‘The medical untouchables’

The following is a recent opinion piece by Dr Des Spence published in the British Journal of General Practice.

I had been lined up to do the media interviews on BBC Scotland in relation to petition PE1651. However, on the day, due to changed travel arrangements, I was not available. Dr Des Spence was interviewed instead and did a better job than I could have done.

As an NHS doctor and specialist, I fully support this petition (PE1651) which calls on the Scottish parliament “to urge the Scottish Government to take action to appropriately recognise and effectively support individuals affected and harmed by prescribed drug dependence and withdrawal.”

I have submitted my response.

I feel it would be helpful to hear the views of the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland and in particular, how this matter might be considered as part of Realistic Medicine.

Three recent posts by me demonstrate the scale of competing financial interests in medical education in the UK. If you have a moment, you should have a look. Perhaps you might then share the worry that I have about this matter:

I have previously raised my own petition, PE1493, which the Scottish Public has supported. This was a petition for a Sunshine Act for Scotland, to make it mandatory for all financial conflicts of interest to be declared by healthcare professionals and academics.

My petition, supported by the public, had no support from “Realistic Medicine”. The public has had no update from the Scottish Government on my petition in 18 months. My view is that this is a shocking failure of governance and would seem to demonstrate a lack of respect for democracy.

A lot of hot air

This Radio Scotland Broadcaster in this clip suggests that we need a film about the Great Nadar:

A lot of hot air from omphalos.

Fortunately I made the following film a few years ago:

Nadar from omphalos.

"The Great Nadar" by Adam Begley can be purchased here.

[I made my film before Adam Begley had published this book]

REPARATION (a prequel and sequel)

Filmed at Lynedoch, Perthshire, Thursday 15th June 2017.

Peter is reading the words of Hilary Mantel (from the Reith lecture 2017)

Music is composed and performed by James Ross – “Beyond the Strath”

A wee space in the whole of time

This film has as its backing “Black Star” as performed by the Proms in tribute to David Bowie

A wee space in the whole of time from omphalos on Vimeo.

“Packaging up old myths”

Last week the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) held its Annual Conference:Annual Conference 2015The Pharmaceutical Industry are concerned about an “affordability conundrum”:Affordability conundrum1The affordability conundrumThis BBC Report from November 2014: “Pharmaceutical Industry gets high on fat profits” documented that:Pharmaceutical industry gets high on fat profits (2b)There will be many companies around the world who would like to be dealing with this kind of “affordability conundrum”.

Another area of concern to the industry was discussed at the 2015 ABPI Conference:Aileen Thompson 2aileen_thompsonThe closing session of the 2015 ABPI Conference was focused on the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry:  Industry as a credible partner A panel discussion was part of this:      Sponsored by concentraI wonder if the panel considered this:Pharmaceutical industry gets high on fat profits (3)Andrew McConaghie of PharmaPhorum recorded this passage:wrong1 wrong2 wrong3My view is that if the Pharmaceutical industry are concerned about their reputation then they should avoid such obvious scapegoating. Dr Goldacre has been and continues to be a world pioneer for scientific objectivity and it does the “reputation” of the British Pharmaceutical industry no credit to distort his work in this way.

Here is the view of the World Health Organisation:Pharmaceutical industry gets high on fat profits (4)

God with us – Abergeldy (part 3)

With the death of Peter, the thirteenth laird of Abergeldy, in 1819 the entrail took a knights-shift. Peter had no son and heir to leave his estate, and so it passed onto his brother David Gordon who was 62 years of age when Abergeldy came most unexpectedly to him. This moment marked a turning point in the Abergeldy calendar, when its affairs were secondary to business dealings in England. The castle was on the threshold of the Royal lease, and the Gordons were to become distant landlords. There is no intention to show disrespect to this new generation, but arguably, the real glory days of Abergeldy had ended with that Burnsyde alliance.

David Gordon, the fourteenth laird, had spent most of his life in London, far from Deeside and had busied himself with financial rather than domestic affairs. In 1774 he wrote a letter from London, to his cousin Charles Hunter of Burnsyde concerning the receipt of his Power of Attorney and explaining why he had delayed in purchasing Hunter a lottery ticket. It was astounding to learn that this lottery ticket cost David Gordon £13 and 12s. Quite a sum! Surely this was a different sort of lottery to the one we have today!

David Gordon had started his working life in the service of Messrs Drummond, Bankers, and was appointed their representative to New York in 1776. David Gordon later left Drummonds and started in business with his brother Adam, and brother-in-law, John Biddulph. This was to be a most successful firm of Engineers based in Lime Street, London. Under Gordon & Biddulph many ships were built and no project seemingly too large. Thus, before his succession to Abergeldy, David Gordon had already a large house on Dulwich Hill in London with grounds extending to nearly 33 acres.

After David Gordon’s succession, there is little to record for he spent a good deal of his time attending to his business. It was during his lairdship however, that there arose a complication of march interests between the estates of Abergeldy and Birkhall which was not settled till over half a century later. It was apparently a most bitter dispute, between Gordon and the Prince Consort, and if truth be known it was the seed of acrimony that has long-lasted between Abergeldy and the Royal Family.

David Gordon, the fourteenth Laird, married in 1789, Anne Biddulph, daughter of Michael Biddulph of Ledbury, Herefordshire, by whom he had four sons and three daughters. David Gordon died in October 1831, and it is said that his funeral was the last occasion on which birch wine was served. The Abergeldy Household seem to have been famous for their birch wine, for the author of ‘The Scenery of the Grampian Mountains’ tasted some in 1810, and called it excellent, and remarked that it seemed to him to be ‘superior to the finest champagne.’

The small glen still has its native birch wood, the best example of which envelops Linquoch and Newton. In early Celtic mythology, the birch came to symbolise renewal and purification. Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year. Later this would evolve into the ‘beating the bounds’ ceremonies in which the farm-toun boundaries were scoured in the promise of renewal and good growth. According to Deeside folklore, a barren cow herded with a birch stick would become fertile, or a pregnant cow bear a healthy calf.

Birch-wood,-GirnocFigure 4.33: The small glen birch wood at Linquoch

The uses of birch in the small glen were many and varied. Traditionally, babies’ cradles were made of birch wood, drawing on the earlier symbolism, of new beginnings. The branches were used as fuel in the distillation of whisky – the chief industry of the small glen! The birch spray was used for smoking meat ham – and for this birch was far preferred to every other kind of wood. The bark was used for tanning leather, and sometimes, when dried and twisted into a rope, instead of candles. The spray was most commonly used for thatching of the town-ship houses along with heather. Folklore credited different parts of the birch with a variety of medicinal properties. The leaves were diuretic and antiseptic, and served as an effective remedy for cystitis. The sap (as wine or cordial) was felt to prevent kidney and bladder stones, and to treat rheumatism.

To make birch wine is a relatively straightforward recipe, with the tapping of sap as it rises in spring, though it must be stated, up to a gallon of sap needs to be collected. This then needs at least two cups of sugar added as birch sap has a low concentration of sugars. Two oranges and a lemon, sliced, complete the ingredients; the rest is down to yeast fermentation.

David Gordon the fourteenth laird planned to leave Abergeldy to his oldest son, Charles David Gordon, but sadly he died five years before him in London in 1826. Charles David (1790-1826) was at school at Harrow with Lord Byron, with whom he became very friendly throughout his life. Byron visited Charles David at Abergeldy and corresponded by letter with him over many years:

Charles-david-GordonFigure 4.34: Charles David Gordon

‘Believe me, my dearest Charles, no letter from you can ever be un-entertaining or dull, at least to me. On the contrary, they will always be productive of the highest pleasure as often as you think proper to gratify.’

With the death of his oldest son, the Abergeldy entail passed in 1831 to the second son Michael Francis Gordon and on his death in 1860, to the third son Robert Gordon.

Michael Francis Gordon was born in 1792 and went into the family business becoming a partner in the firm of Gordon & Biddulph. It was he who leased Abergeldy to the Royal Family: ‘a lease of the Lands and Barony of Abergeldy, lying in the parishes of Crathie, Kindrochat and Glengarden and Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, and of the pendicle called Polhollick, and of the Forest of White Mounth, all therein described, with Mansion House of Abergeldy and others therein specified, to be granted in terms of the Act 11 and 12 Victoria, Cap. 36, in favour of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and that for the period of 40 years after the term of Whitsunday 1849.’

Michael Francis Gordon was at the time of this contract in Boulogne and he made every effort to ensure that his entail succeeded to his three surviving sons. When he made his decision to lease Abergeldy in 1849 it was amidst the deepest of despair – the year before he lost his son John aged 24 years. His oldest son, Francis was studying Law in Edinburgh and his two youngest at school in England. Never for one moment could he have understood that within a year of the lease to the Prince consort that his two youngest sons would also be dead. That left only his eldest son Francis as living heir.

Prince-ConsortFigure 4.35: Albert signs Abergeldy in 1849

Sometimes fate can be a terrible master. Francis David, the only living heir to his father, was sent out to India where as a Captain in the East India Company’s service where he was killed during the Indian Mutiny in 1857 at Jhansai.

Three years later on the very last day of 1860, Michael Francis Gordon, an utterly broken-man, died. He was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Florence, Italy. Having seen all four of his sons die before him, Abergeldy passed to his, most elderly brother, Robert.

