Monthly Archives: July 2016

Late night in the woods

There are lots of walks in the woods at the edge of the Delnies caravan park near Nairn where we are spending a couple of nights.   It was quite late, 9.30 or so, when I set of with the dogs on a lovely still, warm evening.  I had my camera with me and managed a few pictures, even though it was getting quite dark.

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That’s the big plus for this campsite, the down side is the main Aberdeen to Inverness A96 road nearby.  It’s not a quiet site, with the noise of the heavy traffic zooming past.




The story behind the stones

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the tragic death of a little girl who lived at the Buchanness Lighthouse in 1869.   As I promised, I collected some wild flowers to lay on her grave.  It had been a chance encounter seeing the stone that first time, and all I foucssed on was the inscription Buchanness Lighthouse.  It was only when I started researching the family, I pieced together a little of the story, and was quite moved.

When I put the flowers on her grave the other day I took in the whole scene:  there were two stones here, and a little heart shaped memorial at the foot of Elizabeth’s one.  But the heart was not for Elizabeth; no this was for a John McGaw, and the faint inscription on the neighbouring stone was for the same family.  They had lived at Buchanness lighthouse too, a few years after the Grierson family.

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I had wondered about how a lighthouse family could afford the substantial stone for Elizabeth.  Now with a stone close by for the McGaw family and no other stones round about it started to make sense, especially since I had not been able to find an entry for either family in the Burial Register for the Kirkyard.  I had also been told that this grassy area without stones was where the prisoners were buried. I think Elizabeth and the McGaws will have been buried in common ground, or ground that the Lighthouse Board acquired.  Indeed I wonder if the Board paid for the stones?   Here is another line of research I might try, to see if there are any records held by the Lighthouse Board.  Perhaps as visit to the Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh might produce some information?

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Like Grierson, (Elizabeth’s name) McGaw is not a common name and I was quickly able to find out just a little about this family.   Robert McGaw married his wife Isabella in Wigtonshire.  (There are losts of McGaws in that area.)  He trained as a joiner, but then got a job as a lightkeeper, and I have found him in the Pentland Skerries and the Black Isle.  One of their five sons was born at Rosemarkie, and another in South Ronaldsay in Orkney. Tragedy hit the family 1n 1888 when Robert and Isabella were at Buchanness. Isabella gave birth to a premature baby who lived just 33 hours. Baby John McGaw is buried beside Elizabeth, and the little heart remembers him. Just a few months later, Isabella died from Typhoid Fever (as had Elizabeth Grierson) and she is buried beside her son and both their names inscribed on the Peterhead granite stone.

Robert was left to look after four boys, aged between two and seven years old. Fortunately the family rallied round and I read in the 1891 Census that Robert’s unmarried elder sister Elizabeth, a dressmaker, was then living with the family at the Buchannes Lighthouse and will have been looking after the children.

There the trail goes cold. I have not been able to find any mention of the family again in official records. I wonder if they emigrated and began a new life in Canada, or America.

Looking forward to hearing from you

Some time ago I closed down the comments section of my Blog because of the large amount of spam being posted there.  I have noticed recently the number of spam comments has reduced drastically  so I have opened up the comment section again for a while, to see what happens.   I will still have to check all comments before they appear to make sure I don’t display too many unsolicited adverts.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

The joy is in the detail

I spent a busy hour or so taking pictures of the wonderful floral displays on view at Peterhead New Parish Church’s Flower Festival during Peterhead Scottish Week this year. All the displays were inspired by the titles of hymns, and the creators had taken very different approaches to their work, from the cakes, sweets and chocolate (Yield not to Temptation) to a trumpet, old Salvation Army Bonnet and Bible (Onward Christian Soldiers).



Mary and I had visited the exhibition a couple of days before and the Session Clerk challenged me to look for different pictures of the displays.  I am always up for a challenge…..!   Visually there was just too much to look at, to be able to create interesting photographs, be it of the whole church, or even the individual displays.  What caught my eye often were the small details.  For me the joy was in the detail.   In the end I took about a hundred pictures of the Flower Festival (you can see them on my Flickr Page by CLICKING HERE) but today I want to pick out just a few to illustrate the joy in the detail.

On the communion table was a large display inspired by the Hymn, Bind us together.



To illustrate As the deer pants for the water, an elaborate garden was created using wild flowers, with just so much to look at.  What drew my eye was the little deer.



