seaboardgàidhlig

bilingual blog dà-chànanach

Druidean

Tha beachdan nan daoine gu math measgaichte a thaobh dhruidean. Gun teagamh sam bith tha iad dìreach àlainn mar eòin, agus na “murmurations” aca iongantach, ach faodaidh iad a bhith nam burraidhean cuideachd, a’ putadh nan eun beaga air falbh bho na biathadairean agus a’ glamhadh sios a h-uile rud dhaibh fhèin.

Chan fhaca mi nam ghàrradh iad fad mìos no dhà (am faca sibhse?), is mi a’ gabhail iongnadh an e eòin-imrich a bhiodh annta. Chuir mi roham barrachd fhaighinn a-mach mun deidhinn agus rannsaich mi sna leabhraichean-eòin agam agus air làraichean-lìn nàdair. An toiseach, cha bhi iad a’ falbh idir – ‘s ann fiù ‘s gum bi mòran druidean ag imrich bhon Roinn Eòrpa a Bhreatainn sa gheamhradh, ag àrdachadh an uimhir air spiris. Mar sin faodaidh gur e co-thuiteamas a th’ ann nach robh iad agamsa, no ‘s dòcha gum bi badan eile aca san sgìre, nas fhreagarraiche a thaobh bidh no cothroman-cruinneachaidh. Co-dhiù, ‘s urrainn do mo ghealbhonnan ‘s mo chailleachagan ithe air an socair.

Bidh na druidean a’ neadachadh as t-earrach ann an tuill ann an seann chraobhan, togalaichean no creagan. Tòisichidh am fireannach ri an nead a thogail, an uair sin tarraingidh e boireannach leis a sheinn tlachdmhor, agus cuiridh ise crìoch air. Beiridh i 4 – 5 uighean gorma a nochdas às dèidh mu dà sheachdain. Gu tric beiridh i dà thuras sa bhliadhna, sa Ghiblean agus san Iuchar, agus bidh an dithis aca a gabhail cùram de na h-iseanan agus gan beathachadh. Nuair a dh’fhàgas iad an nead thèid an teaghlach a chadal air spiris, còmhla ris na colanaidhean aca, air craobhan no mullaichean no creagan. Ruigidh iad mu chòig bliadhna deug a dh’aois.

Tha caochladh òrain aca, bho sheinn bhinn gu sgiamhail ghrannta, agus tha iad math air atharrais de dh’eòin eile no fiù ‘s fuaimean teicneagach. Abair racaid nuair a bhios iad nan suidhe sna craobhan nan ceudan!

Fhad’s a bhios iad òg, bidh na h-iseanan donn doilleir ach aithnichidh thu an cruth druid suaicheanta (agus an giùlan!) mar aig na pàrantan. Tha ceann gu math fada aca le bathais ìosal a’ dol dìreach chun a’ ghuib, a thòisicheas faisg air an t-sùil, rud a bheir coltas caran  buaireanta dhaibh. Mar a dh’fhàsas iad, gheibh iad na breacan agus an dath-lainnreachadh a tha aig na h-inbhich, gu -àraidh aig na fireannaich. Sa gheamhradh fàsaidh iad nas dorcha a-rithist, ach bidh na breacan bàna fiù’s nas fhasa rim faicinn.

Tha iad math air biadh a lorg, is iad ag ithe cha mhòr a h-uile rud, ach tha iad sònraichte measail air meanbh-fhridean, larbhachan is boiteagan nuair a bhios iseanan aca, agus air measan àm sam bith. Fhad ‘s a tha iad a lorg bidh, tha iad a’ coimhead air adhart no sìos, ach ‘s urrainn dhaibh cuideachd an sùilean a chùl-sleamhnachadh gus dèanamh cinnteach nach bi bagairt a’ feitheamh air an cùlaibh!

Tha na druidean uabhasach deidheil air cuideachd agus mar as àbhaist nochdaidh iad ann am bagaidean, tartail is èasgaidh. Faodaidh na buidhnean a bhith gu math mòr, agus ‘s urrainn dhaibh biathadairean-eòin fhalmhachadh gu luath, a’ putadh na h-eòin nas lugha a-mach às an rathad. Mhothaich mi gun ionnsaich na h-iseanan an giùlan seo glè thràth.  A rèir coltais chan ann air sgàth ‘s gu bheil iad sanntach a nì iad seo, ach air sgàth ‘s gun do leasaich iad gus ithe gu luath is ann an sgaothan, air adhbharan-dìon. Bidh iad a’ cruinneachadh cuideachd ann an sgaothan glè mhòr air craobhan no mullachan airson cadal gach oidhche.

Agus le sin feumaidh sinn sùil a thoirt air aon de na rudan as iongantaiche mu dhruidean – na “murmurations” – sgaothan sònraichte mòra. Sa gheamhradh bith sgaothan de na h-eòin sòisealta seo a’ cruinneachadh ann am beul na h-oidhche nan ceudan no nam mìltean mòra, a’ gluasad ‘s a’ tionndadh ‘s a’ dannsadh san adhair mar aon eun aibhseach, ann an cumaidhean sruthach a’ sìor-atharrachadh gu bras. Mar as àbhaist cha mhair seo ach mionaidean, agus gu h-obann teàrnaidh iad agus laighidh iad, fhathast mar aon, air an àite-spiris – ann an runnaichean, coilltean, no creagan. Abair sealladh drùidhteach! A rèir coltais s’ e seo cuideachd ro-ionnleachd-dìon – tha e doirbh do dh’eun-creachaidh aon druid a chomharrachadh airson ionnsaigh, agus nuair a bhios iad nan laighe, ‘s e sluagh teann, dùmhail a th’ annta air raon ach aon sealgair-oidhche (leithid comhachag), agus mar sin cha bhi iad a’ call na h-uimhir de dh’eòin. Bha mi fortanach murmuration mòr fhaicinn dà thuras, ach anns a’ Ghalltachd agus san Fhraing, chan ann an seo.  Am faca sibhse a leithid san sgìre?

Tha aon bhaile ann far a bheil àireamh nan druidean cho mòr (na milleanan!) ‘s gun abhraich am buachar aca trioblaidean uabhasach gach oidhce – an Ròimh.  Thoir sùil air a’ bhideo seo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVko9jyAkQg  Ten Million Starlings Swarm (7 Tonnes of Bird Poo) | Superswarm | BBC Earth BBC Earth

Agus rud inntinneach eile mun deidhinn – bha druid aig Mozart mar pheata-gràidh, a dh’ionnsaicheadh criomagan a chiùil. Fhuair an druid fiù ‘s tiodhlacadh sa ghàrradh, agus sgrìobh Mozart pìos bàrdachd air a’ chlach-chinn!

Ach chan fhaod sinn an cuspair tarraingeach seo fhàgail gun iomradh air a’ CD Murmurations le còmhlan-ciùil The Shee, is Olivia Ross chòir againn fhìn na ball – ‘s urrainn dhuibh pìos a chluinntinn an seo:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlCeAFnuHDs  The Shee: Starlings

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Starlings

The starling is one of the birds people have mixed feelings about. On the one hand they’re beautiful to look at, and their murmurations are astonishing, on the other hand they’re often seen as bullies, gangs of them shoving the wee birds off the feeders, and gobbling down everything themselves.

I haven’t seen them in my garden for a couple of months (have you?), and wondered if they actually migrate. I decided to find out a bit more about them, so consulted my bird books and the various nature websites. First of all, they don’t normally migrate – in fact many European starlings migrate to Britain for the winter, increasing the roosting numbers. So it may be coincidence that I haven’t had any, or they just favour somewhere else in the area at this time of year, perhaps for better feeding or congregating. My sparrows and bluetits can feed in peace.

They nest in holes in old trees, or cavities in buildings or cliffs, in spring. The male starts the building, sings to attract a female, and she finishes it. She lays 4 – 5 blue eggs, which hatch about 2 weeks later. She often lays eggs twice a year, around April and June, and both parents look after and feed the fledglings. Later they all roost at night on trees or buildings or cliffs, or in reedbeds, in their local colonies. Starlings live for about 15 years.

They have a wide range of song, from musical to raucous, and they are excellent mimics and and copy other birds or technical and mechanical sounds they hear. They make quite a racket when they’re perching in trees in large numbers!

