Strawberries, Ospreys and Cut Out Cops

Last Saturday’s Strawberry TeaZ was one of the best ever, with around 60 folk arriving to help consume a pretty impressive table of strawberry delights, both sweet and savoury.  We were delighted to welcome so many local residents, as well as a pleasing number of visitors and passers-by.

The photos speak for themselves:

By the end, there was hardly a crumb – and certainly not a strawberry – left.  Many thanks to all who contributed baking and helped make the event one to remember.

Cut Out for the Job?

We have two new residents!  Bob has been busy on the main Lochside road making sure the traffic slows down and observes the speed limit, while Annie (Get Your Gun) has been making sure cars maintain a sensible speed in and around the village.

We’re not sure how many tickets they have actually issued, but they really do seem to be making a difference to the speed of traffic.

Road Safety Meeting

On Monday 22nd July, the Loch Tay and Glen Lyon Community Council hosted a meeting on Road Safety.  The roads under discussion were the A827 (mainly the Kenmore to Lawers section), the road through Fearnan and onwards to Fortingall, Quarry Road and the Glen Lyon roads.  Cllr Mike Williamson attended the meeting, along with 2 representatives from Perth and Kinross Council Roads Departments.

The main issues raised by those attending included: the fact the roads are inadequate for the size of vehicles currently using them, drivers not being used to single track roads, speeding and irresponsible over-taking, problems for pedestrians (eg trying to cross the A827 in Fearnan to the loch, or walkers on various roads), passing places (too few and not clearly marked), satnavs taking inappropriately large vehicles into Quarry Road at the Letterellen turnoff rather than at the main junction, and poor signage /overgrown signs.

The solutions discussed included:

  • Reviewing the speed limits through villages on the A827 and in some cases extending the controlled zone (eg Kenmore to Dalerb);
  • Vehicle Activated Speed signs; warning signs where the speed limit is about to change; and repeater signs through the controlled section; ‘Oncoming Vehicles in the Middle of Road’ signs where appropriate; and a review of pinch-points on the A827;
  • Use of the Mobile Camera Van (temporary speed trap) will be applied for;
  • Passing places need to be tidied and clearly marked; 
  • Consider designating the stretch from Fearnan to Fortingall a Walking and Cycling Route with an appropriate speed limit;
  • More prominent signage where needed;
  • More passing places for Glen Lyon;
  • Better signage to discourage inappropriately large vehicles from eg Quarry Road and Glen Lyon;
  • Address problems created by unofficial rallies (groups of bikes, motor bikes and specialist vehicles) through Glen Lyon.

It was agreed that the Council officers would discuss the issues raised with their teams and come back to Mike Williamson with planned action and dates.

Wildlife

Keith’s been climbing trees again – this time to ring two broods, each of three osprey chicks, by Loch Tay. All were colour-ringed with a plastic ring carrying an individual code so that migrating birds can be recognised on their way to and from their winter home in Western Africa.

There are many fantastic illustrations in Keith’s new book – Glen of the Lapwing – featuring the varied wildlife of Glenquaich Estate in Glen Quaich. The book is available from Keith’s gallery (at £25) and signed copies are also available at the Fortingall Art Exhibition, where some of the artwork from the book is on display.

Book Club

Linda has provided this month’s book review:

Our book for July, The Lost Man by Jane Harper, was essentially a family drama – a gripping, compelling tale and another example of “outback noir.” This is the third novel by this author that we have read and discussed as a group and this gave us an opportunity to compare and contrast. The Dry, her debut novel, was regarded by our group as the best of the three, followed by The Lost Man, another page turner.

As in all of her novels, we were transported from the mixed weather of our Scottish summer to the consistent and unrelenting heat, dust and challenges of life in the Australian outback. Everything was affected by the environment. 

The main characters were from the same extended but discordant family with complicated relationships and back stories, which were revealed and developed as the story progressed. The narrative was told through the eyes of Nathan, one of three brothers who was struggling to make a go of it and lived a rather solitary life. When one of the brothers was found dead in the outback, the question posed was suicide or murder?

As the story progressed, secrets and lies emerged, twists and turns and red herrings were thrown in as we tried to guess who the murderer was. Finally all was revealed and the guilty family member was uncovered – but was protected for reasons that soon became apparent. Under the circumstances, it appeared to be a happy ending, but who knows!

Our read for August is Ill Met by Moonlight by W Stanley Moss, set in Crete during the German occupation in WW2. It is a true story written by one of the participants in the audacious kidnap of the German General in charge of Crete by British officers, supported by Cretan resistance fighters. 

We are also planning to watch the 1957 film, starring Dirk Bogarde, and to compare book and film.

Coming Soon

The Pop Up Coffee Shop is taking a beak in August, but will be back on Tuesday 17th September at 10.30am in Fearnan Hall.

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Fearnan School 1785 – 1968

The year is 1785.  Plans are being laid for a building, approximately 33′ x 18′, that will provide a schoolroom, along with a bedroom and kitchen for the schoolmaster. The calculation allows for five windows and one outside door. The upper part of each window will be glass, with wooden shutters on the lower half, and the floor will be bare earth.

The site of an old croft house at Croftnallain has been chosen for the school, and an estimate (beautifully written in copperplate writing) for £13 17s 2d has been submitted, by Neil MacDonald, Mason in Fortingall, to the Earl of Breadalbane. This was later adjusted to £16 0s 0d to allow for some refinement to the work and to take into account materials (worth £1 8s 8d) salvaged from the old croft. The exact date of the estimate is not recorded, but MacDonald says that he will ‘endeavour to have the above mentioned house finished about the beginning of August next’.

He was true his word and he records receipt of payment from the Earl of Breadalbane for the ‘expense of building a schoolhouse’ on 10th August 1785. On 10th September of the same year, John MacNichol, Wright in Killin, submits expenses of £10 1s 10d for ‘Plenishing the Schoolhouse of Fearnan’. This has involved providing the doors and windows for the building, partitions for the 3 rooms, the scholars’ tables and seats, a seat for the schoolmaster and two shelves for books.