It was the few stalks of oats that drew my eye among the bread, birds and seeds on display in We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land.



The Old Rugged Cross was there on in the simple illustration of this favourite hymn with blue robe and crown of thorns but it was the simple pile of stones that I wanted to get up close to and photograph.



I took lots of pictures of the display based round the font to illustrate the baptismal hymn, By cool Siloam’s shady rill, to try to get one that I liked.  It was difficult to get the detail in the lovely  white christening gown and there were so many distractions in the background of the pictures.  I tried, close up and from the gallery.  In the end it is the detail of the lace on the gown which I have chosen.







Shooting the Blades

It was a perfect night for taking photographs of the Blades Aerobatic Display Team when they visited Peterhead Scottish Week yesterday. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the crowds were out in force at the Lido. Having taken time to get my camera loaded with a telephoto lens, made sure that the shutter speed was fast enough and the motor drive switched on,  I positioned myself beside the fence on the corner of the South Road, overlooking the Bay and the harbour mouth. I was able to lean on the fence as I tried to track the little planes as they shot over the bay in front of me. The sun was behind me, giving ideal lighting conditions. All I had to do was wait, taking the opportunity to try out my camera in the evening sunshine as an oil supply boat made its way into the harbour.

Before long there was an excited buzz round about me as we heard the sound of the planes, and the show began. This was the first time I had seen the Blades Team, and the first time I have tried to photograph an aerial display, unless you count the little red dots that I captured during the Red Arrows visit to Peterhead a few years ago.  This time I was not disappointed, either in the great show that the Blades put on, or in my resulting photographs.

I don’t know what the people in the crowd near me thought of me as my camera rattled off several hundred shots, the motor drive giving its distinctive clicking noise.  ( I wouldn’t have done that in the days when I used film and had to get it processed!)  The hard work came today when I had to sit at the computer, throw away most of the pictures, whittling the set down to about thirty or so, and then do some working in cropping and improving them.  If you want to see the set just CLICK HERE.

Here area few pictures from the show.


A seagull got into this picture.

A seagull decided to get into this picture.


A practice shot – a boat arriving in the harbour in time for the show.

Well placed dogs

Lots of my landscape pictures are taken while I am out walking our dogs.  Clearly I am not the sort of dedicated landscape photographer who sets up a camera and waits patiently for hours at a time, until the light is just right.  My canine companions would not tolerate that.  As it is, they get fed up very quickly when I want to stop and find the right place for a picture.   Sometimes indeed I have to hold on to their leads with one hand, the camera in the other to keep the pair of them out of mischief.

Perhaps I have invented a new category of photography, action landscape?

Landscape pictures are usually improved with a strong foreground interest.  I will often try to get one of the dogs to wait in the correct position in the foreground of my shot.  But it is not as easy as it sounds.  If I get Lily  into the “right” position for me and then call her to look round at me or get her face up from where she is sniffing, she will often just come trotting to me.   Poppy is worse, she is so excitable, bounding all over the place.  I have lots of pictures with dogs, looking away, sniffing the grass, running towards me or worse.

Just sit there!

Just sit there!

Here is an example of a shot which went wrong.  I was out at the Forvie National Nature Reserve on a lovely sunny day and I found this view south, over Broad Haven towards Aberdeen in the far distance.  Try as I could, I was not able to get the dogs into a good position, and what I had hoped would be a great picture, was a failure

The original picture straight from the camera.

The original picture straight from the camera.

I tried cropping the dogs out of the frame, but I felt the picture was not so good without the full sweep of the sand.

Cropped too tight?

Cropped too tight?

Photoshop came to the rescue, however, and I managed to remove the dogs.   This is the edited picture I have posted on Facebook today.

Broad Haven

Broad Haven

It is not often that I can get Lily to look at the camera, so my signature landscape shot has a Shi Tzu looking at the view, rather than at the camera.   Here are a couple of examples.

Listening to the view

Listening to the view



Clocks and weather vanes

The quaint weather vane in the shape of a cock on top of the old St Peter’s church at Peterhead drew my attention when I was visiting the old graveyard the other day.   A closer look at it shows what looks like a smiley face and traces of paint.  It must have once been very colourful.   Nothing unusual about having a weather cock on top of a tower, but it does seem very appropriate when you recall the Gospel story of Peter denying that he knew Jesus three times before the cock crowed on that first Good Friday.