When they’re young, the birds are initially a dull brown, but have the distinctive shape (and behaviour) of their parents. Starlings have a long flattish head ending in a long beak that seems to start at the eye, giving it a pugnacious look. As they mature, they develop the speckles and brilliant iridescence of the adults, especially the male. In winter they go darker again, but the pale speckles are even easier to see.

They’re good foragers, eating most things, but especially fond of insects, larvae and worms when they have young, and fruit at any time. While foraging, they look ahead or down, but can also swivel their eyes backwards to check for threats!

Starlings like company, and tend to appear in groups, noisy and active. The groups can be quite large, and they can empty bird feeders in record time, pushing the smaller birds out of the way.  I’ve noticed that young starlings learn this behaviour early! Apparently this isn’t because they’re greedy, though, but because they evolved to feed quickly in flocks, for safety. They also settle in large flocks on trees or buildings to sleep in the evening.

Which brings us to one of the most amazing things about starlings – their murmurations. In winter dusks, flocks of these gregarious birds will gather together in their hundreds or many thousands and perform aerial aerobatics like one vast bird, forming and reforming amazing shapes at great speed for several minutes, before dropping as one to the roosting area – reedbeds, woods, or cliffs. This is a truly impressive spectacle. Apparently this too is a safety precaution – it’s harder for predators to pick out single birds to attack, and once landed, they will be concentrated on the territory of just one night predators (like owls), so are less likely to lose many birds. I’ve been lucky enough to see a couple of murmurations, in England and France, but not locally. Have you seen any?

One city where the murmurations are so huge (millions) that their tons of droppings every night cause a massive problem is Rome – have a look at this video on Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVko9jyAkQg  Ten Million Starlings Swarm (7 Tonnes of Bird Poo) | Superswarm | BBC Earth BBC Earth

And another interesting fact: Mozart had a pet starling that he loved, and which learned snippets of his music. He even gave it a funeral in his garden when it finally died – and wrote a poem for its gravestone!

But we can’t leave the fascinating subject of starlings without a mention of the CD Murmurations by the band The Shee, featuring our own Olivia Ross – here you can listen to a piece from it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlCeAFnuHDs  The Shee: Starlings

Milseag-arain le dearcan-coille is liomaid

Seo reasabaidh eile bhon charaid agam, Molly MacRae, le taing! ‘S e milseag a’ gheamraidh a th’ ann, ach le blas is fàileadh an t-samhraidh – math airson làithean gruamach a shoilleireachadh. Faodaidh tu ar dearcan-coille Albannach a chleachdadh, ma bhios poca agad sa reòthadair, no na fraochagan Ameireaganach a chì thu nam bùithtean. Agus tha cha mòr gach seòrsa arain freagarrach – chleachd Molly aran geal agus pìosan lof rois-Moire, agus chleachd mise taois-geur is aran le raosaran. Fìor bhlasta, an dà chuid!

Tha an reasabaidh a’ cleachdadh cupannan Ameireaganach, ach bhiodh muga beag ceart gu leòr cuideachd, no 250 gr/ml gach cupa. B’ fhearr dhut saoitheach-àmhainne leathann eu-domhain (mu 8”x8”x2”) a chleachdadh, gus a’ chuid as motha de mhullach cruasbach fhaighinn.

Tàthchuidean

¾ cupa dearcan-coille

4 – 6 pìosan lofa (seann, no air an tòstadh gu goirid), gu leòr airson dà fhilleadh san t-soitheach-àmhainne.

2 cupa bainne (seòrsa sam bith)

½ cupa siùcair dhuinn

1 spàin-tì extract faoineige

1 spàin-tì extract liomaid (nas làidire na sùgh, gun a bhith cho geur)

rùsg-liomaid sgrìobte

2 ugh mhòr

ìm – gu leòr airson nam pìosan-lofa

Ro-theasaich an àmhainn gu 350°F / 175°C.

Stiùireadh

Smeur an t-soitheach le beagan ìm agus cuir an darna leth den aran, taobh le ìm suas, ann. Sgoil an dàrna leth de na dearcan-coille air an aran. Cuir an dàrna filleadh den aran gu rèidh air feadh na dearcan agus cuir an còrr de na dearcan air a’ mhullach.

Teasaich am bainne leis an t-siùcar gu faiceallach gus an èirich beagan smùid. Cuir ris an fhaoineag is an extract liomaid.

Buail na h-uighean ann am bobhla, agus beag air bheag cuir am bainne blàth mun chuairt annta.  Dòirt am measgachadh-uighe air an arain san t-soitheach.  Sgaoil an rùsg-liomaid air a’ mhullach.

Bruich san àmhainn i gun chòmhdach 25 – 30 mionaidean, neo gus an tòisich am mullach ri fàs donn, agus an tèid sgìan glan a-mach às a’ mheadhan.

Ìth a’ mhilseag blàth no fuar, dìreach mar a tha e, no le uachdar, iogart, reòiteag no ughagan.

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Blueberry Lemon Bread Pudding

Here’s another recipe from my friend Molly MacRae – many thanks to her! It’s a winter pudding, but with the taste and smell of summer – good for brightening up gloomy days! You can use our Scottish blaeberries, if you have a bag in the freezer, or the American blueberries you see in the shops. And virtually every kind of bread is suitable – Molly used white bread and slices of rosemary loaf, and I used sourdough and currant loaf. Both absolutely delicious!

The recipe uses American cup measures, but a small mug would do, or use 240 ml to a cup. You’re best to use a wide, fairly shallow baking dish (around 8”x8”x2”), to get the maximum crunchy topping.

Ingredients

3/4 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen)

4-6 slices old bread or leftover rolls or buns sliced horizontally into ½ -inch-thick pieces (enough bread to make 2 layers in an 8” x 8” x 2” baking dish)

2 cup milk (dry nonfat, 2%, whole, or half-and-half – however indulgent you feel)

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract (not juice)

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 large eggs

Butter – enough to spread on one side of each piece of bread (2-3 tablespoons)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Fit half the bread, buttered side up, into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle half the blueberries over the bread. Fit the rest of the bread, buttered side up, over the blueberries. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries over all.

Heat the milk and sugar just until steaming. Stir in vanilla and lemon extract.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, then gradually stir the warm milk into the bowl. Pour egg mixture over bread.

Bake, uncovered, 25-30 minutes, or until the top is beginning to brown and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Serve warm, cold, or reheated, with or without custard sauce or ice cream, or yoghurt.

An Ceann Àrd – Kinnaird Head

O chionn greis mhath sgrìobh mi an seo mu Thaigh-solais Rubha an Tairbeirt agus na “Lighthouse Stevensons” (https://www.seaboardgaidhlig.com/2015/04/04/2015-an-giblean-rubha-an-tairbeirt-apr-tarbat-ness/) agus am bliadhna fhèin mu Grace Darling agus Taigh-solais Longstone (https://www.seaboardgaidhlig.com/2023/08/30/2023-an-t-sultain-sept-grace-darling/). Chithear gu bheil mi gu math measail air taighean-solais!  Mar sin bidh mi a’ dol air adhart leis a’ chuspair le bhith a’ sgrìobhadh a-nis mu Thaigh-solais a’ Chinn Àird, ann am Baile nam Frisealach, far an robh mi a’ chiad turas san Ògmhios, agus ‘s e togalach fìor dhrùidhteach a th’ ann.

Tha an taigh-solais seo sònraichte ann an iomadh dòigh. An toiseach, ‘s e seo a’ chiad taigh-solais a thog Bòrd Thaighean-solais a’ Chinn a Tuath, ann an 1787, dìreach aon bhliadhna às dèidh a stèidheachaidh. Aig an àm sin chan e ach lanntair a bh’ ann air tùr seann chaisteil air a’ chreig– Caisteal a’ Chinn Àird às an t-siathamh linn deug. Ach ann an 1822-23 chaidh taigh-solais gu tur ùr a thogail, tron teis-meadhan a’ chaisteil, le prìomh-einnseanair a’ Bhùird, Robert Stevenson, is esan a’ chiad einnseanair-taigh-solais san teaghlach ainmeil sin. (Sin an dearbh Stevenson a thog taigh-solais a’ Bell Rock, agus a dhealbhaich Rubha an Tairbeirt.) Mas fhìor, bha Robert airson an caisteal a leagail roimhe, ach chuir a charaid Sir Walter Scott ìmpidh air am plan seo atharrachadh. Mar sin, ‘s e an aon taigh-solais san t-saoghal a th’ air a thogail tro chaisteal!