At last, Fearnan has a school. 

But it had been a long road to get to this point.  It was more than 200 years since John Knox first advanced the idea of a schoolmaster being appointed to every parish, and 150 years since the Parliament of Scotland’s first (of two) Education Acts that established legislation for schools to be set up in every parish.  Schools were under the supervision of the local Presbytery, while the Parish Heritors (estate owners) were responsible for the salary and accommodation of the school master in rural areas.

By the 1760s, parish schools had been established in Kenmore and Killin, but these were too far from the homes of many of the children who lived around Loch Tay. The Society in Scotland for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) helped to widen the network of schools by making provision in some of the outer-lying areas, including Fortingall. However, the SSPCK had an agenda – their aim was to teach and encourage the spread of the English language (most people were Gaelic speakers,) and to end the attachment to Roman Catholicism which was associated with the rebellious Jacobites.

The (Jacobite-supporting) Robertsons were the Heritors of Fearnan up until the Barony was forfeit to the crown after Culloden (along with the estates of many other Jacobite supporters), and it is reasonable to assume that they would have had no interest in paying for the children on their estate to be taught in English. So Fearnan remained without a school.

Parents in the village, who wished to see their children educated, had to pay the cost of a schoolmaster themselves – when the cost could be afforded.  This resulted in frequent interruptions to their children’s education.  The schools in Kenmore and Fortingall were inaccessible from Fearnan, due to the River Tay in one direction and the River Lyon in the other (neither having a bridge at this point).

In 1762, the parents of Fearnan petitioned the Factor of the Forfeited Estates, Ensign James Small, to try to raise the funds for a school:

“Petition of the tenants of Fearnan complaining of the distance from the schools, those next to them, Kenmore and Fortingall are the nearest, above 3 miles distant, with the rivers Tay and Lyon ‘interfering’, and being unable to board out their children, had the misfortune to seeing them growing up in ignorance.”  (A H Millar: A Selection of Scottish Forfeited Estates Papers.)

The petition was lodged in 1762, but not ‘read’ until 1764.  Although the Barony of Fearnan became part of the (Crown-supporting) Earl of Breadalbane’s estate in 1765, it took a further 20 years before work started on Fearnan’s schoolhouse, funded by the Earl.

Education in Fearnan

Few records for the early period of Fearnan School have been found and we have little information about the first 100 years of its existence.

We do know, however, thanks to the Rev William Gillies, that “there is no doubt that many of the teachers employed at that time were poorly qualified and that they were miserably paid. They taught in houses that had been hastily and roughly built; the conditions both of themselves and the children were extremely trying and compared very unfavourably with modern standards of comfort.” (“In Famed Breadalbane”, 1938)

The Education Act of 1872 was an important milestone for education in Scotland and confirmed the decreasing influencing of the church and the assumption of responsibility for education by the state.  It established that schools were to be funded by the combination of a grant from Parliament, a payment from local rates and a fee charged to each pupil. Religious instruction was to be held only at the beginning of each day; teaching was to be in English; and an inspector would examine the school on a regular basis in all subjects except religion.

School records improve following the 1872 Education Act and, from 1875 to 1968, nine teachers held the position of Head Teacher at Fearnan School. A single teacher would have taught all age groups in the same classroom and, until 1920 the school year ran from October to August of the following year.

  • April 1875      Miss Mary Barclay (for five weeks only because of the uncomfortable condition of the school)
  • 1875 – 1897     Mr Robert Ramsay
  • March 1897    Miss Janet Cunningham
  • 1897 – 1901    Miss A S Cunningham
  • 1901 – 1903    Mr Duncan Paterson
  • 1903 – 1928    Miss Lizzie McLaren Roberts
  • 1928 – 1930    Miss Barbara Mackay
  • 1930 – 1951    Miss Margaret Purves
  • 1951 – 1968    Miss Catherine Maynard

From the latter part of the 19th century to the start of the 20th century, the school roll hovers around the mid-thirties, but varies considerably – sometimes as high as 46 and sometimes down to 25. Through the years of the 20th century, numbers slowly declined and were usually below 20.

An important requirement of the 1872 Education Act was the keeping of a Logbook by teachers, briefly recording school activities, attendance and the factors affecting attendance. The Fearnan School Log Books were rediscovered a few years ago by Ian McGregor, and the weekly entries provide us with a sense not only of life inside the school building, but also of the cycle of life in Fearnan and the impact of the weather, illness, and the different seasons on the village more than 100 years ago.

The entries are always short and to the point and, in many ways, they are like modern-day ‘tweets’ coming to us down the years.

Illness: Outbreaks of chicken pox, whooping cough, measles and other childhood illnesses are reported and are a reminder of the dangers and risks before inoculations brought mass protection. At one point, 8 out of 13 pupils were absent due to whooping cough, and there was a severe outbreak of measles in the 1890s.

“Attendance regular though still lower than it should be. The reports of each new case of measles hurts the attendance considerably.” (27th June 1890)

“Attendance a little better this week, although a good many are yet sick. There is a great deal of distress in the village just now both among old and young.” (20 February 1891. An earlier entry had commented on severe colds in the village.)

“Mumps has broken out amongst the scholars and greatly reduced their attendance.” (Dec 17th 1909)

The introduction of vaccinations, although a life-saver, was not an unalloyed blessing for some:

“The doctor visited the school on Tuesday and vaccinated all the children.  Two scholars absent today, their arms much swollen.” (9th July 1920)

A week later the teacher reports:

“ Attendance much reduced owing to the vaccination – the three boys who were vaccinated for the first time being absent the greater part of the week.”

Early in 1915, references to Belgian Influenza and pneumonia start to appear in the Log Book.  Fearnan, and indeed the wider area, suffered a serious epidemic.  A telegram was received from the Medical Officer of Health ordering the school to be closed for a week from the 22nd to the 26th February.  Two pupils were seriously ill and, the teacher records, ‘there are still many sufferers in the village’.

The annual agricultural cycle had a considerable impact on attendance as individual families needed to maximise the labour resources available to them.

