A presentation by Dr Roland Spencer-Jones of the Highland Archaeological Society.   Roland is a retired GP, and is Chair of the Highland Archaeological Society.   When he approached Lovat Estates in early 2017 to look at one of their old maps, he realised that they had a virtual treasure-trove of old and sometimes very rare maps.  A collaboration then began between the National Library of Scotland, the Archaeological Society and the Lovat Estates to scan and digitise the entire collection with a view to putting it on the internet.   This presentation is the story of these maps.

Stratherrick Hall, 24th March 2020, at 7.30 pm.

The talk will be preceded by a short AGM of the Whitebridge Wade Bridge Trust.

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.

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.

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.

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!

 

Following requests received to the Heritage group after the Boleskine Community Care AGM, for a more formal showing of Heritage Groups photos that were displayed on in a rolling slideshow during the  tea break, after the  main business of the  AGM .  It was decided to have an event targeting the older residents and former resident of the area, showing Heritage photographs, including the Rose Fortune Collection to stimulate interest in local heritage.  Also to see if some of the photos containing unknown people could be identified.

 The event, to an invited audience and general public was held on Jan 24th to a good turnout despite the blustery weather. The photos were displayed on a screen via a projector. Bob Main  controlling the projector  displaying of the photos , Alister Chisholm did the commentary on the photos  whilst Morag Macneil, Alison Randall and Heather Parrot, recorded the names of people identified and stories associated  with people and places .  Prior to the event commencing and during tea intermission Scottish music was played by Ernie Randal and Alex Sutherland .

 The afternoon proved a great success and was enjoyed by the attendees as they recalled people and days of long ago from the Stratherrick and Foyers area .

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.