John Neil Munro

FROM the Underground Freak Out (UFO) club in London to the ruins of Pompeii, Pink Floyd have played in some weird and wonderful places during their 50-year career. Nothing though, one suspects, quite compares to the wild bank holiday weekend they spent in Dunoon back in 1968.

Arriving on the west coast of Scotland in the middle of one of the worst storms to hit the area in years, the group, who went on to be one of the biggest bands in the world, had to hire an old fishing boat called the Granny Kempock to cross from Gourock. After the gig they crashed their van and ended up sleeping in the local police station.

In the autumn of 1968 the band were still regrouping after the departure of frontman Syd Barrett. Unable to cope with fame and the pressures of the music business, Barrett had retreated into an acid-soaked netherworld and officially left the group on April 6, 1968. His replacement, guitarist David Gilmour, soon settled into the band and they set off on a round of gigs to promote their second album A Saucerful of Secrets – including a second trip to the US.

But as drummer Nick Mason recalls in his history of the group, Inside Out, they were still at the stage of taking whatever gig was on offer, even if it meant straying far from their London base. “This was not touring, but gigging. There was no attempt to construct rational and logistically sensible journey cycles. We simply took any available job” (In July 1967, the band had ventured even further north, playing concerts in Elgin, Nairn and Aberdeen.)

The promoter of the Dunoon gig, local student Brian Wilson was at the time bringing bands to the Cowal Peninsula town as a summer job. Earlier in September, he had persuaded The Move, a regular in the UK top 30, to play at the Queen’s Hall.

For the bank holiday weekend in September, Brian put together a three-day event, with the Floyd first up. Proudly billed as Dunoon’s Greatest-ever Entertainment Attraction, the Friday night show started at 9pm with Floyd supported by the excellent Scots band The Poets, who at one time had been managed and produced by Rolling Stones’ Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham. Tam Ferrie, who at the time was resident DJ at Glasgow’s Picasso Club, compered the event.

Entry to see the band who would go on to play some of the biggest concerts in rock history cost just 12/6 – or 62.5p in today's money.

The following evening saw a concert at the same venue by the Humblebums (Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey). The three-day programme concluded on Sunday with a show by The Corries at the Glenmorag Hotel.

It was a festival line-up that reflected Brian Wilson’s eclectic musical tastes. He recalls: “I liked Pink Floyd but, to be honest, there was also a commercial consideration. They were in a transitional period after Syd Barrett left which probably meant they were more available and also cheaper than they would have been a year earlier, or a year later. It was always going to be high risk bringing them to Dunoon in terms of audience response but as part of a wider September weekend programme, it was an interesting risk.”

The deal was sealed with a payment of £300 to Pink Floyd, which was paid in advance.

For the trip to Dunoon, the band sent road manager Peter Watts (the father of acclaimed actress Naomi Watts) north as an advance party; driving in a van with all the group’s equipment to Dunoon via the Rest and be Thankful.

Those who turned up at the Queen’s Hall on the night were treated to the full psychedelic splendours of the band’s light show, described by the Disc and Music Echo magazine as “projectors, spot lamps and liquid slides on which they smear all manner of chemicals to produce weird colour patterns.”

Around this time, the bass player Roger Waters also livened up proceedings by bashing a large Chinese gong, which would burst into flames when he hit it…usually during the epic number Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.

On the day of the show, the group were delayed on their trip north and, by the time they arrived at Gourock, the weather had turned a touch brutal, even by the dismal standards of the west of Scotland. Gusts of over 80mph and lashing rain caused extensive transport disruption – a car ferry with 273 unfortunate people on board was unable to berth at Ardrossan and spent 13 hours battered by high winds and rough seas outside the harbour.

With the regular ferry crossing to Dunoon unavailable, the band showed considerable initiative, not to mention bravery, by hiring the Granny Kempock to make the half-hour long crossing. The boat was often called into use when the official ferries were unable to run for whatever reason.

Brian Wilson remembers that the old merchant fishing vessel, also known as “Ritchie’s Ferry” was often hired out to football fans on their way to big games in Glasgow. It was reputed to have the smallest bar in Britain, though it’s unlikely that the Pink Floyd made much use of that facility on the day.

They endured what Nick Mason described as a “corkscrew” of a crossing in pitch darkness with winds gusting up to force eight. On arriving in Dunoon, they walked a tad shakily the short distance to the Queen’s Hall. “I think they were a bit shell-shocked by the whole journey,” says Brian. "They were pleasant people and I always admired the fact they persisted with the journey. It would have been perfectly reasonable to call it a day once they knew they had missed the last ferry.”

