My whiskey-sampling duties somehow got in the way of a more substantial blog yesterday, and for my own diary purposes I want to write down what we saw.
Basically, in something of a rush because suddenly we are running out of time in Scotland, we whisked through the land of my forefathers (one wing of them) to catch a glimpse of the sights our grandmother grew up with. Some of them not much changed in the over-one-hundred intervening years, I suspect, although she might disagree with me.
Perthshire is the lower part of the highlands, and of course an enchanting place; the more so because I have read my Grandmother’s words of playing barefoot in the heather with her sister Lily (why weren’t they bitten by an adder?) and visiting the people in the local village of Spitalfield.
Their mother sent them off with baskets of food to Spitalfield, to give to those less fortunate than themselves. This was a habit my grandmother continued throughout her life in Australia.
I imagined the village simpleton (I can’t remember his name) who used to fascinate them on the tiny streets which would undoubtedly have had the same houses in the late 1800s. Other stories Mimi my grandmother told throughout her writings of the characters who lived in the village brought it to life on the page as it is still living on today. I will have to refresh my memory when I get home.
We didn’t find Gourdie, her childhood home, but anyway its incumbents the Charles Coxes weren’t answering the phone so we couldn’t very well just lob.
We did find Clunie Kirk though, set in magnificent countryside amongst huge old trees and fields, and beside the loch where the children (my grandmother and her sister Lily Nicholls, and Wee Ruthie Young the vicar’s daughter (Miss Young, Senior Mistress at Negs when I was there) – and possibly her brother too, the one we found in the cemetery who was killed aged 22 in the Peninsular War) used to play ice hockey with sticks and turnips. I found the headstone which undoubtedly belonged to her parents and brother. I imagined Youngie (‘Wee Ruthie’) living in the Manse adjacent and playing under the trees that are still there, praying in the Kirk which still serves the local community under the care of a lady vicar.