The Group’s next event will certainly be something to enjoy – an illustrated talk by local historian and author James Miller on the history and development of Highland transport links, under the title of his latest book, The Great North Road. James is an accomplished writer, and other titles by him include The Dam Builders, Salt in the Blood, Wild and Open Sea and Scapa. As usual, the event will take place in Stratherrick Hall, Gorthleck, and will be at 7.30pm on Tuesday 15th October 2019.

Annual General Meeting: Preceding James’s talk there will be a very brief AGM of the Heritage Group.

Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June 2019 at Stratherrick Hall

Following the resounding success of our ‘Things we used to use’ two-day exhibition last summer, we decided to stage something similar this year. To mark the 100th birthday of the Forestry Commission, the Trees and Forests of South Loch Ness exhibition was mounted in (and outside) Stratherrick Hall, masterminded by Bob Main and Mags Fraser, with an informative and hugely entertaining talk by Bryce Reynard on the Friday evening. As last year, the local primary school pupils were our first guests on the Friday, and found the exhibits fascinating, asking lots of questions which showed their enthusiasm and interest.

Inside the hall were a wide variety of wall displays, maps, ‘browsing tables’ of books and magazines, forestry tools from ancient to modern, including power saws, trees themselves from seedlings of different species to full-grown cross-sections showing annual growth rings. Particularly impressive was Mags’ and Janet’s ‘timeline’ showing the history of forestry in South Loch Ness and its effects on the life and landscape of our area. Outside, on the hall wall, were some of the Forestry Commission’s signs (including fire warnings) that have been so familiar over the years, while in the car park were old Ferguson and Fordson tractors, a vintage McConnel circular saw and a modern mobile saw mill producing boards from logs – these were all demonstrated, attracting much interest. We had some members of the public looking in after the Friday school visits, but many more enjoyed the exhibition on Saturday, including a group of local retired foresters.

A good turnout of about forty heard Bryce’s talk on Friday evening. After a short but fascinating black-and-white film about Scottish forestry in the early 50s, Bryce launched into a wonderfully colourful life history, with anecdotes from his forestry career which took him to virtually every corner of Scotland. As his life history advanced, his assistant Fred Millwood modelled the various Commission uniform jackets used over the decades, from tweed with red collars with crowns on them, right up to modern fleeces. Bryce found a growing interest in hillwalking fitted in ideally with his job, and another profitable sideline was running bed-and-breakfast with his wife in their several forestry homes. Bryce and Fred rounded off a great evening with a tuneful and amusing duet, and one was left with a feeling that here were two men who had found the ideal life career!

In conclusion, many thanks are due to Bob (himself a civil engineer with the Forestry Commission) and to Mags (who got a little presentation for all her hours of meticulous preparation) and to the numerous people who lent material and artefacts for the display, and also several from outwith the Heritage Group who gave their time over the two days to help man (and woman!) the event. In all, another huge success for the Group.

MARKING 100 YEARS OF THE FORESTRY COMMISSION

The South Loch Ness Heritage Group are holding a two day exhibition and talk Forestry on Friday 14 & Saturday 15 June 2019 at Stratherrick Hall, Gorthleck . Friday 14 June morning is for local primary schools. The afternoon session 12-3pm is now open to the general public . Then in the evening at 7:30 pm a talk ” The Life Of A Forester” by Bryce Reynard and Mick Hoban ,using old FC uniforms . Saturday 15 June 10:00 am to 4:00 pm open to public .

The Exhibition covering private and state owned plantations in the district will consists of archive documents , photographs, educational material , old forestry hand tools , vintage power saws , ect . The Larger exhibits and displays will be outside the hall , including a working modern saw mill making boards of of a tree . There is no admission charge but donations to group funds are welcome

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.

The Heritage Group’s next event will be at Stratherrick Hall on Tuesday 23rd April at 7.30 pm.   Dr Iain Robertson of the UHI Centre for History will give us a presentation on the impact of the First World War on land tenure in the Highlands.   His scope will be broad; he will describe the traditional, historic relationship between Highlanders and the land, leading then to the tensions that precipitated the land raids of the 19th century.  The main aspect of his subject will be the way the war then expedited and extended the provision of land for the Highland population, with the topic being finally brought right up to date with the modern community buy-out movement.   This promises to be a really interesting talk on something most people have little detailed knowledge of, but which helps to explain why land tenure in the Highlands continues to be a major issue.

Iain’s presentation will be preceded by a brief AGM of the Wade Bridge of Whitebridge Trust.

Louise Boreham who gave us a fascinating and thoroughly researched talk us at Aldourie Castle on the Aldourie Pottery in Dores on 22nd March 2016, has completed her book on Mary Seton Watts  and the Compton Pottery. Mary’s childhood home was Aldourie Castle, and between 1900-04 was involved with  setting up a pottery in Dores though the main pottery was at Compton near Guildford . The book will be published on 2nd May 2019 in Hardback,
ISBN No 9781781300855, price £35 and is already available to order in advance from

Watts Gallery on-line shop    https://shop.wattsgallery.org.uk/collections/bespoke-books/products/marty-seton-watts-and-the-compton-pottery

Bloomsbury   https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/mary-seton-watts-and-the-compton-pottery-9781781300855/

Waterstones    https://www.waterstones.com/book/mary-seton-watts-and-the-compton-pottery/hilary-calvert/louise-boreham/9781781300855

Amazon    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Seton-Watts-Compton-Pottery/dp/1781300852

Blackwells    https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Mary-Seton-Watts-and-the-Compton-Pottery-by-Hilary-Calvert-author-Mary-S-Watts-Louise-Boreham-author/9781781300855


Mary Seton Watts  
and the Compton Pottery

By Hilary Calvert and Louise Boreham

The first biography of Mary Seton Watts showcasing her outstanding design skills and the art potteries she established.

This comprehensive book is both a biographical exploration of the early life of Mary Seton Watts and a survey of the pottery she designed. Her roots in Scotland, her artistic career and her marriage to the Victorian artist George Frederic Watts all influenced the design of the Grade 1 listed Cemetery Chapel at Compton and the art potteries which she then set up, both in Compton (The Potters’ Arts Guild) and in her home village near Inverness. The pottery at Compton was in business for more than fifty years, making terracotta garden ware, memorials and small decorative pieces. It remained open through two World Wars and a trade depression. This highly illustrated publication showcases the beautiful and individual pieces of pottery and is a fitting tribute to the ability of Mary Watts to coordinate both people and resources.

Hilary Calvert‘s interest in The Potters’ Arts Guild started with a chance visit to the Watts Gallery in 1988, when the then Curator showed her pottery as well as pictures. Having previously written a book on ‘Chameleon Ware Art Pottery’, this was another opportunity for research which soon led to a collection of Compton pottery and ultimately to the publication of this book.

Louise Boreham has been researching the Compton and Aldourie Potteries following the discovery in the 1980s, that her sculptor grandfather, Louis Deuchars, began his career as the lead modeller of the terracotta decoration on the Compton Cemetery Chapel. She has contributed to books and published articles on architectural sculpture and ceramics, lectured to specialist interest groups and taken part in radio and television broadcasts on the subject.

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 (alan@tramstop.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!