Clyne Heritage Society’s Chairman, Nick Lindsay, announcing the Journal’s publication said, “This first volume is an important addition to the limited number of published resources regarding the history and heritage of the area and should be warmly welcomed both by residents and also locals who have left the area. It will also be a useful addition for students of the area and those who have distant connections to the parish in every far-flung corner of the world”.
Explaining how the idea was developed, Dr Lindsay went on, “In the summer, the committee decided that the talks presented to the Society during the winter should be recorded in a single volume and the author of the idea, Dave Hutchinson, was then presented with the challenge of drawing out manuscripts retrospectively from the past speakers. By fair means and foul, Dave managed to extract contributions from four of the six presenters, together with two extra pieces from willing committee members. The Journal is a beautiful publication which Dave, the committee and Society members should be justifiably proud”.
Succinctly introduced by Dave’s Editorial, the Journal begins appropriately with the lecture series’ first presentation, ‘Visibility Moderate: to see or not to see in archaeology and art’ by Norman Gibson of Brora, the Society’s Speaker Secretary. In this paper, Dr Gibson, a sculptor and former lecturer, who has recently completed an MA in Archaeology, explores the intriguing inter-connections between art, both contemporary and historical, and the science (or maybe art?) of archaeology, which is especially relevant in a place such as Strath Brora. It is a collection of personal interpretations between what we all see around us every single day without taking too much notice – but in this paper these observations are drawn together to make the reader think a little more deeply about the landscape, objects and their relationships. Inspired by this presentation and an informal series given at the Brora Learning Centre last year, Norman has gone on to successfully deliver a structured course in four parts at the Centre this Autumn.
The second paper was easily prised from its source, as it was compiled by Dave Hutchinson himself! Dave Hutchinson is highly regarded as being one of the foremost researchers in Highland vernacular furniture today and is well known from the many talks he has enthusiastically presented on this subject over the years. Entitled ‘The Carpenter’s Kist; The 19th century woodworker and his tools’, this paper does exactly what it says on the tin! This fascinating article details the instruments used by these skilled craftsmen and it is illustrated with many plates of the different types available, as well as some even more human touches in the form of contemporary receipts for timber and tools, as well as advertisements of the day. It offers a real glimpse into the mind and the workshop of skilled workers of wood 150 or so years ago.
Niamh Conlon, a native of Ireland with an anthropological background, was invited to speak to the Society in November, while she was undertaking a year’s research at Timespan Museum in nearby Helmsdale. It was her first public presentation and her consequent paper of the talk, ‘Truth in Fiction: Land and stories on the edge of Europe’ draws on her interests in the landscape and the stories of people from all over the continent. Stories – folklore, myths and legends - have always played a massive part with people in every society and she has put together a collection, many of which explore the connection between people and the land from simpler, more straightforward times.
The Society’s Chairman, Nick Lindsay, didn’t (or couldn’t!) escape writing up his talk to the Society in February. ‘Place Names of Clyne: Sources, Origin and History’ is a paper based around a series of articles which appeared in the Northern Times during the 1950s and 60s by the late Frank MacLennan, a notable and respected studier of local folklore and place names. From his own investigations, the Chairman has enhanced the background of the place names of the parish from Frank’s series, by exploring the chronological evolution of names from a wide variety of sources which were largely unavailable to a researcher half a century ago. The article contains 10 (out of the 500 or so which the author has collated) of the most interesting examples in the parish which have been thoroughly researched and well illustrated, that will go some way to keeping the place names of many of the now abandoned areas of the parish alive today.
Returned local artist, Wendy Sutherland, is gaining a growing reputation for her innovative and moody landscape paintings. Not having presented a lecture to the Society, she was encouraged to contribute to the Journal and ‘Bare Branches of Time’ is the result. Ten of her stylistic paintings of branches, which uncannily resemble maps, are reproduced here, including the full colour print on the front cover. It is left to the reader to unravel the tangled network in her images that may represent trees, branches, capillaries, membranes, cracks, mosaics, webs... the impressions are endless.
The final contribution is also from an unpresented source. Jacqui Aitken, who has recently been appointed as Archivist at Timespan Museum, had always been fascinated about the area known as the Back Beach, where she played as child growing up in Brora in the 1970s and 80s. ‘The Salt Pans on Brora Back Beach: Archaeological Survey June 2004’ is her detailed report on the culmination of what is turning out to be her life’s dream. On discovering that the building remains, eroding out of the sand dunes on the beach, had been almost washed away by a great storm in the Spring of 2004, she undertook to record and investigate their place in Brora’s rich industrial history. It is a most important and valuable contribution to the archaeological record of the parish. It is thought that these buildings were associated with the salt-panning industry dating back to 1598, which took place at this location due to the occurrence of coal outcropping on the shore and was later mined on the raised beach. This is the preliminary report which has since secured funding for a professional archaeological reconnaissance (which took place in November this year) and is hoped to lever further funding for excavation.
The standard has now been set in this, the first Journal, and each presenter at the Society’s lectures in this year’s series is presented with a copy as an encouragement to submit their own manuscripts for inclusion in Clyne Heritage Society’s Journal for 2006.