never actually winched someone from the roof of a castle.
“The priority, as ever, was to rapidly and safely get the man out of the location and deliver him to the medical experts, which we did.”
Privately-owned Castle Stalker – in Gaelic, Stalcaire, meaning Hunter or Falconer – is believed originally to have been the site of a Fortalice, a small fortified building, belonging to the MacDougalls when they were Lords of Lorn.
This small property was erected around 1320. In about 1388 the Lordship of Lorn passed to the Stewarts, the lands including Castle Stalker.
It is believed that Castle Stalker, much in its present form, was built by the then Lord of Lorn, Sir John Stewart, who had an illegitimate son in 1446.
The property exchanged hands between the two families through various conflicts over the years.
King James IV of Scotland, born in 1473, was a cousin of the Stewarts of Appin and when he came of age made frequent hunting journeys to the Highlands.
In about 1840 the roof either fell in or was perhaps removed to avoid roof-tax and the Castle was abandoned.
In 1908 the Castle was regained from the Campbells by Charles Stewart of Achara who purchased it and carried out some basic preservation work to stem its decay.
In 1965 Lt. Col. D. R. Stewart Allward negotiated terms for the purchase of the Castle and spent the next ten years rebuilding and restoring it as it is today, and it remains with his family.