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Aluminium was the mainstay of the local area due to the production of high quality aluminium in the Foyers smelter.

Shinty, the traditional Scottish, Highland sport. We are located on the South shore of Loch Ness at the village of Foyers.


 

Bygone Correspondence

articles from yesteryear double click on Quill

 

 

 

Forgotten Byways

While a look at a standard road map will furnish you with the names of the main roads through the Stratherrick district, you cannot help to ponder on the numerous side roads not designated an A or B listing, just what was their common name or the names of any particular feature of the byway. 

The village of Foyers established in 1896 has the highest amount of named roads in the area. In upper Foyers, the named roads were Glenlia, incorporating the Intake. Lower Foyers with Park Terrace, Elmbank, Grays Park and Riverside, the latter locally christened Chinatown. This came about  when one of the earliest residents whilst moving into her new abode, commented to the person doing the flitting ” mind that box its got China in it”.  Other road names in Lower Foyers that do not appear on any road map include Kelvin Way, which goes from the bus stop down along the front of the old British Aluminium factory. The road named after Lord Kelvin the electrical/thermal engineer and inventor, who was involved with the design of the equipment in the factory.

Coronation Road:- starting from road down to Lower Foyers at the old bus garage, round the east side of the BA factory, joining up with Kelvin Way.

 The Uchdach :- the road that was built by Italian prisoners of war in First World War, from the rear of Foyers Mains round Craeg Bhreac hill coming out at Glenlia intake. In the late eighties it was the only road for vehicles to reach Elmbank, Grays Park and Riverside when the stone bridge across the river Foyers was closed after being declared unsafe to vehicular traffic. This was due to masonry becoming detached from the bridge and until the present Bailey bridge was fitted lower down the river bank, the Uchdach was used for about 2 months for vehicular access. Then the bridge had a pedestrian walkway fitted to provide access. This walkway now has been deemed unsafe and closed in recent months.

Bungalow Brae:- was an exceptional steep part of the old B852 road that used to go up  round the back of the former chapel, to merge with the present side road just about where it starts it’s final ascent towards Foyers School. The old road then followed the present side road down past the former manse & church, to the main road at the old church hall. The Bungalow Brae was taken away to the great relief of the area in the forties, when the present main road was routed below the church.

The Turns :- short cut down to Lower Foyers from the old Church Hall ,
The Back Road :- the road from Glenlia past the garages to Craigniche crossroads,

The Cross Road :- from the B852 heading east to Craigniche crossroads  

The Pass Road :- from Craigniche crossroads  eastward towards the Pass of Inverfarigaig.  
Enuck’s Brae :- the first hill on the B852 after leaving  Foyers heading for Stratherrick named after a woman who used to come down to Foyers for milk.

 

Foyers Church around about the nineteen fifties. The road in front of the church formed part of the B852, till it was bypassed in the early Forties

In Stratherrick,

The Trinloist Road :- from  the B862 near the hamlet of Lochmore up past Tyndrum the Machack and Trinloist coming out at the Craigniche crossroads.

The Loch Bran Road:- leading from the B852 road at Fairyburn, up past Drumtemple church and Bailebeag to the main B 862 at the Garthbeg/Corriegarth crossroads.

The Strath Road :- part of the B852 road from Fairyburn to the Chapel Bridge.

The Druim :- (Gaelic for ridge) otherwise known as the Vennal, is the road between the Loch Bran and Trinloist roads to Foyers, running parallel to the main road (B862), some believe it was part of the original road through the area.  

Dell Road :-  The estate road which leaves Foyers by crossing the bridge at the Intake, going along past Dell farm to Whitebridge, joining the B862 just west of Wades bridge.

The Corkscrew :- the  road from Ballaggan down to Inverfarigaig coming out on to the main road B852  adjacent to the former Forestry houses at  Hillhead . In the sixties a touring bus went down the Corkscrew. The bus drivers contract of employment was terminated when he arrived back in Inverness with his traumatised passengers.

The Callaounour :- the road from the junction of the B862 and B861 following the Strathnairn road over to Dunmaglass.

Conagleann :-  The estate road from Easter Aberchalder to Dunmaglass

Murdo’s Motorway :- At Torness during the early seventies the resulting widening of the B862 from single track to double track and removal of the narrow bridge across the river Farigiag along with its resulting chicane was dubbed Murdo’s Motorway. This was called after the local councillor who lived nearby at Torness Post Office.

