The Life of John Lorne Campbell of Canna by Ray Perman

In memory of Fred Pattison: man of adventure

Fred Pattison on his last visit to Canna in 2009

Sad news from Canna. One of John and Margaret’s oldest surviving friends, Fred Pattison, has died at the age of 87.  He was a remarkable man, adventurous, creative, encouraging and kind. He was one of the first people to provide memories of early years on the island (including his first dram of whisky) so I am particularly sad that he died in August a month before the book was published.

But we did have the great privilege of meeting him at an informal Homecoming organised by Magda on Canna last year. Fred and his wife Anne were among the gathering of six whose combined ages came to around 500 years.  The Pattisons had travelled from their home in  London, Ontario and introduced themselves to us on the ferry from Mallaig. The weather was terrible (it was midsummer after all) but that did not deter the party from long walks in the rain or being hoisted on to a boat – seemingly undeterred by possibility of a nasty drop into the harbour – for a long, convivial drinks party which I seem to remember included a whisky or two.

Adventure was clearly in Fred’s blood. Born in Glasgow in 1923 he was still a schoolboy at Loretto when he made his first visit to Canna in 1939, “ I fell completely in love with Canna”. During the war years he worked on the farm alongside John learning how to scythe and stook corn, getting paid 6d “approximately 5 cents” an hour.

“In 1940 I experienced my first dram of neat whisky. The occasion was the burial in the Presbyterian churchyard of Allen Thom, from whom John had bought Canna. In preparation for this a grave had to be dug and I was asked to help.  On its completion the diggers passed round the whisky bottle.”

A few years later he graduated from Cambridge with a Phd in chemistry, and went to teach in Nova Scotia and Canada.  In his 50s he gave up academic life to retrain as a doctor which meant taking the whole family to Newfoundland where he worked among the Inuit (something he had long wanted to do). He returned to Ontario in 1973, joined the university’s student health service and lectured in sexually transmitted diseases.  Throughout all this he made music.

Music was an abiding passion – at one time he had thought of pursuing a career as a concert pianist – and another link with John and Margaret. “Marg was responsible for my life-long love of Chopin,” Fred wrote in his first letter to us in 2007. “She played his works for me for hours on end on her Steinway concert grand – during long, stormy winter evenings.”

On Fred’s last visit to Canna in 2009 we had the unforgettable experience of hearing him play Margaret’s Steinway in the drawing room of Canna House; the sound overwhelming the storms of midsummer.

On August 21, 2010. Fred died peacefully in London, Ontario surrounded by his wife Anne, and children Penny, Elizabeth, Rosalind and David.