You cannot see Canna House from its gate. A dark tunnel of Escalonia bushes, which have been allowed to grow so they meet overhead, hides the view until, emerging into the sunlight, the house is square before you.


Leading the way up short steps and through an oak door with a dolphin knocker, John Campbell hung his beret in the porch alongside several other hats which included a conical straw sun-shield of the type worn by Chinese working in paddy fields and a solar topee, the pith helmet beloved of the British Raj. I found later that John wore different hats for different tasks. On the floor was a croquet set, in a corner fishing rods, nets and a pendant flag from the top of a buoy.

This is an extract from Ray Perman’s forthcoming book, The Man Who Gave Away His Album, which will be published by Birlinn in April 2010.