 

Other features of the roads/bridges not mentioned in maps include

Murray’s corner:-  junction of  Coronation Road and lower Foyers road, named after an early police constable of the area. 

Foyers Park:-  the area where the water fountain and small play park is located. In the early years of last century after the houses of Glenlia were built, the park went under the grand title of the Victoria Square, but the name never lasted and it vanished from use in the district. 

The Parapet Brae:- name given to the hill from the Police Station to the Foyers shop.

Mackay’s Lane :- was the name of the alley leading to Glenlia between house numbers 20-24.

Valley of Aultmore :- prior to ordinance survey maps around 1855, the Pass of Inverfarigaig was called Valley of Aultmore after the burn that flows down it.

The Gaik :- (Gaelic for hollow) dip on the B862 road the west side of Errogie

 The Chapel Bridge :- the bridge over the river Gourag/Allt nan Loin   at the crossroads of the B852 and the B862

The Allt Chearc Bridge :- bridge over the Allt Chearc burn carrying the road down the Pass of Inverfarigaig

Another feature of the roads was that if instructions for a task were given, the direction was also given as a matter of course.  Go east to the shop and buy some bread or are you going west to the dance at Whitebridge tonight ?  

 

Foyers Park, at one time was called Victoria Square but the name never lasted past the first decade of last century.

 

Mussady

 

Copyright © 2009AJC all rights reserved


 

 

 

 

 

 

Bynames of Bygone days

 

With such a diversity of surnames in the Strath, it is strange to recall a time when only a few surnames made up the majority in the district.

The Stratherrick area was the heartland of the Fraser clan, presided over by Lord Lovat, so that was the predominate surname in the district. Though the Grant’s, Macgruer’s, Mactavish’s and Macgillivary’s , also had a fair proportion of family members in the district at different times .

 

With such a profusion of people with the same surname and highland family naming conventions so strictly adhered to, the first boy named after husbands father, the second after the wifes father, the third after the father, whilst the first girl was named after wifes mother, the second after the fathers mother, the third after the mother. This system inevitably ended up with a lot of people of the identical forename and surname in the area.  So to distinguish one person from another with the same name the byname came into use. There are four types of byname. A patronymic byname identifies you as your father's child, a locative byname identifies you by the place where you live, work, or were born, or by the land you own. An occupational and status bynames identify you by an occupation or rank, whilst nicknames are a grab-bag of all bynames that don't fit into any of the first three classes. 

 

The first choice local byname also followed Scottish and highland clan tradition, of adding the place of abode to a person or a family name. In the gentry of Stratherrick you had Jamie Fraser of Foyers, James Fraser of Knockie, John of Farraline and French Hugh after the place where he had stayed for many years. 

 

The commoners were also known by their place of abode. For example, the MacDonald’s Birchfield, or sometimes even the surname was dropped and the first name along with abode came into play during conversation (father William along with sons Dunc & Bob Birchfield). This has held firm up to the present century for example, Ewen Migovie, Ewen Carnoch, Mary Ballochan and Anne Trinloist.  So a persons heritage could be addressed by;” he is one of the Macdonald’s of Whitebridge Hotel, or one of the Macdonald’s Birchfield or one of the Macdonald’s Knock” . 

 

Sometimes if you were originally from outwith the area, that would determine your family byname. Alex Mackenzie (Cabers from Strathpeffer), Jock MacInnes (Jock Fort from Fort Augustus). There was a family of Fraser whose byname was The Batties who originally came from Achnabatt.

Your profession or trade could determine your byname. Duncan Macdonald  “Dad the shop” Whitebridge shop and PO .  Donald Macintosh, “Baker” had a bakery at Lyne of Gorthleck. His sons also went with the byname Duncan, Willie, Donnie & Roddy Baker.

 

With the influx of people into Foyers along with the British Aluminium Company, this brought its own individual bye-name characteristics. Willie Cameron Glenlia farm “Willie Bonus” (named after his statement of working for bonus now), Jock Macdonald “Shawnie the blue” (worked on the blue shift in the factory). 

