Monthly Archives: June 2016

Meeting Great-Grandfather

I have been doing some work recently on the Coutts side of my family tree, and in particular my great-grandfather John Coutts who was a crofter in Angus, near Montrose.   In those days in the second half of the 19th century agricultural workers had a hard life, and so did great-grandad, John.  Work on the land was hard and he had to supplement his income by selling fish.  In official documents he was described as a “fish cadger” and crofter. His wife died of typhoid fever in 1888, leaving him with four of their ten children still at home, including my grandmother, Maggie, then less than two years old.   I have just one picture of my grandmother, and none at all of great-granddad, John.

Maggie Coutts

Maggie Coutts

John was killed in an accident in 1911 when he fell from his pony and trap and was run over by one of the wheels.

On Thursday I met a lady who was looking for her great-grandfather.  Bonnie Dawson was on a tour of Scotland with a group from the National Presbyterian Church, in Washington DC.  She was the great -granddaughter of Dr James Stewart who was a distinguished minister in Peterhead Old Parish Church in the latter part of the 19th Century.  He died in 1917, aged 87.  He had a long and distinguished career as minister in Peterhead, and to mark that, his portrait was painted by the Scottish artist Peter Brough and presented to him by the Provost.  The painting still hangs in the Muckle Kirk.  It was a pleasure to meet Bonnie and three others of the group from Washington.  They made the extra trip from Inverness where the group was staying for the night so that they could visit Dr Stewart’s Kirk.

Bonnie Dawson looks at Dr Stewart

Bonnie Dawson looks at Dr Stewart

I took the opportunity to find out a little more about him, and even found a picture of the old Manse which once stood beside the Old St Peter’s Church and graveyard, to be replaced by the woollen mill, and now the famous Peterhead gap site.

The old Peterhead Manse

The old Peterhead Manse

Other memories of him in the Muckle Kirk are awakened by the large bookcases in the vestry presented by him and the collection of theological works left to his successors in the Parish.

What different lives these two men had, living about the same sort of time in Scotland, a minister and a crofter.  But both leave their different marks and memories for their families.

Bee spotting

I find it is always difficult to photograph a bee, collecting nectar from flowers.  They just don’t stay still long enough for me to get close enough and focus.   Fortunately last night I had a macro lens ready on the camera with plans to take some close-up pictures of the orchids which have appeared all over the Hatton field this year, when this little lady (at least I thinks she’s a lady) settled on the white clover beside me.  She was rather splendid in her orange waistcoat.  I tried several pictures, but only one was in focus.


I read a book a couple of years ago about bumblebees which opened my eyes to all the different species and their lifestyles. (A sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson)  I wondered what sort of a bee this was. Looking it up, it would seem that we had a Tree Bumblebee (bombus hypnorum) visiting the Hatton field.   I wish I had read the article before I took the pictures,  because the tree bumblebee is supposed to have a white tail.  A close examination of all my pictures, however, including the fuzzy ones revealed that she was hiding her tail from me.   The other thing I discovered was that this species of bee was first recorded in the UK in 2001 and they are not supposed to be present in Scotland.   Was it or wasn’t it a tree bumblebee?




Lily and Poppy were not that interested.  They were to busy exploring the long grass.   I did manage to take a  few orchid pictures and of some of the magnificent cow parsley which is at its best just now beside the buttercups in the field, not to mention the purple grass.


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Early morning sunshine

Poppy decided it was time to get up at 6.30 this morning!   I am glad she did because we could enjoy the earlyt morning midsummer sunshine, especially now that our old Leylandii tree has gone.  It really stopped the morning sunshine.   What a change today, from the pouring rain which had greeted us in London yesterday.  I went for my camera and took a few shots of the brightly coloured flowers blooming in the garden,  while Lily and Poppy did their usual sniffing about  on the dew covered grass.

The sunshine seem to make the colour so vibrant, the yellow of the broom bush, the pure white Cosmos and the Red Campion which grows in a corner of our garden beside the bird table.

So here are a few early morning flower portraits.



White Cosmos

White Cosmos 

Pink Cosmos

Pink Cosmos

Red Campion

Red Campion

Shadowy Red Campion

Shadowy Red Campion

Beauty and the Beast

We have enjoyed our trip to Brentford to see the annual production by Chiswick Theatre Arts.  This year it was Beauty and the Beast and wed had a wonderful evening admiring the performances of our granddaughter Flora and Eira.  Flora was Babette, a feather duster, and Eira was little Chip the tea cup, until at the end they were both transformed back to being human again.