Jhansai-mutinyFigure 4.36: Michael Francis loses his eldest and last son in a Mutiny in Jhansai

The Royal occupants of Abergeldy were, over many decades; the Duchess of Kent (mother of Queen Victoria), the ex-Empress Eugenie of France (1879), King George V, and King Edward VII (when Prince of Wales) both of whom took a direct interest in breeding ponies and Aberdeen-Angus cattle. Apparently the initial forty year lease was continued by two further forty year leases, and for that reason the Gordons of Abergeldy were absentee landlords right up until the time of the twentieth laird.

Abergeldy-RoyalsFigure 4.37: The Abergeldy Royals: The Duchess of Kent, Empress Eugenie, George V and Edward VII

Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, was in residence at Abergeldy during seven successive summers between 1850 and 1857. After that her doctors forbade her to make the full journey and she took her holiday in the south of Scotland. Whilst at Abergeldy the old Duchess was very fond of a game of cards – whist or patience, fonder still of her piano and her dogs, especially a white poodle. Mrs Lindsay recalled the Duchess at Abergeldy in glowing terms as a ‘stout, comely, elderly lady whose face overflowed with kindliness and good humour, quietly dignified, yet with a gentle courtesy that set even a shy child at ease.’ The Duchess also liked to entertain and the Abergeldy dances for tenants and staff were spirited occasions with the local fiddlers in vigorous action. On her death in 1861, George the Prince of Wales took over the house and used it continually for his autumn stay in Scotland and for the entertainment of his shooting parties. When he was not there, there were other tenants, most noticeably the ex-Empress Eugenie.

It was whilst Edward Prince of Wales was in residence that a Gypsy made a freak arrival at Abergeldy. On the 26th September 1866 a cart drew up at the Tower, inside, lying dead was 40 year old James McGregor a Tea-Merchant from a Ballater Caravan. The Abergeldy butler, William Grant took the stiff corpse back to Ballater. After that, the Royal tea must have tasted not so delicate.

During the Royal tenancy improvements to the estate were made, and it was in the early years of the Consort’s lease that a great extension was made with fancy elaboration to the west-wing which adjoined the old towerhouse. This made it a much more substantial property. It was also at this time, that an ornate cupola was added, along with the external wall clock. The Abergeldy farm prospered once again, and both George V and Edward VII, took a great deal of personal interest in its husbandry. They were particularly fond of pony-breeding and the rearing of good Aberdeen-Angus cattle. It was at this time, the earliest years of the Royal lease, that the new farms of the Camlet, Bovagli, and Lynvaig were built.

It is a sad note to learn how Edward Prince of Wales was greeted back to Abergeldy in the Autumn of 1881, for his Butler, John Doncaster shot himself dead in the castle tower. Incredibly the death marked the very day of fifteen years before when the stiff-corpse of the Tea-man arrived in the cart at Abergeldy’s door. No explanation has ever been made of the Butler’s suicide.

It is remarkable to think just how tightly the Gordon family has held onto Abergeldy refusing repeated offers from the Royal family to purchase it. Indeed the very date that the 21st Laird reclaimed his castle, has it seems, mythical pretensions. John Howard Seton Gordon took his mantle as 21st Laird on the 23rd April 1963 and mythology records that this was the very day that Perseus was arrested, tortured, and put to death. In the mirrored-reflection of his Abergeldy Coat of Arms, laird John had seen that Royal monster, and in that instant had it slayed. His Gordon forebears would, like Zeus, have been proud.

Six years into his stewardship Laird John was faced with a £30,000 roof repair bill for his castle, and idealism had to give way to reality. So it was that in the early summer of 1969 the demolishers moved in. The destruction of the West wing was controversial even then, and so prior to demolition a detailed photographic survey and inventory was completed by The Royal Commission on the Historical & Ancient Monuments of Scotland. So throughout the summer of 1969, nearly all traces of the Royal occupation removed, and the Scotland home of the Prince of Wales wiped back, with alexithymic rigour, to nout but the Keep.

In the winter of 2007 I found an old box in John Sinclair House in Edinburgh. It felt to me like a scene wrenched from Poliakoff’s masterpiece ‘Shooting the Past’ for the images contained revealed an untold story all of their own. Poliakoff’s work has such sweeping beauty that betwixingly mingles lost and forgotten connections; but even he would have marvelled at the contents of this box.

Abergeldy-as-the-Royal-famiFigure 4.38: Abergeldy an impressive Royal home c1870

As I found picture after picture, I felt like the eager but eccentric Oswald Bates, the Museum Curator in ‘Shooting the Past.’ I realized then that Abergeldy had once been mightier than ever and that story after story had gone a-begging. The pictures displayed a castle of much bustle; hunting lodges, a ‘Game Street,’ Smoking rooms, pavilions, turrets and much fancy – all now gone. Many architectural details were photographed, from the expected – fireplaces, ornate plasterwork; to the unexpected – chimney pots and cookers. It was at the bottom of the box that I found an 1891 Architectural plan of the castle drawn up by James Anderson. To be honest I almost over-looked it, but was curious about annotated scribbles made to the Second-floor room-plan. Written over two insignificant attic rooms were two words ‘Prince John.’

Abergeldie-bef-demolishersFigure 4.39: Views of Abergeldy as it was in the time of the Royal occupancy

As Poliakoff well knows, there is a true story of great poignancy, regarding little Prince John, something that he so movingly captured in his BBC production of 2003 ‘The Lost Prince.

Tuesday 17th April 2007

Dear Sharon,
I thought you might like to know about Prince John and Abergeldy. I warn you his story is a sad one.

Have you ever watched any of the BBC films by Stephen Poliakoff? Easily my favourite broadcast production was a two-piece drama by Poliakoff called ‘Shooting the Past.’ Truly it enchants and is just so moving. Anyway two years ago Poliakoff brought out another BBC film called ‘The Lost Prince.’ It was about the last born son of King George V – a son that was hidden in shame for being severely autistic and suffering uncontrollable epilepsy. The music to the drama is so sweepingly sad and touches the soul. It was beautifully composed by Adrian Johnston and as I write this I am listening to it.

I was having a closer look at the Abergeldy plans when I noticed the above annotation. Prince John had two rooms knocked into one. It seems, in Scotland, the little Prince was hidden away in Abergeldy Castle. Poor wee lad.


Prince John was born in July of 1905 and at first appeared to be a normal child, unlike his rather uptight elder brothers Edward, the future King Edward VIII, and Albert, the future King George VI. But before long, it was clear that John was growing too quickly. By the time he was 12, he was severely epileptic and as a result was often struck and felled without warning.

Prince-John-&-AbergeldieFigure 4.40: Little Prince John and his Scottish hide-out

Over the last few days I have found myself returning to little John, a lad somewhat superciliously dressed in his sailors outfit and with his father’s rheumy eyes. Already he was different and his destiny was to be in the shadows. His dear carer was his nurse ‘Lalla’ who was his constant escort and had the duty of keeping the little prince safely out of the public eye. Today we find it hard to understand, but even by the turn of the century there was no cure for epilepsy (certainly no medications) and the awkward prince presented shame for the Royal family. Brenda Lewis, Royal biographer was to dwell on this ‘shutting Prince John away appears cruel and unfeeling. It was, in fact, the only recourse open to his parents, given the social mores of the time. Isolation also had benefits for John himself, releasing him from the rigours of being royal and therefore, in a sense, public property.’

Abergeldie-planFigure 4.41: Prince John and his Abergeldy nursery

I like to think that Abergeldy was the comfort that this boy, some so wrongly called ’a monster,’ needed. Together with Lalla he must have played his favourite soldiers on the old stone tower spiral steps. The fresh Abergeldy pines, whilst no cure for his epilepsy, must have soothed that inner restlessness. Queen Mary probably spent more time with John, her youngest child, than she did with her other children, and was nowhere near as cold and unfeeling as she has often been portrayed.

Prince John’s conditioned worsened and the Royal Physicians were impotent to his ceaseless fits. In mid-January 1919 the Prince died. Lalla was distraught. King George and Queen Mary drove to Sandringham to find the dead boy lying as if asleep on his bed.

‘Little Johnnie looked very peaceful …’ the Queen wrote later. ‘He just slept quietly in his heavenly home, no pain, no struggle, just peace for the little troubled spirit.’

The sixteenth Laird, Robert Gordon succeeded unexpectedly to Abergeldy in 1860. He was 64 years of age and unmarried and had spent his entire life in the Navy. He never gained the soldiering accolade of both his uncles but did take part in the conquest of Java. He later took part in many operations against the Americans, and was present at the attack on New Orleans. In July 1816, he was transferred to HMS ‘Queen Charlotte,’ flagship of Lord Exmouth who appointed him Acting Lieutenant, and as such he took part in the bombardment of Algiers. Interestingly his last commission was in the West Indies in 1834. Robert Gordon sixteenth Laird of Abergeldy, died without issue in February 1869, he was never resident at the castle during his nine year reign, and was probably never even in Scotland. The estate then passed to his nephew, Hugh MacKay Gordon (1826-1901), who was the son of his deceased brother, Adam.

The seventeenth laird, Hugh MacKay was 42 years old when Abergeldy came his way. The Royal family having renewed the lease were still in residence so the Laird used to take a house in Ballater for his summer holidays. Hugh MacKay was especially interested in his family tradition and at the turn-of-the-century exchanged by letter much with Dr Bulloch. It was he who told Dr Bulloch that many family papers were destroyed by a fire in 1812. Many have interpreted this quite literally as did I, envisaging the Abergeldy Charter Chest up in flames. However this was clearly not the case, as a trip to Abergeldy castle revealed:

“There was not enough time to examine the John Innes map as wished – yet the laird was determined that its glorious detail should be seen. At the foot of the canvas map was an old chest of the darkest wood ever. It was deeply carved and thick with dust. On top it had a large split. As quick as a blink the laird jumped up upon it and stretched his frame high so as to closely examine the detail of The Camlet. The chest creaked and its echo reverberated around the dust filled Hall. In that instant the laird beckoned me up.