The poor cock also shows signs that it was used for target practice at some time!   It was the same problem that the fish suffered which now proudly stands on top of Crimond Church spire.  The fish had been lost for many years, and when it was eventually rediscovered and placed on top of the spire again, it too showed signs of air gun damage.



Crimond Church

Sadly the spire of the Muckle Kirk in Peterhead lacks a weather vane, a real shortcoming I feel.  Just the lighting conductor protrudes from the top.   But perhaps I am prejudiced.  I was brought up in Brechin and I could see the Cathedral spire from my Granny’s house.  I seem to remember a dragon shaped weather vane on top of the spire.  Here is a project for me, the next time I am in Brechin;  get a picture of that weather vane and see if my memory serves me right.

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Peterhead Old Parish Church,. The Muckle Kirk

Peterhead Old Parish Church,. The Muckle Kirk

And while I am looking upwards, the clock faces are worth a look too.  At Crimond the lock face is unique, having 61 minutes in the hour, because of a mistake by a painter.  It also bears the inscription, “The hour’s coming”.


The Peterhead clock has multiple faces so that everyone can see the time, even though I have noticed they sometimes don’t tell the same time!


And to finish…..  a lovely drawing of the Old Parish Church, inside and out by Callum.  It has pride of place beside my desk at home.


The old, the newer and the newest

I stood looking through the elegant Norman arch of the chancel in the old St Peter’s Church in Peterhead, down towards the boats in the harbour.  I tried to picture what it must have been like for the Peterhead folk who worshipped here in days gone by.  The arch and the chancel walls are all that remain of the 13th Century church.  We know little of the pre-reformation church, other than that it belonged  to the Abbey of Deer.  I like to think of these early Peterhead fisherman standing where I stood, looking through this eastward facing arch towards the sea, hearing the words of the Latin Mass intoned by the priest.


How different it would have been for the congregation in 1567 listening to the first post-reformation minister we know of, Rev Gilbert Chisholm, as he read the scriptures in English and preached to his congregation.  In those turbulent days of the Reformation, Mr Chisholm was minister of Peterugie (as the Peterhead district was then known) but also of Deer, Foveran and St Fergus.  Perhaps it was Archibald Reid who was preaching to the congregation.  He was a Reader at the same time, perhaps the regular occupant of the St Peter’s Pulpit because of the wide geographical responsibility of Mr Chisholm.


A bell tower was added to the church in the mid 17th century.  The bell would summon the congregation to worship in the little church which had stood there some 400 years.  At this time the church in Scotland was in turmoil with the episcopal element in conflict for ascendency with the Presbyterians, and civil war ranged in all three Kingdoms of ~Scotland, England and Ireland.  We know that ministers from Peterhead were strong proponents of the National Covenant, despite the pro-Episcopalian feeling of much of Aberdeenshire.  Peterhead was certainly caught up in the church conflicts of the time, with one minister deposed for holding a ‘conventicle’ while later, another resigned  to establish an Episcopal meeting in Peterhead.  No doubt the fishermen and their wives who looked through the eastward facing arch would have been forming their own opinions about the church in Scotland.


But the tower had another use in the 19th Century –  a watch tower for relatives of those recently buried in the kirkyard. They guarded the graves against ‘resurrectionists’. These might be medical students or professional grave robbers who raided graves to steal fresh corpses which were used for dissection in medical schools. Writing in  A History of Peterhead,  J T Findlay  describes how,  ‘the relatives of the dead mounted guard over newly buried bodies, and many times at the dead of night has the frenzied clangour of the old bell awakened the inhabitants  of the town to tell them that the grave openers were at their horrible work again.

By this time in the 19th Century the congregation had moved from the old mediaeval church.  Indeed there is some indication that the old church had to be demolished except for the chancel walls and arch which are still standing, and of course the bell tower.

Writing in the First Statistical  Account of Scotland in 1777, Rev George Moir describes the problems he was facing in the old church: The established church here is more numerous than at any former period, if one can judge from the number of communicants, the regular progressive increase of the collections for the poor every Lord’s Day and the numerous complaints for want of room in the church which is now far from being sufficient for those who wish to attend public worship there, and many are obliged to take seats elsewhere for want of room in the church.