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Little brother Theo was not to be outdone.  Although not performing this year he dressed up very smartly for the performance in the43 Questors Theatre in Ealing.

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I wonder what next year’s production will be?

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Walking through the Butts

I love walking through the Butts Estate when I am in Brentford.  Wide roads, elegant large houses and trees.  You feel you are in a different world to the hurly burly of Brentford High Street.

I took just a few pictures of some details as we walked home through The Butts.

I wonder what the story is behind this lovely house? It must have had a very different life to the family house it is now.


This street name caught my attention.  Pi tyres came to my mind I’d large felines prowling the streets.

Mary was drawn to the brickwork, an inspiration for the colour scheme for a future crochet project.


For me it was the lush vegitation,forget-me-nots and nettles guarding the base of the wall.






As we approach York Road in Brentford our eyes are always drawn to the enormous advertising hoarding on the disused tower block at the end of the road. The posters have changed over the months but it always seems to be Apple products which are advertised. Here are pictures taken from the garden with the white roses, one year apart.

June 1915

June 1915


And one last March.


The family are having a loft conversion carried out and there is a huge scaffolding election in the garden.  Just one picture to remember this.


In the field of gold

The late evening sun lit up the buttercups in the Hatton field as I went for a walk with the dogs last night.   June seems to bring so many flowers into bloom, and the evening sun enhances the colours.   The field last night looked quite golden and green.

But it was not the buttercups which drew camera but the Northern Marsh Orchids which seem to have appeared over the past few days all over the field, many more than I remember from previous years.  Fortunately the grass was quite dry,  because I had to get up close and personal with these little purple charmers.   And there was “gardening to do”, removing spikes of grass and other vegetation which got in the way of the picture.   Both Lily and Poppy were quite intrigued about what I was up to, watching as I lay down in the tall grass.   Lily even managed to provide a doggy background to one of my pictures.   Although perhaps not the best botanical specimen, I like the picture which the spikes of grass and the sky in the distance.

Lily gets into the picture

Lily gets into the picture

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Further on in our walk, beside the wetland area,  I noticed how the buttercups provided an interesting golden carpet behind the cow parsley.  It’s growing quickly now and quite high in places.   Looking it up on the internet I discovered that what I know as cow parsley has several other common names, including the lovely, Queen Anne’s Lace.   A much prettier name for this lacy flower.

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Stalking the photographer.

Stalking the photographer.


Along the Forth

As we drove our motorhome towards the Edinburgh Campsite we had great views over the Firth of Forth over to Fife.  The main purpose of my visit to Edinburgh was to check up on some details of family history in the Scottish Records Office, but a walk along the shore was a must.

The information provided by the site promised wonderful walks, and so there were.   Just out of the site gates and across the road was a path through the mature woods, leading to a long set of steps down to shore level.  The promised walkway was there indeed.  A broad sward of grass and a wide tarred path, part of the Edinburgh coastal way.  Concrete sea defences lined the way, so access to water level was somewhat restricted, much to the disgust of Lily and Poppy.

We are more used to rustic paths along the shores of Buchan;  here it was developed and popular: bikes, prams, joggers, dog walkers, all enjoying the sunshine and the sea air on this Tuesday afternoon.   Too many people for our dogs to be off lead, but still enjoyable.

On our way home in the van the light was even better and the tide was out.  But there was no time or place to stop and photograph the causeway to Cramond Island.   A project for a future occasion I think.

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A new beginning

Friday night marked my second retirement.   For the past four year, not long after I retired from my post as Hospital Chaplain in Aberdeen, I have been looking after the congregation of Peterhead Old Parish Church as what is called, Interim Moderator.   After lengthy discussions the congregation has now united with its neighbour, Trinity Parish Church and has become Peterhead New Parish Church.

On this Sunday morning when the new congregation meets for worship for the first time my thoughts are drawn to pictures of the Old Parish Church, or the Muckle Kirk as the locals call it.

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Walking through the woods

The trees are wonderful at this time of year.  The leaves are so fresh and green.  I have been walking with the dogs through woods in different places recently and enjoying the light filtering through the trees.  It does not matter if the woods are in Ellon or Edinburgh, the effect is the same.

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The walk through the woods in Ellon was at McDonald Park.  While the dogs sniffed around, lost in their own doggy smells and thoughts I spied a rabbit just a few yards away. My hunting dogs did not even notice!

