Having been a Sales Project Manager/Home Surveyor/Installation Support Manager/Technical Sales Manager (they sure did like to change your titles and Business cards did Aga!) for the last 24 years, I feel I am uniquely qualified to give parallel, unbiased and independent advice in the joys and perils of buying an Aga range cooker.
Eventually, covering the whole of Scotland for Aga, I worked it out, that I had driven over 1.3 million miles (around the world approx. 50 times). I also had the joy of visiting over 20 of our beautiful islands with only Fair Isle, Canna, Colonsay, Papa Westray and Unst unclaimed in my quest for a full set of cards! My first visit when I was, to be honest, still winging it a little to the amazing island of Barra back in 1995 was a complete eye opener to how things are done in the islands.
We received a call from an architect’s firm saying that we needed to put an LPG Aga range cooker into the home of the late great author Sir Compton Mackenzie’s home in the remote Western Isle of Barra. Sir Compton Mackenzie was famous for the book/film Whisky Galore, which was based on the grounding of the SS Politician in nearby Eriskay one stormy night during World War 2 with 260,000 bottles of whiskey headed from Liverpool to Jamaica. The outcome of this and the characters that emerged from this fine author’s hand at this very house, produced one of the finest books and film ever made in Scotland to this day. The thought of the remake coming out soon fills me dread as it will never be able to hold a torch on the original.
I booked my flights from Inverness to Stornoway, Stornoway to Benbecula and Benbecula to Barra, returning the next available date (two days later) and looked forward to my island-hopping trip to a place that I had always wanted to explore. The flight from Inverness to Stornoway is always a lovely flight with the amazing views of Ullapool and Achiltibuie before crossing the Minch and arriving with the Sunday newspapers on the Tuesday morning into Stornoway. Stornoway in the 1990’s, don’t ask!! The flight onto Benbecula through the Harris with the Clisham mountain above you to the right was as equally breath-taking, but nothing compared to the small plane to Barra. Landing on the brilliant white sand on Barra’s beach with approximately 3” of water underfoot was a slightly unnerving joy but something that will always stay with me.
Getting my bags of the tractor and picking up my mid 1980’s small Japanese hire car, I soon realised that my work of surveying the site for the installation would not take as long as I thought as the house was approx. 500 yards from the Barra International Airport! My work had been carried out within an hour, but during that hour, the plane had left and I was left on the island for the next two days. Barra has one 5 mile road which goes around the island (Clockwise when sober, anti when not, I was later told by the locals). The client required a 4 oven LPG Aga range cooker to be installed and the local plumber/builder/crofter was going to ensure all work was done before installation in 6 weeks’ time.
(Sir Compton Mackenzie’s Barra home)
Sadly, the weather turned after my second walk around the island and my trip around Castlebay, so all I could do was to sit in the Castlebay hotel and read Whisky Galore again. To compound things further, when we came to install the Aga range cooker, the plumber had done the flue all wrong so the job could not be completed and poor old Dougie our engineer had to spend nearly a week on the island before finishing the installation.
Visiting all of Scotland’s islands are an absolute pleasure but they can be complete logistical and financial nightmares as everything has to be correct and most times, it’s too expensive to carry out a final site check, so please if you’re planning installing one of our fine reconditioned Aga range cooker’s in the islands, please give me lots and lots of warning and money!!