On Tuesday 23rd April at Stratherrick Hall we had a wonderful talk, excellently illustrated, by Dr Iain Robertson of the UHI Centre for History at Dornoch. Iain’s style was clear and dynamic, befitting a professional lecturer on history, and it was pleasing to see a good turnout to hear him.
Iain explained the background to land problems; how the traditional clan idea that the land you lived and farmed on was ‘yours’ was slowly eroded as clan chiefs came to be seen as ‘owners’ who could sell their land, and it often became sheep runs and deer forests in the 18th and 19th centuries, causing the notorious ‘clearances’. These resulted in many smallholders, or crofters, getting squeezed on to congested, marginal land where they were tenants. Starvation came with frequent potato harvest failures, and desperation led to ‘land raids’ as the 19th century moved towards its end. Acts, such as the 1911 Crofters’ Act, tried to mitigate the crofters’ plight, but with very limited success.
The Great War changed this climate radically. The Highlands produced a bigger proportion of the fighting force than other UK areas, and these men were promised ‘a land fit for heroes’. Further ‘land raids’ took place, which although they were illegal, were viewed with increasing sympathy due to the war sacrifices made by the ‘raiders’. After the war, further Acts of Parliament strengthened campaigners’ hands, and most people wanting land ultimately succeeded in their quest. Housing improvements were made too. While the greatest pressures for granting land were in the Western Isles and Skye, land raids were recorded in the Kingussie area, and at Dell farm in Stratherrick.
Coming up to date, these campaigns for land can be seen as the forerunners of successful, modern ‘community buy-outs’ as seen in Assynt, Eigg, North Harris and Gigha.
Iain’s talk stimulated a considerable number of questions from his audience, which he ably answered, and thoroughly deserved the hearty vote of thanks accorded to him.
WADE BRIDGE OF WHITEBRIDGE TRUST AGM
Before Iain Robertson’s presentation, John Townshend, chair of the Wade Bridge Trust, gave a brief report, indicating that no significant events had occurred since the last AGM. The committee remained the same. Information and photos of the Trust’s successful work in stabilising the bridge were on display.
Apologies for the lateness of this report. It was back on 6th November 2018 that Maureen gave us her talk on this fascinating topic. She described the lives and activism of Inverness women at the time of the Great War, not only Suffragettes, who engaged in ‘civil disobedience’ and hunger strikes, but also Suffragists, who lobbied Parliament somewhat less stridently and won over many men to the justice of their cause – voting rights for women. The war proved to be a great opportunity for women to demonstrate their capabilities, particularly in medicine and nursing (Dr. Elsie Inglis still being a famous name a century later), and partial voting rights for women were agreed by Parliament as soon as the war ended. It was, however, to be another decade before full women’s suffrage and equality with men were granted. Maureen showed us, illustrated by well-chosen photographs and press cuttings, that this period was indeed the one that kicked off the struggle for gender equality which continues to this day, and that the women of Inverness and area played a significant and valuable part.
Maureen’s talk was preceded by a brief AGM of the Heritage Group.
Our Annual General Meeting is at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 6th November in Stratherrick Hall, Gorthleck. As always, we hope to keep it short, but this year it is of crucial importance. To continue, the Group is looking for a Chair, Secretary and, if possible, a Treasurer, as well as new Committee Members. The Heritage Group cannot have a future without these. Please contact the current Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested in volunteering for the committee, or can suggest someone who might be interested.
Following the AGM, Maureen Kenyon will give a talk entitled Local Women and the Great War. She will describe the lives and actions of Inverness women involved in the Suffragette movement, as a celebration of the centenary of the introduction of limited voting rights for women. This should be a fascinating view of the early stages of women’s emancipation at a local level, something that probably few of us know much about.
This will be an important evening for the Heritage Group, and we hope to see you there.
Apologies for the lateness of this post! This exhibition, titled ‘Things we used to use’ was staged in Stratherrick Hall on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd June 2018. Quite literally hundreds of utensils, tools and artefacts from the past were on show, filling the hall, but leaving plenty room to circulate and chat as well. All the exhibits were labelled, with photographs to show many of them in use, and committee members and friends of the Heritage Group were on hand to explain things and help everyone to wallow in nostalgia.