 

The bynames given as a individual characteristic included, John Fraser “The Swallow” named after the bird for his fleetness of foot on the shinty park. This byname has followed the family down through the generations; two of his sons were called Dickie Bird and the Bullar. Another John Fraser originally from Stratherrick was called “Jock Brisk” and his sister “Kate Brisk” possibly due to their lack of haste.  Jimmy Fraser “Jimmy the Hare” originally from Tomvoit Stratherrick possibly because he was a bit of an athlete in his day

 A family of MacKays who stayed in Glenlia, the father Alex’s byname was “Inch”, his brother who stayed in Inverness was “Half Inch”, while Alex’s sons were Willie and Jackie Inch,

 

One family of Frasers at Trinloist were known as “The Bann’s” so named because of the colour of their hair. Bann, Gaelic for fair, the name has followed the family down through the years, as has the distinctive hair colouring on some members of the descendants.   One of the family, Angus Alex Fraser was also called “Dorando Bann”, after the famous Italian runner Dorando Pietr. Dorando was disqualified from Olympic marathon gold in the1908 games in London after he was helped over the finishing line. Another family of Frasers at Trinloist this time at the farm, one of whom was called “Lovely Kate” ( possibly due to the fact that she never seemed to show her age much, even though she was around 104 when she died).    At Lochgarthside, Stratherrick, there were two families of Chisholm’s not related to each other. One was called the “Clackers” (Gaelic for stone) and the other “Whub’s” (from the saying by one of its family, more Whub, meaning more speed).

The Mackintosh’s who stayed at Wester Aberhaulder were called “The Mulach’s“ . According to one of the family their father gained the name for presenting in the church (leading the singing )

 

Pre and after the first World War bynames were very prevalent. The reason for some of the names are forgotten but the recipients still live on in the memory of the older generation.  Duncan Macdonald (Dunc Slash), Jackie Fraser (Bonar), Jock Fraser (Fishal), Hugh Gray (Horner), Dan Maclean (Popper ) Duncan Maclean (Tofa), Malcom Maclennan (Tuggie), Dave Maclaren (Yulack), Murdo Stewart (Freil) , Tommy Cooper (The Doc), Ronald Macmillan (The Bant) Donald Mackenzie (The Rabbit).

 

In the fifties and sixties bynames were still used extensively  to distinguish people and the name could be given for some reason. Billy Stoddart (Scoopy) played in goals at Shinty and was so named after his expression a “wee scoop” a way to get the ball out of the danger area . John Maclean the local policeman around this time, was called “ The Shadow” for his uncanny ability to appear on the scene without being heard if some ploy was afoot . Peter Grant (The Diver) whilst playing a fish, stood up in the boat and as it rocked from side to side he fell overboard. Hamish Fraser (Keyhole) named after being caught looking through a keyhole as a child. Other bynames the origin of is unclear include  John Kennedy (Steptoe), Jock Mackay (Snark), Angie Maclaren (Gabby), George Macdonald (Teep), Hugh Fraser (Toots), Ian Fraser (Soapy), John Murray (Corky).

 

Nowadays the giving of a byname or nickname is generally frowned upon by the politically correct brigade. In its own way if not maliciously bestowed, the byname will give the bearer a distinctive identity not only in the surrounding district but further a-field throughout the country.  A characteristic, which is seized upon by marketing and promotional people, to promote the latest celebrity or product.

 

Mussady

 


 

 

The Auld Pavilion

 

 

 

Yes, I’m the auld pavilion located down at Factory Field Foyers, better known as the Shinty pavilion for Shinty had been my main user for over eighty years. When was I built? Possibly in the nineteen twenties, as that’s the style of me, who alive knows now. Did I replace a former structure that was there for sporting and social events? I’ll leave that to your imagination to guess.    Sure, at the turn of the auld century there was what loosely could be termed a grandstand close to the area where I now sit, on whose wooden benches the local dignitaries of the district sat and viewed the many sporting and social occasions that were held on the Factory Field. Yes, if I can cast my mind back to take you on a journey, relived in my minds eye of some of the events that have graced the green sward in front of me over the years.

 

Where to start. Ah! Possibly with the young. Weren’t we all young once?  The local school sports where the children would gather at the green in Glenlia, then with either Cabers or Willie Bonus on the pipes at their vanguard they would walk down to the Factory Field. The sports would consist of the usual age group races, long and high jump, plus the three legged race and the sack race .Looking back I see some of the young children in the passing of time return to the Factory Field, firstly as proud parents competing in their genders race, then as grand parents in their twilight years.  In more recent times the inter school sports were held here between Foyers, Boleskine, Stratherrick & Whitebridge. The outlying schools would have their own individual transport arrangements for the day, Boleskine relied on the back of young Whub's  lorry to convey the children to Foyers Factory Field. On the return journey the Huffy Foyeracks were not adverse to a scud up to upper Foyers in the lorry alongside the Dirty Strathacks!.