That groan again – would it hold? Oh my goodness!

It was on dismounting that the laird said, now look at this, the box we stood upon, was the charter chest… the Abergeldy Charter Chest. The chest dated from the time of the sixth laird of Abergeldy; William Gordon (died 1630.) The most interesting incident in this laird’s career was his connection with the Catholic plot, usually known as the “Spanish blanks,” by which a Spanish invasion of this country was to be maneuvered.”

When I first visited the castle I was to find the shrubs overgrown and the old Tower keep barricaded, but had I managed to reach its southern face, I would have been greeted by the Castle’s oldest ironwork in the form of an ancient Tirling Pin. To rouse the Laird I might have fared better with this mediaeval facility for there was neither bell nor knocker. Few these days have even heard of Tirling Pins; this, the Abergeldy one, dates from the 1660’s, and carries the initials of Alexander Gordon the eighth laird and his wife Euphemia Graham. Its survival is virtually unique in the north-east.

“Tirl the pin, peep in,
Lift the latch, and walk in.”

It was in Hugh MacKay Gordon’s time that the long running dispute about the marches between Abergeldy and Birkhall was settled by a Court of Session decision against him. However, as Cairnfield recorded, the seventeenth laird’s real interest was in the south, particularly Eltham, where he resided for over thirty years, and with which he was so closely connected that the local paper, in noticing his death, made no mention of his having been Laird of Abergeldy!

Hugh MacKay Gordon, died without issue in 1901. He left £67,669, and of which sum £2,500 was put in trust, to accumulate while the lease lasted for the benefit of the estate. At this juncture the estate was transferred to yet another brother, in this case Lewis Gordon who was also to be an absentee laird, and for only two years as he died suddenly in 1903. The next two lairds were sons of Lewis. Reginald Hugh Lyall Gordon served as nineteenth laird up to his death in 1924, and leaving only a daughter Gertrude, Abergeldy passed to his brother Bertram Fuller Gordon, the twentieth laird.

John Howard Seton Gordon became the twenty-first laird of Abergeldy on his 25th birthday. The year was 1963 and he had just completed seven years as a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines. In May of that year, the new laird, married Gillian Voelcker.

Abergeldie-treeFigure 4.44: Abergeldy passed from brother to brother for four generations (blue dots)

It was my Aunt, Janet Risk Gordon who first took an interest in our family origins. In 1961 she excitedly came across an advert in a Scottish newspaper that explained how Abergeldy was desperately looking for its heir. This roused her greatly as she had heard her father say that we were ‘Abergeldy.’ So it was that she set about to prove it! She commissioned a researcher and had the Baxendine report drawn up. This traced our family back solidly to ‘Camlet John.’

It is interesting to note that for four separate generations (marked by blue dots in the family tree on the previous page) Abergeldy passed not from father to son, but from brother to brother. However, by 1957, when the twentieth laird Bertram Fuller Gordon died, not only did he have no surviving son, but searching back neither did any of the previous five lairds. So to find a successor, the Lyon Court had to go all the way back to the fourteenth laird David Gordon (1753-1831). Quite incredible to think, and of course to turn the fortunes of the most unexpecting John Howard Seton Gordon!

John, the twenty-first laird, has now entered his fifth decade of stewardship of Abergeldy. It appears that when he inherited the castle in 1963 it had long been standing empty – the Royal family had not managed to renew the lease and as chatelaines they were no more.

Abergeldie-Charter-ChestFigure 4.45: The Abergeldy crest from the Great Hall

This has been a busy chapter full of Abergeldy incident, and there is no wish to spoil the ambition of clear narrative. However you may recall that the chapter started not at the family beginning, but with Rachel the tenth, and saving heiress. Both Dr Bulloch, and Edward of Cairnfield, have amassed much detail on the earlier generations, and you might argue that they should be rehearsed here. However I would respectfully suggest for those especially interested in the early Abergeldy years, that they should consult, in particular, Bulloch’s Monograph.

All that said there is a need to draw out some facets of the early generations, particularly as they helped shape later Abergeldy.

Abergeldy was originally an insignificant part of the vast possessions of the Earls of Mar, but the last of that line granted it in 1358 to Duncan, son of Roger. In 1435 Abergeldy was claimed by James I and the estate was leased by the Crown. In 1449 Abergeldy was held by the 1st Earl of Huntly who paid £10 yearly rent. The Roger claim, however, still existed and was sought as late as 1507. It was the Earl of Huntly who gave Abergeldy with other lands to his second son Alexander Gordon, who founded the line of the Gordons of Abergeldy.

The Lairds of Abergeldy, unlike other Gordons, did not go in for extensive land purchases, and what they did acquire was mainly an enlargement of the Abergeldy property itself, though they did in the early generations acquire Easton, in Tarland parish; Midmar, west of Echt; Grandholm, Persley and Craibstone – now northern suburbs of Aberdeen; Ballogie – in Lumphannan parish; and Glengardyn (near the mouth of Glengairn.) It is of interest to note that it was at Glengardyn, where the Gairn enters the Dee that the family of Nathaniel Gordon settled.

King-James-IFigure 4.46: James I of Scotland claimed Abergeldy

The sixth Laird of Abergeldy is of interest, and worthy of mention for he is styled in the Balbithan Manuscript as Mr William Gordon of Stering, showing that he had taken his degree and had got the lands of Birkhall from his father. William is said to have been involved in the so called ‘Spanish blanks’ affair. William Gordon the sixth Laird of Abergeldy was sent from Spain in March 1591 by William Crichton a Scot’s priest there with letters to Mr James Gordon, a Jesuit Priest and son of the fourth Earl of Huntly, to let papists know what efforts Crichton had made with King of Spain and the latter was to invade England and alter the region of Scotland by Crichton’s advice. Crichton desired that so many blanks and procurations should be sent to him as could be had from the Scots Noblemen.

Upon receipt of the blanks, it was proposed to send an army of 30,000 men in 1592 to land either in the Clyde or Kirkcudbright. The answers were taken by George Ker who bore many letters, but who was apprehended at the isle of Cumbrae. One of them was written in French by the sixth Earl of Huntly and signed by two other nobles, regretting the defeat of the Armada which was said to have been sent out at the wrong time of year. How much truth there was in this story, it is hard to say, but Huntly at any rate was able to clear himself with James VI of connection with the affair.

William Gordon the sixth was summoned to appear before the Privy Council in 1592 for ‘the hearing of mass and resetting of priests and papists,’ and not complying was denounced as a rebel in March 1593. William had irksome domestic troubles as well as the painful strife of his worldlier catholic mission. That trouble was with his wife Elizabeth Seton of Parbroath. She carried on a dispute with the minister of Kinnernie in Midmar for ten years, bringing actions against the tenants of that parish. Elizabeth Seton also had disputes with James Gordon of Balmoral, the Reverend Alexander Gordon, minister in Glenmuick, and John Leith of Achlie! She later gave a good deal of trouble to her son and neighbours. Her son complained in August of 1631, that she refused to move from Abergeldy where she had no rights and obtained ‘letters of removal’ against her and a year later her ‘tack of conjunct feu of Lands’ was cancelled.

It is a mystery is it not how religion fires family distemper and then to outright hostility. That was very true of the family of William, the Catholic, and sixth of Abergeldy. His wife, in her multiple feuds, was paranoid and unyielding and their son Alexander, who became the seventh laird in March 1631, was to become the most wayward of all the Abergeldy Gordons. By nature or nurture, or no doubt both, he had inherited his mother’s fiery outlook. In short he was a brutal and disagreeable rogue, liked it seems, by none. It was Alexander Gordon the seventh that virtually lost Abergeldy for his family.

Alexander was a strong anti-covenanter of a ‘violent temper quarrelling not only with his neighbours, but also with his wife and family.’ Consequently he fell into debt, and but for the intervention of his brother-in-law, might have brought destruction to his line. During his father’s life time, he was invested in 1627 in Ballogie and Abergeldy and had the previous year been admitted a burgess of Aberdeen, being even then styled ‘friar of Abergeldy.’ In light of what you will hear below that epitaph seems absurd!

On his father’s death, and probably on account of his Royalist sympathies, he proceeded to raise money rapidly. In December 1632, with the Marquis of Huntly, a bond for £5,900 was given in favour of Mark Cass of Cokpen. In January 1633, the lands of Abergeldy, Ballogie and Midmar were apprised from him for a debt of £3,325 due to David Adie, burgess of Aberdeen, and six months later another apprising took place. By now the estate was in tatters and all but lost.

Presumably Alexander Gordon the seventh laird had succeeded to the Baillieship of Strathdee, for with James, Lord Carnegie, he was commissioned in 1634 to arrest John Finlay in The Camlet for Robbery. In 1635, the rents for Alexander Gordon were stated to have been £1,368.13s.4d including £250 for Abergeldy itself, but whether these included the lands apprised from him is not stated. The Abergeldy property proper comprised the Mains, Ballochalloch, Mill Croft, Lynebeg (Lynvaig), Camlet, Bovaglie, Dremnapark, Balnacroft, Tulloch Choguir (Tilfogar) and Clachtanturn.

In July of 1632, Donald Farquharson of Inchemarroun was cautioner in 5000 merks for Alexander’s appearance before the Privy Council ‘touching his misbehaviour towards his ladie.’ This was to be the first of many appearances before the Privy Council, for at the very time Alexander was losing his estate he was also ‘battering’ his wife Katherine Nicholsone. His frustration, presumably fuelled by drink, was acted-out domestically, and his poor wife was the unfortunate victim.