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While we were in Edinburgh with the Motorhome at the Silverknowes Caravan Site we enjoyed a wonderful dog walking area with bark strewn paths though mature woods. A great deal of effort had been put into creating a safe and exciting place for dogs. An added advantage was that even during a shower of rain we kept quite dry because of the canopy of leaves.

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In the evening sunshine

My brother-in-law, Fraser and his wife are on a European trip in his motorhome.  Currently he is in Germany.  He was complaining yesterday about the rain and the flooding on the cycle path along River Rhine where he is at the moment.   “You should be in Scotland,” I said.  “We have a lovely sunny evening here.”   And I sent him a quick picture from the Hatton field to prove it.

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The wild flowers are certainly coming out.  The buttercups are in their full glory, and even if the bluebells are nearly past on the verges, the blue colour has been picked up by the cornflowers which I noticed on the road leading to our local recycling centre.   I have always loved June for the wild flowers!

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On a hill far away

Yesterday I was transported to the top of a hill far away, without ever leaving my house.   The rain was lashing down in Hatton, but in my mind’s eye I was standing in the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Hosios Melitios, with the bright blue spring sky above.

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Founded in 1081, the monastery stands high  on the south side of Mt Kithairon, on the border between Attica and Boeotia in Greece. What transported me there was a brief internet conversation with an American friend, George Burn, who asked about our mutual friend Fr Stavros. I sent him on a picture that Fr Stavros had sent me a few days before, of an Easter service at the Monastery.

I remembered the trip that |Mary and I made there way back in 2003. Fr Stavros wanted to show us “his monastery”. Although working as a psychotherapist in Athens, as a priest he is also responsible for services for the nuns at St Melitios. The long trip in the car out of the city, and up into the mountain was well worth it. We came away with many memories of the place and the kind nuns who greeted us there, not to mention a small icon of Hosios Melitius.


On that hill faraway, Fr Stavros (whose name means “Cross”) celebrated Easter, and I remembered the Greek sunshine, in a wonderful, spiritual place.

The Greek road trip went on and later that day Fr Stavros took us to see the spectacular mosaics at the monastery of Hosios Loukas and to meet a priest friend of his there.  But that story is for another day.


With Fr Stavros outside Hosios Loukas

The power of the wind

It can be quite hard to take pictures of the Aberdeenshire countryside and avoid a wind turbine in the photograph.   There is no doubt there are too many of them in the countryside now.  I remember growing up in Angus when it was exciting to see a little windmill water pump on one or two farms.   These little windmills have long gone, now overtaken by the advancing army of large turbines.

Donald Trump certainly hates them, trying to take legal action to stop the proposed windfarm in the sea off Aberdeen, because it will spoil the views of the golfers who play on his Mennie “Trumpton” Golf Course.  Surely out at sea is exactly where wind turbines should be.  I remember flying out of Copenhagen to Estonia and seeing the vast expanse of turbines in the sea below.  I wonder if the travellers over the Bridge between Demark and Sweden complain about their view being spoiled?

On the positive side the land-based wind turbines certainly help reduce our need for fossil fuel in the generating of electricity, a good thing in itself.  I have also found that if you take accdount of them, far from spoiling the view they can add interest to photographs.

Here are a few pictures which feature the wind turbines.






Walk the line

Poppy had her first walk along the old railway line at Hatton the other night.   Access has been a bit difficult recently because of the building of the new houses on the old Hatton Station yard, but we decided to give it a go the other night, before the grass grew too long.  She certainly enjoyed it as much as Lily always does.

Poppy runs the line.

Poppy runs the line.

Posting the picture yesterday of the old railway cutting looking towards the lighthouse made me look back for other pictures of the railway line.  Here are a few from 2013.

IMG_2776-2-2 IMG_2766-2 IMG_2759-2 Lily always struggles when the grass in long later in the summer.  Fortunately Aberdeenshire Council will cut the grass from time to time, but last year they could not get their mower onto the line because of the building work.  I expect it will be the same this year.  Hatton needs decent paths for walking, and certainly better access to the railway line.

Long grass is a challenge

Long grass is a challenge

A great walk when the grass is cut

A great walk when the grass is cut

Spot the photographer's shadow

Spot the photographer’s shadow

And while I am thinking about railway lines, here is a picture I took with Meg on the old Deeside line near Milltimber.   I was on pup minding duty while everyone else was away at a dog show in Edinburgh. Meg was desperate for a walk to get away from her pups for a while!

With Meg on the Deeside railway line at Milltimber

With Meg on the Deeside railway line at Milltimber