“Attendance not so good this week, all the villagers being busy potato lifting.” (October 19th 1894)

“Attendances are very irregular, many are engaged securing the hay, while others were at the sheep-clipping.” (31 July 1885)

While attendance suffered from village children being taken out of school to help with agricultural work, the children of itinerant workers would boost numbers by joining classes temporarily.

“Attendance improved. A tinker child who enrolled on 18th September has left this part of the country (suddenly). The village people are complaining that clothes have been stolen.” (3rd October 1923)

“The attendance has been very irregular this week. The Steam Saw Mill having left the district, we have lost seven scholars.” (May 2, 1884)

(The Steam Saw Mill would have been brought to the area to process felled trees.  They were belt-driven from a steam traction engine, which could also be used to transport the saw (usually a circular saw). A considerable volume of cut timber would have been needed to to make it worth bringing the mill to Fearnan, although the fact there was a pier in the village would have made the onward transport of the processed wood (probably planks) easier – possibly to the railway at Killin and from there by rail to locations throughout the UK. A team of 6 – 8 men would have been required to assemble and dismantle the saw on site – hence the number of children temporarily attending the school.)

Weather: The School Log Book show that extreme weather is not unique to our times:

“The children are every spare minute engaged dragging home firewood. The weather still continues of the roughest nature and many of the villagers have not yet been able to return to their own houses.” (December 8, 1893).

“The loch has risen a little since last week. On Monday we put a mark on the west side of the Black Craig to show the lowness of the water. The mark is a groove in the rock about a foot long, but it may be mentioned that last week the water was an inch or so below the marking line.” (October 1894).

“Wednesday was the stormiest day anyone in the village can remember. It was followed by the most intense frost, the thermometer frequently going as low as 0°F (-17.8C), the ink in the school all frozen and the milk and water in the houses turned to blocks of ice.” (9th February 1895).

“The weather is of the severest nature. The steamers on the loch were unable to get past Ardeonaig with ice this week. The oldest inhabitant never saw Loch Tay frozen before.” (15th February 1895).

“We had a very heavy snowstorm in the beginning of this week. Monday a few of the little children were kept at home but the snowplough being round, all got to school on Tuesday.” (21st March 1879).

“Work this week has been carried out under great difficulties. A storm of unusual violence raged, and the children were so wet on Wednesday that it was impossible to keep them long.” (17th March 1904).

Visitors: The school masters and mistresses recorded visitors to the school.  They included the school inspectors, the local minister, people who came to teach sewing and singing, the Drill Master and the School Nurse (latterly) and local dignitaries.

“Lady Breadalbane and Mrs Grahame of Letterellan gave the children some lessons in deportment, and how to show respect to one another; and then some lessons in dancing.” (November 1884).

Tuesday was a holiday to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. The children were each presented with a medal from Lady Godolphin in commemoration of the event.” (June 1887).

In the 19th century, Christmas Day was not a school holiday, but the children did have a celebration to look forward to:

“On Wednesday, Lady Breadalbane, accompanied by Mr and Mrs Grahame, kindly invited the children to Taymouth Castle on Friday next for their Christmas treat.  All are in great glee over it.” (December 19th1884)

World War 1: Thanks to the School Log Book, we have a sense of the village responding and reacting to the big events of the time.  Throughout the period of WW1, there are frequent references to the children collecting money for the Red Cross and for the wounded, writing letters, and sending parcels to local men who had been wounded.

“A parcel was sent to one of our wounded soldiers in hospital by the children here. Each child also wrote a letter to him.” (8th November 1918)

The response within the village to the news of fatalities is recorded:

“Again, sad tidings! The brother of the brave soldier referred to a fortnight ago has succumbed at the Western front to pneumonia whilst another who has been in the transport service for some time has been killed. Both of these lads had seen four years’ service in the army and both deserve the high encomiums passed upon them by the villagers. Both were much beloved and are much mourned.” (November 8th 1918)

 The Log Book provides a first hand account of the news of the end of the war reaching the village.  On 15th November 1918, the Head Teacher, Miss L M Roberts wrote:

“The glad tidings that the Armistice was signed and that peace once more reigned reached us on Monday about three o’clock in the afternoon. Captain Thistle and Mr Peter Dewar called and made known the welcome news. The children cheered and all at once hastened to hoist the “Union Jack”. The children then sang the National Anthem and were dismissed. The village received the news quietly, the bereavements being too recent to admit of any demonstration of joy. The lumber camp of Newfoundland soldiers ceased work until Wednesday but there was no disturbance in this village.”

The Best Days of Your Life?

With a single teacher responsible for all age groups, the influence of that teacher would have been very significant. We know very little about most of them, other than a few short entries in the Log Book by school inspectors, which suggest they fulfilled their responsibilities satisfactorily. More information is available from former pupils about both Miss Purves and Miss Maynard, whilst information about Mr Robert Ramsey comes from press reports of the time.

In December 1896, local newspapers and the Glasgow Herald carried details of the dismissal and subsequent appeal of Robert Ramsay. Earlier in the year, parents, guardians and ratepayers in the school district of Fearnan had signed a petition for the dismissal of Mr Ramsay and presented it to the School Board of Kenmore.

The petition set out examples of “the brutal treatment their children had received from Mr Ramsay during his fits of passion” over a period of some considerable time. These examples included children being kicked, thrashed, and thrown against a wall.  One ten year old girl was threatened with having a slate put through her skull; a young boy was stripped of his clothing and made to stand outside on the school porch in winter; another girl came home black and blue after having been dragged out of the school room and flogged.  Among many other complaints, several former pupils reported being struck about the head with the walking stick that Ramsay used.

The School Board took the decision to dismiss Ramsay but met again in December to hear two petitions – one appealing against the dismissal, and one urging the board to adhere to its decision.  The first petition was presented by ratepayers and householders in Kenmore and urged the board to reconsider its decision saying that many of the original petitioners had changed their minds.  However, signatories to the second petition (ratepayers and parents in Fearnan) made it clear that not only had they not changed their minds, but that a number of the alleged signatories to the appeal petition had neither signed nor given their permission for their names to be included.