To solve the problem a new church was built on the Little Links in the Kirktown of Peterhead in the late 1700s.  It was located where the houses now stand on Kirk Street, opposite the Gordon’s Memorial.  No longer would the worshippers look out over the sea the sea through the arch.  Dr Moir was very pleased with his new building: it is a elegant building 78 feet long and 38 feet broad over the walls, which are of a proper height to admit of the galleries being sufficiently raised. From the position of the pulpit and the arrangement of the seats, both in the galleries and on the ground-floor, it is the most convenient place of worship with which I am acquainted…….the pulpit being placed at an equal distance from the east and west end of the north wall and every person both seeing and hearing the minister. The whole expense of the building was only £520 sterling.

The eyes of the congregation would be on the minister in the pulpit, then.  No distractions!

No trace this building remains.  Clearly , despite what the good Dr Moir may have hoped, it was not fit for purpose, with indications that there may have been building problems, and the congregation moved to another building, the present Muckle Kirk which was opened in 1806.  I can just immagine the excitement of the folk of Peterhead at their grand new building, with its imposing steeple.

As for Dr Moir, he has the distinction of having served the people of Peterhead in three different church buildings during his ministry from 1763 till his death in 1818.



Thinking about Elizabeth

I took a little walk round the old St Peter’s Kirkyard in Peterhead on Saturday morning. It was a spur of the moment thing. I have been wondering for a while if any traces of the old Peterhead Manse could still  be seen on the ground. The Manse was built just over the wall of the Kirkyard, behind the old church tower. It seems to have been demolished to make way for the woollen mill which once stood beside the Kirk Burn. This all came about because of the visit to Peterhead of the great-granddaughter of Dr James Stewart, the Minister of Peterhead from 1864 until his death in 1917. Her visit sent me looking up records, pictures and old maps. This was when I came across a picture of the old Manse in the Old Parish Church vestry.
Peeping over the wall at the edge of the Links, I could see a level piece of ground, before the sudden drop to the site of the old woollen mill. It looks as if this may have been the site of the manse, or at least the manse grounds.

The old Peterhead Manse

The old Peterhead Manse

My curiosity settled, I went for a walk round the kirkyard, looking at some of the old stones, and the remains of the mediaeval St Peter’s church there. It was then that I was accosted by the retired cemetery superintendent who once had charge of the burial ground.  He delighted in regaling me with stores of the place, the unmarked ground where Peterhead prisoners were buried, the Eskimo brought back to Peterhead by the captain of a whaling ship, only to die of pneumonia in the inclement Buchan climate:  he was buried in the captains grave. I noticed a slab on the wall of the old church in memory of a Bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church. I am sure there is a story there.

On my way back to the car I stopped beside a stone in quite poor condition and my eye caught the place name, Buchanness Lighthouse. I see the lighthouse at Boddam every time I drive to Peterhead, and I love taking pictures there. I thought this inscription could sit well besdie some of my lighthouse pictures.

Buchanness Lighthouse

Buchanness Lighthouse

But who was the Elizabeth Grierson who was buried here? The date of her death is quite legible, 1869,  but there was nothing more about her; even her age inscribed on the stone had crumbled away. I decided to find out what I could, and became quite fascinated, after this chance encounter with Elizabeth’s gravestone.

Elizabeth was just ten years old when she died of enteric fever (typhoid) in September 1869. her father, John Grierson, was one of the lighthouse keepers at Buchanness. Thanks to Census information, and other records I have found on the internet, I have been able to piece together just a little bit about this family.  Thank goodness they had a less common surname. What problems I had in tracing my own family tree because my grandfather was called Smith.

John was born in Leith about 1823, and in 1846 married Janet Morrison from near Haddington in East Lothian. At that time John was a blacksmith. John’s father at some stage became a lighthouse keeper, and his son decided to follow that career too. John and his family served in different lighthouses, first in Tarbat in Easter Ross, then at Lossiemouth, just across the Moray Firth. From there the family moved to Islay where Elizabeth was born at Rhuvaal Lighthouse on the northernmost tip of the island. The growing family (I have identified nine children) then moved to Buchanness sometime between 1865 and 1869 when little Elizabeth died. The next place I have found the family is in 1881 at the lighthouse at Arnish Point in Lewis where John was the principal keeper. By 1891 John had retired and was living in Kinghorn in Fife. He died there in 1904.