On the Friday, we had visits from those too young to experience nostalgia – the pupils of Foyers, Aldourie and Stratherrick Primary Schools. they particularly enjoyed demonstrations of musical instruments, a wind-up gramophone, a stirrup-pump (great chance to get wet!) dairy utensils and laundry equipment. Some of these items were outside, joining an old Ferguson tractor.
In the hall were exhibits relating to traditional activities of the area – such as farming, forestry and gamekeeping; cobblers’ and blacksmiths’ tools were on show too. Home and school were also well represented, with dozens of once-familiar (and quite a few still familiar) domestic items, plus school books, part of a desk (with inkwell) and the inevitable tawse! A popular feature was the mystery table, displaying twenty strange-looking objects! Most older visitors identified some of them, but only the most knowledgeable recognised the lot!
Joining our school visitors on Friday morning, and then in the afternoon and evening too, as well as on Saturday, was a steady stream of members of the public, some old friends and neighbours, but many visitors to the area too. Reactions were invariably most enthusiastic, and it is clear that, after a breather of a year or two, there will be demand for another similar event. We now have lists of the fascinating exhibits that many locals have in their homes, sheds and barns!
It’s always risky naming people who helped, either by contributing items or in storing, displaying or demonstrating them, because someone always gets left out. Suffice to say that this was a wonderful team effort, preparations for which started a couple of months before the exhibition itself. You all know who you are, so give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back!
Education for the young and nostalgia for the not-so-young! The Heritage Group has gathered almost three hundred items from yesteryear for this exhibition at Stratherrick Hall, Gorthleck, on Friday 1st June (10.00 am -3.00 pm and 7.30 pm – 9.00 pm) and Saturday 2nd June (11.00 am – 3.00 pm). Things we used to use for work, on the farm, in the home, at school and for entertainment. It’s unlikely that such a significant exhibition will be mounted again, so don’t miss it!
Our autumn event will be on Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 7.30 pm in Stratherrick Hall, Gorthleck – we’re a little later than usual this year. We’ll start with the usual brief AGM, which will be followed by the main event, something we’ve been looking forward to for a while, Part Two of Morag MacNeill and Bob Main’s presentation on local Gaelic place names. Morag, a fluent Gaelic speaker, will explain the Gaelic meanings behind our local names, nearly all of which have Gaelic origins, while Bob will be at the projector with the relevant maps and pictures. Part One was very enthusiastically received, and we hope this follow-up will generate at least as much lively interest.
On Tuesday 21st March at Stratherrick Hall, we were treated to a fascinating and sometimes mind-boggling illustrated talk by Sandy Ross, retired Head of Geography at Millburn Academy, Inverness. Anyone who knows Sandy is very aware of his huge enthusiasm for his subject, which came over so clearly as he graphically described the effects of the Wurm glaciation – the most recent stage of the Ice Age – on the land that the Inverness area now occupies. Ice two or three kilometres thick covered the Highlands, and was slowly grinding over the land as gravity caused it to move down towards the sea – which it also covered. The rocks in the Loch Ness area had been shattered by earthquakes along the Great Glen Fault (much more active in the distant past), so the huge weight of moving ice easily gouged out this loose material to form the trough of the Great Glen.
Nearer Inverness, streams flowing under the ice deposited this material to create eskers, in the form of Torvean and Tomnahurich, and ‘marine platforms’ where the deposited material met the sea. Once the ice all melted after the Ice Age, the land slowly rose up due to the release of the ice’s weight (this ‘isostatic’ readjustment is still going on), so the marine platforms are now high and dry, and the steep edges of them form the slopes climbed by the likes of Godsman’s Brae and the Market Brae Steps. Much of the finest material carried by water under the ice ended up in what is now the Beauly Firth, explaining why it is so shallow, silted up by all this deposition.
Sadly for an enthusiast like Sandy, man’s constant ‘development’ of Inverness’s site with ever more powerful earth-moving machinery means that the evidence of the work of these amazing natural forces thousands of years ago is becoming increasingly difficult to trace. It is just as well that it is being recorded, mapped and photographed by the likes of Sandy, before it becomes further blurred by man’s activities.