  

On these sports days, teas, juices, a paper poke filled with food and occasionally ice cream cones, were distributed by the ladies from within my covered entrance, or to give it’s proper name the Veranda, to the participants and helpers of the sports.  These events concluded with the winner’s prizes being handed out; nine pence for first, sixpence for second and a three penny bit for third.

 

Sports days to celebrate royal milestones were held here also. The Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935 and later during the Coronation of his son George VI in1937 which included a display of animal balloons drifting across the Factory Field from the loch side. The balloons must have been filled with some type of combustible gas as a couple of them went on fire in mid air.  Our present Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was also marked with a sports day, whilst her silver jubilee in 1977 held a sports day and pet parade.

 

Yes, Gala‘s or Fete’s were held here too. The last I recall was in 1996 as part of British Aluminium Foyers Centenary Celebrations, incorporating a sports day and tug of war. It also included various stalls, one of which sold over 600 pancakes during the event, which was followed by fireworks and a barbeque and music by a group in my veranda in the evening.

 

Foyers Coronation picnic 1937 at the Factory Field

What titanic battles were produced here by the tug of war event.  On my right hand side was the training equipment, two A frames joined at their apex by a bar. A rope went over the bar which was attached to a metal container filled with scrap metal acting as weights, on which the team practiced their pull. Week nights during the summer training was held towards entry to the numerous highland games and sports gatherings of the day. Oh how the lads of 1933 eclipsed that good squad of 1912 in trophy gathering.

On the summer days, the Foyers Cricket Club, lead by the old Swallow would take the field against the local Inverness club. I only caught the end of that era though they were still going till the early thirties. But before my time even, there was the inter factory competitions between the British Aluminium against the Acetylene company.

 

The game of football was sporadically played here over the years. The Woodpeckers (lads who worked in the BA wood squad) would play the BA factory workers. There were matches between other BA factories of Kinlochleven and Fort William, I recall a game against Fort William on the factory field.  In the late thirties a team called Renton played Foyers here. Over the years games against neighbouring villages of Dores and Fort Augustus were contested along with matches with Inverness teams. In the mid fifties these were fairly frequent to the extent of possibly a Foyers team competing in the Inverness welfare league. Some of the local players even graced the grounds of the Highland league clubs with great success, the last one being a ginger haired laddie from up in Stratherrick. In the early seventies the fairer sex participated in a game of football against their male counterparts. After half time the ladies took to the field adorned in the bandages impregnated with tomato sauce, gaining sympathy from spectators and leniency from their opponents!   

 

The crack shots of the district or so I’m told, would practice small bore rifle shooting on their range here,  targets within a wooden structure reinforced with inch steel plate ,which was situated adjacent to the tail race .

 

I also bear the scars of war when the Heinkel flew over in 41 and bombed the factory, some of the debris from the bomb blast landed on my corrugated iron roof. That’s the dent you see on the front side of my roof and never repaired as it was still watertight. So, to protect us from Hitler’s war machine, the army was then stationed here between the factory field and Loch Ness shore line billeted in Nissan huts with strategically positioned machine gun posts.

During the Second World War, high up on my right hand side gable, a projecting wooden target with painted hoops on was attached to me. The purpose of this was for the local fire service to practice fire drill with hoses, (Stirrup pump or mains fed). The success of this training enabled  the Local Fire service group to win the Scottish Fire Drill championship during WW2 and go on to compete in the National final in London.

 

Shinty, my main user since I was built has had its ups and down over the years. After the first war competitive shinty returned to the Factory Field. First the pitch was extended and the Pugs rail lines were removed from going over the park. Before I existed the workman’s refreshment room next to the factory was used for changing facilities.

 

Ah! the Ledingham cup games, where the non Mac (the Crops) played the people with the surname containing Mac. How the taunts flowed in the week prior to the game of how each team would turn over the other with ease. Aye, in nineteen fifty-five, one of the last time it was played for, on New Years Day they held that match here. Opponents greeted each other warmly shaking hands and wishing the complements of the season prior to entering the fray.      These games always depended on the prevalence of able shinty playing Mac’s in the district at the one time, whilst the real games of blood and thunder were the Hussey Cup matches between Foyers & Stratherrick. Once again, the halcyon days of these epic battles were just before my time but I saw a few before the Foyers and Stratherrick clubs merged to form Boleskine. One noted local referee, fearing for the players and his own well being, refused to officiate at any more of these matches after one rather turbulent encounter.