I wonder if it was the young James Stuart, recently appointed minister at Peterhead who conducted this little girl’s funeral in 1869? We will never know. I also wonder if there is anyone else buried in this grave, or any other name had been inscribed on the stone, but there seem to be no burial records recording Elizabeth’s grave.

It must have been hard for the family to move away from Buchan and leave the grave of little Elizabeth, with no family in the area to visit and remember her. Their stay at Buchanness had been comparatively short, and the next posting to Lewis was so far away. Now all that remains to mark her life is the crumbling inscription on a Peterhead gravestone.

I have been quite moved by the bare bones of this family’s story which I have uncovered.  I plan to gather some wild flowers from Buchanness and lay then on Elizabeth’s grave. She is not forgotten.

Dalbog revisited

The last time I visited the Angus Army Cadet Force camp at Dalbog in Glen Esk must have been more than  50 years ago  Not that I was ever a Cadet, but my father, Alf Coutts,  was the Sergeant Major in the Brechin Cadets and each spring and summer in the 1950s he would spend training weekends at the camp with the boys.   Although he had been a professional solider before the Second World War, and had much to share in training the cadets in the ways of soldiering, the task that he assumed at Dalbog was cook.

Regimental Sergeant Major Alf Coutts (1958)

Regimental Sergeant Major Alf Coutts (1958)

In the early days, before the “luxurious” brick-built cookhouse,  with its calor gas cookers, cooking was done on an open fire.  My father was very proud of the broth he cooked on that fire.  Even in later life, while living on his own in Dollar he would inform visitors, “Even if I say it myself, that’s a grand plate of broth!”.  He would often tell of the compliments he received one particular weekend.  He used to use a dirty cloth to lift the hot handles of the dixie pots, moving them around the fire,  Well on this occasion the wood smoke flavoured cloth fell into the broth, only to be retrieved surreptitiously, before anyone saw.  No one had though of food hygiene regulations in those far off days!  That day he was told, “That’s your best broth ever!”

The food stores for the weekend would be loaded up into an big army truck from Anderson’s wholesale grocery store in Market Street in Brechin and the journey was made, bouncing  up the rough track on the west side of the River North Esk.   When I made journeys to spend a Saturday at Dalbog with by primary school pal, Grant Geddes, it was in the Colonel’s car.  James Geddes was Grant’s father, the Cadet Colonel and also the Brechin High School Headmaster. Along with the rest of people who would spend the weekend at Dalbog we travelled up the “main” Glen Esk Road, parking in spaces at the side of  the road, then following the little path through the woods down toward the camp on the other side of the river.

J P Morgan, the American financier had built a little footbridge there over the river.  He was a regular shooting tenant in Glen Esk in the days before the War.  The bridge made make access to shooting butts easier for his guests. We called it  the Pierpont Bridge, although I have seen it referred to as the Morgan Bridge, providing access to the flat ground on which the old army huts stood, a wonderful base for the Cadet training weekends, and the perfect playground for little boy visitors.

And what a playground it was, woods, river, hills, and of course some fine broth to eat.    It wasn’t just Grant and me, others, including by big cousin Lindsay, would joint us for our Saturdays,  In those far away days, it wasn’t just food hygiene regulations though that hadn’t  been thought about;  we used to be able to play soldiers,  borrowing real rifles and bren guns for our games:  much more fun that the official  training the cadets received.  Just think of that in today’s culture.

Later I did make one or two private visits to Dalbog.  I remember Tim Davis, another childhood friend and I cycling from Brechin up the track followed by the army lorry and spending some time on a summer’s day at Dalbog on our own, and I also remember visiting it with my Auntie Muriel, again by bike I think, but this time following the Glen Road and wheeling our bikes over the footbridge.   But search as I like I cannot find any photographs of these visits in days gone by.

At some point the old wooden Pierpont bridge was replaced with a metal structure.  Was it the the Army Engineers who did this?  But still the only real access was on foot over the bridge.

We spend a couple of days in Glken Esk recently and I though it would be great to visit the place again, to reawaken the memories of boyhood games and smoke flavoured soup.  As we drove up the road towards Tarfside I looked in vain for any indication about where the path to the camp might be.   Later, over lunch  at the Retreat, I spoke to Joyce who works there.   She told me that she thought the bridge had been washed away in last December’s floods, and the camp was now in quite a derelict state.  I was to look for a draw in place, and I would find the path.

