The Origins of Candacraig

There are two hotels in the world called Candacraig. One is nestled within the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland and was once owned by Sir Billy Connolly and Anita Roddick; the other is over 8000 miles away and is a former “chummery” in Maymyo, Burma. It is the latter that the duo takes their name from.

Martin's dad (Jimmy) with staff outside Candacraig
Martin’s father, Jimmy, was born in Burma to Anglo/Burmese parents. After the Japanese invasion of Burma in early 1942, Jimmy and his family trekked north through Burma in an attempt to escape but were finally caught near Maymyo. They spent the rest of the war in Maymyo under occupation and, eventually, internment. After liberation, by which time Jimmy’s father had died, the family was utterly dispossessed. Fortunately, Jimmy’s sister Babs had married a very important doctor (who eventually worked for the W.H.O.) and had a large house in Maymyo that was able to accommodate the entire family. The house was called Upper Fold and was opposite a “chummery” called Candacraig.

What is a “chummery”

A chummery was a building where predominantly unmarried young Westerners would hang out to eat, drink, play billiards, tennis, cards, etc. The climate would have been unbearably hot for the mainly British colonials in Burma who would be overseeing trade in rubber, teak, oil and tobacco. Maymyo, being a hill station, had a much more temperate climate than the capital, Rangoon, so the British would retreat there during the height of summer and stay at chummeries like Candacraig.

Candacraig, a former "chummery" in Maymyo, Burma
Sharon outside Upper Fold, the house opposite Candacraig where my dad lived after the war

Fast forward to November 2000 and the Ex-gratia Payment for Far East POWs and Civilian Internees. The British Government established this compensation for all British citizens who had been imprisoned by the Japanese during WWII. Jimmy received a sum of money which he used to pay for him and his wife Pam, his daughter Collette and Martin and Sharon to visit Burma for three weeks to see this country that he had waxed lyrical about, but had not returned to since he left for the UK in 1950. 

It was an extraordinary holiday that included finding lost members of the family and old friends. Amongst the many highlights was the five days spent in Maymyo where Jimmy believes he found the very Nissan hut that they were interned in as well as the last house they owned where his father died. For the time they were in Maymyo they stayed at a house that had been converted into a small and very simple hotel. Their party were the only people staying there. It was Candacraig.

The time spent in Burma but particularly Maymyo, had such an emotional impact upon both Martin and Sharon, that when it came to finding a name for their vaguely folk inspired version of neo prog rock, the Gaelic name of Candacraig (which roughly translated means the head of the rock) was an obvious choice.