How the crowds would line the pitch cheering on their favourites every move. All the able bodied people in the district would endeavour to attend these games. Was not the pride of ones area at stake? 

 

The days when the British Aluminium was to the fore, if a game was scheduled at the Factory Field a couple of the workers would be down at the field on the Friday afternoon, getting it prepared for the match on Saturday. In these cold winter days, a fire was lit in the grate for the bodach’s to warm themselves at half time. Many was the gillack who’s seal was broken and dispensed around to warm the inner, as well as the outer self.

 

Aye, there were photo-calls for the successful local teams held here over the years. The Scottish Junior Shinty championship sides of 1964 & 1966 posed proudly with their trophies. The latter not knowing that within twelve months the catalyst bringing stable employment to the district would close and with it their aspirations for possible senior glory as well.

 

In the eighties, I recall the inaugural Boleskine Challenge cup. That was the last time I was adorned with a lick of paint inside and out. My pillars at the front were renewed and my flag pole was once again brought into use. A five team 12 a side league competition held on the same day, the first event of its kind in the shinty world held here at the factory field. What a hustle and bustle that day providing changing facilities for the teams, with the organisers table and an improvised kitchen serving hot food and teas in the veranda

.

Boleskine 1986 first winners of the Boleskine Challenge Cup

Back L-R Duncan Macdonald ,Willie Swanson, Andy Cameron, Duncan Macmillan, Angus Maclaren, Ali Cameron, Billy Cameron.

Front L-R John Cameron, Kevin Stewart, Allan Sumner, Joey Smith, Kenny Ross.

 

Aye, the old crocks games spring to mind, played intermittently over the years but more frequent just prior to the inception in 1983 of the Brian Stoddart & Donald Macgruer Memorial Cup, when the veritable older players threw down the gauntlet challenging the present team for the honour of holding the cup for the year. From the early eighties till the games went into abeyance in 1993 the veterans would muster their former players from the four corners of the shinty world to meet their adversaries on the Factory Field. With the closure of the Foyers Club in 1991, the after match function was held here, with a barbeque for catering, music provided by a group using my veranda as a band stand, a horse box rigged out as licensed bar and straw square bales laid out for seating. A pleasant August evening in congenial company was held by one and all from all reports, with the midgies well sated also.     

 

The latest hour of the day a shinty match was played at the factory field was in 1984 when the Glenurquhart team arrived by speed boat just prior to eleven pm, to play the penultimate match of their sponsored attempt to play a six a side game on all of the 18 grounds in the North of Scotland district (ranging form Skye to Aberdeen) in a twenty four hour period.

Aye the ladies also challenged the men at shinty.  I recall an occasion in the early seventies in which I had suspicions that one member of the ladies team was not all she seemed!  In August 1984, there was a joint women’s and men’s team that challenged the current Boleskine team, the result being a win for the composite side  

 

Aye, during some shinty matches that the outcome at halftime fell well short of expectations. The team trouped back to the Boleskine changing room and the door was shut firmly behind them.  As the saying goes, if these walls could only talk they would relate the frank, open earthy debate that emanated from within, as positional changes were discussed to turn the game round, but on second thoughts perhaps it would be more prudent if the fly on the wall remains silent on this occasion

   

Forgive me if by some perchance I have overlooked some event that has occurred here over the years, but age is a definitely a duller of memory, as the older residents and even some of the younger ones will verify.  

 

So, spare a thought as you pass me by, this forlorn derelict timber structure is now the last public amenity building left in Foyers apart from the school. I have seen so many institutions and buildings go The Chapel, The Foyers Club, The Outreach Centre, The Church, and The Church Hall, yet I remain here, a neglected relic to the sporting prowess of the district.

 

 

 

 

Mussady

 

 

 

 


 

Halloween

Halloween, the annual celebration on evening of 31 October has been held since Celtic times, when during that period it was called Samhain. The word Halloween has its origins in the Catholic Church being a corruption of All Hallows Eve. All Hallows day or All Saints day, November the first was the Catholic day of observance in honour of the saints. 

 Folklore has it that the spirits of the deceased revisited the mortal world on that night, in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. Naturally the living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, people would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and unwelcoming. Then they would dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the district being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away the spirits.