Following the presentation of the 2 petitions, the Board met in private and decided to “adhere to the resolution to dismiss Mr Ramsay”.

Reports of the time make it clear that this episode was an unhappy one for all concerned.  From our 21st century standpoint, it is difficult to understand why such brutality was allowed to go on for so long. However, views expressed by some at the time, suggest there was a strong belief that as long as the children attained the expected academic standard, then all other factors were side issues.  The school was regularly inspected, but it appears that it was only the educational standard that was being inspected.

Things seemed to settle for the children of Fearnan from the point at which Mr Ramsay left in 1897.  That is, until Miss Purves arrived in 1930.

Miss Purves’ period of tenure at the school is still within living memory and several contributors to this blog have commented on her harsh and sometimes callous attitude to her pupils.

Kirstyn Jandt wrote to Ian McGregor when he was writing his book, “Fearnan. The Story of a Highland Village in Northern Perthshire.” She recalled her cousin, aged 5, crying at nights at the prospect of starting school, such was the fear the schoolchildren had of Miss Purves and, in a memoire of his time in Fearnan, Alastair Barnett recalls:

“Although summer was my favourite time of year, a dark cloud hovered about my subconscious. That cloud took the form of our schoolteacher. In an age when many of Scotland’s classrooms were ruled in oppression, Fearnan School was no exception.

“My early school days were unspeakably miserable. The teacher was a tall, narrow woman with a pointed face and metal-framed spectacles. She crushed any form of self-expression and appeared oblivious to the physical and emotional pain she inflicted. Her teaching methods, while some might argue effective, were draconian. Feelings ran strong in the village about her cruelty, but despite numerous complaints to the authorities, nothing was done to remedy the situation.

“…………… some time after I had moved on to Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy, she left for Aberdeen. ……….  For the upcoming generation of village children, including my brother Iain, the clouds had rolled away, and a breath of spring arrived in the form of her replacement, the always smiling and caring Miss Maynard.”

And indeed, with Miss Maynard’s arrival in 1951, a curtain seems to rise and the first school photos appear, with happy, smiling pupils gathered proudly beside their teacher.

Back Row (L-R): Elizabeth Robertson, Iain Grindlay, Elizabeth Grindlay, Elizabeth Campbell (McLaren),
Isobel McLaren (Johnstone), Iain Barnett, John Gray, Douglas Grindlay, Archie McLaren.
Front row (L-R): Isabel Robertson, Chick McLaren, Elizabeth Dick, Davy Campbell, Cathy McDougall, James Gray, Cathy Dorward, Teddy Dorward, Ally Grindlay.
Teacher: Miss Maynard

Here they are again dressed as Cowboys and Fairies, having made the costumes themselves under Miss Maynard’s expert guidance, for an end of term tea party for their parents. All their schoolwork was laid out for inspection in the school.

Names missing from the handwritten script round the photo are: Ally Grey of Duallin Farm (between Chic McLaren and Douglas Grindlay); Iain Barnett is the boy to the right of Archie McLaren and next to him is Johnny (or Jimmy) Grey also of Duallin Farm. Elizabeth Campbell was, of course, better known to us as Elizabeth McLaren.

Isobel McLaren (now Isobel Johnstone) laid the village wreath at the recent Commemoration for those who died in the Fearnan Air Crash.

Three of the children in another photo from the late 1950’s also joined us at the Commemoration – Shenac Kelloe (nee Cameron), and Alex and Billy McEwen.

Around this time, Cameron Thomson started as school bus driver and continued in this role for a period of some 27 years.  Starting early in the morning, he would pick up the older children from all along the lochside and bring them to Fearnan, where they were able to catch a bus to the secondary school in Aberfeldy; then he went back along the loch to collect the wee ones to take them to Fearnan Primary School. He remembers some of the bad winters, when the snow fell heavily and the snowplough piled big heaps on the verges, making the road to Lawers more like a bob sleigh run.

Cameron, seen on the left in his horn carving workshop around the same time that he was the school bus driver, thoroughly enjoyed his role. He knew all of the children’s names and would hear their news and stories of what had happened in school that day.

His favourite time of year was the period leading up to Christmas when the children were learning Christmas Carols in class. On those wintry afternoons, as it wove its way along the side of the loch, the bus would be filled with the sound of their young voices, practising their newly learned Carols.

After Fearnan School closed, he continued as the school bus driver, taking the children to Kenmore Primary School instead. His daughter, Lesley, appears in the photograph below.

The School Bell Rings for the Last Time (1968)

School numbers varied widely over the years it was open.  Numbers were boosted at the beginning of WW2 when evacuees from Glasgow joined the school roll.  After the war, the closure of Lawers School brought an additional 7 pupils to Fearnan, but by the time the school closed in March 1968, the role had dropped to 10 pupils.  The pupils were transferred to Kenmore Primary School on the 4th March.

Here are 9 of the last pupils to attend the school, photographed in 1965.

Back Row from left: Valery McEwan, Anne Mclaren, Royston Jackson, Lesley Thomson, Helen McDonald.
Front Row: Sandra Park, Wendy Jackson, Tom Alexander, Susan Christie.

Miss Maynard had taught at the school from 1951 to its closure in 1968. On Friday 1st March 1968, the last entry on the School Log Book reads:

“Attendance 100%. Pupils made their last attendance here today.  This is the final entry in the Log Book.  Fearnan School closes today. Catherine C Maynard. Head Teacher.”

A small ceremony was held and the photo below shows Isobel Johstone’s mother, Mary McLaren, presenting Miss Maynard with a gift on the occasion of her retirement from Fearnan School.

Miss Maynard’s First Retiral

At this point, Miss Maynard went travelling across Canada but, some years later, she returned to Scotland to teach at Kinloch-Rannoch Primary School, where she taught 3 more members of the McLaren family – Isobel’s own children. And, when she retired for the second time, it was Isobel’s daughter, Irene, who was chosen to present Miss Maynard with a parting gift.