Faodar tadhal air an taigh-solais còmhla ri neach-iùil snog is eòlach às an taigh-tasgaidh ri thaobh, agus tha e tarraingeach faicinn mar a bha beatha an luchd-taigh-sholais – chan eil an togalach ga chleachdadh tuilleadh a-nis (tha solas ùr fèin-obrachail ann san tùr bheag ri thaobh o chionn 1991), agus mar sin tha na seòmraichean is an àrneis air am fàgail mar a bha iad. Sa bhun-ùrlar chì thu fhathast na tancaichean-ola mòra, agus na canaichean uaine anns an do ghiùlain iad am paireafain suas an staidhre fhada shnìomhanach – bha lampa-paireafain aca gus an d’ fhuair iad lampa-dealain ann an 1975. Air ùrlaran eile chì thu an stòbha, an seann telebhisein, an leabaidh chumhang, leabhraichean is geamaichean, cairtean is uidheam an obrach, gus am bi thu fìor àrd, faisg air an t-solas fhèin leis an uidheam-uaireadair is an acfhainn ceangailte ris – a h-uile rud ag obrachadh fhathast, blàthachadh mìorbhaileach de ghlainne is chopar. Faodaidh tu fiù ‘s feuchainn ri bun an lampa trom a thionndadh le làmhrachan mòr. (Spòrs gu leòr do chloinn!) Tha ullag làidir le slabhraidhean fada, cuibhlichean-ullaig is cuideaman a’ crochadh bhon uidheam-uaireadair dìreach sìos tro mheadhan na staidhre cearcallaich domhain gu bun-ùrlar an taighe-sholais.

Bhon ùrlar as àirde sin faodaidh tu dol a-mach dhan ùrlar-amhairc timcheall air an tùr, le rèile làidir.  Tha deagh shealladh ri fhaighinn bhon nead àrd sin, thairis air Baile nam Frisealach fhèin, ach cuideachd fada a-mach air a’ chuan. B’ urrainn dhuinn bataichean-iasgaich, longan cuairte-mara agus soithichean-bhogsaichean-luchd fhaicinn – ‘s e latha brèagha soilleir a bha againn. Agus tha fios agad gum bi na saoithichean sin toilichte cuideachd solas a’ Chinn Àird fhaicinn air an oidhche bho mhòran mhìltean a-mach air a’ mhuir.

Tha Taigh-tasgaidh nan Taighean-solais Albannach dìreach dà mhionaid air falbh, agus tha sin tarraingeach cuideachd (ach dùinte sa gheamhradh seo) – ach sgrìobhaidh mi ma dheidhinn-sa turas eile! San eadar-àm faodaidh mi tadhal air Taigh-solais a’ Chinn Àird fhèin a mholadh – fosgailte Diciadain gu Didòmhnaich sa gheamhradh airson tursan. Barrachd fiosrachaidh an seo: https://www.facebook.com/LighthouseMus/  agus https://lighthousemuseum.org.uk/kinnaird-head-lighthouse/

Kinnaird Head

A good while ago I wrote here about Tarbat Ness Lighthouse and the “Lighthouse Stevensens” (April 2015), and more recently (Sept 2023) about Grace Darling and the Longstone Lighthouse. You can see I’m fond of lighthouses! So now I’m continuing with the theme and writing about the Kinnaird Head Lighthouse in Fraserburgh, which I visited for the first time in June – and it’s an impressive building.

This lighthouse is special in various ways. To start with, it’s the first lighthouse built by the Northern Lighthouse Board, in 1787, just one year after its establishment. At that time it was only a lantern built on a tower on an old castle on the cliff – Kinnaird Castle from the 16th century. But in 1822-23 a completely new lighthouse was built, right through the middle of the castle, by the Board’s Chief Engineer, Robert Stevenson, the first lighthouse-engineer of the famous dynasty. (That’s the same Stevenson who built the Bell Rock Lighthouse, and who designed our own Tarbat Ness.) Robert allegedly wanted to demolish the castle first, but was persuaded to change his plans by his friend Sir Walter Scott. Thus it became the only lighthouse in the world to be built right through a castle!

You can visit the lighthouse on a tour led by a friendly and knowledgeable guide from the neighbouring museum, and it’s fascinating to see the keepers’ way of life in the old days of manned lighthouses. The lighthouse is no longer in use (in 1991 a new automatic light was installed on a smaller tower close by), so the rooms and furniture have been been left as they were. On the ground floor you can see the big oil-tanks and the green cans they used to carry paraffin up the long winding staircase – it was a paraffin lamp they had until an electric one was installed in 1975. On other floors you can see the stove, the old TV, the narrow bed, books, games, and charts and equipment for their work, until you get up really high, beside the light itself with its clockwork and associated machinery – everything still in working order, a marvellous flowering of glass and copper. You can even try to turn the heavy lamp-base with a big handle. (Fun for any kids!) There’s a hefty pulley with long chains, wheels and weights hanging from the clockwork machine straight down through the middle of the deep circular stairwell to the ground floor of the lighthouse.

From the top floor you can go out onto the viewing platform round the tower with its stout railing. There’s a great view from that high nest, over Fraserburgh itself but also far out on the ocean. We could see fishing boats, cruise liners and container ships – it was a beautiful clear day. And you know too that these vessels will also be glad to see the Kinnaird Head light during the night from many miles out to sea.

The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses is also just two minutes away, and that’s fascinating too (but closed this winter) – but I’ll write about that another time. Meanwhile I can highly recommend a visit to the Kinnaird Head Lighthouse itself, open for tours Wed – Sun in winter. More information here: https://www.facebook.com/LighthouseMus/  agus https://lighthousemuseum.org.uk/kinnaird-head-lighthouse/

Am Foghar

Nuair a tha mi a’ sgrìobhadh seo, tha am foghar dìreach air tighinn, leis na h-àireamhan a’ dol sios air an teas-mheidh is air na mapaichean-sìde air an tbh. Bha làithean brèagha grianach againn fhathast san t-Sultain, ach faodaidh sinn beannachd fhàgail aig tuinn-theasa an t-samhraidh. Ach chan eil mi toilichte idir bathar Oidhche Shamhna fhaicinn sna bùithtean o chionn toiseach na Sultaine, gun guth air stuth na Nollaige a tha a’ tòiseachadh ri nochdadh mar-thà. Bidh cuibhle nan ràithean a’ tionndadh luath gu leor mar-thà!

Tha mòran daoine ann a-nis air a bheil fadachd gus an till an t-Earrach, no àm na Nollaige co-dhiù, ach ‘s toil leamsa am foghar agus tha am blas sònraichte den àm seo den bhliadhna a’ còrdadh rium gu mòr. Ged a tha na cuaranan air ais sa phreas, bidh na brògan-coiseachd a’ tighinn a-mach. Tha e math a bhith taobh a-muigh air an dùthaich no air an traigh, no a’ dràibheadh air feadh na  Gàidhealtachd a-rithist gun dragh a bhith oirnn a thaobh cus luchd-turais no trafaig air an t-slighe no anns na h-àiteachean as fheàrr leinn.

‘S e dathan nan craobhan a dh’ainmicheadh a’ mhòr-chuid mar phrìomh chomharra an Fhoghair, agus tha an t-atharrachadh sin air tòiseachadh mar-thà, beag air bheag. Gus an tig deireadh na Dàmhair agus a-steach dhan t-Samhain, ‘s urrainn dhuinn coiseachd tro dhuilleagan ruadh òir a tha air tuiteam – faireachdainn is fuaim shònraichte a chòrdas ri gu leòr dhinn.

Tha fios aig na h-eòin is na beathaichean cuideachd gu bheil na ràithean ag atharrachadh, agus chì sinn geòidh agus ealachan air an sgèìth, cuid a’ tighinn, cuid a’ falbh. Seo cuideachd àm dàmhair nam fiadh – sin freumh ainm a’ mhìosa. Beiridh na ròin an cuileanan bàna, agus bidh na bradan ri cladh shuas nan grunndan-cladha às dèidh an strì ghaisgich air an t-slighe air ais bhon Chuan Siar.