My recollection of Halloween as a child in the 60s was the excitement you felt as the night of guising approached, what type of mask would you get, would it be one of the older pressed paper type or the newer plastic ones, not a patch in today’s ones though. Generally the elastic holding the mask on broke away and by halfway through the night the paper ones had got wet and fell apart.  The plastic type were prone to develop a small tear that quickly spread up through the middle of the mask rendering it useless, but at least you looked the part to scare anyone you met or called on, when you set off on the night’s adventures. As a small child I recall, along with my brother, getting taken guising by my father, walking along the road to the neighbours holding a carved turnip lantern with a lighted candle inside, trying to remember the poem I was to recite at the houses we visited.  The night was very dark as we walked along. Somehow I managed to wander from the road onto the grass verge then fell headlong into a deep ditch filled with water and losing my mask. As a result of my soaking, there was no other option but to return home to get dry clothes before resuming the night’s events.

At primary school you always had a Halloween party last thing before school closed for the day.  I always liked our version of dooking for apples. A large tub full of water with apples floating on top was placed between two chairs that had the backs facing each other, you knelt on the chair leaning over the back with a fork in your mouth and tried to spear an apple floating below. Possibly it wouldn't do to be sent home from school soaking wet on a cold October night as would have been the case if we went dooking for apples the more traditional way involving catching the apple with your teeth. We also had toffee apples and another game where you tried to eat a treacle scone that was strung up at head height with your arms behind your back.  You had to follow the movement of the scone and tried to catch it in your mouth to eat it, rather that holding it in your hands to eat it.

As I got older you were allowed out on your own guising, meeting up with your friends at a predetermined spot, armed with torches fitted with new batteries specially bought for the night and mounted on bikes you set off. The object of the evening was to visit as many houses as possible to enable you to get as much nuts, apples and sweets as possible.

 I recall going to visit an old neighbour at Lochgarthside in the evenings with my brother in the late sixties and she would relate to us the tales of pranks of yesteryear at Halloween which we listened to with intent, only sorry now I cannot recall all the details of stories

One favourite trick of the Guisers was to climb onto the roof of the house and put a divot of turf over the chimney, with the result that the smoke from the fire, unable to get out chimney, went back into the house. The occupants were then forced to get out of the house before they were suffocated. Another prank was to tie the knob of the door tightly with string to the gate post or some other unmovable object, then knock on the door .The occupier came to the door but could not open it, the string preventing this, leading to the frustration of knowing something else was afoot and he couldn't get out to prevent it happening.    The window tapping prank was another favourite, a button was attached to a black thread and threaded through the eye of a needle which was then stuck onto the window frame. Then the prankster concealed from view by being behind a shed or a bush etc, jerked the thread which caused the button to swing hitting the window pane. When the occupier came out to investigate, the button would have been pulled away from the window and lodged against the needle on the frame, so there was no obvious visible cause of the knocking on the window.

Some pranks often led to work having to be redone.  An example of this was when they used to cope stacks of corn or hay at Halloween. This would, be in all probability, be at least a days work to rebuild.

Another prank was to remove the wheels of the householders cart and to take them away, he might spend most of the next day trying to locate them.  They might well be strung up in the branches of trees or they could well be hidden behind a dyke.

A story I recall being told was of a farmer who always had a lot trouble with the Guisers. So one year he decided to get the better of them by lying in wait on the road up to the farm with his gun.  When he heard them coming up the road in the distance he challenged them and fired a shot in the air.  They stopped and started a conversation with the farmer for quite a period of time whilst a few of their number sloped off behind him and made their way to farm, where they made off with wheels and the cart unbeknown to the farmer.

Even in the semi urban area of Foyers there was no respite from the wiles of the Guisers. In the nineteen twenties, Willie Cameron (Bonus), Glenlia farm, had his plough taken by Guisers and strung up on a tree.  Jock Scott had his pride and joy, a motorbike, removed from his house in Glenlia and Hugh Macdonald had his Donkey taken. Both the motorbike and the donkey were then swapped over much to the owner’s perplexity the next morning. At Inverfarigaig, on the island, an apple tree had all its fruit removed and peats strung up as a replacement, perhaps the leaving of articles in place of the ones taken, would lead to the blame being appropriated on the little people (fairies elf's etc)

It is not known that the next two stories actually happened on Halloween but they follow the same vein and are worth including

A man called Grant who stayed at Heath Cottage, Errogie, was courting a lady who resided at Fenecriech in Gorthleck.  One evening he went west to visit her on his black horse. On arriving he stabled the horse in the byre and went into the house.  While he was in the house somebody entered the byre and whitewashed his horse. Several hours later when he went to leave, he entered the byre and struck a match to get his horse. There was no sign of his black horse, only a white one there, which resulted on him having to walk all the three miles back to Errogie in his best clothes.

