Group Meetings

South Loch Ness Heritage Group

Stratherrick Recordings

At Stratherrick Hall on Tues 5th December at 7.30pm

Tape recording of two residents memories of the district from last century and before with contemporary images relating to the memories. 

Preceded by the Heritage Group AGM

All Welcome. Admission is free, but a collection will be taken at the meetings

The Heritage Group are requiring new committee members to assist with their current and future projects. If you are interested please contact Alister Chisholm.

Today (Sat 30 Sept 23) saw our much anticipated Errogie to Inverfarigaig walk via the Farigaig pass. Hosted by Alex Sutherland the walk attracted about 35 participants of all ages. Alex enthralled us with many stories highlights of which were those of a bloodless battle, the skeleton of a highlander within a growing tree and a murder whilst he also showed us the location of croft houses long collapsed and a gate to the world of the Faeries. Alex was not our only commentator, John Townsend spoke about General Wades roads, Alister Chisholm showed us one of the locations where our outside pulpit was used for open air services. He also described in some detail the life and death of James Bryce to whom a memorial stands in the pass.

Bob Main spoke on a number of subjects especially of note was his description of the old Bobbin mill whilst Morag gave us an insight into the pronunciation and meaning of the Gaelic names we met with and told us the story of Deidre of the sorrows and Dun Deardil.

The SLNHG would like to thank all those who assisted and gave freely of their time to make the walk a success.

The latest South Loch Ness Heritage groups series of local interest talks was held on Thursday the 30th March 2023 at Stratherrick Hall. Unusually there were two showings, an afternoon matinee at 1.30pm and an evening showing at 7.30pm, and fortunate it was as the talk attracted unprecedented numbers to attend. The afternoon showing attracted 47attendees some of whom came from outwith the Strath and included eleven Primary 7 pupils from Farr School accompanied by their teacher Donna Grant. Whilst the evening event attracted 49 some travelling from as far afield as Wick.

What attracted so much attention you may ask! Well the answer would be for the first time since 2005 Alister Chisholm (jnr) was presenting a series of audio interviews that his father Alister Chisholm (snr) gave back in the 1980’s. Alister introduced the recording of his father’s memoirs in the Strath going back to the years after the two World Wars. Accompanied by many photographs on screen in keeping with the narrative we saw how costume had changed, the type of work people did then, what transport was like, when power came to homes, what events/ sports took place, how dominant the 12th August was for the start of shooting parties to the Estate Lodges and tracing the history of the churches and schools in the area, etc.   Appropriate dates were included.

    It was indeed a very fascinating and interesting Talk which captured the attention of everyone young and old. It certainly gave us much to compare and think about.

Thanks are due to Ernie Randall for once again setting up and controlling the sound element of the talk. Thanks are also due to the ladies of the Soup to go group for arranging teas, coffees and a wonderful selection of biscuits.

A total of £228 was received in donations from those attending both talks for which the SLNHG offers their thanks.

Future talks are planned and will be advertised on both the SLNHG and local Face book sites, on roadside boards and on local notice boards.

M Fraser, R Morley.

The South Loch Ness Heritage Groups latest talk was held at Wildside on Tuesday 28th October. The talk followed on from the groups summer visit to the restored medieval Kirk of KirkMichael which is located on the Black isle.

Dr Jim MacKay took the group on a journey starting at the realisation that the Kirk was in danger of total collapse to, 15 years later its full restoration. Dr Mackay described how funding was found, how the project was almost abandoned when the roof fell in one snowy night, and how with the perseverance and common sense of numerous tradesmen and volunteers the Kirk and surrounding Kirkyard were restored to what can be seen now.

The second part of the talk illustrated the numerous beautiful and historically significant medieval engraved stones found at KirkMichael and nearby Cullicudden kirk. The methods used to preserve the stones was described as was the methods used for reading inscriptions illegible to the naked eye.

At the talks culmination SLNHG chair, Bob Main thanked Dr MacKay on behalf of the group for an interesting, engaging at at times humorous talk.

For our first summer outing since 2015, the South Loch Ness Heritage Group had a field trip on the 2nd July 2022 to the refurbished Medieval Kirkmichael in the Black Isle. The Kirkmichael Trust under the chairmanship of Dr Jim Mackay have repaired the ancient and derelict buildings at Kirkmichael and created a unique display of local medieval ornamental crosses within the refurbished buildings. Jim met the group and explained the layout of the old and new parts of the adjoining graveyard, why the older part is raised a couple of feet in height above new, due to the density of interments over the last six hundred years in that part. Also explained and showed example of pre reformation flat grave stones, table stones and the upright gravestones. One of Jim’s colleagues Davine showed us the only Gaelic gravestone in the cemetery even though that was the language spoken in the district, all of the older gravestones were engraved with old Scots. Jim then took us inside the refurbished Chancel and Nave of the church and explained the reason for the symbols on the medieval crosses there, also regaling us with stories about some of the families within the area that were interred in the churchyard .    The subject of  photogrammetry was explained  to us which is taking about 50 photographs of a badly eroded gravestone in various angles and in different lights and by a computer programme a more clear indication of what is carved  on the stone  can be obtained .   The trust have done a marvellous job at the site and are still actively repairing stones etc on site each Saturday. Our group were fascinated by the visit and of the restoration work that has been done, and still ongoing. Locally in our district we have Boleskine cemetery which the earliest stone recorded to date is 1729, which within its boundary has a Mort House, the only one in the North of Scotland, the nearest other ones are in Aberdeenshire .  On seeing what has been done at Kirkmichael surely there is scope for a similar project here.