Bidh buain ann do dhaoine is do bheathaichean: measan liosa, an gràn mu dheireadh ‘s am buntàta dhuinne, agus dearcan is cnòthan do dh’eòin, do fheòragan ‘s do luchan. Agus bidh an storas anns na biathadairean-eun againn a’ dol sìos fada nas luaithe!

Faodaidh na h-oidhcheannan a bhith a’ fàs nas fhaide, ach nuair a tha ùine againn ‘s an t-sìde math, tha e dìreach àlainn a bhith a-muigh fo ghrian an fhoghair, a’ cur sùim ann an dathan nan craobhan ‘s nan dearcan ‘s nam flùraichean fadalach, agus a’ coimhead air na h-eòin sna speuran ‘s na tuathanaich trang sna h-achaidhean. Cha bu chòir dhuinn idir a bhith a’ gearan mun fhoghar – gabhamaid dìreach tlachd air!

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Autumn

At the time of writing autumn has just arrived, with the numbers going down on the thermometer and the TV weather charts. We’ve still had some fine sunny days in September, but we can say goodbye to the heatwaves of the summer. But I’m not at all delighted by the sight of Halloween items in the shops since the start of September, let alone the Christmas goods that are now appearing. The wheel of the seasons turns fast enough as it is!

There are plenty of people who now can’t wait till spring comes back, or at least Christmas, but I like the autumn, and really enjoy the special flavour of this time of year. Although the sandals are going back in the cupboard, the walking shoes are coming out. It’s great to be outside in the country or on the shore, or driving around the Highlands without having to worry about too many tourists or too much traffic on the roads or in our favourite places.

The colour of the trees is what most people would mention as the main sign of autumn, and that change has already begun, little by little. By the end of October and into November, we’ll be able to walk through the red gold of fallen leaves – a feeling and a sound that plenty of us enjoy.

The birds and the animals also know that the seasons are changing, and we can see the skeins of geese and swans on the wing, some arriving, some leaving.  This is also the time of the rutting of the stags – that’s the origin of An Dàmhair, the Gaelic name for October – “dàmhair” means rutting. The seals are giving birth to their white seal-pups, and the salmon up in their spawning grounds are laying their eggs, after their heroic struggle all the way back from the Atlantic.

There’s harvest too for humans and animals: orchard fruits and the last of the grain crops and the taties for us, and berries and nuts for the birds, the squirrels and the mice. And our stocks in the bird-feeders are going down much faster!

The nights may be getting longer, but if we have time and the weather’s good, it’s just lovely to be outside in the autumn sun, appreciating the colours of the trees, the berries and the late flowers, watching the birds in the sky and the farmers busy in the fields. We shouldn’t be complaining about autumn at all – let’s just enjoy it!

Bana-ghaisgeach nan cuantan, Grace Darling

CC

O chionn 185 bliadhna air an 7 latha den t-Sultain shàbhail Grace Darling agus a h-athair naoinear às an long-bhriste HMS Forfarshire. Mar bhana-ghaisgeach na mara tha e iomchaidh gum bi cuimhne againn oirre nar coimhearsnachd chladaich air an ceann-là seo.

Rugadh Grace ann an 1815 ann an Northumberland, mar nighean neach-taigh-sholais, agus ann an 1838 bha Grace a’ fuireach còmla ris agus a màthair anns an taigh-solais Eilean Longstone, air fear de na h-Eileanan Farne. Bha Grace 22 aig an àm sin agus a’ cuideachadh le obair an taighe agus an taigh-sholais, nam measg le cumail faire.

Sna h-uairean tràtha den 7 den t-Sultain, a bha gu sònraichte stoirmeil, chunnaic Grace briseadh-luing eagalach bho uinneag an t-seòmair-chadail aice – bhuail bàta-smùide eilean ìosal creagach, Big Harcar Rock, mu mhìle air falbh, agus bhris na dhà leth. Thachair sin mu 4 uairean sa mhadainn. Ruith i dhan phrosbaig feuch am faiceadh i duine beò sam bith, ach bha e fathast ro dhorcha, ach an ceann ùine dh’aithnich iad daoine air a chreig.  Cho-dhùin Mgr Darling agus Grace gun iomraicheadh iad an sin, a dh’aindeoin staid uabhasach na sìde ‘s na mara, gus feuchainn ri na truaghanan a shàbhaladh. Bha fios aca gum biodh sin na bu luaithe na feitheamh air a’ bhàta-teasairginn à Seahouses (e fhèin bàta-ràmh), nach toisicheadh idir, ‘s dòcha, leis an t-sìde ‘s an astar na bu mhotha.

Longstone Lighthouse, Michael Spiller from Bradford, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Às dèidh saothrach anabarraich, chaidh aca air an copal aca a stiùreadh dhan àite, far an deach Mgr Darling suas air a’ chreig a’ fàgail Grace na h-aonar a’ cumail am bàta faisg air làimh sa mhuir fhiadhaich ‘s san stoirm fheargach. Lorg iad naoinear luchd-teasairginn, cus rim toirt dhan taigh-sholais ann an aon bhaidse. Dh’iomair iad a’ chiad fheadhainn air ais – boireannach, fear air a ghoirteachadh, agus triùir den chriutha, agus an uair sin dh’iomair Mgr Darling agus an criutha air ais airson chàich. Dh’fhuirich Grace san taigh-sholais gus coimheadh às dèidh an fhir lèonta agus a’ bhoireannaich, a chaill dithis cloinne san tubaist. Ro 9 uair sa mhadainn bha a h-uile naoinear sàbhailte ann an Longstone.

Bha an HMS Forfarshire air an t-slighe bho Hull gu Dùn Dèagh le 62 daoine air bòrd. Bha na goileadairean air am fàilneachadh agus mar sin bha an t-einnsean gun fheum, agus cha robh aig a’ chaiptean ach nàdar de sheòl ri chleachdadh san stoirm. Shaoil e am mearachd gur e taigh-solais Inner Farne a bh’ anns an Longstone agus dhrioft am bàta-smùide air an eilean chreagach neo-fhaicsinneach. Bhrìs an long na dà leth, agus ron ghlasadh an latha cha mhòr nach robh e air a dhol fodha.  Chaidh aig naoinear eile air teicheadh anns a’ bhata-teasairginn aig an long fhèin agus chaidh an sàbhaladh le long eile san dol seachad. Chaidh na cuirp-chloinne a lorg cuideachd leis a’ bhàta-teasairginn à Seahouses (is bràthair Grace air aon de na ràimh). B’ feudar dhan bhàta sin cuideachd feitheamh fad 3 làithean aig taigh-solais Longstone air sgàth na sìde.

Grace le ràmh / Grace with an oar

Nuair a nochd an naidheachd, chaidh Grace na bana-ghaisgeach chliùiteach air feadh na dùthcha. Fhuair i urraman, duaisean (nam measg £50 bho Bhanrìgh Bhictoria!), agus fiù ‘s tairgsean-pòsaidh. Chaidh bàrdachd is òrain a sgrìobhadh mu a deidhinn agus chaidh iomadh portraid a pheantadh. Gu mi-fhortamach ge-tà, cha robh mòran ùine air fhagail dhi gus tlachd a ghabhail na cliù (ma ghabh idir) – chaochail i leis a’ chaitheamh dìreach 4 bliadhna às dèidh sin. Thàinig na ceudan dhan tiodhlacadh ann am Bamburgh, far a bheil carragh-chuimhne brèagha san chladh aig eaglais eachdraidheil Naomh Aodhan, agus tha an iomhaigh-chloiche shnaithte àlainn a bha air an tuama aice air a gleidheadh am broinn na h-eaglais. Bha cothrom agam tadhal orra nuair a bha mi ann an Northumberland an-uiridh.  Tha taigh-tasgaidh RNLI Grace Darling ann am Bamburgh cuideachd. https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/museums/grace-darling-in-10-objects

Tha bana-ghaisgeach iomraidh againne ann am Machair Rois cuideachd – Oighrig an Dà Raimh; cuimhnichean, còmhla ri dìleab shònraichte Grace, gun do chluich na boireannaich cuideachd riamh am pàirt ann am dràma nan cuantan.

Eaglais an Naoimh Aodhan / St Aidan’s Church

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Maritime heroine, Grace Darling

Jug in Bamburgh Castle

On 7  September it will be 185 years since Grace Darling and her father saved the lives of nine souls from the wrecked HMS Forfarshire. As a maritime heroine, it’s fitting for our coastal community to remember her on this anniversary.

