Boat o’Brig

Do you remember your first kiss? Where were you at the time? What of that moment stays with you?

This film is a poetic journey that seeks to ‘advance deeper into the unknown country’.

From Seaton Park to the river Spey: this film is about finding love and realising that weakness is actually strength.

This film returns to the Boat o’Brig Tollhouse on the river Spey. It is now listed as a ‘building at risk’.

Music credits:
(1) Running through tunnels – by Dexter Britain (shared under common license)
(2) Parade – by Night Flight (I do not have copyright)
(3) Live version of ‘What if this is all the love you ever get’ Snowpatrol and James Corden

Aerial footage from this wonderful film “Tales of a Water Bailiff”

Filmed on the bridge of Advie, the bridge of Abernethy, the brig o’ Boat and the Logierait Viaduct.

Thanks to Yann Martel, E M Forster, T S Eliot, O G Crawford, Raymond Tallis, Peter Davidson, Janice Galloway and Albert Camus.

Music Credit: ‘Helpless to Turn’ by The Burns Unit

Details on Boat o’Brig:

Toll-house, Boat o’ Brig, Moray, with its four-columned (tetrastyle) Doric portico. This is one of the most architecturally distinguished toll-houses in Scotland, and its quality reflects the prestige of the original bridge, which, as the name suggests, replaced a ferry. Tolls on Scottish roads and bridges were abolished in the 1880s, but most toll-houses remained inhabited, often by roadmen and their families. By the 1960s the smaller ones were being declared unfit, but many of the larger ones are still inhabited, like this one. This toll-house was built to collect tolls from users of a suspension bridge constructed over the River Spey to designs by Captain Samuel Brown in 1831-2. It looks along the axis of the bridge, which was replaced in 1956 by a steel girder bridge on the same site.

The charter of Moray mentions a bridge over the Spey at this location (Boat of Brig) – see 25″ map, Banff XIII.9. It is thought to have been of timber and the foundation of the southern pier can still be seen. There was an associated chapel of St Nicholas – “Ad receptionem Pauperum transeuntium.”

Records and tradition tell of a very early bridge (NMRS record) over the Spey, near the confluence of the Orchil. It was of timber and suitable for pedestrians and horses. At its location the water is very deep on the eastern side but it quickly becomes shallow and tradition suggests that the deep water would have been spanned by large lengths of timber while shorter ones would serve to cross the shallower water, presumably supported by pillars. It would be easy to repair if damaged in a flood or suffered natural decay.
As the only bridge across the Spey for centuries it was very important for the north. It has been thought to have first been built by the Romans under Severus, and existed at the time of the Reformation. In fact, when the associated religious establishment was closed this may have led to the neglect of the bridge until it finally decayed or was swept away in a flood. Nothing now remains.
A ferry-boat was established and the crossing point became known as “the boat of bridge” while farm names retained a reference to the former bridge e.g. Upper Briglands. Just a few years ago a suspension bridge has been erected at a cost of L.3500, along with a toll house, by the Earl of Seafield and others. It comes under the Banffshire Turnpike Act and a moderate pontage is exacted.
Although the importance of the crossing is less since the bridges at Fochabers and Craigellachie were built, it is still very convenient to this neighbourhood.

Beside the bridge there was a religious establishment called “the Hospital of St Nicholas at the Bridge of Spey” and founded in the early 1200’s for the reception of poor travellers. (Some details are given in the History of the Province of Moray, Lachlan Shaw, Elgin, 1827, pages 20 and 424.)

A daily post passes through the parish on the route from Keith to Craigellachie, and there is a sub-office near the centre.
A good turnpike road leads from Keith to the suspension bridge and gives access to Elgin, Rothes, Garmach etc.
Another turnpike, the Boharm road, leads off the Great North Road halfway between Keith and Fochabers and leads up the valley to near its end where it divides. One branch leads to Mortlach (effectively Dufftown) and the other to Aberlour, Grantown etc with a link to the bridge of Craigellachie. The length of this road in the parish is 10 miles.

It is in a very bad condition and one of the bridges was destroyed in the floods of 1829 so that tolls cannot be exacted on the line. The bridge has not been replaced owing to a dispute among the trustees – it is hoped this will be resolved as the road is deteriorating badly and may end up with the road being completely ruined.

The deficient bridge, on the Boharm road, has been replaced by the Earl of Seafield, and, instead of a temporary wooden bridge over the Fiddich, a very handsome structure of stone has been erected at an expense of L.450, supplied by the liberality of the gentlemen in the neighbourhood. It was opened in the end of last year. The road has also received some slight repairs, and is kept passable by the several gentlemen through whose properties it extends, but it is still in a very bad state, demanding a thorough repair, so as to permit tolls again to be raised for its support.

St Nicholas Hospital (Remains of)
New Statistical Account 013.09 On a slight eminence on the banks of the River Spey, a few chains South of Boat of Bridge. Faint traces are visible of an ancient Hospital or Chapel, supposed to have been erected for the sole purpose of entertaining poor passengers travelling that way, and was supported partly, from a grant by King Alexander, dated at Cullen made to the Hospital of St. Nicholas, and one Muriel de Polloc, heiress of Rothes. It is supposed to have existed during the 12th Century – all that now remains is an old crumbling wall from 3 to 4 feet in height and 50 links long, it now forms part of the fence to the road and is supposed to be the wall of the Eastern gable.

Boat O’ Brig, Hospital And Chapel Of St Nicholas
A hospital for the reception of poor travellers. The chapel of St. Nicholas is mentioned in 1232, but the hospital itself does not appear on dated record until 1235, though it must have existed previously. It belonged to Elgin Cathedral.

The buildings survived the Reformation in considerable extent, but were mostly removed for the rebuilding of the bridge (NJ35SW 1) in 1830, but what was supposed to be the east gable existed in 1870 as an old crumbling wall 3′ to 4′ high and 33′ long forming part of the road fence (D E Easson 1957).

The grave-yard was that of the hospital but was used as a vegetable garden in 1870.