During both World Wars, extra timber was urgently needed and thousands of lumberjacks were recruited by the UK from Newfoundland (Newfies) to help cut and process trees, mostly in Scotland

Unlike the Canadian Timber Corps the Newfoundlanders were not military men (Newfoundland was not part of the Canadian Federation till 1949) and volunteered to come to Britain.  Generally the Canadians set up the camps and sawmills and moved on leaving them to be operated by the Newfoundlanders. The sawmills were set up all over the country where there was available timber, mainly in Scotland.

Remnants of the mill at Whitebridge, just north of the Wildside Centre was examined and photographed by Alasdair and featured in the presentation, where 35 people came to hear Alasdair’s fascinating talk. He included slides of the crowded boats that crossed the Atlantic, foresters in action, maps of camps and a historic newsreel. Many Newfies stayed and married local lassies.

Alasdair brought his collection of old axes (including double-bladed) and tools, and our own Alister Chisholm displayed his grandfather’s Board of Trade purchase order dating from 1946 for equipment from the Whitebridge sawmill. On display was the large circular saw blade and rollers from the bench.

A Newfoundland man living in Invergarry came to the talk and brought his father who had arrived in Scotland the previous day to visit his family. They added greatly to the discussions afterwards. It was good to hear the noisy hubbub of a live interactive meeting.

£210 in donations were made for the Disasters Emergency Committee (Ukraine)

Yesterday evening (Tuesday 23rd November 2021) saw the latest in a series of talks, held at Stratherrick hall and hosted by the South Loch Ness Heritage group. The evening’s speaker was Roland Spencer-Jones from the North of Scotland Archaeological society (NoSas) and the subject was Stories from the Lovat estate maps, maps, mapmakers and mapmaking.It was heartening, despite the inclement weather and necessary covid measures to see a good turnout. It was especially pleasing to see some of the younger members of the community in attendance. Hopefully they found the talk of interest.Roland’s talk was delivered with enthusiasm and not a little humour. He described his discovery in the Lovat estate office of some 395 maps dating between 1757 and 1890, how he catalogued them and with assistance from the National Library of Scotland and some stalwart volunteers, the maps were digitised and made available on-line to everyone.With a particular focus on Stratherrick, Roland spoke about the surveyors who made the maps and the challenges they faced. He described the reasons why maps were, prior to the formation of the Ordnance survey produced and how mapmaking evolved over this period from what were little more than pictures with only a passing resemblance to the country it described to the kind of cartographical images with which we are familiar today.The final part of the talk became a little more hands on. Roland produced a selection of items which would have been used by the surveyors who produced the maps. The use of chains, for calculating distance and cross poles for ensuring straight lines and accurate 90 degree angles were demonstrated with assistance from audience members.Roland closed his talk with a cri de Coeur. One map was found missing from the Lovat estate archive, that map is the 1757 map of Stratherrick by Peter May. Roland asked if anyone came across it, stored in an attic of under their bed could they let him know as it was a national treasure.Having finished speaking Roland was thanked by Bob Main, Chairman of the South Loch Ness Heritage group for a most entertaining evening.

Normans presentation began with a name on a grave stone in Tomnahurich cemetery with died B.C. carved on it, which lead us to an expedition to the Yukon by four Invernesians and a Free Church minister. The intention of the Invernesian was to go to the gold mines in the Klondike to find their fortune in gold. Whilst the Minister intended to raise money to furnish the newly built Queen St Church by preaching to the people there and to give lectures on his return. The talk detailed the difficulty’s they had in reaching the goldfields in Dawson City with sinking of their boat on rapids on the Yukon river, resulting in the loss of one of their party.  There were no fortunes made by the remaining Invernesians at the Klondyke. The minister the Rev AC Macdonald was the first to return sending his account of the expedition on route to the Inverness Courier in late August 1898 and gave a lecture on 28 October in the Music hall Inverness.  A short history of the Rev AC Macdonald was given by Norman. Born in Garthbeg, Stratherrick went to Canada to get his Divinity degree, returned to Inverness to preach, and frequently travelled abroad, as far as India and Australia on various missions. In 1901 he retired from the active ministry of the congregation of the Queen St and engaged in spite of long-continued ill-health, farming.  Where he died at Leek, Fort Augustus in 1910. Two of his G-Grand nephews were in the audience for the talk. An excellent informative evening for the first talk since the start of the Covid pandemic.

On Tuesday 15th October 2019 at Stratherrick Hall we had a very interesting talk, excellently illustrated, by local author Jim Miller. Jim’s talk “The Great North Road” is based from his book “The Finest Road in the World: The Story of Travel and Transport in the Scottish Highlands”.
Jim led us on a journey from Perth to Thurso taking in the evolution of road transport, through the last three hundred years. How from drove roads taken by cattle to the markets in the south, the routes of a lot of them became the highways of today.
Of how General Wade and Major Caulfeild in the seventeen hundreds built the military roads for fast movement to troops to quell any uprising by unruly highlanders. The first road being from Fort George to Fort William through our district via Dramashie ,Torness back of Errogie, Gorthleck , Whitebridge over the Suidh to Fort Augustus . Jim mention Tolls or Turnpikes roads (charges for using roads) there were two toll stations in our area one at Scaniport and one at Drummond (Whitebridge).
Jim related anecdote’s of early travellers on horseback and the difficulties they faced including river crossings and accommodation, also the coming of the stagecoaches on the newly constructed roads in the early eighteen hundreds from Edinburgh to Inverness.
The coming of the railways saw the demise of the stagecoach, but they were still used on minor routes till the early part nineteen hundreds till the car or motorised bus replaced them.
Jim’s talk was preceded by a 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.