Islanders find the ‘lost’ cave of Fern Andy

The lost cave of 'Fern Andy' on Cumbrae has been found by islanders. He lived there during the 1920s and has been an enduring figure in the island's history every since. PIC: Millport Photos.
The lost cave of 'Fern Andy' on Cumbrae has been found by islanders. He lived there during the 1920s and has been an enduring figure in the island's history every since. PIC: Millport Photos.
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Everyone on the island at one time knew about Fern Andy.

In the 1920s, he took shelter in an overhang near Fintry Bay on Cumbrae and forevermore his life was the stuff of island lore and fascination.

It was in his cave that Fern Andy used plants to weave baskets and mats, which he sold on locally. Some have described him as a hermit but others recall him as an amiable figure who made friends and received visitors to his home.

READ MORE: The forgotten cave dwellers of Scotland’s far north

Food deliveries would be made for him at the old Fintry Bay Lemonade Bar, it has been recalled.

For a generation, the whereabouts of his cave drifted out of local knowledge, the old tales from grandparents slowly evaporating away over time.

Now, a small group of islanders led by Lesley Fraser, who was born and raised on Cumbrae, believe they have found Fern Andy’s cave once again after a year-long search for the legendary living quarters.

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Scott Ferris, who runs Mapes of Millport bike shop on the island, described the quest to find Fern Andy’s cave as a “labour of love” for Ms Fraser.

Mr Ferris, 43, said: “I holidayed on the island as a child and he was well-known back then as the hermit who lived round the back of the island.

“It was almost a kind of mission to find his cave. For a generation, no one really knew where it was.”

Mr Ferris used an old photograph of Fern Andy in his home to locate the cave, which was found off the beaten track after a long trudge through undergrowth.

The image shows him sitting down on a bench set between the natural forms of the cave with other pictures showing a little curtain that was used to conceal part of the cave’s entrance.

Margaret Duthie, 87, grew up on Cumbrae and remembers a family friend, who worked in a butchers, going to visit Fern Andy in the cave.

Fern Andy, who may have come from Ayrshire farming stock, rented a small house, described as a room and kitchen, in Millport during the winter months, it is believed.

It is understood he died in the late 1930s.

She added: “Now is the right time of year to find his cave, when there are no leaves on the trees and the sun is very, very low in the sky.”

Ms Duthie said she was not surprised his story still attracted interest.

“It is part of the old history of Millport. Everyone knew about Fern Andy,” she said.