Published in Roslin O Roslin, Summer (Vol 3 No 24),
Rory Sinclair, Editor.
by Malcolm Caithness
April 27th 2001
2001 is almost a third complete but where has the time gone this year? Although
there is no Gathering here this year there have been plenty of other things to
keep us busy. Spring is here and London is about four weeks ahead of Caithness
but already the days are longer up there than in London. I drove up to spend
Easter with Berrie. It was fascinating to see the changes in the countryside
from where the daffodils were over and the first of the leaves on the trees to
where daffodils still had to flower and winter was not yet through.
Much more depressing was to see the effects of the Foot and Mouth epidemic that
has brought real suffering to parts of the country - thankfully there have been
no cases in the Highlands yet. It is confined to certain areas but where it has
struck the results are terrible. Whilst driving for fifty eight miles through
Cumbria and Dumfriesshire, on the border of Scotland and England, through
predominately stock country I counted only twenty fields of sheep as far as the
eye could see either side of the motorway yet in the next mile and a half I also
saw twenty fields of sheep. Although the farmers are compensated for the loss of
stock they still have expenses to meet with no income.
Also of concern are the breeds that are at risk and many strains of the Cheviot
sheep have been lost forever. Only certain sheep can do well on this type of
land and it takes years for them to adjust to reach full potential. The saving
grace will be the limited gene pool of North Country Cheviots in Caithness,
Sutherland and Ross-shire from where the restocking will have to come. The
ancestors of these sheep were driven north from the Border country in 1790 by
one of the first great agricultural improvers Sir John Sinclair the great,
great, great, great grandfather of John, Viscount Thurso. Little could he have
realised the added benefits of what he was doing.
Sir John would have been impressed the hours John is putting in going around
the constituency that he wants to represent in Westminster. It is a huge area
and includes Sutherland and Easter Ross. He will need a good break after the
election but doubt he will have the time.
Easter produced a mixture of weather in Caithness. After a good early start for
the lambing, the wind swung into the north and I walked on the beach at Sinclair
Bay in an almost gale force snow blizzard. However the sun came out again, the
wind changed and the skeins of pink feet geese that had been waiting for this
set off across the sea for their breeding grounds to the north and northwest. It
made me think that our ancestors had watched the same sight for thousands of
years and they must have realised early on there was land beyond the horizon for
they would have recognised the same birds leaving and then returning the
Whilst there, a meeting of the Clan Association was held and the Gathering for
next year was agreed. It will be much more limited than last year and will be
held during the week of 27 May. Final details are being worked out but what we
propose is that everyone will make their own way to Inverness from where we will
take the train to Thurso. Accommodation will be booked direct by those attending
and details of hotels etc will be available on our websites shortly. One day
will be spent touring the county and if the weather is good there will be a boat
trip around the Island of Stroma to see the nesting seabirds, which is an
unforgettable experience. One evening will be a party to celebrate Berrie's 21st
Birthday in suitable fashion and possibly a ceilidh on another night. You will
need to register either on our website or with your Association secretary should
you want to come. Payment for the costs of the official functions and travel in
Caithness will need to be paid by the end of March 2002 and these are not
expected to exceed £150. As soon as I can provide a firmer price I will.
So far as the Trust is concerned we have made good progress with Historic
Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The cliff face was surveyed in the week
after Easter and that also gave a good opportunity to plan the way ahead with
the architect and engineer who were also present. A revised Conservation Plan
will be needed and that is the next priority.
Sadly I have not travelled overseas yet this year so missed the Winter Gathering
in Toronto, which I gather was another huge success with a wonderful
presentation to Rory. However I am looking forward to the Stone Mountain Games
in October and I will extend that trip to visit Canada as well as a lot of the
USA. The first edition of the Clan Magazine has arrived from New Zealand and
that Association is building steadily which is great news.
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