Monthly Archives: November 2016

Memories of days gone by

I opened the Topper, eagerly looking for one of my favourite strips, Wild Young Dirky.  How would my hero manage to escape the clutches of the evil Red Coats this week?  And there it was, on the horizon of the first picture in the story, behind Young Dirky fleeing the Red Coats, the familiar spire of Brechin Cathedral with its distinctive round tower.  Brechin had made it into the Topper!  This must have been in the mid 1950s.  The Topper was launched in February 1953, and carried several series of Wild Young Dirky stories, drawn by Dudley D Watkins, the famous cartoonist and illustrator who created Oor Wullie, the Broons and other well loved D C Thomson comic strips.   Not that I cared about authorship back then, it was having my home town appearing in the Topper that was memorable.

Wild Young Dirky from the Topper

Wild Young Dirky from the Topper

All this came to mind yesterday as I was sorting through some old black and white negatives, looking for pictures of my relatives.  I hadn’t looked at these pictures for many a year;  some I had completely forgotten about;  some I suspect I had never bothered to print out in those days gone by when I did my own developing and printing.

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I came across a picture of my Auntie Muriel and her life-long friend, Mina on their way to Brechin Cathedral.  And then there were a few pictures of the Cathedral itself taken from the High Street round about 1965.  I posted one of these pictures on Facebook yesterday, and had a response from a friend about me being in short trousers back in 1965.  No so, I was at university in St Andrews, and indeed  I had a copy of the Cathedral picture pinned to my wall in the student residence.

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1965-brechin-cathedral-3Looking carefully at the picture I could see how the cathedral was built above the gorge of the Skinner’s Burn which separated it from the Castle grounds, the graveyard supported by a huge wall.  My mind was not then on Wild Young Dirky escaping after Culloden, but on a Saturday morning, down beside the Skinner’s Burn, below the Cathedral, with the 10th Angus (Brechin Cathedral)  Scouts, practicing lighting fires.   In those days (the late 1950s) one of the tests you had to pass to gain your Second Class Scout Badge was to light a fire outdoors, using only natural materials (no paraffin!) and  using no more than two matches, quite a challenge!

A couple of years ago during a brief visit to the Cathedral, I retraced my Scouting steps down to the burn.  It looked so much more organised and civilised to the wild place I remembered from that Saturday morning expedition with the Scouts.

Brechin Cathedral and Round Tower

Brechin Cathedral and Round Tower taken on a more recent visit

Round Girdle Ness and family memories

The sun was bright, the sky was blue and I had a few minutes to spare on my way home from a visit to Cove,  so I turned off the main road and drove round Greyhope Road past Girdle Ness Lighthouse.

As I passed the car park at the Bay of Nigg I remembered visits there with my son Donald and his friend Barry who were carrying out a project for Higher Georgraphy (or so they said!) measuring stones and counting them in meter squares.   There was no time to stop there today though, and anyway the car park looked very rough and churned up.  My eyes were on the lighthouse.

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Engineer Robert Stevenson oversaw the building project which was completed in 1833 after an appeal by the shipmaster of Aberdeen requesting that a light be established at Girdle Ness,  following the wreck of a whaling ship called the Oscar in 1813. There were only 2 survivors from a crew of 45.   The adjacent radio masts are part of a network for global positioning of ships at sea.

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I find my camera drawn quite often to lighthouses, but Girdle Ness is not one of my favourites.  I don’t find its shape as pleasing as the more classic shape of the Bell Rock or Buchan Ness.  Still the sun was out and the lighthouse stood out well against the blue sky.

My Auntie Irene was brought up in the nearby South Kirkhill Farm and I remember stories of regular visits to the farm by the neighbouring lighthouse families, just the other side of the Nigg golf course from the farm.  I also have a vivid memory of my uncle Sandy and Auntie Irene’s Wedding at the Royal Hotel in Aberdeen in November 1956.  Family from Brechin (including me)made the journey in the late afternoon by minibus to Aberdeen.  I remember being impressed by the city lights of Aberdeen as we drove down the hill past Kincorth.  My own children in later years shared that joy of seeing what they thought of as the Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen.  But I digress….