In October 1633, he used violent language against Katherine and would have done her ‘bodily harm’ but was restricted by a friend staying there. In September 1634, Katherine complained that Alexander threatened to disinherit the children and to sell and put away the whole estate in defraud of them. To prevent this she was constrained to rejoin him so that his son might get investment of some part of the estate, and Alexander Gordon promised never to ‘strike, hurt, or wrong her in her bodie’ under penalty of 2000 merks. This was a bond that seems to have been frequently broken!

In May 1634, Alexander Gordon, ejected his wife Katherine from the house and she had to seek refuge in a tenant’s house. The following month, after her return to Ballogie where they were living, he again hit out at her, demanding her conjunct fee, and threatening her, till she gave him what little money she had. Alexander was desperate and his behaviour pitiful.

While Katherine was at Ballogie Alexander frequently absented himself for twenty days at a time, leaving her without a penny to maintain herself and her five children, so she had to beg for help from the surrounding tenants, which they gave her though ordered not to do so. The Privy Council discerned that Alexander Gordon should pay the 2000 merks under his bond during her life time.

It is necessary to set the scene here as you must understand that Alexander steadfastly supported King Charles I as head of the Church and had no time for the Covenanters. Abergeldy for generations had been catholic and had dismissed the constrained and strict discipline of the Presbyterian faith. Whilst the Covenanters rebelled against Charles I and his introduction to Scotland of Episcopalianism, Alexander looked on aghast. Scotland was by this time in an almost constant state of civil unrest because of an unwillingness of the Scots to accept the royal decree that King Charles was head of the church. So it was that many signed a covenant which refused this Royal mantle, and which stated their belief that only Jesus Christ could command such a position. This was a truly grim period of religious persecution which witnessed the bloodiest crimes in the nation’s history; committed by Scots against Scots.

Alexander played out this religious unrest in his marriage. The Covenant was signed in 1638. In May of the following year Alexander was one of the gentry who gathered round Lord Aboyne at Aberdeen as a counterblast to the meeting of the Covenanters at Turriff. In March 1644 he met Lord Huntly at Aberdeen and accompanied him to Banff where Huntly waited for some time expecting assistance from Royalists from the south. Getting none, Huntly disbanded his forces, and the Covenanters ordered several castles of the Gordons to be razed, amongst them Abergeldy.

Abergeldy was all but lost. Saviour came not by divine intervention but legal transaction, undertaken by Alexander’s brother-in-law, Thomas Nicholson, advocate and Procurator, for Estates. This turning point in Abergeldy’s history should not be under-estimated. In July 1644, in what must be regarded as Thomas Nicholson’s greatest legal sleight of hand, he brilliantly repossessed the heritable right and property of Abergeldy. At the same time, he had Alexander’s Life rent forfeited which he determined for the maintenance of his sister and her seven children.

Marquis-of-MontroseFigure 4.47: Marquis of Montrose

The castle of Abergeldy was at this time occupied by Argyll’s troops, who according to Nicholson’s complaint to Parliament did a great deal of damage and ‘so impoverished the place that he was suffering a heavy loss’ for which he asked compensation. Alexander Gordon, after the disbanding of Huntly’s force, joined the Marquis of Montrose and seems to have been with him till his death.

James Graham the Marquis of Montrose was a Scottish general, poet, and Royalist hero who won a series of spectacular victories in Scotland against the Covenanters for Charles I, but was finally deserted by Charles II. To Montrose’s dismay, Charles II entered into negotiations with the Covenanters. When talks broke down in May 1649, Charles attempted to coerce the Covenanters by ordering Montrose to take control of Scotland by military force. Montrose sent a small force of German and Danish mercenaries as an advance guard to occupy the Orkneys in September 1649 and joined them with reinforcements in March 1650. By the time Montrose landed on the Scottish mainland, Charles had reopened negotiations with the Covenanters. Charles wrote to Montrose ordering him to disarm, but the orders never reached him. The Covenanters moved swiftly against him and Montrose was defeated at the battle of Carbisdale by Colonel Strachan in April 1650. A few days later, Charles disavowed Montrose under the terms of the Treaty of Breda.

Montrose escaped into the mountains after Carbisdale. He fled to Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt where he was betrayed to the Covenanters by Neil MacLeod, laird of Assynt. Montrose was taken to Edinburgh and led through the streets in a cart driven by the hangman. Already under sentence of death for his campaign of 1644-5, Montrose was hanged at the Mercat Cross on the 21st May 1650, protesting to the last that he was a true Covenanter as well as a loyal subject. Apparently he was dressed ‘more like a bridegroom than a convicted criminal.’ He was dressed immaculately in scarlet and silver lace, with white gloves, silk stockings, and ribboned shoes.

Montrose-hangedFigure 4.48: Montrose resplendent is hanged in Edinburgh 1650

Montrose’s head was fixed on a spike at the Tolbooth in Edinburgh, his legs and arms were fixed to the gates of Stirling, Glasgow, Perth and Aberdeen. His dismembered body was buried in Edinburgh, but Lady Jean Napier had it secretly disinterred. The heart was removed, embalmed, placed in a casket, and sent to Montrose’s exiled son as a symbol of loyalty and martyrdom.

One has to wonder what happened to Alexander Gordon seventh of Abergeldy, the loyal supporter, and close friend of Montrose. He was apparently with him until his death, but Dr Bulloch clearly records that Alexander survived Montrose by five years. So it seems Alexander escaped the execution of his poet brother Montrose, however his last few years, one can only imagine, must have been sad and lonely. Alexander had estranged his family, lost his country, and forfeited his family seat. It is easy for history to be turned to the view of the writer, but one cannot help come to the conclusion that Abergeldy, had in Alexander the seventh, its most wayward son.

This chapter on Abergeldy started with Rachel and as is my wish, I would like to draw it to a close with her. She was Abergeldy’s great chatelaine and with her husband Captain Charles she turned around the fortune of an estate that had been all but ruined by her grandfather Alexander the seventh.

Rachel-Gordon-AbergeldieFigure 4.49: Rachel Gordon of Abergeldy

I have deliberately chosen to finish the chapter with Rachel as found in her portrait that hangs high in Abergeldy’s Great Hall. I am sure you agree that it could hardly be said to be flattering. In it she looks awkward, double-chinned and constipated. I must say, the portrait was a terrible disappointment to me, for my own Rachel has a radiant beauty that Lady Abergeldy has not. Yes, chasing gold thread is a wasted cause.

God with Us.

Wolf McAndrew – Lynvaig

Chapter 6 of ‘Deeside Tales’: Wolf McAndrew – Lynvaig 
It was a curious yet stirring dream. It all started at the Cosh with a vintage car rally of which I was the leading participant. I was, of course, driving the old Austin of The Camlet.

The true marvel was how these beautiful old cars made it up the small glen track. But that they did! Exhilaration peaked at Lynvaig, for there, just beyond the copse; Lochnagar magically peeked above the elbow of the glen.

vintage-carFigure 6.1: A vintage car rally in the small glen

As one rises steeply out of the birch woods, heading southwards, the main Girnoc track leads first to the scattered remains of Newton farm-toun, a farming community that was deserted in the 1840’s, and then to Lynvaig, a farm one-and-a-half miles on from the Cosh. Lynvaig has an equally lengthy history, though unlike Newton, was farmed up until relatively recent times.

Lynvaig, as it was known, has a rather romantic Gaelic translation (lòn na bhfiodhag) ‘meadow of the bird-cherry’ though Adam Watson believes that the true Deeside etymology is ‘little enclosure.’ I would never argue with Dr Watson whose understanding of upper Deeside surpasses all, however I cannot help returning to that Gaelic translation.

These days Lynvaig has become a sanitized ‘Loinveg.’ I prefer the former and shall preserve it for this text. The woodland around Lynvaig, on the south-westerly side, is a beautiful native copse, principally of Birch (Betula pendula) but scattered with Alder (Alnus glutinosa) and Bird Cherry (Prunus padus). It is as beautiful a woodland as you will ever find – light, airy and deliciously fresh.

As I have told you I have a love of trees, but easily my favourite native is the Bird-Cherry (Gean). To look at it does not command the authority of the hardwoods, but like them it is deciduous and incredibly tough. It can survive easily on the high reaches of the small glen. That is in itself a measure of robustness! Yet it is a delicate tree, never more than ten metres tall and in May is crowned in glorious white flowers with irregularly toothed petals. The sickly almond scented flowers attract many insects, particularly bees and flies. The fruits, which are like small cherries, are rich in tannin, and despite their bitter taste, are eaten by birds, like robins and thrushes. Hence the name.

blossomFigure 6.2: The irregular flowered petals of the Bird-Cherry (Gean)

The bark of the Bird-Cherry was gathered in the Middle Ages to make an infusion used as a tonic and sedative for stomach pains. One can only imagine, given its proximity to the wood, and the natural larder there-in, that Lynvaig was the ‘medicinal centre’ of the small glen. However to me the Gean is at its best in the autumn, displaying rich russets and oranges, which seem all the more brilliant in the midst of the muzzy purple-brown of the feathery birch.

Lynvaig was the birthplace of Euphemia MacAndrew (the first wife of Camlet John.) Her tombstone in Glenmuick, sits just beside her parents; John MacAndrew and Isobel Roy. Examination of the old parish register reveals that there were several MacAndrew families in Lynvaig throughout the eighteenth century with the head of household carrying names such as Donald, James and John. Bob McAndrew a retired pathologist from Dunkeld in Perthshire, described in a letter how ‘the density of family groups in Crathie parish points to it being one of the focal points of origin of the name.’