Grace was born in 1815 in Northumberland, daughter of a lighthouse-keeper, and in 1899 Grace and her mother were living with him in Longstone Island lighthouse, one on of the Farne Islands. Grace was 22 then, and helping with household and lighthouse duties, including taking turns at watch.

In the exceptionally stormy night to 7 September Grace saw from her bedroom window a terrible wreck happening – a steamship hit a low rocky island, Big Harcar Rock, about a mile away, and broke in two. This happened about 4am. She ran to the lighthouse telescope to see if she could spot survivors but it was still too dark, but eventually they could make out some people on the rock. Mr Darling and Grace decided to row there, despite the dreadful conditions, and try to rescue them – they knew that would be quicker than waiting for the lifeboat (also a rowing boat) from more distant Seahouses, which might not even have launched due to the weather conditions and distance.

With immense effort, the two of them managed to get their coble to the scene, Grace on her own holding the boat steady in the raging waters and storm while her father went onto the rock. They discovered nine survivors, too many for one trip back to the lighthouse. They brought back the first batch, a woman, an injured man, and three crewmen to Longstone, and then Mr Darling and the crewmen rowed back to get the remaining survivors while Grace and her mother tended the injured man and the woman, whose two children had been lost. By 9am all nine were safely at the lighthouse.

The ship was the HMS Forfarshire, en route from Hull to Dundee with 62 people on board. The ship’s boilers had failed, so the engine was useless,  and the captain only had a makeshift sail to use in the storm. He mistook the Longstone light for the Inner Farne one, and drifted onto the unseen rocky island. The ship broke in two, and by morning was almost completely sunk.  Nine other people had managed to board the ship’s lifeboat and were later picked up by a passing ship – all others were lost. The two drowned children’s bodies were also picked up later by the Seahouses lifeboat (with Grace’s brother on one of the oars). That lifeboat also had to shelter at the lighthouse for 3 days because of the weather.

Once the news broke, Grace was celebrated as a heroine throughout the land. She received honours, rewards (including £50 from Queen Victoria!), and even proposals of marriage.  Poems and songs were written about her and her portrait was freqently painted. Sadly, however, she didn’t live long to enjoy the admiration (if indeed she did) – she died of tuberculosis only four years later. Crowds turned out for her funeral in Bamburgh, where she has an ornate monument in the churchyard of historic St  Aidan’s Church, and the beautiful recumbent carving from her tomb is now preserved inside the church. I was able to visit them while in Northumberland last year.  There is also a RNLI Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh : https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/museums/grace-darling-in-10-objects

On the Seaboard we also have our rowing heroine – Effie of the Two Oars; a reminder, along with Grace’s remarkable legacy, that women too have always played their part in the drama of the seas.

by Charles Achille D’Hardviller, Dallas Museum

“Cobbler” Shùbhan-làir agus Rùbraib / Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

(Taing dhan Naidheachd Againne, iris den Chomunn Ghàidhealach Ameireaganach airson cead an reasabaidh seo a chleachdadh, agus gu h-àraidh do Janice Chan airson a cho-roinneadh!)


Chan eil rud sam bith nas fheàrr na blas sùbhan-làir agus rùbraib le chèile. Gabh tlachd air seo nuair a tha e caran blàth, le reòiteag!


Grìtheidean airson an lìonaidh-mheasan


6 cupan rùbraib, air a ghearradh ann am pìosan garbh
3 cupan sùbhan-làir, slisnichte
1 1/4 cupan siùcair
3 spàintean-bhùird min-fhlùir
1 1/2 spàintean-tì caineil
1 1/2 spàintean-tì rùsg orainseir, sgrìobte gu mìn


Grìtheidean airson aʼ mhullaich


1 1/3 cupan min-fhlùir
3 spàintean-bhùird min-choirce
3 spàintean-bhùird siùcair
1 1/2 spàintean-tì pùdair-fuine
1 1/2 spàintean-tì sòda-fuine
1/4 spàin-tì salainn
3 spàinteain-bhùird ime, fionnaraichte
1 chupa bainne (no blàthach)


Stiùiridhean
1. Teasaich an àmhainn gu 400°F.
2. Ann am bobhla mòr, measgaich le chèile na grìtheidean tioram airson aʼ mheasgachadh de mheasan (siùcar, min-fhlùir, caineal). Cuir an rùbrab, na sùbhan-làir agus an rùsg orainseir anns aʼ bhobhla agus cuir mun cuairt iad gu socair gus am bi na measan còmhdaichte gu math. Sgaoil am measgachadh gu cunbhalach air soitheach-fuine meud 13 òirlich x 9 òirlich. Bruich seo ann an àmhainn aig 400°F fad 10 mionaidean. Cuir seo an dàrna taobh.
3. Ann am bobhla mòr, measgaich le chèile grìtheidean airson aʼ mhullaich thioraim (min-fhlùir, min-choirce, siùcar, pùdar-fuine, sòda-fuine agus salann). Cleachd do
chorragan no dà sgian gus an t‑ìm a mheasgachadh a‑steach gus am bi e coltach ri peasairean beaga.
4. Cuir am bainne ris (no am blàthach) agus cuir mun cuairt e gus am bi an taois maoth. Leag le spàintean-bhùird den taois tuiteam air aʼ mheasgachadh de mheasan teth.
Bruich seo ann an àmhainn aig 400°F fad 25 mionaidean no gus an èirich e agus tha e donn-òir.
5. Leig leis fuarachadh. Bidh na measan nas tighe nuair a tha e nas fhionnaire.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

(Thanks to Janice Chan and An Naidheachd Againne, magazine of the An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach, for permission to use this.)

Thereʼs nothing better than the taste of strawberries and rhubarb together. Enjoy this when itʼs a bit warm, with ice cream!

Ingredients for Filling


6 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb
3 cups sliced strawberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp orange zest


Ingredients for Topping


1 1/3 cup flour3 tbsp rolled oats
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp chilled butter
1 cup milk (or buttermilk)


Method
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine dry filling ingredients (sugar, flour, cinnamon). Add the rhubarb, strawberries and orange zest, and toss well. Spread the mixture in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish and bake in a 400°F (c. 200°C) oven for 10 minutes and then put aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using fingers or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas.
4. Stir in the milk or buttermilk with a fork just until a soft dough forms. Drop by
tablespoons on top of the hot fruit filling. Bake in a 400°F (c. 200°C) oven for 25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and has risen.
5. Allow to cool before serving. The filling will firm up when cool.

Cup measurements: If you don’t have one of these bunches of scoops for measuring in American cups, just use any container that holds 250 ml liquid instead (= 1 cup), for wet and dry ingredients. There’s also a conversion tool here: https://www.thecalculatorsite.com/cooking/cups-ml.php



Gealach-lus

Tha aon lus, gu ìre mhòr fiadhain, as toil leam gu sònraichte faicinn sa ghàrradh aig an àm seo den bhliadhna, le a fhlùraichean purpaidh cùbhraidh ‘s a dhuilleagan mòra biorach – an gealach-lus, no “honesty” sa Bheurla. Chanadh cuid luibheanach ris, ach dhomsa ‘s e lus brèagha a th’ ann, a bheir dath dhan ghàrradh tràth sa bhliadhna, agus ùidh a bharrachd as t-fhoghar ‘s sa gheamhradh leis na buinn-airgid àlainn air.

‘S ann à ceann a deas na Roinn Eòrpa a tha e bho thùs, agus is cinnteach gun tàinig e do Bhreatainn ro dheireadh an 16mh linn, an toiseach mar fhlùr-gàrraidh, ach san eadar-àm tha e ri fhaicinn air feadh na dùthcha far a bheil an aimsir measarra – nochdaidh e ann am faichean, ri taobh an rathaid, agus anns na gàrraidhean againn. Ach na gabh dragh mura h-eil thu ga iarraidh an sin – tha e glè fhurasta an lus còmla ris a fhreumhan a tharraing a-mach. Cha dèan mise sin ach nuair a bhios cus ann, no nuair a bhios e a’ fàs san àite cheàrr, is mi cho measail air.

Nuair a tha thu a’ coimhead air, cha bhiodh tu a’ saoilsinn gur ann dhan teaghlach brassica a bhuineas e, còmhla ri càl, snèap, raip no mustard, ach seall gu dlùth agus tha na fluraichean den aon chruth. A rèir coltais faodaidh tu seòrsa mustaird a dhèanamh às na sìl, agus na duilleagan òga (mus nochd na fluraichean) a chleachdadh ann an sailead.