As for the gig itself, the strong bill meant that a good crowd turned up on the night. Dunoon’s population was always receptive to good music. As Brian Wilson states, the strong American presence in the town from the US naval base, meant a “heightened awareness and widened the audience for the music.”

Not surprisingly though, quite a few of the Friday night dance crowd struggled with the trippy lights and 30-minute-long improvised pieces the Floyd specialised in then.

Brian Wilson says: “For a minority, it was an amazing experience, seeing and hearing Pink Floyd in Dunoon. But in general, it was not a great success. I had balanced the bill in anticipation of the fact that much of Dunoon would not be ready for Pink Floyd. The support band The Poets were a great Scottish group of the day. Because they were so late, Pink Floyd were on last instead of in the middle and most of the audience would probably have preferred if the Poets had just played on.

“The hall keeper was no respecter of reputations and advised the bemused travellers that he didn't care who they were or how they got there, they had to be out by midnight.

“I can picture Pink Floyd yet outside the stage door of the Queen’s Hall in the wind and rain, and the final indignity was that someone had written, in lipstick, on the band’s van: ‘F*ck youse. Youse are rank. The Poets is fab.’”

After leaving the Queen’s Hall, things got even more difficult for the band. Nick Mason says “With no flights till the next day, we climbed aboard the van for the endless journey south. Or it would have been endless if the by now exhausted Peter (Watts) had spotted the sign saying Road Works before we hit them.

“The van was damaged beyond immediate repair and we spent the rest of the night in the police cells of the local village, which were kindly made available to us until we could catch an early morning ferry.

“Our fellow passengers, a hardy bunch of local farmers, marvelled at our exotic snakeskin boots, Afghan jackets and beads: we looked more like itinerant goatherds than the natives.”

Eventually, after playing a gig at The Mayfair club in Glasgow on October 1, the group made it to Glasgow airport and escaped to “the comparative safety of London.”

It’s doubtful if any of the band – Mason, Waters, Gilmour and keyboard player Rick Wright – ever returned to the Cowal Peninsula. They did though make regular returns to the clubs and concert halls of Scotland on their inexorable trip to the top (Waters still does a mean Scottish accent impersonation). Brian Wilson moved on from concert promoting and went on to start The West Highland Free Press before turning to politics. These days he is chairman and global ambassador for Harris Tweed Hebrides.

As for the Queen’s Hall; just a few days after the town’s brush with psychedelia things returned more to normal with the start of the 65th annual Mod…in bright sunshine.


Pink Floyd’s ‘play anywhere’ attitude at the start of their career led them to spend part of the Summer of Love in the North-East of Scotland, playing concerts in Elgin, Nairn and Aberdeen in July 1967.

The Elgin show was announced in the local newspaper alongside the results of the mixed-fruit cake competition at the Morayshire Farmers Club. The advert promised “This is the group that brings its own lighting to set the scene oscillating and vibrating with way out sets.”

The Disc and Music Echo magazine sent their reporter Bob Farmer north with the band, who were riding high in the charts with their second single ‘See Emily Play’. He reported how the group – Syd Barrett, Rick Wright, Roger Waters and Nick Mason – drove overnight from Great Yarmouth to Lossiemouth.

They stayed at the Lossiemouth’s Stotfield Hotel– which was “quite hideously decorated” according to Farmer. He told readers how the band “snatch a few hours’ sleep. Order horses for the following morning’s riding, check the local fishing scene and inquire about a round at the local golf club.”

Disappointingly, the reporter could find no sign of “drug, drink or dollies” in the room. Instead the band listened to the radio and drank tea.

As for the gig at the Two Red Shoes Ballroom in Elgin, an unnamed member of the band told Farmer “We’ve never played on a smaller stage. The audience was very cool to us. Some even danced while we played…hey, what was that guy saying ‘do ye ken I could sing better in my wee bath.’

“I suppose it’s odd – us being up here when we’ve got a big hit going. Still we’re staying up here for a couple of nights. Be a break really. No, the hotel people don’t mind our clothes and hair. Think they’d be a bit disappointed if we didn’t turn up in fancy dress.”

Apparently, the local teenagers who turned up for the Elgin show weren’t totally won-over by the new psychedelic sounds. One man – Jackie Errol from Forres who had obviously seen Cream play in Nairn earlier in the summer – told the Disc and Music Echo that the Floyd “weren’t bad. The Cream were better though” he concluded.