The McAndrew name crops up in an unusual Deeside tale, which was recently rehearsed by Dr Sheila Sedgwick in her book ‘The Legion of the Lost.’ The last Wolf in Deeside was probably killed in Glen Gairn in 1744, but before then they would have been common within the district, and were noted particularly in Glen Muick and Glen Girnoc. According to Dr Sedgwick, about 1890 an ‘old man’ used to tell a story of a young child being ‘carried away by a wolf’ many years previously. The small child was nourished by the wolves in a den on Lochnagar. He grew to be of considerable size and seemed to be of a wild disposition. Once the men of the glen discovered the den of wolves they set out to capture the boy. They finally succeeded and after the boy had been in human company for some time he became ‘socialised’, even if not completely civilized. He did however retain an excessively hairy appearance and that trait was said to continue through his descendents, who were known as the Wolf McAndrews.

On the 22nd of April 2006 an Episode of the new Dr Who series was aired called ‘Tooth and Claw’ the storyline of which (about a Werewolf Disorder and Queen Victoria) prompted a furious reply by Dr Sedgwick of Girnoc Shiel who alleged the idea had been stolen from her. Given that the viewing figures that night were in excess of 10 million, the cynical might say there was motive in Dr Sedgwick’s claim! In fact the title of this episode comes from a favourite poem of Queen Victoria written by Tennyson in 1850: ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw.’ This particular poem was a special comfort to the Queen after Prince Albert’s death.

Werewolf Doctor Story was Stolen!

A Scottish author has threatened to sue the BBC after saying it nicked her storyline for an episode of Dr Who… Dr Sheila Sedgwick MBE has sent a strongly-worded letter to BBC lawyers demanding an explanation.

In 1999 Dr Sedgwick, 81, of Ballater, Aberdeenshire, wrote an historic Victorian account of a “wolf boy” in her £12.50 book The Legion of the Lost. The youngster lived in a cave on the 3,800 high peak, Lochnagar, on the Balmoral Estate. Now Dr Sedgwick is convinced the plot idea for the werewolf storyline on TV is from her book.

Lynvaig2Figure 6.4: Lynvaig

I come from a family of men renowned for their swarthy beard-growth and perhaps now we can explain why?! Through Euphemia McAndrew we inherited wolf blood. The best family beard was displayed by John Gordon (1816-1899), who was the grandson of Camlet John and Euphemia McAndrew.

Peter's-XY-lineFigure 6.5: Three generations of beard

In March 2004 I wrote a poem about a burn in Glen Muick. That burn is called Allt Darrarie but is known locally, and in folk-lore, as Aultdrachty. You may ask why include a burn from Glen Muick when this book’s remit is the Girnoc? Well the answer is simple; time and time again Aultdrachty returned us to Lynvaig. Folklore beckoned a poem, and so the tied histories, became one. The Aultdrachty Rauchle is about the unique rattling noise the burn makes as it rushes down towards the Spittalof Muick. Its torrent may have never ceased but the glen it served emptied. Aultdrachty encapsulates the story of unfortunate whisky smugglers, a fatigued packman, and most curiously of all, the umbrella makers of Lynvaig (they appear there on the 1891 census!) But it was ruthless murder that was Aultdrachty’s grim secret. That burn was as fearsome as the wolf that roamed its banks. I have decided to include the whole poem here as its narrative seems to deserve.

The Aultdrachty Rauchle.

Naebody mynds Aultdrachty noo,
though lood it rattles still.

Yet Aultdrachty’s watter wis’nae awas clear,
an it hods a muckle saicret.

Sae hearken, an hear the feech
o’ the packman, shepherd an the whisky smugglers.
An beyont the reevin win’
the toon-folk, michty-me,
brought forth their ceevil brolly –
Fit mare eesless cud there be!

Stapit foo’ wi dram he wis,
oor Packman on’t fairst erran –
oor hapless loon had’nae heed Aultdrachty’s rowt
on such a loamin’ nicht.
The snaa it came ower the Moonth, a bin-drift,
like nane afore.
Poor loon, asleep aside Aultdrachty,
his lum still a reekin’ was berit.

Lynvaig, wis the hame of McAndrew: anither mither’s loon –
lured by Aultdrachty’s cackle.
Then risen fae a halla, a sleekit naisty beast,
seelenced by Aultdrachty it pounced.
Aye Aultdrachty saa it’ fearsome.

Aultdrachty’s rauchle had a’ thirst that widnae slack.
Half a’ loam smugglers naixt tae the slauchter,
theer bellies reed-het wi’ watter distillate,
jeelous Aultdrachty cud’nae hae that!
Aye the watter wis nae awas clear.

An then Aultdrachty reeled its maist keerious,
the hapless, stupit toon-folk,
the umberella loami:
fit an’ earth tak them tae Aultdrachty, nane will ken,
nane but Aultdrachty.

Fit a spleeter o’ weet,
A shooer like nane
eesless brollies, blan in-bye-oot,
sae they huddled by Aultdrachty.
The watter it fell oot fae the heeven fur days, an nichts,
an fullt the quaich o’ Aultdrachty welt beyont the brim,
Ceevil folk, wi brollies, had nae chance.

That’s how lood wis Aultdrachty’s rattle
an sae its keerious tae think
the glen it ken’t has lang since ceased to roar.

It is strange is it not, what inspires one to write a piece. In the course of writing this book I was most surprised to discover that, completely unknown to me, one of my favourite Doric story-tellers had written her own poem on Aultdrachty called the Burn of the Stunning Noise. It is wonderful, evocative and rather special but does not carry the sinister rauchle!

Slaverin, slubberin, gibberin, gabberin,
Roon wi a wallop, a sklyter, a sweel
Yonder’s the burn – in its bairnhood, it’s blabberin –
Heich-lowpin loamin, wi virr in its heel!
Bellied an dauchlin, it’s tashed an it’s trauchlin,
Beached in a bog, like a biblical whale;
Hashin an dashin, it’s up an it’s clashin,
Skelpit an skytin, like chaff frae the flail.
Come the fey nicht, fin the loaming is glysterie,
Lang as a note on a tenuous string,
Black as a swan, o’ immaculate mystery
Doon rowes the burn, on a sang an a wing.
Dulcet as Chopin, Menuhin, Beethoven
Jinkie’s Stravinsky, as breengin as Bach
Syne, wid I bide b’ it, thirled an tied tae it,
Drink o its music a strang willie-waucht!

LynvaigFigure 6.6: Old Lynvaig longhouse in 1999 before the gale

Lynvaig was, in the early nineteenth century, to become the home of Francis the younger brother of ‘Camlet John.’ Francis Gordon has also been given the Camlet eponym for he raised most of his family there before flitting, sometime before 1816, to Lynvaig. His first wife, Margaret Glass, died in childbirth in January 1790. The Glass family strike at the heart of The Camlet with a truly inextricable bond. Fly the crows-nest to the Forest of Birse and you come to another lost farmstead – Auchabrack, the home of the Glass family for nigh on two centuries. It is fact that several generations of Auchabrack married into the inextricable Gordons of Girnoc.

Sharon Jameson has been the best of Deeside compatriots and nobody has done more than her to pull together the historical fabric of the parish of Birse. It was Sharon who specially brought Auchabrack back to the Camlet.

AuchabrackFigure 6.7: Auchabrack in Forest of Birse home of the Glass family

The forefather of Auchabrack was Donald Glass who died in March 1797. His eldest son Charles Glass continued at Auchabrack, and in December of the following year, married Jean Gordon. This was probably how small glen blood first flowed into Auchabrack. Frustratingly however Jean Gordon has cowered in obscurity, and when she died just a year or two before the date of civil registration, the last chance of definitively proving her origin was lost.

Charles Glass of Auchabrack and Jean Gordon had a large family, but two of their first three daughters, Charlotte and Jane, married Gordons. Charlotte Glass married John Gordon, a man many years older than her; he was already 64 years old when in 1832 they married in Aberdeen. Here we have another unidentified Gordon who marries into Auchabrack. Charlotte Glass and John Gordon were buried under a distinctly impressive memorial in Nellfield Cemetery in Aberdeen. The other Auchabrack daughter, Jane Glass married Peter Gordon (1804-1859). In Peter we have at last an identifiable Gordon; Peter was the son of Camlet Francis.

If I could travel back to the nineteenth century, I would chose first to meet the three Glass sisters of Auchabrack: Ann, Charlotte, and Jane. These sisters died before the era of portraiture and had it not been for Sharon Jamieson, their story would have been forever lost. Charlotte, as we have learned, married a man old enough to be her father, if not grandfather. John Gordon her husband was 73 years of age when they had their last child in 1841. Ann Glass, the eldest of the sibship had a child each with three different fathers – a laird, an Advocate and a gentleman. It is easy to imagine her as a betwixing yet adept beauty. Like her sister Charlotte she first married a much older man, Henry Grassie, who was more than forty years her senior.

The-Glass-HorseFigure 6.8: The Glass Horse and the Inextricable Gordons!

The Glass-Gordon bond was stretched taught in the spring of 1832 when a Gordon loon (son of Camlet) and a Glass loon (son of Auchabrack) were both indicted for telling lies. The whole case revolved around the purchase of a horse from a further cousin who lived in Wardhead. It seems that John Glass of Auchabrack did not give the full purchase price of twelve pounds to Wardhead. Furthermore, John Glass and his cousin, John Gordon (the youngest son of ‘Camlet Francis’ and born at Lynvaig in 1816), concocted a story together to cover themselves of any wrong-doing.

