Monday, 30 May 2011


On the 9th of May I wrote my first "People of the Land" Blog. I explained then how so little was known about my father's family history yet, there seemed a connection to the land - when he and  mum got engaged they holidayed at a farm and enjoyed fishing at a nearby river. In addition, before dad's memories began to drift away, he talked of herding cows to a dairy and a photo showed him carrying milk. In the early stages of dementia, it is true that people can remember memories from childhood but as health decreases the door to the past can close, photos then the only key. 

Interviewed about People of the Land on the radio - afterwards, I took a drive and found myself heading to the only named place I knew. But, in such a large area? I had driven past here before but without any clues. This time, I drew up beside the pub and went in with the total sum of my information: 80+ years ago dad was photographed carrying milk. 60+ years ago him and mum had holidayed here. The staff were very friendly but asked for more information. I explained I knew nothing more, I just had photos of mum and dad fishing. "Ah ha!" was the reply and I was told that the river behind the pub had trout and another recalled hearing that milk was once got from some place outwith the village. Some farm tracks driven up, more conversations were had with folk I met on my way and then I came home to piece together the jigsaw.


Yes, I had found the buildings that had once been the farm.

In addition to the farm discovery, I suddenly recalled
shadows which I had seen on the pool of a burn.

The 2011 shadows from a bridge
linking me to my dad's old photo of the 10th of August 1952

From 2011, I could now look back to 1952
- finally able to link the people in the photo to the specific place

"The 1952 Fishing Expedition"
L-R: Sonya, Minnie, Wullie, Jean (mum) and Nenny

With old photos, some detective work and the kind help of 'strangers' - a bridge to the past has been built. Eighty years ago, Hugh McMillan holidayed here as a boy. Year's later, he took his girlfriend here, Jean Thorburn. A year later they married and then, another ten plus years passed and I arrived. And by then the family holidays to the Sutherland had begun, (to Balnakeil farm, Durness and Kinlochbervie). Yet, looking down the East Lothian farm track to where my folks had fished all these years before - what a similarity between these places, not just in the look and feel of the land but in the friendliness and helpfulness of the people I met as a stranger.

As a child, regularly on holiday in Kinlochbervie, my beloved dog Corrie came from there. And I am left wondering, my dad's first dog - was this where he came from (the similarity I see of the farm building behind?). I'll never know for sure but sometimes I think, these small details don't matter so much as the importance of taking the journey, for me a journey from 2011 to 1952, 1930 and beyond.

My special thanks to all who gave me their time yesterday and now,
I very much look forward to going back there with my fiddle
to enjoy a tune in the pub and to meet new friends!

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