Sure enough, just as she said, we found a place to draw in with the van, and I went off with camera in hand, remembering as I went, the lay of the land.   Sadly, the bridge was indeed no more… just the east end, a “diving board”  over the river, and piers washed away.  I could see the camp, but there was no way to get to it.  It did look quite derelict, no longer in use.  Too much money would have to be spent on it to bring it up to standard.  It stands now as a relic and a jog to the memory of all the people who through the years spent time there.IMG_7003 IMG_7004 IMG_7007

One other little memory came back.  I recalled that there was a white wooden signpost by the side of the road where we used to park in the 50s, advertising that the Retreat was well worth a visit by those who would travel a few more miles up the Glen.   What a surprise to see that there still is a sign to the Retreat. A different sign now 50 or more years later, but it looks as if it was in the same place.   That will help me find where to stop if ever I want to find Dalbog again.


All the senses

You use all your senses on a visit to the sea cliffs round the Bullers of Buchan.  You can certainly hear the calling of the gulls and the other sea birds as well as see them swirling or perching on the ledges.  You can certainly smell the guano.  You need your balance on the narrow paths, and use your touch to grab onto the rocks.  Perhaps you don’t use your sense of taste, but let’s pass over that one.

Listening to the view

Listening to the view

I really love the picture I took of Lily looking out over the view to the  Longhaven cliffs.   I was trying to get the dogs to sit and look at me on the cliff edge, to add a foreground interest to the picture.   But they were too interested in looking out themselves and when I called them to turn round, obedient dogs that they are, they came right up to me.  I just managed a quick picture of Lily before she ran to me.   I love the way the wind is catching her ear.  I have entitled it, Listening to the view!

As for Poppy, she is so quick, all I managed of her was half a dog bounding towards me.

Here I come!

Here I come!

There were too many people about, watching birds, walking dogs, and enjoying the sunny day for me to try any bird photography which needs time and patience.   I had to watch the dogs too carefully for that.  There certainly are plenty birds to photograph, and they will wait for another day.

Seabird hotel

Seabird hotel

Through the long grass

While Roger Federer was crushing Marin Cilic on the manicured lawns of Wimbledon yesterday, the dogs and I were ploughing through a jungle of not so manicured grass in the Hatton field. I had noticed that the yellow irises were now in bloom and I wanted a picture. Although the main path in the field is well trodden and cuts a channel through the long grass, the iris that I had set my sights on was among waist deep vegetation on the bank of the little burn which flows past the Hatton Mill. There is usually a path along here, but just now, in the lush July vegetation there was no sign of any path.


I forced my way through, followed tentatively by Poppy; Lily was having none of it, “You don’t expect me to go through that, with my new haircut and short legs!” she complained.
After a little persuasion and the odd treat we were all standing in front of my quarry, Iris Pseudacorus, or yellow flag iris to you and me. They grow very well in the boggy ground at the edge of the Hatton field.

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I don’t know anything about grasses, other than that there are a lot of different types. The field just now has a faint purple tinge to it from this grass. I think it may well be Holcus lanatus, Yorkshire Fog. What I do know is I love the colour and the way it moves in the breeze.

On our way home we stopped for a little while beside the little burn on the upstream side of the bridge on Hatton Farm road to admire the pink wild geraniums in full bloom beside the horse chestnut tree. I wonder if I will get any autumn pictures here this year?


Fox on the loose

So it’s called fox-and-cubs (or orange hawkweed)   Every year I enjoy watching this bright orange flower appear in the derelict garden of the old Hatton Smiddy  amid the discarded building rubble.   This year it has been particular amundant.  To get its picture I have to get in quickly, not that it is fast moving, but before the owner of the Smiddy gets out with his strimmer.

Since my wild flower book is in the motorhome at the moment I did an internet search on this flower tonight and came across the fox-and-cubs name for the first time.  It seems that people thought that the way the buds huddle round, under the flower in bloom was like a vixen and her cubs. And of course there is the colour.
I read that it is originally an alpine plant from central Europe and was introduced into British gardens in the 17th century, from where it escaped into our countryside.
British botanists seem to accept this orange flower quite happily ( not like the dreaded Japanese Knotweed) but there seems to be great concern in some north-western areas of the USA and Canada about the invasion of this plant there and all sorts of control measures are in place.