It is hard to fully disentangle the story as the Case Papers are incomplete and the precognitions do not survive. Furthermore, the legal language is dense, and there is much confusion over the many Glass and Gordon proponents! In many ways, it seemed to me, like a lot of fuss over not very much, but then I had not appreciated the real value of a horse at that time. It was, if you recall, a stallion that had previously saved the Camlet family (chapter two). The confusion of the GLASS HORSE case stands as a metaphor for the two families, for you can see from the complex annotation above that these two families had an inextricable bond.

JOHN GORDON, alias GEORGE YOUNGSON, presently prisoner in the jail of Aberdeen, and JOHN GLASS, of Forest of Birse, farmer or crofter, now or lately residing at Auchabrack, Forest of Birse, parish of Birse, and shire of Aberdeen, you are Indicted and Accused at the instance of Francis Jeffrey, Esq his Majesty’s Advocate, for his Majesty’s interest:

THAT ALBEIT, by the laws of this and of every other well governed realm, PERJURY; and also SUBORNATION of PERJURY, are crimes of an heinous nature, and severely punishable:

I have found myself re-writing this section over and over again. The temptation with Camlet Francis is to convey the detail, but given the complexity of the inextricable Gordons, that surely risks tedium. You may not be surprised to learn then that the second wife of Camlet Francis was also a Gordon! She was called Margaret and speculation has surfaced that she was the daughter of Nathaniel Gordon of Toum (in Glen Gairn).

What do we know about Camlet Francis? Well the most obvious fact pertains to Lair 1309 in Nellfield Cemetery, for it was here in September 1839 that he was buried aged 89 years. Over the next two generations twenty-two of his family were to join him in this a most crammed resting place. Lair 1309 has thrown up many mysteries, but serves particularly to remind us of the relentless clearance of the small glen, and in the case of Camlet Francis, nearly an entire family to the metropolis of Aberdeen city.

Further detail about Camlet Francis emerged in 1905 when Dr Bulloch, researching for the House of Gordon, contacted Mr David Burnett Gordon, who served with the Grenadier Guards in the Crimea. In a letter of response he told Dr Bulloch:

‘I was born at Lynvaig. My father’s name was Francis Gordon, farmer and cattle-dealer. My grandfather’s name was Francis Gordon. He was farmer of the home farm of Abergeldy, for three nineteen years, previous to 1834, the year I was born.’

This would indicate the closest of bonds to Abergeldy. The indefatiguable Dr John Malcolm Bulloch was compelled, on hearing this, to place Abergeldy’s small glen and its many Gordons.

When I first started my Deeside quest a decade ago, I was directed to the ‘Gordonology’ of Dr Bulloch, which was all published in Notes and Queries. I mused then what had fired such obsession in a man, to continue lifelong research into a family in which he did not even belong? It has taken me a further decade to uncover John Malcolm Bulloch’s story, and as a result, I have discovered we share much. If we had belonged to the same century, there can be no doubt, John Bulloch and I would have been dear friends. After all we were both graduates of Aberdeen University, and we both became bewitched with Deeside. The glowing embers of our passion were borne of that Abergeldy hearth. I find myself reflecting that Bulloch, like me, did not distinguish himself in Aberdeen academically; simply we were not the greatest alumini – yet I think we both carried a passion that enveloped our beings. Yet an interest should not sit alone, and whilst I distinguished myself in Horticulture and Architecture; Bulloch learned to tread the theatrical globe, and became the eminent Pall Mall theatre critic of the century’s turn

Dr-John-M-BullochFigure 6.9: Dr John Malcolm Bulloch (1867-1938)

In every way Bulloch’s reach has out-spanned mine. I could never be his match. There can be no doubt, Bulloch used his obsessional traits, mighty as they were, to good purpose. The obituaries to him, in 1938, credit his work in the history of the Gordons. Yet I find myself congratulating him for his incredible diversity. It is creditable indeed to exceed in one field but to go far beyond marks immeasurable brilliance. In my opinion Dr John Malcolm Bulloch was one of Aberdeen’s greatest sons and we shall certainly ‘not see his like again.’

Yet behind every genius there lies weakness. A pervasive discipline underpinned Bulloch’s being and he failed to recognize the intense toll of such. He thrust himself into the hectic hey-day of Pall Mall. It is recorded that as the ‘Nation’s favourite Theatre Critic,’ Bulloch saw first the good in performance. That, I think, is the essence of an Aberdonian. Yes he was critical but not cynical. What better qualities could a Theatre columnist have? When he died, he left every first-day revue and program to the British Museum. I have found myself wondering, if in this our modern world of digital instancy, Bulloch would have been at the media helm?

Yet Bulloch, I think, had an awkwardness that transposes every photograph I have seen of him – at any age. He has that self-conscious look, that heavy upper philtrum (perhaps born of his parents’ consanguinity) that suggests awkwardness. He was small in stature and I imagine that in company he may well have covered timidity. Not surprising then that in books, manuscripts, literary out-pourings, he was at home. With them he needed no company but his own.

John Malcolm Bulloch was born exactly a century before me. He arrived to this world at Springbank Terrace, Aberdeen on the 26th May 1867. His parents were cousins sharing ‘Malcolm’ grandparents. Baby John was the third generation to carry the name, and in his University years Bulloch added ‘Malcolm’ to his name in honour of his mother’s family and to separate his literary genius from that of his father and grandfather. It should be noted that his grandfather John Bulloch (1805-1882) wrote, whilst in Aberdeen ‘Studies on Shakespere.’

Bulloch’s family was originally from Baldernock in East Stirlingshire. Mittie Bulloch the mother of Theodore Roosevelt was a relation. She was a striking beauty. The Baldernock Bullochs had probably gone there from the Isles, for they were originally MacDonalds, descendents of that Donald who was known by his nick-name ‘Balloch,’ the Gaelic for ‘freckled.’

Bulloch’s grandfather, a Brass-founder was brought to Aberdeen by chance after reading an advertisement in the summer of 1829 for two vacant positions in the silver city. He arrived by sea on July the 20th aboard the paddle-steamer ‘Velocity’:

‘My first sight of Aberdeen was a very enchanting one – the sea beach, the arched tower of King’s College, and the spires of the Aulton Cathedral. We anchored in the Bay, and were taken ashore in a small boat.’

Two decades later that paddle-steamer, by then bravely entering the harbour, was wrecked in stormy seas upon the jutting north-pier. The story of Fittie’s wrecks is extraordinary and can be read in the Leopard article ‘Fittie’s Tragic Harbour Master’ (issue 335.)

John Malcolm Bulloch’s grandfather (on the Malcolm side) was the teacher in Leochel-Cushnie and graduated at King’s College in 1821. It was thus surprising to learn that when John and William were first sent to the Aberdeen Grammar School, they were regarded as ‘unsatisfactory pupils’ and were transferred to the Old Aberdeen Grammar School, popularly known as ‘The Barn.’

William, Bulloch’s brother, was a year younger and was also to be an Aberdeen graduate. He is worthy indeed of mention, for as a student of Medicine, he took every accolade going and graduated as the class Gold Medallist. The ‘Barn’ would have been proud indeed and how wrong, we now muse, was the Grammar School to throw the Bulloch brothers out!

As a Bacteriologist, William Bulloch (1868-1941) helped Dr Joseph Lister developing anti-serum for typhoid, cholera and diphtheria. ‘Verify your references’ was his invariable and salutary slogan, a stickler for detail, he used to despair at slack student standards: ‘fatheads’ an exasperated Bulloch was often moved to call them. Dr William Bulloch could be brusque and unbending if he scented pretence, and the notice on his private door “THIS IS MY BUSY DAY’ was certainly not encouraging, but that demeanour served ‘only as a cloak of defence for at heart that was said to be straightforward, kindly and hospitable.’ Nevertheless, as an Aberdeen graduate in Medicine myself, I am glad that I did not come under his tutelage for likely I would have been one of his ‘fatheads’ and I simply have no time for bullies in whatever guise.

It is interesting to reflect on the driving force that underpinned these two brothers; in later years, in a fashion very similar to his brother, John Malcolm used to annonce at the end of a busy day in the office ‘I’m going home now to work!’” Dr Bulloch’s first contributions to journalism were made when he was a student. He graduated M.A. in 1888 and in the following year became a sub-editor on the staff of the ‘Aberdeen Free Press.’ Four years later he went to London as assistant editor of ‘The Sketch’ of which he ultimately became editor. Forty five years in London, his love for Aberdeen, never abated, in fact it gathered an even greater intensity:

‘It is my proud boast that I know nearly as much about Aberdeen and its people today as I did forty years ago when I left the north for the Metropolis. During all these years I have endeavoured to keep in intimate touch with Aberdeen and the Nor’-East, not only through the many visitors who come down south, but also be frequently returning to the city itself, for I believe that it is as necessary for a Scotsman to maintain association with Scotland as it is for a Salmon to return to the sea each year.’

‘If it were possible I would spend all the daytime in my Aberdeen over my hobbies, with a good look at the sea – which I miss intensely – and all my nights in London, where the flash of Girdleness would be replaced by the lamps of Piccadilly and the whole romance of the Metropolis after dark.’