We know from the School Log Books that the school, modified and developed over the years, was an important building in the village, and for much of its existence, it would have been the only public space.  It was used, for example, by the local WRI and the Drummond Hill Football Club; for Gaelic functions and church services; and by The Fearnan Literary Society (1886), whose activities were previously reported on this blog.

After the school closed, it was used as a children’s hostel and Outdoor Centre until that closed in 1975. For a while, it provided a base for groups such as the Fearnan Art Group, but in 2002 plans to convert the building into a community arts centre, with studios available for artists from home and abroad failed to attract sufficient financial support.  A few years later, the school building was sold and it became a residential property.

These words form Alastair Barnett’s memoire, Fearnan, a Refuge in a Storm conjure a vivid picture of a time when the school was central to the village, and of that excited moment of release at the end of the school day:

“Even today when I think of Fearnan it’s not difficult to visualise village life as it was then, and when I close my eyes, I can see clearly the white-capped waves on the loch and hear the children’s voices carried on the wind as they tumble from the schoolhouse at the end of the day: Wee Billy and Andy, Margaret, Mary and Isobel, Archibald, Jim, Donald, Elizabeth, Dochie, Jenny, the Grindlays …..”

Fearnan School after its closure in 1968

Calling all former pupils – if you attended Fearnan School and have memories or photographs to add to this article, please either use the Comment section below, or send them to fiona@fearnanvillageassociation.com We would love to hear from you.

Sources and Copyright

The following sources were used to write this article:

Ian McGregor – Fearnan, The Story of a Highland Village in Perthshire.

WA Gillies – In Famed Breadalbane

Alastair Barnett – Fearnan, a Refuge in a Storm

National Archives of Scotland

AH Millar: A Selection of Scottish Forfeited Estates Papers

Fearnan School Log Books 1875 – 1968

Glasgow Herald December 1896

Personal memories of former pupils

The copyright of the text in this article, except where other sources are quoted, lies with Fiona Ballantyne, and the copyright of the photographs lies with the person who took them.

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July Blog

Roads and road safety are a big feature this time, as well as some sources of help to get those really annoying, unwanted callers off your phone line.

Heart 200

The issues that have come to the fore with the launch of the Heart 200 Route have been getting a good airing, both through the press and at 2 very useful meetings held locally. First of all, Pete Wishart MP and Councillor Mike Williamson came to a well-attended meeting in Fearnan on Saturday 13th July.  Around 25 people attended and had an opportunity to express their concerns.

Mike has since identified a number of action points that he will be picking up, including road safety issues, signage, speed control, problems arising from wild camping, and facilitating the ability of local communities to feed their issues into the Outdoor Access Forum for Perth and Kinross. Pete will be speaking to other communities who have raised similar issues about Heart 200.

The second meeting was a smaller meeting with the 2 senior council officers who are involved with Heart 200.  Sue (Glen Lyon and Loch Tay Community Council), Shirley Shearer (Kenmore CC), Fiona (Fearnan Village Association) and Jenny (Campaigner extraordinaire) attended. This was a very useful meeting both in providing background information and also in considering how some of the issues might be alleviated.  Again, road issues were discussed, particularly speed management, and the points we raised will be taken up by them with the relevant departments in the Council.  Other points were discussed, and we will report on these once we have received the Council’s notes and action points from the meeting.

Many thanks to all those who have contributed to the debate so far.

Nuisance Calls and Scammers

An FVA member reports that over the past two weeks she has been receiving persistent phone calls from an individual purporting to be from Microsoft and asking her to switch on her computer, as it had a fault. The caller got more forceful, rude, and threatening and persisted in making calls to her number even after the householder had told him where to get off in no uncertain terms, and had stopped picking up the phone.  

The number is 00121038108 and a Google search showed it originated in Italy and is nothing to do with Microsoft.

Calls like that are very unsettling, so what can be done?

Both the telephone regulator, Ofcom, and Which? have information on their websites about managing nuisance calls, and how to block them. There are products to block some calls, like international calls (many scamming calls originate overseas) or withheld numbers, but be careful they don’t also block calls you want. Ask your phone provider if they have a service to block some numbers, or you can install a call blocking device on your phone yourself (see links below).

The Which? site helps explain what to do if you’re plagued with unwanted calls:(https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-stop-nuisance-phone-calls)

It also has advice on blocking calls, including reviews of call blocking devices: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/nuisance-calls/article/nuisance-calls-call-blocker-reviews/nuisance-calls-call-blocking-options

Ofcom also has information about the different services your phone provider may have to tackle nuisance calls and the costs: click here

Scams usually involve people being tricked into giving money. If you think a caller is trying to run a scam, you should report it. Find out how to report a scam here:

Tips for dealing with unwanted phone calls include:

  • If you get a threatening call or persistent unwanted calls, call your phone provider and ask for their Nuisance Calls Team, who will give help and advice.
  • Use the number blocking function that is on most phone handsets and mobiles. Block the number of an unwanted call as soon as you get the caller off the line.
  • UK Data Protection laws mean that cold callers cannot phone you without your permission so, when filling in forms or buying on line, take care to tick (or uncheck) the box about contacting you in the future, and also deny them permission to pass your data to someone else. 
  • Register with the TPS Service (www.tpsonline.org.uk) as well.  People report varying success with TPS, but if it stops some of the calls, it’s worth it.
  • Use the Caller Display function on your phone to see if you recognise the caller’s number before picking up, and let them leave a message if you don’t recognise it.
  • Even the most technologically-aware and street-wise people get scammed when they are off-guard! Be deeply suspicious of anyone claiming to be from your bank or computer software provider, never be tempted to give them account details, passwords or pin numbers, and never give them access to your computer (they are just after your passwords and bank details). Terminate the call and wait 5 minutes (to make sure the phoneline has cleared and you are not still talking to the same scammer) before calling your bank to find out if they really are trying to get in touch.
  • Beware of ‘number spoofing’ where the scammer uses a decoy number to make it look like it really is your bank calling you.  Your bank will never phone asking for account information or asking you to transfer money to another account. Terminate the call and contact your bank (after waiting 5 mins or use another phone, such as a mobile).