Round about 1870 a tailor from Easter Duntelchaig had an appointment with a client for a new suit at Bochruben early on the Monday morning. Unfortunately he had no clock and relied on the cockerel to awaken him first thing in the morning with its crowing.  As it was so important an appointment the tailor went to bed early on Sunday evening in preparation of the next days event.  Just prior to midnight a local boy went to the tailors house and pretended to crow like a cockerel. Awaking, thinking it was near daybreak the tailor arose and made his way of 6 miles westward to Bochruben, arriving at the house in the early hours of the morning to find the family still in bed.

Jimmy MacLean, Lochgarthside, was always subject to the attention of the Guisers and he would be relieved in the wee small hours if nothing happened, so he could rest peacefully for the remainder of the night 

One ironic fact was that the subject of the devilment, had more than likely being one of the perpetrators twenty to forty years before, giving credence to the phrase ‘what goes around comes around’, while reflecting on the delight he felt then and thinking not too ill of the misfortunes that befell him on All Saints Eve .

 

 

 

Mussady

 

 


 


 

A cold snap in the Strath

Though for the last few years we have not suffered a sustained prolonged snowfall or a lengthy period of low temperature either, it is easy to get irritated if the roads are not open and black by mid-morning so we can get about our business . But think back to what would have happened before mechanisation; since the late nineteen thirties we have had tractors with very basic static snowploughs attached to open the roads. Prior to that it was small snowploughs pulled by horses, useful in small falls but with the greater falls of snow, the time honoured method of clearing the snow by shovel was used.

In wintry weather gangs of local volunteers would open the roads of snow by clearing paths wide enough for people and horse transport to get about the area. It was not unheard of then to open the road over the Suidhe to Fort Augustus after it had been blocked for a long period. 

The winter of 1894-95 was probably the worst one over the last one hundred odd years, it was well documented that the Beauly Firth froze over and the town of Inverness was isolated by rail travel on several occasions from the rest of the country. The weather followed a pattern of a slight thaw then followed by more snow, and the frosts were severe and continuous apart from the thaw periods.  In the beginning the Caledonian Canal was being kept open by the daily steamers breaking up the film of ice on it each day, but by the fifteenth of Feb it was frozen over and passengers had to be conveyed from Dochgarroch to Inverness in brakes & horse drawn buses.

 A couple of days previously it was reported in the local newspaper of 38 degrees of frost in and around Inverness. As far as newspaper accounts of the Boleskine area I can find only one mention, which records: - most of the roads have been all along and are still blocked and today (8 Feb) the snow lies on level ground from one to two feet deep with no appearance of change. The merchants have had greatest difficulty in securing the necessary provisions for their customers and in some cases the goods have had to be carried by able bodied men. Farmers and crofters find it no easy task to secure food for their stock.  Blizzards have been in plenty and the one experienced on 6th Feb will not be soon forgotten. The cold has been intense some days as much as twenty degrees of frost being recorded and it is not an unusual thing to rise in the morning to find in ones bedroom the thermometer standing at seven degrees below zero. Children have been unable to attend school and only a few of the strongest have ventured to church – some Sundays none at all.

 Though no one exists with first hand knowledge of conditions in Stratherrick area during this period, it is remembered by the older residence of the Strath by stories they heard from their forbearers. My own personal remembrance is my grand uncle telling me that they took a toff across Loch Garth from Garthbeg in a sledge and they took great delight in capsizing the sledge several times, resulting in the overweight gentleman being sent sprawling onto the ice.

My father mentioned that goods for Dunmaglass estate were delivered by steamer to Inverfarigiag pier just before New Year. It was the end of March before they could manage down to pick them up with horse and cart because of road conditions.  His father, as a youth working at Dunmaglass could not return home to Lochgarthside for over a month due to adverse weather. Also, possibly during the same winter, working with a horse and sledge, there was a depth of six feet of snow with the top crust frozen beneath them on the road.

Horse drawn snowplough at Laracks, Lyne of Gorthleck, Stratherrick about 1930

We are indebted to William Trail, schoolmaster of Boleskine, for possibly the only account of how severe the weather was locally through his entries in the school log book of Boleskine. The log books for Whitebridge Roman Catholic School and Aldourie only mention the storm in passing. 

  No log books of the other local schools have survived.  Stratherrick (Errogie), Knockchiolum, Dunmaglass and Buchruben have been lost for this period.