Ach ‘s ann airson rèiteachadh fhlùraichean a cleachdar iad mar as trice. Fhad’s a tha na flùraichean air an lus fhathast chì thu na siliques a’ fàs – is iad seo seòrsa sligich cruinne còmhnaird anns a bheil meamran leis na sìl. As t-earrach tha iad fhathast beag agus an aon dath ris na duilleagan agus mar sin cha bhi thu cho mothachail orra, ach tha na sìl rim faicinn mar-thà tron t-sligeach thrìd-dhealrach – ‘s ann air an adhbhar sin (mas fhìor) a fhuair an lus an t-ainm honesty, fìrinnteachd, is e a sealltainn a shìl gu firinneach. As t-fhoghar, nuair a tha na sligeachan tioram is na sìl deiseil ri sgaoileadh, thuitidh am plaosg a-muigh air falbh agus às a dhèidh na sìl bhon mheamran, agus chan eil ach am meamran fhèin air fhàgail, geal-airgid agus cho tana ri pàipear-sìoda. Tha iadsan gu h-iongantach buan, agus gu tric tha cuid air fhàgail gus an earrach. Dìreach ann an gruaim a’ gheamhraidh tha iad feumail is brèagha mar sgeadachadh.

‘S e lunaria annua a th’ air an lus sa Laideann, bho luna, gealach, agus chì thu carson. Am measg nan ainmean Beurla tha cuideachd moonpennies, agus siniomradh air a’ choltas eile a th’ orra – ri buinn-airgid. Cluinnidh tu silver dollars orra cuideachd. Mar sin, le buaidh mhathasach na gealaich, geall soirbheachaidh nam bonn-airgid, agus a chliù firinnteachd, cò air talamh nach iarradh na lusan àlainn seo na ghàrradh? ‘S dòcha gum bi sibhse a’ coimhead orra le sùilean ùra a-nis. Tha mi an dòchas gum bi, co-dhiù!

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Honesty

There’s one plant, more or less wild, which I particularly like to see in the garden at this time of year, with its fragrant purple flowers and its large pointed leaves – honesty (“moon-plant” in Gaelic). Some would call it a weed, but to me it’s a lovely plant which brings colour to the garden early in the year, and adds interest in autumn and winter with its beautiful silver “coins”.

It actually comes from southern Europe but has been in Britain since at least the end of the 16th century, first as a garden flower, and in the meantime all over the countryside, wherever the climate is moderate – it shows up in meadows, at the roadside and in our gardens. But don’t worry if you don’t want it there – it’s very easy to pull out, roots and all. Being so fond of it myself, I would only be doing that where there was too much of it, or it was in the wrong place.

When you look at it you wouldn’t automatically think that it’s in the brassica family, along with cabbage, turnip, rape or mustard, but look more closely at the flowers and you’ll see they’re the same form. Apparently you can make a kind of mustard out of the seeds, and use the young leaves (before the flowers come) in salad.

But it’s for flower arrangements that they’re most often used. While the flowers are still on the plant, you see the siliques appearing – they’re a kind of round, flat casing covering a membrane with the seeds attached inside it. In spring they’re still small and the same colour as the leaves, so you don’t notice them, but the seeds are already visible through the translucent casing – that’s allegedly the reason they’re called honesty, as they display their seeds so “truthfully”. In the autumn, when the siliques are dry and the seeds are ripe for spreading, the outer pod falls off, followed by the seeds dropping from the membrane, leaving the membrane itself in the round silique “frame”, silver-white and as thin as tissue-paper. These are amazingly long-lasting, and many often hang on until the spring. They’re especially useful and attractive as decoration in the gloom of winter.

The Latin name is lunaria annua, from luna, the moon, and you can see why. Among the many English names the term “moonpennies” also refers to another similarity – to silver coins.  You also hear the name “silver dollars”.  So, with the benign influence of the moon, the promise of prosperity of the coins, and the reputation for truthfulness, who wouldn’t want these beautiful plants in their garden? Maybe you’ll look at them with fresh eyes now – I hope so, anyway!

Brora Village Trail

A break from the bilingual articles this month, as this would be far too long if I did in in Gaelic too. After last month’s front page about a Seaboard lad becoming manager of Brora Rangers, and the many Seaboard connections to the team, I thought a recent guided walk of Brora that I went on might be of interest, and maybe something for visitors to do themselves while up there for a match.

Brora Station

The walk was led by Nick Lindsay, chair of the Clynelish Heritage Society. The station was our first point as it was very significant in Brora’s history, particularly for freight transport. Brora was an early industrial centre in the Highlands, its geology providing not just brick-clay and good Clynelish sandstone, but coal too, and the railway, reaching Brora in 1871, enabled much greater efficiency in transport than the small harbour at the mouth of the river.  The same applied to Brora’s other products, especially tweed (from the woollen mill after 1901), bricks, salmon, and whisky. The bottom pictures show the original goods shed. The railway also brought an influx of visitors eager to enjoy gentlemanly pursuits like hunting and fishing, or just for the fresh air, sea and sand, and all this led to something of a boom for Brora, and swift expansion, very much in line with the policies of the Sutherland Estate (whose signature “S” is on lots of buildings). Electricity also reached Brora first in the Highlands , leading to the name “Electric City”.

Coal

Coal has been a constant presence in Brora for centuries, first mentioned in 1529, and was initially collected from the shore and the river, then mined there. It’s Jurassic coal and much younger than the other carboniferous coal mined in Britain. It’s not as reliable in quality and sparks a lot, which made it cheaper, and it was perfect for fuelling the burgeoning industries once it was mined more deeply, first by the sea, then further inshore. Working conditions were very bad in the earlier days, with little regard for worker safety, and many accidents.

Codd bottle

Nowadays we associate Brora with the Clynelish distillery, but Brora was famous for another kind of drink too – aerated water, or lemonade, produced from 1905 in a former brewery by the harbour (itself from 1817, built by Lady Stafford to try to wean the workers off whisky onto beer). This is a rare complete example of a Codd bottle, invented in the 1870s, whereby a marble kept the seal tight and the gas in. They were often broken by children to get the marbles, so this is a great find from Brora shore!

Salmon fishing

We passed the spot by the mouth of the River Brora where salmon-netting was once a busy and lucrative trade, as around the Seaboard too.

Harbour

Brora Harbour is at the mouth of river separated from the main stream by a peninsula, formerly an island. It was used for exporting coal, bricks, salt, fish etc until the railway came – wooden tracks for horse-drawn wagons were built through the town to it. But it was also a fishing port, though not on the scale of the larger, deeper harbours along the coast. It tended to silt up, so ultimately an opening was made through the back wall to the river to help keep it clear (see bottom picture).

Fishertown

Lower Brora was the fishertown, with the traditional low cottages housing very large families. This was definitely a Gaelic-speaking part of town, unlike the more gentrified (or aspiring) upper areas, which had more incomers. The harbour-master’s house dated 1775 is also still there – compete with working barometer in the wall.

Sadly, from my heritage-loving point of view , the tarry old fishermen’s sheds have almost all been replaced by variations on beach huts, as so often elswhere along our coasts. We really need to preseve the ones that are left – you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone! The ice-house (a relic of the herring boom, as well as the salmon) is at least still there – though allegedly also for sale…

Salt, Listening station

It’s also by the shore that Nick tells us about Brora’s other traditional industry – salt-panning, first recorded in 1598. This was big business over the centuries, as it was the main way to preserve food, especially meat and fish. The pans were of course fuelled by Brora coal. Remains of one of them can still (just) be seen a little up the coast, and the Heritage Centre also holds salt-making sessions again using traditional methods.

There’s something else by the shore, but from a much more modern era – this building was a World War II and Cold War government listening station from 1939 till 1986. The workers were brought in from down south and sworn to secrecy, though some stayed on and married ,locally – but never shared the secrets! It’s now more mundanely part of the Seabreezes Carvan park.