Road Closure – C449 Main Road, Fearnan

In order to permit BT Maintenance works on the C449 through Fearnan, there will be a temporary traffic regulation order from the 1st August 2019 for a period of two days.

During that period, the order will prohibit all vehicles from driving, parking and loading on both sides of the C449 Main Road, Fearnan from the Dalchiaran junction to the private access to Hawthorn Cottage, a distance of 180 metres.

Pedestrian & emergency vehicular access to premises will be maintained. The alternative route for vehicles is A827 – U177 – U179.

Coming Soon!

It’s July, so Strawberry TeaZ are about to be served! 

Join us in the McLean Hall, Fearnan from 3-5pm on Saturday 20th July.  As ever, the tea table will be laden with strawberry delights – all the old favourites and some new ones, including some savoury strawberry treats. 

Pay at the door – as much as you can eat for £7.00pp (school age children half price).

Road Safety Meeting: Glenlyon & Loch Tay Community Council will be hosting a meeting with Councillor Mike Williamson and PKC representatives about road safety on the A827.  It will be held in the McLean Hall, Fearnan, on Monday 22nd July 2 – 3pm.

The Big Shed: On Thursday 25th July at 7.30pm, the young traditional singers and musicians from Feis Fhoirt will be playing at The Big Shed, as part of their annual Ceilidh Trail summer tour of the Stirling, Falkirk and Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park area. 

The 2019 Ceilidh Trail line-up have toured individually in Europe and the UK, and they showcase their talents across Clarsach, Fiddle, Scots and Gaelic Song, Accordion and Guitar. 

As ever, tickets are £10 on the door  (opens at 7pm). BYOB – tea coffee and soft drinks will be available at the venue.

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It’s been a Busy June

It’s been a busy month in the area, with lots to report on.

Living on Water Archaeological Dig

The archaeologists from the Living on Water Project have been back in the Loch Tay area this month.

Their project is focussed on the early Iron Age (800 – 400 BC) and on trying to understand whether or not the 18 crannogs in Loch Tay were occupied simultaneously (which would suggest quite a busy landscape), or sporadically over that 400-year period (which would suggest small groups living in isolation).  They are also trying to determine whether or not there was a land-based population living close to the crannogs at the same time – which would also affect the busy-ness of the landscape.

Last year, The Blog met Dr Michael Stratigos, when he and colleagues were excavating an area at Boreland and we were delighted when he got in touch again this year to invite a group from Fearnan to visit their current archaeological dig.

And so it was, that a small group of present day Loch Tay residents came to be standing high above the loch at Easter Croftintygan, on the site of a ring ditch house that had belonged to some Loch Tay residents from a much earlier time.

The special grasses and flowers growing on Easter Croftintygan Meadow make it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so the archaeologists have had to take care to disturb the site as little as possible, and to carefully preserve the turf that they lift and, ultimately, to replace it exactly as it was before.

A ring ditch house was essentially a house with an internal ditch around it and they were common in the period 1000 BC to 1000 AD. It is a laborious task for the archaeologists to remove the soil from the site gradually and reveal its features. Fortunately for us, this work had already been done when we arrived, and even more fortunately, we had Michael to explain the site and paint a vivid picture of life in this house some 2000 years ago.

He drew our attention to the area where the house had stood, and its surrounding ditch, along with features that the untrained eye would miss – such as changes in the colour of the soil which suggest activities by the occupants that the archaeologists are able to interpret, ‘a shallow cut charcoal spread’ that not only indicated the hearth of the house, but should also yield material that can be radio carbon dated to help establish the period of occupancy, and post holes for the timbers that supported the house. He also showed us features in the land that indicate there had been a second building, at some point, immediately adjacent to the house being excavated.

It is unusual to find any actual remains on-sites from this period. These sites lie just below the surface of the land, and over the centuries will have been ploughed, and animals will have burrowed into ground.  Easter Croftintygan yielded a few fragments of animal bone. By contrast, the crannogs yield a very significant amount of Iron Age remains that have lain undisturbed in the cold, peaty, but preserving waters of Loch Tay.

Post holes in the ring ditch house uncovered at Easter Croftingyan

While we were on-site, a Whatsapp message came from other members of the  archaeology team who were excavating a site at Ard na Gaul, near Killin. The tip of a wooden stake had been recovered at the site and this is ideal material for accurate radio carbon dating.

When the archaeologists have finished at Easter Croftintygan, the site will be carefully covered over again, but not before a 2019 penny has been placed on the house platform, to help future archaeologist identify the date of earlier excavations of the site.

Heart 200 Update

As some of you already know, the Fearnan to Coshieville stretch of single-track road has been taken out of the official Heart 200 Route.  H200’s on-line maps have been amended accordingly.  This change came about as a result of pressure from a number of sources – the Community Council, Fearnan Village Association, lots of individual who wrote letters of protest and, in particular, Jenny Penfold who has been a fantastic campaigner.  Many thanks to everyone involved.

We are pleased that we have been listened to, and while there will still be many a motor home and motorbike, along with other assorted vehicles, making their way up Fearnan Brae, on route to the Fortingall Yew and beyond, hopefully we will not see a significnt increase on existing traffic levels.  The rest of the Route launches on the 1st July, and we will continue to campaign for the lessons of the North Coast 500 to be taken on board, and for more imaginative, greener, sustainable tourism initiatives to be developed, that will generate visitors who will stay for days at a time to enjoy our peaceful environment, rather than drive through one day wonders.

Last week, BBC Scotland’s The Nine produced a report on the NC500 and covered some of the issues and questions it has raised.  The report included a short section on the soon-to-be-launched H200. 

They had found the Fearnan Village Association Blog and our article on how lessons could have been learned from the NC500 experience ahead of H200’s launch.

BBC Scotland came to Fearnan to interview Jenny and Fiona and, although only a short section of the interview was used in the final piece, many of the issues we raised were covered in other parts of the report.

Fiona and Jenny with James Cook of BBC Scotland

Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir

The Blog just loves a success story!