Whilst in London Bulloch lived initially in Pall Mall and later in Doughty Street, next door to Charles Dicken’s old house, and he loved to give guests a tour of the district and could freely rehearse every theatrical and literary association of each abode. A visit with Bulloch to Bloomsbury was unforgettable. From 1893 onwards Bulloch went to every first-night theatrical production – in forty five years more than three-and-a-half thousand! He was beloved as a reviewer and regarded for his couthie warmth, and succinctness of prose. How he found time in his life one simply cannot fathom, for as well as his day job as an Editor, he read six to a dozen books each week. Each book reviewed, he would print inside the cover a book-plate and monogram, before donating to Aberdeen University Library: ‘To Aberdeen University from her grateful son, John Malcolm Bulloch.’ Latterly these books came in to Aberdeen at the rate of about 600 per year!

Bulloch also liked to pen verse, and simply loved his native Doric. At university he coined himself ‘The Jack-daw of Rhymes.’ My favourite Malcolm Bulloch work returns him to Old Aberdeen in 1928 and his University dedication:

It’s mair than forty year since we gaed doo
The Spital Brae.
An’ heard the auld bell dirlin’ oot a soun’
That seemed to say,
Come in-by here my loon!

Reading this I felt the echoes of his grandfather who saw the arched tower of the auld college. There can be no doubt he would have been proud of his grandson.

John Malcolm Bulloch brought Thomas Hardy, his friend, to Aberdeen – a friendship that remained till Hardy’s death in 1928. It was undoubtedly Bulloch who campaigned for the University to confer an honorary degree on Thomas Hardy. Bulloch described his modest friend after a visit to Aberdeen in 1907:

‘Nobody would have dreamed from his conversation that he had anything like the philosophical grasp which distinguished him. He was intensely shy. But Aberdeen soon put him at home’

‘The great novelist was up early enough this morning to join a group in a smoking-room before the train reached London. With a smile in his pensive, sad eyes, he listened to the vivacious talk of his friend Mr John Malcolm Bulloch. . .’

Thomas Hardy’s last reference to Aberdeen is in another letter to Bulloch, dated 6th October 1918: ‘I am glad to hear about old Aberdeen. To me it bears, & always will, a curiously romantic aspect. I suppose I shall never see it again’. Hardy never did return to the city which awarded him his first degree.

It is impossible not to be gobsmacked at Bulloch’s diversity. His breadth was astounding; a small, pawkish man he had an innate humanity that his brother had not. He was insatiably curious about other people’s jobs, and was perfectly happy chatting with a bricklayer about bricks, or a milkman about milk. Indeed he had friends in every walk of life.

As a child Bulloch helped his father to accumulate material for his Historic Scenes in Aberdeenshire. The turning point for young Bulloch came with the 1897 Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria, for that year, Bulloch aged thirty, was asked to write a piece on Lord Byron. Bulloch grasped the challenge and was inspired to find the north-east roots that sired such waywardness in Byron. And that is how his first ever Gordon piece was borne, and that Gordon journey, first tread:

‘ . . and before I knew where I was I found myself in the possession of a great mass of collateral information, much of which had never been coordinated into readable form.’

So it was that the Romanticism of Byron first pulled Bulloch towards the Gordons. The House of Gight, and Byron’s mother Catherine Gordon explored, next came Abergeldy and a passion was fired. Sorting that inextricable Gordon sibness, the good, the great and the not so, was to be Bulloch’s Everest. When he died in 1938 he left his 230 volumes and 47 boxes of ‘Gordoniana’ to the University Library. The House of Gordon in three volumes was to be an unparalleled piece of work; the opus of a tireless researcher. Even today, with the resource of the internet, few have surpassed Bulloch.

Byron-&-BullochFigure 6.11: The Romantiscm of Byron first pulled Bulloch towards the Gordons (1897)

Both Dr Bulloch and I share that obsessional streak. Call it drive if you want. It is a trait that brings much good but also leads to premature death. We also share an understanding, that in our work, many will not appreciate our passion. I differ from Bulloch on Gordonology – for the pursuit of one name brings no reward to me. I like the stories that hang on the names; a string of ancestors is simply dull to me.

At his funeral, in the beautiful Old Chapel of King’s College, on the 9th March 1838, a wave of flowers swept over Malcolm Bulloch’s coffin stretching from almost one side of the chapel to the other. In attendance were poets, artists and literary folk, as well as his school and university friends. The many sorrowing hearts then followed the cortege of the Gordon Highlanders up the auld toon to his grave where a memorial recorded simply the death of a favourite alumni, a son and Aberdonian; ‘a critic, a poet, historian.’

Sir Alexander MacKintosh: ‘Malcolm Bulloch was full of vitality. He never seemed to get old.’ ‘I think he was the most helpful man I have ever met. He would go to endless trouble to help anyone. The telephone bell in his room was always ringing with inquiries about some abstruse and obscure piece of information, and the more obscure it was the better he liked it. He hunted down the facts with the same zest that a hunt follows a fox.’

Writing to Dr J. Tocher, a fortnight before his death; Bulloch at his desk immersed in work: ‘I shall be with you in Aberdeen at the end of March and we shall talk of our joint enterprise and of cabbages and kings.’

As a postscript to the story of the life of Dr Bulloch, I would like to acknowledge how unassuming he was. Just getting his portrait took me two years. The University Library which he loved, and to which he left his vast collection, have only the barest fragments of his life story. I was saddened looking through the library, as so many of the books there, were once Bullochs, and yet the Library knew not a jot about him. I plan to put that right with this biography and to have his portrait framed for the University. I agree with Bulloch about the Salmon returning to the sea (page 195.) It is interesting that this was the subject on which I opened ‘Deeside Tales.’

J-M-BullochFigure 6.13: Soul of Energy and Great Historian: JMB

It is time now to return to Lynvaig. The farm was run throughout much of the twentieth century, not by the family of ‘Camlet Francis,’ but by the children of his brother ‘Camlet John.’ The tenancy of Lynvaig passed from Francis to John around 1834. We shall, for the sake of avoiding confusion, call the son of Camlet John, ‘Lynvaig John.’ He moved there with his wife, Mary Downie (his second cousin) and two young children John, aged 12 and James aged 8. Interestingly both boys were born at Mill of Cosh, indicating that for some years after their marriage, John and Mary lived there.

Mary Downie, wife of ‘Lynvaig John’ was born at Crathienaird in May 1789. Her mother was Mary Leys (1757-1851) and she, like many in her family, was an Innkeeper. She is remembered on a prostrate tablet stone in Old Crathie Churchyard. Her father Francis Leys (1712-1787) was Innkeeper at Inver and his (assumed) sister was Barbara Leys of Balindory.

‘Lynvaig John’ (born at the Camlet in 1787) farmed 26 acres of lower Girnoc. Both he and his wife Mary died before civil registration in 1855, but as he appears as a 64 year old widower on the 1851 census. At the point of his death, his two sons, John and James, continued the tenancy of Lynvaig farm. It appeared that both brothers were to remain confirmed bachelors, until early 1881 when John (who was then nearly sixty) married Helen Anthony, a local girl and laundress. Helen, a widow, was of a similar age to John, and beyond the age of child-rearing. Sadly she enjoyed only four years of marriage, dying at Lynvaig in December 1885 after battling pulmonary tuberculosis. In the 1891 census, the two elderly brothers, John and James, had three lodgers, several of whom were described as ‘Umbrella Makers’ – this seems amusing to me, for the weather in the Girnoc would surely be far too harsh for the ‘civilised brolly of the toon folk!’

The farm of Lynvaig is now, like all the Girnoc farms, deserted. Its windows are boarded and doors padlocked. The steading roof with dislodged tiles, now sags, and in a storm of 2005, was prised open by an autumn gale. Within a decade, there will be no more than ‘stane rickles’ to remind us of Lynvaig’s past. It is sad then to think, that it was the last farm in the glen to be tenanted, and then as recently as the late 1980’s.

Within Lynvaig’s steading (which was originally one of a number of ‘longhouses’) are the scattered remains of old farmhouse furniture; rusty iron bedsteads, chest of drawers (with mouldy lining paper), and an empty tin trunk. There is also an old horse-drawn thresher machine, which is now riddled with woodworm and rot; on its wooden drum, survives some ancient graffiti. John and James Gordon have signed their names in pencil, and in what appears the same handwriting, the following is scribbled:

“Lost last night, Emma Gordon, last seen going down the road with Fred Duncan’s clothes on. Any one giving information on her where-aboots will be rewarded.”

Emma-GordonFigure 6.14: Emma Gordon in Fred Duncan’s clothes!

Though I have not the rigour of Bulloch, I do confess having tried to tackle the inextricability of the Girnoc; yet still, I have no idea who this Emma Gordon was, or why she was wearing Fred Duncan’s clothes! We may never know.

That horse-drawn thresher has intrigue all of its own, in the form of its Victorian doodles; defaced over decades, it is a reminder of life where now it has gone. My mind was unexpectedly brought back to that thresher and the Lynvaig homestead last summer when I was passing-by Robert Gordon’s School in Aberdeen, for outside the entrance stands a bronze statue, by T. Stuart Burnett of General Gordon of Khartoum (1833-1885). Over his head some drunken student (no-doubt) had lodged a large fluorescent orange traffic-cone. I found myself vaguely wondering if this was to do with a recent revision, that had outed both Baden-Powell and General Gordon as paedophiles. However, what struck me in that instant was how little I knew about General Gordon. Sure Khartoum was familiar to me, rehearsed no doubt at school, but what did I know of this Victorian hero? Not a lot. I felt ashamed; for I knew Dr Bulloch would not stand such ignorance.

Today, even in Scotland, few people could say precisely who Gordon was, what he was doing in the Sudan, why and by whom he was murdered. Still less could they say what there was in his character and acts to justify his becoming ‘the Stainless Knight of the century.’