War memorial

The war memorial in the centre of Brora is also worth a closer look. Built of Clynelish sandstone, i’s over 50 feet high and also serves as the clock-tower. It was built by public subscription in 1922 to commemorate the fallen of the Great War, and was opened by a Mrs Matheson who tragically lost a daughter, two sons and a son-in-law in the war. The daughter’s name is the first on the plaque. The names are otherwise listed alphabetically, not by rank, so another unusual feature. Later war dead have also been commemorated, from WWII and the Gulf War. Note the fossil too – lots of these around in walls.

Fisherman’s Hall, St Columba

Brora’s well-served with religious buildings, but I’ll just mention two of my favourites – Fisherman’s Hall, built in 1892 in white-painted brick, serving the generally very God-fearing fishing community. There’s a Temperance Hall from the same era nearby too – now a community hall.  . My other favourite is the “tin tabernacle” dated 1909, still housing the Scottish Episcopal Church of St Columba. One of the original flatpack corrugated-iron and wood churches, they came up to the Highlands of course by railway from manufacturers in Glasgow and elsewhere.This one actually served the Episcopal community in Tain from 1880, until they could afford to build the current stone church (St Andrew’s).

There’s lots more history and stories I could mention – the brickworks beside the coalmine, Hunter’s woollen mill(s), the distilleries, and lots of fascinating tales Nick told us about Olympic divers, mail-coach mishaps, emigration sagas, Royal visits etc etc, but for that you’ll need to get on another of his walks – highly recommended! There’s also a very good illustrated booklet for the self-guided Brora Village Trail, available from the Heritage Centre. Follow them on Facebook too: https://www.facebook.com/clyneheritage

Sgrìobh mi an seo mar-thà mu Bheinn Uais agus Chnoc Fhaoighris, agus an turas seo tha mi airson sùil a thoirt air cnoc ionadail eile as toil leam, Cnoc Fearralaidh. ‘S e feart-tìre comharraichte a th’ ann a’ coimhead bho gach taobh, ach gu sònraichte bhon rathad eadar Inbhir Pheofharain agus Srath Pheofhair, agus ‘s e cuairt ghoirid agus cuimseach furasda a th’ ann bhon àite-parcaidh bheag aige fhèin (ri ruigsinn bho thaobh Loch Ùsaidh). Tha cuairtean nas fhada ‘s nas dùbhlanaiche ann cuideachd, bho Srath Pheofhair no slighe Cnuic Mhòir ‘s Druim a’ Chait – molaidhean air www.walkhighlands.co.uk .

‘S e druim fada, cas a th’ ann, sìnte bhon ear chun an iar, mu 200m a dh’àirde, le seallaidhean soilleir  anns gach àird – beanntan Srath Chonain, Beinn Uais, Linne Chrombaidh is Cnoc Neig, gu Creag Phàdraig taobh Inbhir Nis agus deas thairis air Loch Ùsaidh gu Moreibh is chun a’ Mhonaidh Ruaidh. Chithear Inbhir Pheofharain chun an ear agus Caisteal Leòid is Srath Pheofhair chun an iar. A bharrachd air a bhith fradharcach, bha cudromachd ro-innleachdail aige sna linntean a dh’fhalbh, oir tha làrach dùin mhòir ghlainnaichte bho Linn an Iarainn air a mhullach chòmhnard. Chìtheadh na naimhdean tighinn gun teagamh sam bith, agus bhiodh e doirbh dhaibh ionnsaigh a thoirt air an dùn ri bruthach is e cho cas air cha mhòr gach taobh.

Tha e coltach gun tàinig an t-ainm Cnoc Fearralaidh (no Farralaidh no Fearghalaidh) bho far-eileach, “àite àrd nan clachan”, a’ dèanamh iomradh air an dùn.

Tharraing an dùn arc-eòlaichean thar nan linntean, is e an innleadair John Williams am fear a bu tràithe dhiubh sna 1770an. Tha na trì truinnsichean domhainn aige rim faicinn fhathast a’ dol thairis air làrach an dùin, tro na gàrraidhean, mar a chithear san adhar-dhealbh aig Andy Hickie,  leasaichte le photogrammetry gus na feartan a shealladh gu soilleir. (Faic an obair shònraichte aige an seo: https://www.facebook.com/people/Andys-Aerial-Archaeology-Photogrammetry-Site/100068170431509 )  Sgrìobh Williams mu fheartan nach eil rim faicinn tuilleadh, m.e. gun robh pàirt den ghàrradh mu 7m a dh’àirde bhon fho-chreag. An-diugh fhèin chithear an dealbh-iomaill chreagach gu furasda, is na gàrraidhean mu 4.5m air leud mar chuibheas.

Tha beachdan eadar-dhealaichte ann mu ghlainneachadh, a chithear ann an iomadh dùn-chnuic Albannach, a tha air abhrachadh nuair a leaghas eileamaidean anns na clachan, uaireannan le coltas glainne, agus mar sin ceanglaidh iad ri chèile.  Bhiodh fiodh air a chleachdadh gu farsaing san dùn, mar sin bidh cuid a’ creidsinn gur e tubaist no ionnsaigh is losgadh le naimhdean as coireach, ach leis gu bheil feum ann air teas uabhasach àrd agus leantainneach, ‘s dòcha cuideachd gur ann a dh’aon ghnothaich a rinneadh e gus an gàrradh a neartachadh – chan eil cinnt ann.  Ach chì thu iomadh clach fhathast le fianais glainneachaidh. (Faic: https://brigantesnation.com/how-to-vitrify-a-fort .)

Tha sgeulachdan gu leòr ann cuideachd mun chnoc, nam measg tè mu bhàs Fhinn MhicCumhail,  an seann ghaisgeach Ceilteach, tro fheall, air a h-innse le Hugh Miller is eile. Agus dh’fhàisnich Coinneach Odhar, Fiosaiche Bhrathainn (is a’ chlach dhraoidheil aige ann an Loch Ùsaidh), gun èireadh uisge an loch às an tobar air mullach a’ chnuic agus gun tuilicheadh e Srath Pheofhair – ma thuiteas Clach an Iolaire an treas turas.

Ach ma bhios tu air a’ chnoc dìreach airson cuairt agus nan seallaidhean àlainn, tha tuilleach ‘s gu leòr ann a thoilicheas an t-sùil, le flùraichean fiadhaich, seann ghiuthais-Albannach, agus tòrr eun, beag is mòr, nam measg na clamhanan-gobhlach à stèisean-beathachaidh Thollaidh faisg air làimh. Bha e tlachdmhor san t-sneachd cuideachd nuair a bha mi ann sa gheamhradh. Uairbha fiù ‘s chalet fiodha sgeadachail ann airson biadh beag a reic as t-samhradh dhan luchd-tadhail bhon spa, c. 1910 – 1960an – thoiribh picnic leibh fhèin a-nis! Dealbh dheth an seo: https://www.ambaile.org.uk/asset/33064/1/EN33064-the-chalet-knockfarrel-strathpeffer.htm/

Carson nach fheuch sibh e, mura robh sibh ann fhathast?

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Knockfarrel (centre) seen from the Black Isle

I’ve written here in the past about Ben Wyvis and Fyrish, and this month I thought I’d look at another of my favourite local hills, Knockfarrel. It’s a very striking feature in the landscape seen from any angle , especially on the way from Dingwall to Strathpeffer, and is a short, fairly easy walk from its own wee carpark (approach from Loch Ussie), or longer, more challenging ones from Strathpeffer or via Cnoc Mòr and the Cat’s Back.  Have a look for the various routes on www.walkhighlands.co.uk.

It’s a long, steep ridge lying east to west, about 200m high, and has clear views in all directions – the Strathconon hills,  Ben Wyvis, down the Cromarty Firth to Nigg Hill, to Craig Padraig by Inverness, and south across Loch Ussie towards Moray and the Cairngorms. Dingwall is visible to the east, and Castle Leod and Strathpeffer to the west. As well as being scenic, this position clearly had strategic importance in the past, as there are the remains of a large vitrified Iron Age fort on the flattish top. You would certainly see enemies coming, and they’d have a hard time attacking the fort uphill as it’s so steep most of the way round.

The Gaelic name of the hill, Cnoc Fearralaidh (Farralaidh / Fearghalaidh), is likely to come from far-eileach, meaning high stone-place, no doubt a reference to the fort.