This year’s Perthshire and Angus Provincial Mod was held on 14th and 15th June in Aberfeldy. Known fondly as the Aberfeldy Mod, this is a celebration of Gaelic culture and music where participants of all ages, from all over Scotland and beyond, come to compete.

Not surprisingly, the Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir – whose members include Fearnan’s Fran Donovan, along with June Riddle who is a regular attender at our events – took part .


The competitions the Choir entered were: 

The May Mitchell and Frances Matheson Cuach (Puirt a Beul) where they were were placed 3rd behind Lothian Gaelic Choir (last year’s Royal National Mod Winners) and Cumbernauld Gaelic Choir. So far, so good.

But when it came to The Westcroft Trophy, which is the main competition (Choral Singing: 2 songs, own choice) they were placed ……….. FIRST for Music (The Janet MacIntyre Memorial Cup), FIRST for Gaelic (The Cuach Chlachmhor in memory of Helen T MacMillan) and, therefore …….. FIRST overall (The Westcroft Trophy).

Well done, girls and boys of the Choir!  Here are some of them with their new silverware!

Pop Up Coffee Shop

The June Pop Up was a more restrained affair than usual, but some new faces joined us and there was certainly plenty of cake for everyone – including one or two trial runs for July’s Strawberry TeaZ. 

Fearnan Book Club

Linda Milne writes:

Our June read “It’s all in Your Head: Stories from the Frontline of Psychosomatic Illness” by Suzanne Sullivan was described as an inspired choice, very interesting and thought provoking, as it was a very different read for our group.

It was an eye opener, which was largely enjoyed by the group. We felt that the title was perhaps slightly flippant as it belied the depth and detail of the content. However it was a serious subject described in depth, very sensitively and informatively and for a wide audience. It wasn’t a book to be read from cover to cover but rather in sections to allow time for reflection. The book focussed on a wide spectrum of cases with patients’ progress being updated throughout. 

We felt sympathy for the brave author whose diagnosis of psychosomatic illness was often rejected by the patients and indeed by some of her medical colleagues. We were also horrified at the extent of the debilitating, life changing symptoms experienced by the patients resulting in an extensive cost to the NHS. One observation was that this not so prevalent in America due to the cost of health care! 

This led to a discussion about mental illness in general, and related misunderstandings and misconceptions. We all agreed that the impact of stress should not be dismissed or treated lightly. This book resonated with many of us who felt we knew people who perhaps would have benefitted from psychiatric support or even from reading this book. It would be hoped that reading this book would help to detoxify negative reactions to sessions with psychologists or psychiatrists. We compared the treatment and attitudes to mental illness in the past including experiences of asylums and the increase in mental illness in teenagers today including self harm. 

Some of us felt frustrated that the author didn’t round off her cases with eventual outcomes and was apt to go off on tangents. All in all, the book was very informative and in depth discussion showed sensitivity to the subject.

A murder mystery, a lighter read, has been selected for our July session. It is “The Lost Man” by Jane Harper, an award winning author, whose previous books we’ve enjoyed. Although this is a stand-alone novel, it provides an opportunity to ‘compare and contrast’ with her other two books and is also set in the Australian outback.

What’s On Next

Breadalbane Heritage Society are holding their summer party on Wednesday 10th July at the Scottish Crannog Centre.  It is open to non-members, and if you would like to attend, please contact Ian Stewart at ian.stewart.bhs@gmail.com to book a place.

And finally……………don’t forget that it is nearly time for the FVA’s strawberry extravaganza! A feast for the eyes, as well as the tastebuds.

From strawberry sandwiches to strawberry fizz, by way of strawberry tarts, flans, sponges, mousses, pavlovas and much more. (And if none of those tempt you, you can always have good old strawberries and cream.)

Strawberry TeaZ is on Saturday 20th July, from 3 – 5pm. £7.00 pp at the door; children half price; pre-schoolers free.

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May Update

May Pop up Coffee Shop

It was a really good, sociable group (and one dog) that gathered in the hall last Tuesday to enjoy coffee, cake and a chat.

There was also a birthday cake and a quick rendition of Happy Birthday to You for Elaine and, before you ask, she declined to say which birthday it was. Quite right, too!

The rebranding from Coffee Morning to Pop Up Coffee Shop encouraged a passing cyclist and 2 tourists to come in, although the tourists were looking for a take away – something we will be able to provide at future events.

The Coffee Shop will be back in action on Tuesday June 18th at 10.30 am.

Heart 200

The ‘Coffee Shop’ provided an opportunity to get an update on the Heart 200 situation.  Letters have now been sent to the Chairs of other Community Councils whose areas will be affected by this tourism route, and also to individual Community Councillors.  Others contacted include environmental organisations such as the RSPB, the John Muir Trust, the Community Land Trust and Greenpeace.

The impact of these ‘hit and run’ tourist routes on local communities and the wear and tear on Scotland’s environmental landmarks has become the subject of an increasing amount of press comment.  Three relevant articles from the last few days are:

Scotsman: https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/outdoors/wild-landscapes-under-threat-as-tourism-soars-1-4934650

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/may/25/dark-side-scotland-north-coast-500-route-speeding-congestion-protest

Perthshire Advertiser: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/concerns-heart-new-tourist-route-16193232

In the Scotland on Sunday article, the John Muir Trust are calling for more joined up thinking between those promoting tourism and those managing it and highlighting the damage being done to our wild areas and local communities by the increasing numbers of tourists.

If you haven’t already written, there is information about who to write to and some of the important points to make on our Heart(Break) 200 page.

The most effective letters of complaint are:

  • Clear and concise.
  • Clear about exactly what you want done. Don’t just complain but also state the redress you are looking for.
  • Not angry, sarcastic, or threatening, particularly important if you want to gain the support of the recipient.

Shout About Transport Event 30th May

A different aspect of transport – local transport and how to tackle the lack of the same – is the subject of an event on 30th May in the Locus Centre, Aberfeldy.

Shout About Transport will to look at innovative ways other areas have taken to address transport issues.  There will be a chance to take part in the Upper Tay Transport Action Plan, which is launched on the same day. 