When General Charles George Gordon was speared to death at Khartoum in 1885, Queen Victoria was said to have ‘had difficulty in speaking.’ ‘Grief inexpressible’ she wrote to Gordon’s sister. ‘Indeed, it has made me ill!’

General-GordonFigure 6.15: Remember Gordon! General Gordon was here and not in Cartoom.

The authors Hanson who wrote the paper from which I have gleaned the life of General Gordon made a solid reputation with biographies of the Bronte sisters, and George Eliot, and appear all too fair and balanced to want to debunk Gordon. They state at outset ‘a man without fault is dreadfully dull and also extremely improbable. What … we asked ourselves, was this man really like?’ Well, he was a small, blue-eyed Scot whose charm was so great that even his enemies forgave his furious temper and Messianic pomposity. He detested formal society and despised money: often his first act on taking new office would be to cut his salary. He led scratch armies to victory all the way from Nanking to Equatorial Africa, but he never came near to winning his private battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Gordon drew two circles on paper, one marked ‘Body,’ the other ‘Soul.’ His whole faith consisted in believing that everything in the ‘Body’ circle was foul and contemptible, and that only in the ‘Soul’ circle was there ‘the indwelling of God.’ But like most people who dote on going round in circles, Gordon was always flying off at tangents.

Gordon read the Bible ceaselessly, pressed on members of Gladstone’s Cabinet copies of Dr Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Promises, and never wearied of asking God to carry him out of this world into ‘he very bright, happy land with beautiful sights and glories.’ But he also reveled in brandy, tobacco, the thrills of war and the company of handsome youths and boys. At best, this contrast between Gordon’s beliefs and acts resulted in savage self-hatred.

Fanatical activity was Gordon’s main answer to his troubles. He was only a captain of Engineers when he hit China like a bomb and smashed the power of the Taipings, a host of rebels who were destroying both their own government and British trading rights. A brilliant sapper and artilleryman, he blew gaps in walled towns that were deemed untakable and led his skimpy armies through the breaches, puffing gaily on a cigar and waving a bamboo cane. He parleyed with his enemies, but if they resisted both God’s word and Gordon’s charm he turned scarlet with rage, called for a Chinese dictionary, and laid a trembling finger against the word ‘idiocy.’ He sent home the most extraordinary dispatches ever received by the Foreign Office. ‘Anyhow, it matters little,’ he concluded a report on the Turkish Empire. ‘A few years hence a piece of ground six feet by two will contain all that remains of Ambassadors, Ministers and your obedient, humble servant.’

None of this appealed much to Mr. Gladstone. But the old Queen, and the hero-worshiping public, knew nothing about Chinese Gordon’s ‘Body’; they saw only the ‘Soul’ personified, defeating and converting heathen hordes and making his name the terror of African slave traders. When Egypt was threatened by the Mahdi (a Sudanese who believed he was the supreme prophet), there was uproar in Britain when Gladstone refused to send Gordon out to deal with him. Not until the Mahdi had built an army 300,000 strong did the Gladstone government bow to public pressure and order General Gordon to Khartoum.

Gordon sent the garrison a typical telegram: ‘You are men, not women. Be not afraid; I am coming.’ On reaching the city, in February 1884, he told the despairing commandant: ‘Khartoum is as safe as Kensington Gardens.’ For some months he actually convinced the Sudanese that he was right; even the London Times correspondent lost his head. ‘The way he pats you on the shoulder when he says ‘Look here, dear fellow, now what do you advise?’ would make you love him . . . . He is … the greatest and best man of this century.’ But Khartoum became a besieged city.

Gordon ordered all dogs and cats and donkeys to be killed and eaten, rats to be caught and eaten. The gentle Gordon changed into a holy terror – ‘an old man, white-haired . . . kicking, shouting, punishing.’ A new and terrible burden of guilt now rested on him: he knew that by defying the Mahdi’s orders to surrender, he had made sure that every inhabitant of Khartoum would be slaughtered if no relief force arrived.

He spent hours on the palace roof, his telescope trained down the Nile in search of the smoke of gunboats. But he saw only the white puffs of the Mahdi’s cannon. ‘I am quite happy, thank God,’ he wrote his sister in his last letter, ‘. . . and have tried to do my duty.’ Before dawn on Jan. 26, 1885, the Mahdi forced his frightened troops over Gordon’s land mines and the Arab army poured into the city.

The screams of dying citizens rang in Gordon’s ears as he stood unarmed at the top of the palace steps. A party of Arabs, their ‘bloodstained white robes [swinging] brightly in the dim light,’ swept up to him and halted. ‘Where is the Mahdi?’ demanded Gordon. They made no reply.

‘Where is the Mahdi?’ he asked again. This time, the leading sheik answered with a shrill scream: ‘Oh cursed one, your time is come!’ and drove his spear through Gordon’s body.

As a postscript the British press put the blame of Gordon’s death on Gladstone, who was charged with excessive slowness in sending relief to Khartoum. An acronym applied to him, G.O.M. (Grand Old Man) was changed to M.O.G.(Murderer Of Gordon). This led to his resignation. Queen Victoria never forgave her Prime Minister.

Gordon-KhartoumFigure 6.16: Gordon of Khartoum loved by the Queen despised by the Prime Minister

General Gordon of Khartoum goes back to the Baronetcy of Park, a castle and estate in Banff.

So there we have it, Gordon of Khartoum’s curious Memorial in Lynvaig. Soon it will be gone. The ‘artists’ that festooned that old horse-drawn thresher certainly had a sense of humour, for tucked away in one corner was a little label “The Scottish Footballer Machine!” So this was where our players were borne – manufactured at Lynvaig and fit for a Nation?!


Returning to the estate plan drawn up by John Innes in 1806, it is clear that Lynvaig was originally one member of a triumvirate community; the others being of course, the farms of Newton and Linquoch. The latter being the only community within the Girnoc to be situated east of the burn.

Newton, which is pictured below, was deserted before 1850, and the last farmer to occupy it was John Lamond with his wife Ann and four young children. The last child born at Newton was little James Lamond born in September 1844, but in the following few years the family were gone, and seem to have left Scotland’s shores in search of promise that the small glen could not.

Newton-of-GirnocFigure 6.18: Newton of Girnoc 1997

Through the heather, and garnered by a delightful birch wood, the remains of John and Ann Lamond’s little community of Newton, still survive. Now however they are no more than stone footprints, and one has to work hard to conjure-up an image of how this huddle of longhouses must once have appeared. Nature has made an even better attempt at reclaiming Linquoch, and only the most intrepid of souls would ever chance upon it. One such individual was Robert Smith, who was the first to alert the present writer to Linquoch’s existence:

‘Below Lynvaig, across the Girnock Burn, I was looking for another ‘lost’ settlement. The first time I heard about it was when I was searching for Loinmuie in Glenmuick.’

Although the 1869 Ordinance Survey map confirms that an old track once connected Linquoch (in the Girnoc) with Lonmuie (in Glenmuick), it only names the latter. So by this date, Linquoch had long since been abandoned. This seems surprising, given that this had probably been one of the key routes linking the two glens and thereby opening the route over the Capel Mounth to the south. Linquoch is the name given by John Innes in his estate map of 1806, but other similar names have been described, including Lynefork and Loinn a’ Chorce.

The approach to Linquoch is lovely, meandering as it does through the airy and scented Birk Wuid of Lynvaig, before coming to a halt at an old wooden bridge over the Girnock burn. From here it appears as if the path suddenly stops, but closer scrutiny reveals the familiar pattern of ruined buildings lost in the heather on the opposite side of the burn. A survey carried out at Linquoch by Ian Shepherd, the Aberdeenshire archaeologist, showed a settlement with different styles and dates of dwellings. Longhouses, a corn-drying kiln and the faint remains of several kailyards were found. The ruins lie on two levels, with a superb view up the glen. A series of superb aerial photographs were taken in November 1988 with Linquoch buried under snow, with the relief highlighted in the low winter sun, revealing an incredibly intricate (and rather beautiful for all that) arrangement of cotterhouses in an utterly organic form. With the eye-of-faith one could just make-out the path leading upwards through a gap in the hills to Lonmuie.

In 1966 John Cooper Kennedy moved down from The Camlet to Lynvaig. It must have felt like the civilized south! Yet still there was a dispute with the Laird about the School Car which he forbade traveling up the track from Woodend. As a result the Kennedy’s granddaughter Carol had to walk. She did so as the very last generation to return to the Girnoc from School on foot.

In the 1970’s Loinveg became a summer-let and was occupied by the family of Anna Oddie who went on to become the teacher of young Alistair Repper and helped him complete his Duke of Edinburgh Award on the small Girnoc Glen. Her memories focus not on the silent glen but on its vivid calls of nature. Lynvaig was awash with sounds and from her pillow Anna used to hear Mr Esson of Bovagli calling in the sheep from the hill, with the whistle and dog working overtime! More frightening to a child was the loud roars of the Red Deer who gathered in the copse behind Lynvaig. Each stag had its own distinct bark and the competition over status was spectacularly loud! Then, far more delicate, were the visiting Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), small dumpy birds with long straight bills, they would dive in zig-zags over Lynvaig making a distinctive drumming sound (a bit like a lamb bleating) which they produced by air vibrating through their spread tail feathers. The steeper the dive the louder the sound! To Anna it must have sounded like an air-raid on remote Lynvaig!

Carol-KennedyFigure 6.19: The last of the Girnoc School days

Oh and as we leave this chapter on Lynvaig can I make a plea, next time you visit the Girnoc, keep a look out for Emma Gordon, and if you do see her mind now to tip yer hat!