Out of the mist

Would it rain or would it not?  Whatever, the dogs needed a walk so I stopped the car in the tiny carpark beside the Longhaven Cliffs and we headed down over the old railway line onto the cliff top.  Despite the persistent drizzle, I had taken my camera with me, carrying it pointing in downwards to protect the lens. It was then that I saw the boat emerging from the mist, heading towards Peterhead.

Soon the drizzle dried up a bit and there was an unusual bright, hazy light. I tried a picture of my favourite lighthouse (Buchanness) when I saw a little boat heading towards it. Unfortunately the picture is not quite sharp enough. Camera shake, I suspect as I tried quickly to snap the picture when the boat was in the right position, but at the same time doing it too quickly to stop rain getting onto the lens. I will have to try again on another day.

The flat grassy area on the cliff top looks different now. Gone is the carpet of Thrift; the grass is much longer and the heather is now coming out as the weeks roll on.




While I was taking these pictures a common gull was circling above, complaining at our presence in his domain.

Mary sat quietly in the car watching the sea, and crocheting while the dogs and I went on our little expedition.


The Woods and the flowers

At the end of June the grass in the Hatton field is quite long, a challenge for little dogs on a walk, especially in damp weather.  The other night I completely lost Poppy in the grass, thank goodness she heard me calling and came sprinting back down to path to find me.
The owners of the Woods Caravan Park at Fishcross provide a section of their park as a dog walking area.   Perhaps it is not as secluded and mysterious as the wooded area we found at the Edinburgh park at Silverknowes, but some thought has gone into providing paths cut through the long grass which is growing in this area. We get the best of both worlds, long grass and wild flowers, and easy walking for little dogs and their human friends.


Sheep breakfast in a nearby field

An early morning walk on a misty morning provided not just vistas of hills with the sound of sheep bleating as they enjoyed their grassy breakfast, but a whole cornucopia of wild flowers for me to enjoy.

Wild geranium

Wild geranium

Red campion

Red campion

Cow parsley

Cow parsley



Back to the Woods and the Hills

We seem to be creatures of habit.  Not only did we visit the Glen Esk Caravan Park again last week, but we completed the double and made our second visit to the Woods at Fishcross as well.

I love to look at the Ochil escarpment, along the Hillfoots.  The view is always changing.  I remember my first view of these hills was in 1961, on a bus from Stirling, heading towards Dollar with my mother and father.  My father had just been appointed Janitor at Dollar Academy and we were off to see our new house.  After an early start from Brechin we boarded the train at Forfar (you can’t do that now!) bound for Stirling. The last bit of this mammoth journey was by the bus which was heading for St Andrews, and as the road came round past the Wallace Monument on the Abbey Craig, there were the hills, so bright, so close you felt you could touch them in the bright, clear June sunshine.

For Mary these are the hills of home.  She would see them every day as she grew up, from her home in Tullibody.  For me, they became an important past of my teenage years as I explored Dollar Glen and the hills behind.

Last week’s visit to the Woods gave me some more shots of the Ochils;  Dumyat as the sun had just gone down;  mist giving as soft focus effect to the hill; and a view eastwards, towards the Dollar hills.  Fraser commented on last this picture that it remind him of Austria, “The Ochils are pretty spectacular, ” he said.  He’s right.

Dumyat silhouette

Dumyat silhouette

The mist cover mountains of home

The mist cover mountains of home

Looking east

Looking east


Keeping in touch

We had a lovely couple of days at the Glen Esk Caravan Park.  The weather was good to us and there seemed to be no midgies about!   I read that King George VI had a bad midge bite to his eye lid in the summer of 1939 while all set to launch the grouse shooting season in Glen Esk, the guest of J P Morgan (about whom more below).   The shooting had to be put off because of the King’s indisposition, and the Glorious Twelth that year had to wait to the less auspicious thirteenth.

This was our second visit to the park, having been here just six weeks ago.   We parked up beside the lochan and enjoyed watching the birds and the reflections of trees and flowers in the still water.

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One thing I became aware of this time, however, which had not bothered us on our last visit.   There was no phone reception or internet facilities.  We wanted to be in touch with some family members, but that was not possible.  And when we tried to play a DVD on the laptop computer (quite new) we were told that before the DVD could play we had to connect to the internet.

