‘So humble, so lacking in egotism’

I recently suggested to my friend Ian that I would like to find a gate that I had come across a photograph of in the Canmore archive. To me the gate looked lonely, isolated, humble and lacking in egotism. I felt a need to visit it and open it: to go through.

To get to this gate the traveller needs to follow the ancient Wallace Road from just outside Glenfarg to the abandoned hilltop farm of West Dron. So on Monday we set off on our adventure and this is the story.

The poet Tomas Tranströmer once wrote to his friend:

Monday was a windy day but the sheep did not seem to notice:

It was only on the slope up to West Dron hill farm that any trees were to be found: the few that survive still marked out Wallace Road. In the 1940s this was how the approach appeared:

Today, only two of these ancient trees survive with the stumps of others just visible above the rough pasture:

In the above photograph you can see the surviving wall of West Dron Hill farm steading and to the left of it the collapsed stanes of it’s cotter-hoose.  An old iron fire insert, amidst the rubble, is the only remnant of former life:

Wallace Road has been forgotten by most of us. It was once the route that Walter Scott took between Invermay, where he stayed with his first love Williamina Belsche, and the city of Perth:

In Brideshaed Revisited, Evelyn Waugh shared this thought:

No more than 100 yards from the farm, up a further rise, we found the iron gate that I had seen in the archives. The gate was lying in the rough pasture, but the posts remained upright and defiant with old red paint somehow less weathered than one could expect for such an exposed and remote hilltop setting:

Like Nan Shepherd I have a fascination with gates and gateways:

But why was this gate here and what was enclosed in the small space that clearly once had railings around it? This was not a kailyard or gairden, as it was not immediately beside the cotter-hoose. Ian wondered if it might have marked a family burial place? However there was no evidence of any memorials.

I said to Ian that we should try and fix the gate back: the posts were solid and the hooks still in working order.

Apparently artists, when including a gateway in a landscape, like to leave the gate a little open. The symbolic reasons we can all understand.

I was glad that Hale Bopp teddy bear made it safely through the gate and he left a rain-faded note on it:

This gateway was to:

This being:

The Perthshire Advertiser, of October 1934, provided this answer to “INTERESTED”:

June 1940, wartime:

I have not been able to find any photographs or sketches of this memorial, its enclosure, and gate. However I feel no need to. I have seen what Scott saw, and through the gate, we both went on to find our Fair Maid. In my case the girl that I married in Perth in July 1993.


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