First new road begins with a short ferry ride on Loch Shira – Greater Cumbrae Island is a stone’s throw, a ten minute journey from Largs across the Firth of Clyde. I walked on then caught the bus to the one “service” town of Millport, where you can rent bikes to go round the small 11 mile loop of island. This is where I met the man with two names, at a bike rental shop set back in an alley off Cardiff Street.
Gordon Stark was born and raised on Cumbrae. Also known during the tourist season as Mr Bremner of Bremner's bike rentals. The locals apparently collude in this, only addressing him as Mr. Bremner in season and Mr. Stark during the off season. He said the reason is they don’t want to confuse anyone, but also want to help out with name recognition for business purposes as there is another bike rental on the island. Apparently, Bremner’s bike rental had pre-existed Gordon for thirty some odd years, and the locals are hoping for return business from post- World War II baby boomer visitors. Gordon has owned Bremner’s bike rentals for more than forty-one years now. When you enter the shop there is a sign posted that states – Business for sale due to retirement. When I inquired how much he was selling the shop for, Gordon just winked and said I could have it. He then asked: “But what will I do if I actually retire?”
“You don’t know yet?” I asked.
“Haven’t a clue, I mean, I was born here, went to school here for a while,” (Gordon’s mum was the local pharmacist), “Went as far as I could go, then got packed off to boarding school.” “I was rescued when a job became available at the local bank, where I worked for four years – hated it!” “Still, I can’t imagine doing nothing, you know?”
I replied, “I don’t know Gordon,” “All I know is that its best to have a plan, even if the plan is not to have a plan – just so you can wrap your head around it.”
“Oh Aye, so what’s my plan then?” “Well, maybe I will figure it out by the time you get back?” He winked and smiled.
“I’ll hold you to it then.” I answered.
Gordon Stark alias Bremner replied, “It’s a good thing you are here during the week and with not so good weather, don’t worry, it isn’t serious, wind is flat.” Gordon gave me a map and directions. “Head left up the hill, go round on the main road – these two other roads are for walking, no bikes.” “Halfway round the island you will find good swimming – won’t be able to feel your feet after, clean though, lovely beach, rocky.“
“What time do you close?” I asked.
“Whenever you get back, take your time.”
“Oh, I can’t rent a bike, I have vertigo. Have any tricycles?”
I walked out of the alley, turning the corner from “Bremners” bike shop heading right, back to the Quay and took another immediate right into the adjacent alley, walking my bike to the overlook, part of the forbidden road. There, just off Greater Cumbrae, stands Little Cumbrae, a rocky patch of island to the left, and directly in front, the Isle of Arran with three of her peaks revealed, the tallest, Goat Fell centered and towering above. It looked so close. I didn’t know you could see it from here. I had been to Arran, but it always called me back again.