Communication issues in this area are not new.  I read about a party of rich Americans who were spending a shooting break in 1929, the guests of the American financier, J Pierpont Morgan at the Gannochy shooting lodge, quite near to where our more humble motorhome was parked.

J P Morgan

J P Morgan

This was the year of the Wall Street Crash which happened right in the middle of the grouse shooting season.  J P Morgan leased the shooting on the Dalhousie Estate in Glen Esk for a good number of years.  That October It is said that the one telephone box in Edzell had a queue of his American guests trying to call their brokers to see if they had any money left. (The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, William Shawcross)

The same theme is picked up in Frank Lyall’s crime novel, A Death in Time (Published in 1987), when the hero makes his way from the next door Burn Estate to Edzell to communicated with his London boss, having to use that same Edzell telephone box.  In those days you just accepted that making telephone calls could be a challenge.

In stark contrast, Edzell was at that time the centre of a world communications network.   This was the time of the Cold War and  the US Navy built a communications and monitoring facility at RAF Edzell, from where Russian radio communication could be listened to and Russians submarines tracked.   Although we did not know what they were doing there at the time, I still recall the excitement in nearby Brechin when the Americans arrived in 1960 – somewhat different Americans to J P Morgan’s guests in the 1920s and 30s.

We visited Edzell and  found that there was still no reliable mobile signal there.  Our calls had to wait for the next day when we were on the road to Callander.  I suppose I could have looked for the famous telephone box, but I don’t recall the last time I used one!  We did solve the internet problem, however,  thanks to a lovely cake enjoyed at Sinclair’s Larder on Edzell’s main street, which had free WiFi.    Our DVD problem was quickly fixed and we enjoyed our film that night in the van.

Edzell needs more exploring on what we are sure will be a further visit to the Glen Esk site.   On this occasion I spotting the dog friendly Post Office with its hitching rings provided.  I took this picture with my phone, at least it had some use in Edzell!

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We are sailing

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We made our regular stop at the Brechin Castle Garden Centre on our way home yesterday.  There is always a fine scone, and a good place to give the dogs a walk.  What drew my attention this time was the group of men sailing their model boats on the big pond which is the centre piece of the country park there.   As I drunk my tea I noticed the tip of a sail going past the boundary wall of the café terrace.  The sailors were in action!  The last time we stopped, the sailors had just packed up, securing their boats in the little shed there, but today there was chance for a photograph.

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By the time I made my way to the edge of the pond it was an AH (Arbroath registered) model fishing boat which was buzzing round.  The three men sitting on the bench caught my eye.  They did not seem to be paying all that much attention to the boat, but I am sure the one in the middle had the controls.   It is clearly a great opportunity for some summer afternoon socialising as well as giving the boats a sail.

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Standing there near Brechin my mind went back to the only occasion I have sailed a model boat.  It was many years ago (in the 1950s) but not all that far from where I stood yesterday.   A challenge had gone out for Scouts in Angus to build a boat, and enter a race in the River South Esk at Major Neish, the Angus County Commissioner’s estate at Tannadice.  I can remember the excitement as we were allocated our places in the river.  Unfortunately our Scout Troop, 10th Angus (Brechin Cathedral)  had to launch our boat at the far side of the river, where there was no current.  Other scouts, from all round Angus got places where the current was stronger.   It’s not fair we protested!”  as our red and black painted boat (the colours of our scout neckers) came in last.

Colin Francis Ian ‘Jock’ Neish

Colin Francis Ian ‘Jock’ Neish

A visit by Major Neish was always a special occasion.  I am sure he was a delightful man, but his large frame, and commanding appearance certainly made this little scout tremble when he came to the Cathedral Hall were we met on a Friday evening.

I left Brechin long ago, but my Scout career continued in Clackmannanshire. I believe that Jock Neish’s name is no perpetuated in the Scouting Centre build on his estate at Tannadice, near Finnavon in Angus. It seems right to be thinking about him on this day when we are remembering the Battle of the Somme. I read in a newspaper that his interested in Scouting had started through his admiration for Lord Baden Powell and his experiences as an junior officer in the Black Watch during the Second Battle of the Somme. Perhaps he seemed formidable to me as a wee boy, but he gave a lifetime of service to Scouting in Angus, with the Tannadice Scouts, and as I remember him, the County Commissioner. Perhaps we did not win our model boat race, but how great it was to have the facilities of the Tannadice estate to pursue our scouting activities, way back then.