Seen from the Heights of Brae

The fort has attracted archaeologists over the years, the earliest being engineer John Williams in the 1770s. His excavation trenches across the ramparts at three points are still prominent today, as can be seen in the aerial view by Andy Hickie (see his wonderful work here: https://www.facebook.com/people/Andys-Aerial-Archaeology-Photogrammetry-Site/100068170431509 ), enhanced to show the features more clearly. Williams’ written reports usefully describe features no longer visible, and help illustrate the vast dimensions of the fort’s ramparts – the walls were still much higher then, up to 7 meters from bedrock in one place. Even today the stony outline of the ramparts is easily seen, and the average width of the walls is 4.5 metres.

There are various theories about vitrification, seen in many Scottish hillforts – basically heating rock until certain elements in it (“flux”) begin to melt, fusing the stones together. Timber would have been widely used around the fort, so accidental or enemy fires are one idea. But vitrification needs intense, sustained heat, so might well be deliberate, e.g. to form a more stable wall. The jury is still out. But you can still see the signs of it in the remaining stones, all around the ramparts. More on this: https://brigantesnation.com/how-to-vitrify-a-fort

Looking west from Knockfarrel, over Strathpeffer

There are also legends surrounding the hill, including one about the death there by treachery of ancient Celtic hero Finn MacCumhaill, as told by Hugh Miller among others, and a prophesy by the Brahan Seer (whose magic stone allegedly lies in nearby Loch Ussie) about the water in the loch rising up in the well on the hill and one day flooding Strathpeffer and allowing ships to moor – if the Eagle Stone there falls down one last (third) time.

But if you’re just up there for a walk and the magnificent views, there’s more than enough to delight the eye, with wild flowers, ancient Scots pines, and lots of bird life, large and small – including red kites from nearby Tollie feeding station. It even had its charms in the snow when I was up there recently. And from 1910 to the 1960s there was even a decorative wooden chalet there, built to provide refreshments to spa guests who made it up there in the summer – take your own picnic now! Photo of the chalet here:   https://www.ambaile.org.uk/asset/33064/1/EN33064-the-chalet-knockfarrel-strathpeffer.htm/

 Why not give it a try, if you’ve never been?

Caistealan eile

Northumberland 2 – Caistealan eile / Other castles

Am mìos sa chaidh sgrìobh mi mu Chaisteal Bhamburgh. An turas seo tha mi a’ dol air adhart le cuspair Northumberland, a’ toirt sùil air na caistealean eile a chunnaic sinn, dìreach gus barrachd dhiubh a thàladh dhan sgìre bhrèagha seo!

Dunstanburgh

Mar Bhamburgh tha Caisteal Dhunstanburgh (14mh linn) air a’ chladaich, suidhichte gu drùidhteach air na creagan, le seallaidhean farsaing air tìr is muir. Ach ‘s e tobhta a tha san fhear seo, gu ìre mhòr, ged a tha gu leòr na sheasamh fhathast gus dol a-steach, agus ‘s urrainn dhut dìreadh suas sna tùir. Chan eil e ri ruigsinn ach air chois, le ceum bho Chraster, mu 1 mhìle sìos an cladach, mar sin chan eil e cho freagarrach do luchd-tadhail ciorramach, ged a bha gu leòr de theaghlaich ann le clann agus bugaidhean, agus còin. ‘S e cuairt bhrèagha a th’ ann, agus àite glè mhath do chuirm-cnuic.  https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/dunstanburgh-castle/

Warkworth

Caisteal eile a bu toil leam riamh, ‘s e sin Warkworth, prìomh làrach teaghlach cumhachdach nam Percys thar nan linntean. Ged a tha e gu ìre na thobhta, tha barrachd is gu leòr na sheasamh fhathast, gu h-àraidh an tùr tomadach àrd, aon de na tùir mheadhan-aoiseach as slàine (sa chruth bhunasach) a tha air fhàgail, shaoilinnse. ‘S urrainn dhut dol suas is sìos na diofar staidhrichean cloiche dha na trì làran eadar-dhealaichte làn seilearan, chidsinean, tallaichean, fiù ‘s an caibeal. Tha cruth dìonadach na làraich fhèin furasta ri aithneachadh, is na ballaichean, taigh-geata, togalaich-stòrais agus staing a’ chaisteil uile deagh-ghlèidhte. Agus mar bu chòir le caistealan, tha sealladh soilleir brèagha bhon mhullach anns gach àirde. Chaidh an caisteal a thogail air motte, cnoc daonna-dhèanta, le bruach chas dhan abhainn. Làrach sgoinneil dhan fheadhainn a tha measail air eachdraidh, agus do chlann. Feumaidh ùine gu leòr a bhith agad, ge-tà! https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/warkworth-castle-and-hermitage/history/description/

Lindisfarne

Bha Lindisfarne, an caisteal mu dheireadh air an do thadhail sinn, dùinte airson a’ gheamhraidh, ach is fhiach dol ann airson na làraich suaicheanta i-fhèin, is e air binnean cas am measg faichean is boglaichean rèidh an Eilein Naoimh timcheall air. Dùn meadhan-aoseach eile, beag ach le cudromachd ro-innleachdail is seallaidhean thairis air tìr is muir, chaidh a chleachdadh rè nan cogaidhean an aghaidh nan Albannach, agus bha gearasdan ann fhathast gu tràth san 18mh linn. Ann an 1901 ghabh neach-gnìomhachais Edward Hudson an t-aonta air, agus thòisich esan ath-dhealbhachadh mionaideach a’ chaisteil le Edwin Luyens, ailtire ainmeil, agus lios ballach air a chruthachadh le Gertrude Jekyll. Cuairt tlachdmhor bho bhaile beag Lindisfarne. Chan eil an t-eilean ri ruigsinn ach le rathad thairis air fadhlain (cùm sùil air na h-uairean fosgailte!).  https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/north-east/lindisfarne-castle/history-of-lindisfarne-castle

Tha gu leòr de chaistealan is thaighean mòra eile ann an Northumberland, ri taobh a’ chladaich no a-staigh san tìr, mar Alnwick is Cragside, is sinne gun gu leòr de dh’ùine gus am faicinn – ach bidh iad ann fhathast airson turais eile. 😊

NB Tha làraich English Heritage saor do bhuill Alba Aosmhor, agus National Trust do bhuill NTS.

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Last month I wrote about Bamburgh Castle, and this month I’ll continue the Northumberland topic with a look at the other castles we visited, just to tempt even more of you to this lovely area!

Dunstanburgh

Like Bamburgh, 14th C Dunstanburgh is on the coast, perched impressively on a clifftop with great views all round (handy for defence). Otherwise however it’s completely different, as it’s mainly a ruin, though still has large sections you can go into, and towers to go up. It and can only be accessed on foot along a path from Craster, about a mile down the coast, so sadly not suitable for more disabled visitors, though there were plenty of families with buggies, and dogs. It’s a lovely walk, and a great place for a picnic. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/dunstanburgh-castle/

Warkworth

Another old favourite I revisited was Warkworth. This partially-ruined castle, seat of the powerful Percy family through the centuries, must have one of the most complete, huge, mediaeval keeps still left in its original form – you can still go up and down on the various stone staircases to three floors full of cellars, kitchens, halls, even the chapel. The defensive site layout is still clear with walls, gatehouse and ditch well-preserved, and as ever with castles, there are great views from the top.  It’s built on a motte, an artificial mound, with a steep drop to the river. For history fans, and for children, it’s  great site to visit.  Leave plenty of time for it, though! https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/warkworth-castle-and-hermitage/history/description/

Lindisfarne

The last castle we went to, Lindisfarne, was unfortunately closed for the winter, but its iconic site alone is wth seeing, on a steep conical hill in the flat fields and marshes of the surrounding Holy Island. Another mediaeval fortress, small but strategically important with views over both the North Sea and the mainland, it saw service during the wars against Scotland, and remained garrisoned till the early 19 C.  In 1901 it was leased by businessman Edward Hudson, who had it completely redesigned by famous architect Edwin Lutyens, with a walled flower garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll. A lovely coastal walk from Lindifarne village. The island can only be reached via a road over a tidal ford – keep an eye on the “causeway open” times! https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/north-east/lindisfarne-castle/history-of-lindisfarne-castle

There are plenty of other castles and “big hooses” in Northumberland too, on the coast and inland, which we didn’t have time for, like Alnwick and Cragside – but they’ll still be there for another time. 😊

NB: English Heritage sites are free to Historic Scotland members, and National Trust to NTS members.