The memory I want to share is of Irene’s father, clearly having enjoyed a few “refreshments” at the wedding saying farewell to family and friends at the end of the celebrations, out on the street.  Clearly lighthouse people were at the wedding and there was Pop Corbett, proudly wearing the uniform cap of a Lighthouse Keeper, singing away as we boarded our bus to return home to Brechin.

Irene and Sandy's Wedding. Pop Corbett is 3d left in the back row. Little Fred is forming a middle row on his own on the right.

Irene and Sandy’s Wedding. Pop Corbett is 3rd left in the back row. Little Fred is forming a middle row on his own on the right.

Pop Corbett with my Granny Georgina Smith outside the family house in Brechin.

Pop Corbett with my Granny Georgina Smith outside the family house in Brechin.

 

The dawn comes us like thunder

I was so focussed yesterday morning trying to capture a picture of the super moon as it was setting that I quite forgot that, as I was facing west, in the east behind me, the sun was about to rise.   The sky to the west was a grey blue colour, but when I turned and looked towards the sea, everything was bright orange, and there was the distinctive spire of the Church of St James the Less silhouetted, on the horizon.

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You can see that spire from all round the area.  Indeed it is said that the Earl of Errol who lived in Slains Castle arranged for the church to be built there at Chapelhill with a spire that would seem more at home on an English village church, to ensure that there was a pleasing view from the castle.

You can certainly see the spire from the castle and you can see it from the high ground in Hatton, at Hobshill and Northfield farm where I stood in awe yesterday as I watched the huge disk of the sun peep over the horizon, beside the church.

I had a big telephoto lens on the camera and I was able to capture a lovely picture of the spire through some branches, just as some geese flew by.  The words of Rudyard Kipling came to mind,  “The dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay.” from his poem,  The Road to Mandalay (Barrack Room Ballads).  We may be far away from Manadalay in  Myanmar, or Burma as we once called it, but I can appreciate his feeling of the dawn coming up like thunder.  It certainly did yesterday outer Curden, ‘crost the Bay.

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Super Moon over Hatton

They said it would be the brightest and biggest moon visible from Earth since 1948.  So along with countless others I got out my camera and waited for moon rise at 4.33 pm.  I have a wonderful little App on my phone called The Photographer’s Ephemeris which shows where the sun and the moon will be at any place and any time.  So I knew where and when to look for moonrise in Hatton.

4.33 came and went….no moon visible just a bank of cloud over the horizon and light cloud cover above.   Just the same happened in September 2015 when we were promised a lunar eclipse in the early hours of the morning.  Having set the alarm clock, I staggered out to the garden in the wee small hours and saw nothing – cloud cover!   Now it seemed that history had repeated itself.  The best view was supposed to be when the moon was rising.  Then it would appear at its biggest and brightest.   Hatton it seems is not the best place for celestial photography.   I remember the same happened when we were waiting for the solar eclipse in March that same year and again the sky was cloud covered.  All we could see was a faint light struggling to penetrate the sky cover.

Solar eclipse March 2015

Solar eclipse March 2015

But I had the whole night.  Every so often I popped out to look for the moon, and bingo!  at 7.58 pm there it was peeping through the light cloud.   Not the greatest picture of the moon and when the sky did eventually clear enough, not even a very spectacular moon.  Much like any other full moon I had seen before in Hatton.  But they did say that the best pictures would be at moonrise and moonset.

First glimpse

First glimpse

8 pm moon peeps through the clouds

8 pm moon peeps through the clouds

8 pm moon

8 pm moon

 

I put this down as another moon shot failure until I drew the curtains at 7.00 am.  Clear sky, and there was the moon at last.  I grabbed the camera, and called for Poppy to come with me and we went moon hunting.  At first I thought it had disappeared again behind a bank of cloud, but with the moon so low in the sky I had to wander about to get a good view of the south-western horizon and there it was.

Blue moon in the morning

Blue moon in the morning

Golden moon in the morning

Golden moon in the morning

Golden moon in the morning

Golden moon in the morning

Perhaps not the most dramatic pictures taken that night of the super moon.   But I have my suspicions about some of the pictures posted on facebook anyway.  A few of them look a bit doctored.   I promise that mine are genuine!

By the way, I was not the only one having difficulties seeing the super moon, Jenny reported there was cloud cover in Clackmannanshire and and George in North Carolina had the same problem!