Bob Main proposed a well deserved vote of thanks to Sandy, who answered many questions from a good-sized audience, while Alison Randall and Heather Macleod ably served tea, coffee and biscuits to all.
N.B. Sandy’s talk was preceded by a brief AGM of the Wade Bridge of Whitebridge Trust, chaired by John Townshend. John reported that essentially nothing had changed over the last year. The bridge is stabilised and safe, but awaits further funding to complete its restoration.
Following our usual brief AGM on Tuesday 15th November, we enjoyed a most interesting presentation by John Wombell on Scottish Rock Art. John is a member of the North of Scotland Archaeological Society, and showed us many fascinating slides of ‘rock art’, mainly from the Scottish Highlands. Rock art can take many forms, but the most widespread examples are cup and ring marks, gouged out of either bedrock or separate boulders using a ‘chisel’ of harder rock. However, more elaborate artwork can also be found, all performed in the same way. This rock art all dates from Neolithic, or later Stone Age times, roughly six to eight thousand years ago. Many of the examples John showed us were from Ross-shire, but he takes the view that South Loch Ness probably has many as-yet undiscovered sites.
Since the meeting, John has emailed the following:- “Your group showed plenty of interest, and the North of Scotland Archaeological Society are here to help in a new Scottish Project. Trina (John’s wife) suggests that we offer your group a ‘rock art familiarisation’ walk either around here (Easter Ross) where access is good, or somewhere else we can agree on. Otherwise we really should come and see some of your sites, and a joint outing might go down well with the active members of the NOSAS, if you would like to suggest something”.
Heather Macleod, our treasurer, is very interested, and it’s suggested that anyone who would like to form an archaeology group, researching not just rock art but other evidence of our more distant past, should first of all get in touch with her at email@example.com As John says, he and the NOSAS will give us plenty help and encouragement.
At a most successful meeting on September 12th, at which the chair summarised the challenges facing the Group, four of those present volunteered to join the committee, one of these as Secretary. These four joined two who had already come forward before the meeting, including one for the vital role of Treasurer. Taking account of those who are leaving or have recently left us, this gives us a committee of ten, which hopefully will enable us to spread our wings and take on new projects. Huge thanks to those now leaving, and who have helped to keep the Group going over the years, and a hearty welcome to those who will take us forward into pastures new. Our new volunteers will be properly appointed at our AGM, hopefully to be held in late October.
There was considerable lively discussion at the meeting about the direction a revitalised Heritage Group should take. The importance of good publicity was highlighted, and this will be a priority for the new committee to consider. A major topic for discussion was projects the Group could take forward – these can play a huge part in enthusing folk to get involved, and spreading the word that the Heritage Group is playing a positive and active role in recording and researching our past. The idea of some form of heritage centre was mentioned, and should the opportunity to establish something of this sort come up, our much-strengthened committee will hopefully be in a position to play an active part.
Many thanks to all who attended the meeting – your interest and support is vital!
First, the positive – in recent years, the Group has managed to put on an interesting illustrated presentation every spring and autumn, plus a summer outing. Alister Chisholm keeps adding to our superb website, which has attracted many comments of appreciation and praise. For some years he has produced excellent heritage calendars featuring old photos from South Loch Ness. The Group still has large stocks of two publications – Alan Lawson’s ‘A Country called Stratherrick’ and ‘South Loch Ness’, our own local heritage guide.
BUT… over the last few years our committee has slowly dwindled – we had four at our last meeting, and one of these is leaving. We have had no secretary for some time. Most seriously, Frank Ellam, our treasurer is leaving the area, and although the treasurer’s duties are not onerous, we can’t function without one.
In view of this situation, we are calling an open meeting in Stratherrick Hall, Gorthleck, on Monday 12th September at 7.30pm to discuss the Group’s future. Attendance at events suggests continuing interest in our Group, but we need more help with running it or closing it down may be the only option. Please do come along and offer us your help.
Alan Findlay, chair.