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 heather-macleod@btconnect.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.

Louise Boreham’s presentation to us at Aldourie Castle on 22nd March was undoubtedly one of our highlight events.   Before an audience of about fifty, Louise gave us a fascinating and thoroughly researched talk on the Aldourie Pottery in Dores (where the Parish Hall now stands), lavishly illustrated by the many images she has gathered over the years – and also several actual examples of Aldourie pots.   She gave us much information too about the other potteries that Mary Fraser-Tytler and her artist husband GF Watts were involved in, at Compton near Guildford and Cumnock in Ayrshire – source of the clay for the potteries.   It was sad that the Aldourie venture seemed to last only from 1900 to 1904 – though during that brief time Louise’s grandfather actually taught pottery classes at Aldourie, giving her the motive to find out more about this short-lived local industry.

How appropriate it was that Louise’s talk was delivered in Mary Fraser-Tytler’s childhood home of Aldourie Castle.   We were delighted when Lavinia Turner, manager of the Aldourie Castle Estate, offered us the venue free!   As well as comfortable seating (filled to capacity by our audience) in the great hall, tea, coffee, shortbread and biscuits were provided after the talk in a large sitting room, and both spaces were warmed by roaring fires.   Indeed hospitality of the highest order – many thanks, Lavinia!

Iain Cameron, also a child of Aldourie Castle, gave an appropriate vote of thanks to both Louise and Lavinia.

gun club bookFrom Glass to Clay and Lead to Steel a History of Stratherrick Gun Club  a new book written by Margaret Fraser  Knockcarroch  Whitebridge detailing the local  gun club in its various guises through the years from it inception in eighteen seventies as the Stratherrick Glass Ball to the present day as the Stratherrick Clay Target Club . The Book can be purchased directly from Margaret 01456486372   cost £7 + P& P where applicable

We had a packed hall on Tuesday 6th October – one of our best turnouts ever;  thanks to everyone who came along.   After the customary brief AGM at our autumn event, it was over to Morag MacNeill and Bob Main to tell us about the Gaelic words behind virtually all of the place-names in our area.   Morag took us through the common Gaelic elements which make up place-names, like water features (rivers, lochs, etc), hill and lowland features, as well as common adjectives like colours, and then gave us examples of these in use in our local place-names.   Bob managed the laptop and projector to illustrate Morag’s examples with maps and photographs.

Mistakes have crept in over the years due to printers and signwriters being unfamiliar with Gaelic:  Loch Mhor should almost certainly be Loch Mor, which is the way everyone pronounces it.   A sign at Inverfarigaig reads ‘Inverfarigaig River’, which actually means ‘mouth of the river farigaig river’!   The sign should read simply ‘River Farigaig’.   At the end of their presentation, Morag gave out a most useful handout, summarising the most common Gaelic words used in our place-names.

Language is such an important part of who we are and where we live – our identity and history – and we must thank Morag and Bob for showing us the Gaelic heritage of our beautiful and historic part of the world.   The link below will take you to Morag’s handout explaining the Gaelic words used in our place-names.  LINK TO HANDOUT

The Group’s next event will be our summer outing.   This year it will take the form of a guided tour of Fort George, on Wednesday, 15th July 2015 at 3pm;  a great chance to see round this fort, built to help ‘pacify’ the Highlands after the Jacobite uprisings, replacing the original Fort George on the site of today’s Inverness Castle.   The Wade roads which run through South Loch Ness were built to connect Fort George to Fort Augustus and Fort William.   We will have the benefit of a knowledgeable guide.

If you’d like to join us, please let Alan know (alan@tramstop.org;  01463 751258).   The entrance charges ares £8.50 adults and £6.80 concessions – reduced from last year – and there will be a 10% discount if our numbers are 11 or more.   We will meet promptly at three, at the Visitors’ Car Park, Fort George, just a couple of miles beyond Ardersier.   If you’d like a lift, contact Alan on the contact details above.

Hope to see you there!

Regrettably the Boleskine Bulletin  last ever issue after 17 years was Winter 2014. The Heritage Group was approached by committee  of the Bulletin, with a view to having all the issues available to the public on the internet . We were delighted to accommodate this request.   You can access them  through the Library tab  in a section called Boleskine Bulletin .

Before Anne Fraser gave her talk to the Heritage Group on 24th March, John Townshend chaired a brief AGM of the Wade Bridge Trust.   Directors John Townshend, Bob Main and David Murray resigned and were re-elected.   Current assets of the Trust were £10,264.25, and the meeting accepted the accounts.   A major flood in November 2014 had taken a few cobbles from the bridge’s NW abutment, but grouting done in 2010 as ‘first aid’ saved the bridge from serious damage.   It is hoped that further necessary work costed in 2010 at £250,000 can be carried out in stages once funding has been obtained.   Fuller details can be found at https://southlochnessheritage.co.uk/wade-bridge-at-whitebridge/