   The weather up until the storm was very mild for the time of year as entry of 7th Dec stated.  Christmas day, which fell on a Tuesday, was a school holiday, but on the following Friday, 28th Dec, the weather was stormy with high winds and rain.   The children that came to school from a great distance were absent.  A lot of children from Errogie area were attending Boleskine School due to the headmaster at Stratherrick School Mr Smart, having typhoid fever. Over the year there were about thirty one in total, some from as far away as Oldtown.

 On Saturday the severe snowstorm began and continued all day Sunday with hurricane winds resulting in the roads all being blocked. No children at school on Monday 31 Dec. The next day being New Years day was the start of holidays till the end of the week. . On Monday the 7th  Jan Mr Trail reports that “the storm renewed yesterday with high winds, main roads impassable and took two hours to make paths to school and round about house, over three feet of snow and drifts nearly six feet in places,  no child turned up for school”. The following day the log book recorded fifteen degrees of frost from previous night; same amount of snow, one boy came but sent him home as the snow covered him to shoulders. For the rest of that week no children were in school, the roads were still blocked, but Monday’s mail managed to get through to the schoolhouse on Wednesday.

The following week weather remained stormy, road between Gorthlick and Chapel house still blocked. Only six turned up for school this week. Monday, three girls from Glenlia and on the Tuesday two Bethune’s and a Goldie ventured to school, kept them an hour, found them somewhat forgetful, complaining of cold feet.

The week commencing 21st Jan roads only partially open and in certain places a mass of ice, a very few present on Monday only, snow storm continued off and on for the rest of week..

On the 28th Jan the teacher recorded “a violent storm of wind and snow yesterday, roads have never been opened up and now worse, this forenoon we has fifteen degrees of frost, half a dozen boys and two girls present, one boy fainted with cold dismissed them after twelve, the whole trembling under the severe frost, did not mark register as some came in late and it was doubtful how long they would remain”.  The rest of the week the weather was similar, roads on level from six to fifteen inches covered with snow and wreaths from four to six feet deep, no children attended school during this period.

 As we moved into February the bad weather seemed to intensify, it snowed every day the first week. The only day children attended was on Wednesday the 6th, when despite 12 degrees of frost two girls and six boys were there for the morning, dismissed them at twelve o clock, they were all shivering. By three a clock there was a perfect hurricane, impossible to see two yards in front of you, by the next day all roads were blocked again and twenty degrees of frost that morning.

Week commencing the 11th Feb no scholars attended this week, twenty degrees of frost in Monday morning roads impassable. On Tuesday Mr Trail writes “met yesterday Mr Goldie was glad I sent home his children on the 6th, was just starting to come for them as he thought from his barometer that there was to be a storm. A fire in school all yesterday again and yet all the ink in the inkwells are frozen”.

 The Inverness Courier reported similar occurrences of ink wells freezing in offices within the town during this period.  In Thursday and Fridays entries he writes” wind rose on Wednesday at 5pm snow began to drift and continued with more or less severity till noon next day; roads again worse, drifts around schoolhouse about ten feet deep , no post for last two days; none present . Two of our neighbours had to be dug out of their houses, the snow almost reaching to the top of their chimneys”.

 Next week not withstanding eighteen degrees of frost on Monday, three came from Glenlia, snow is not so deep there, mention of ink in school being one mass of ice.  No more children came rest of week, the log book records “that roads in front of school to cross were completely blocked and on route to Gorthlick on business found roads blocked from side to side fully six feet of snow not here and there but quite level mass, difficult to walk over, some places snow breaks under your feet and you are apt to fall”.

By the following week a thaw had set in making it difficult to walk over the blocked roads as snow is deep from dyke to dyke and again soft .Over the week almost half the scholars were present at some point, through  those from the outlying areas have not attended since December due to the  storm . The week commencing 4th March more snow and drift over weekend only a few children on Monday but by the end of week the percentage of school attending was sixty three, in spite of roads still not good between Gorthlick and Errogie. The report at the end of week ending15th March records that snow was rapidly disappearing from the front of the school, the following Friday mention is made of the roads now being open.

With the milder weather setting in the people of the district began their spring activities which in turn would have an effect on the school roll, due to children being kept at home to assist with the work as highlighted by an entry of 21st June, which the dominie commented “too many kept at home against the law; fancy a boy of about ten hoeing potatoes

William Trail schoolmaster at Boleskine from 1880 till about 1920
 

Mussady

 

 


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