Outdoor Focus Summer 2018 - Page 4

W riters and photographers don’t waste ‘material’ so, after decades of exploring Scotland, I had a fair collection of ‘the weird and wonderful’ encountered and it seemed natural to turn this into a book. I already had done a study of Scottish gravestones for the same reason. Not a few of the oddest of oddities proved to be in kirkyards. I’ve twice-recorded people dying on April 31 and one (Kirkwall Cathedral) on February 30 – an error of the month it proved. And what of the lad George Ramsay whose stone by the Elephant Rock near Montrose notes, ‘Born 1859. Died 1840’? The humour can be unintentional. In Perth a lady put the words ‘Rest in Peace’ at the top of her husband’s stone then, at the foot, after his details, ‘Until I come.’ (I assume it was unintentional!) I had heard of the Boys Ploughing Match in Orkney so made a point of landing in St. Margaret’s Hope on a third Saturday in August. On the Sands o’ Wright miniature ploughs see the sands turned by boys in fierce competition. What was not expected was seeing the competition of the girls: dressing up as Clydesdale horses. Off the north shore of the Blackwater Reservoir strong walkers will find a 4 Outdoor focus | summer 2018 Orcadian girls dressed as Clydesdale horses Celtic cross, marked as monument, the map (OS Landranger 41: 265613). This very remote spot made the monument a real puzzle. I wasted many hours not finding out. Years later in a glory hole of a shop in Stromness in Shetland I came on a book where his story was told in execrable doggerel, worthy of McGonagall. (When I reached the end of stanza seventeen I found it was by McGonagall.) ‘Friends of humanity, of high and low degree, / I pray ye all come listen to me; / And truly I will relate to ye, / The tragic fate of the Rev Alexander Heriot Mackonochie’. The poor man had had some sort of breakdown and was visiting the Bishop of Argyle when he disappeared when out on a walk. Quite a story of searching the wilds – in 1887. Crimond is a village on the A90 Fraserburgh to Peterhead road and is most famous for the tune to which Psalm 23 is often sung. The oddity however is the kirk’s clock, inscribed ‘The hour is coming’ which takes on some irony as the face shows an hour of 61 minutes. The last 5 minutes marking was inadvertently given 6, and when corrected in 1949 there was such an outcry the mistake was reinstated. When I lived in Kinghorn it was in a part of the town with the old River Are we nearly there yet? Ferry slip milestone in Newport