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“He was some man”: Crofter, councillor and lighthouse keeper Ian Ramon dies aged 85

Ian Ramon: Highland councillor, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse keeper and crofter.
Ian Ramon: Highland councillor, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse keeper and crofter.

With holes in his jumper and no shoes on his feet, you can hardly imagine a young Ian Ramon would grow up to dine with the Queen.

Yet despite a difficult start in life – fostered from birth with no knowledge of his family – he’d become a man known for his relentless hard work and his commitment to Fort William and Ardnamurchan.

We pay tribute to the life and longevity of Ian Ramon; Highland councillor, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse keeper and crofter, who has died aged 85.

Working from a young age

Plucked from his Edinburgh birthplace and raised in the tiny Highland hamlet of Achaphubuil by foster carers, Ian Ramon was born on June 23, 1936.

A quiet man, the only information he shared about his early life was that he grew up longing to know more about his family and where he came from.

Brought up by foster carers Ian Ramon is shown with the Achaphubuil women  he lived with.

He began working as a postman at 16, allowing him to leave foster care.

However, delivering mail was soon forgotten when he became shepherd on the Conaglen Estate.

Ian enjoyed tending the land and rearing livestock.

And with a small home and dog of his own, shepherding became a lifelong love.

Love found in a Fort William factory

Priding himself on working every day of his life, when necessary Ian took on other employment.

And one such time was a spell in Fort William’s aluminium factory.

Bonding over a love of motorbikes Ian became friends with Duncan Carmichael.

Ian Ramon, captured by Kilchoan Diary.

Because they became such good friends, as the older brother of Dolina Carmichael from Kilchoan, Duncan introduced his wee sister to his new pal Ian.

And love blossomed right away.

So impressed were they with each other that Ian and Dolina, who already had two children, married in January 1960 at the Kilchoan Hotel.

With his new wife behind him on his motorbike they sped off for their Oban honeymoon.

Return to the hills

Longing to provide an idyllic life for his new family, Ian returned to shepherding. This time based in Stronchreggan, near Fort William, Dolina looked after Donnie and Ivor , while Ian spent long hours outside.

When the couple welcomed daughter Lynda, in 1968, they moved to be nearer Dolina’s sister, Chrissie McCowan and her husband Alex, in Kilchoan.

Ian always loved the solitude of being shepherd in the Highland hills.

Lynda said: “Those were really happy times for us all.

“Without a family of his own my dad was really happy to be embraced by the large Carmichael family.

“And we look back on that time with a lot of happiness.”

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

In 1974 Ian became local assistant lighthouse keeper for Ardnamurchan.

The 152-stair tower would become his pride and joy, serving for 14 years before the station became automated in 1988.

Proudly wearing his Ardnamurchan Lighthouse keeper’s uniform is Ian Ramon of Kilchoan.

And he wasn’t the only one fond of the iconic tower.

Because of its location as the westernmost point in Scotland the Queen and her family would often sail past on the royal yacht.

And on August 11, 1986, with Britannia docked in the harbour, the Queen visited Ian and the lighthouse team.

The Queen is shown waving from the top of Ardnamurchan Lighthouse with Ian and fellow lighthouse keepers in the background.

She was accompanied by then Secretary of State for Scotland Malcolm Rifkind.

Honeymooning newlyweds Prince Andrew and his bride Sarah Ferguson also joined the party.

Despite recent heart issues, the Queen demonstrated robust health by making the steep staircase climb where Ian awaited her at the top.

Ian’s wife Dolina Ramon is shown in the pink spotted dress speaking to the Queen ahead of afternoon tea.

On her descent, Dolina and Ian hosted the monarch in their lighthouse keeper’s cottage for afternoon tea.

“I don’t know who was prouder of that day, my mother or my father! They both told that story for years,” said Lynda.

Long lost family

In 1976 Ian made the brave decision to actively pursue tracing his birth family.

This process led to a week in Edinburgh with a social worker friend.

And to his utmost joy, Ian discovered he had a sister.

Sharing the same mother, Pauline – two years younger than Ian – was also fostered when she was born.

Ian turned up on her doorstep and in recent years the pair enjoyed getting to know one another.

He was also overjoyed to see his nephew recently. when his health began to deteriorate.

Highland handyman

Committed to working, regardless of age or season of life, Ian took on an array of ‘odd jobs’.

“He was a sweetie rep, a building foreman for the Glebe Hill Highland Council estate and a bin man.

“Taking on the role of volunteer maintenance man after the lighthouse was automated was also something he loved.

“And he even started his own Highland Handyman business cutting the grass and doing jobs for others.”

Painting the red Ardnamurchan Lighthouse foghorn is Ian Ramon (Picture courtesy of Kilchoan Diary).

Then, in 2004 when the lighthouse opened to the public, Ian became a tour guide.

Wearing his old uniform and proudly entertaining visitors with tales of being the keeper himself.

When he inherited a croft with sheep he moved onto the land and managed to juggle crofting, with everything else, right up until the week before he died.

Life after death

In 2008, after 48 years together, Dolina passed away.

Ian kept busy but it wasn’t until 2017 when he got a new lease of life.

Lynda added: “After mother died I was worried about what he’d be like. He even took ill at one point and I really didn’t know if he’d recover.

Ian Ramon, Conservative, councillor for Fort William and Ardnamurchan.

“Of course he did – and I got a huge surprise when the flyers came in for the local council elections seeing my dad’s face on there.

“He took it upon himself to stand for the Conservative party. And he was elected.”

Ian represented Fort William and Ardnamurchan into his 80s, and even learned how to use a laptop and new technology to keep going throughout the pandemic.

Ardnamurchan, the most Westerly point in the Highlands.

Inverness South councillor Duncan Macpherson said he was saddened by the news of Ian’s passing.

Andrew Jarvie,  leader of the Highland Council Scottish Conservative and Unionist Group, said: “As an immensely popular local man, Ian will be missed not just by all of us in the group, but a great many on the peninsula and across the Highlands.”

He was some man

In a tribute to Ian the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust said life at the light will never be the same again.

Davie Ferguson added: “He was some man. He actually loved this lighthouse.

Crofter Ian Ramon who was also a Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor.

“When he was an assistant keeper here he once walked the six miles from Kilchoan to the light when the road was blocked with snow and undriveable just so he was there to do his shift.

“That’s dedication for you.”

One last doff of his cap

Ian will be laid to rest wearing his lighthouse keeper uniform, next to his wife Dolina, in Kilchoan New Cemetery.

His funeral will take place on Monday, September 27 in Kilchoan Community Centre.

“For one last time my dad’s cap will be there, on his coffin. It’s just so very sad and really such a shock for us all.

Kilchoan Diary pictured Ian Ramon beside the place he loved: Ardnamurchan Lighthouse.

“I lived on the same land where he still tended his croft.

“Dad was in my life every day. He was a quiet man but someone so significant.”

Ian is survived by his children and eight grandchildren.

You can read the notice of his death here.