The event is hosted by the Upper Tay Transport Group and it is an opportunity to meet the Public Transport Unit from Perth and Kinross Council (1.00 – 3.30 pm), RVS and TACTRAN (who can tell you about the Lift Share scheme) and Transport Consultant, Jeff Turner.

The Pembrokeshire Association of Community Transport Organisations will also be there to share how they solved their transport issues in a similarly rural area (2.30-5pm). It is a drop in so join us when it suits you. Refreshments throughout the afternoon.

May Book Review – a Whodunnit with a Difference.

The book discussed by the Book Club in May was A Case of Doubtful Death by Linda Stratmann.

The year is 1880. In West London, a dedicated doctor has set up a waiting mortuary on the borders of Kensal Green Cemetery, where corpses are left to decompose before burial, to reassure clients that no one can be buried alive. When he collapses and dies on the same night that one of his most reliable employees disappears, Frances Doughty, a young sleuth with a reputation for solving knotty cases, is engaged to find the missing man, but nothing is as it seems.

In this, her third case, Frances Doughty must rely on her wit, courage and determination – as well as some loyal friends – to solve the case. Suspicions of blackmail, fraud and murder lead to a gruesome exhumation in the catacombs, with shocking results.

The idea of a waiting mortuary came from Germany and was inspired by a fear of live burial  A waiting mortuary is a building designed specifically for the purpose of confirming that deceased persons are actually dead. They were most popular in 19th-century Germany, and were often large, ornate halls.

The Life House in this book is a fictional place set in Victorian London when the different areas of London were more like villages. In our discussion, we reckoned that people and events would be known to the residents of the area. A young lad with a voracious appetite was certainly a great source of information for the detective. 

Some of us found it rather rambling, slightly tedious and boring at times but it was agreed that the catacomb scene was very vivid and realistic, full of menace, evocative and atmospheric. Some found the ending weak. 

From a personal point of view, we learned about putrefaction, about how drug induced patients can appear to be dead – and (jokingly) discussed rethinking our funeral plans!

The book chosen for the June meeting is It’s All in Your Head – a non-fiction book by neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan in which she shares her past experiences in diagnosing patients with psychosomatic disorders. The book focuses on the culture of medicine and societal views on psychosomatic illness – physical symptoms that stem from the mind.  This should provide interesting material for discussion and sharing experiences. 

Diary Dates

The Pop up Coffee Shop will be back on Tuesday 18th June at 10.30, and on the 20th July, we have that annual feast of deliciousness, Strawberry TeaZ.

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Campaign Edition

Heart 200

Heart 200 is a new touring route of approximately 200 miles around Perth, Stirling, The Trossachs and Highland Perthshire, and modelled on the North Coast 500.  It is due to launch at the end of May, and although it has been long in the planning, there has been little or no attempt to inform the residents and businesses that it will affect. Nor has there been an assessment of the capability of the local road network or other infrastructure to cope with the planned extra traffic.

From the map below, you can see that it goes through Fearnan.

You don’t need to spend long driving on the roads around Loch Tay to realise that the local road infrastructure is struggling to cope.  Local residents share a network of single track and fairly elderly A and B roads with wood lorries, construction vehicles, touring coaches, mobile homes, and other tourist traffic.  Even on the A-roads, an increasing number of vehicles are so big that they no longer fit on one side of the road and spill over the white line, creating problems for on-coming traffic and further erosion of the road edges and verges. On our single-track roads, the problems are magnified.

Add to this flooding and drainage concerns, inadequately maintained and signed passing-places, potholes and winter gritting problems and you have a number of road safety issues.

But it is not just the road infrastructure that is the problem. People who live on the North Coast 500 route say that it has changed their whole way of life and decreased amenity value to residents and for those visitors who come to enjoy a tranquil rural setting.  They have experienced increases in traffic hold ups, road wear/damage, noise, pollution, rubbish, and wild camping with its associated problems of rubbish and dumping of human waste. The route has also had a detrimental effect on some businesses, particularly self-catering and other businesses reliant on a peaceful rural environment and quiet roads, like farmers. 

In other words there is a significant social cost that is currently being ignored by the operators and the Council. PKC are providing a grant of £45,000 this project – a significant sum of public money to be invested without the Council appearing to have taken on board any of the lessons that might have been learned from NC500.  Nor has any preparatory work been undertaken to make the roads fit for purpose or to put in place the kind of infrastructure required to support a busy driving route (fit for purpose roads, toilets, rubbish bins, signage etc).

The process through which this scheme is being brought to the market lacks integrity and Fearnan Village Association believes that the launch of this project should be delayed until the operators and Council have:

  • Conducted a proper consultation with the people directly affected by this proposal and established how residents’ and business owners’ concerns can be mitigated;
  • Established how carbon emissions, rubbish, and disruption to residents and rural businesses will be managed by the operators;
  • Conducted a review of the state of the roads that will carry the extra traffic, made them fit for purpose, and identified the roads (such as Fearnan to Coshieville) that are not suitable and need to be excluded from the route, with proper signage to this effect;
  • Established a comprehensive system of monitoring the economic and social impacts of this project.

Further information about Heart 200 and details of who to write to in order to express your views will be provided off-line to Fearnan residents.

Aberfeldy Square Planning Appplication

The Glenlyon and Loch Tay Community Council would like to draw your attention to the plans to redesign Aberfeldy Square that have now been submitted for planning approval.

The Planning Application No. is 19/00657/FLL and the description reads: “The proposal focuses on the re-design of the square, so it’s purpose as a car park is converted to a space which works for the local community. The removal of parking from one side of the square, will help create a flexible space, which will provide a platform for additional events, which will add to the portfolio of events in Aberfeldy. The space will be paved in Scottish natural stone and serviced by new power point infrastructure.”

The CC’s main objection is the reduction of parking spaces from 19 ordinary spaces + 2 disabled spaces, to 6 ordinary + 1 disabled. This will make parking more difficult in the  rest of the town. The CC’s objection to the proposal is now on the PKC Planning Comments Page and they would like to draw your attention to the ways to object to/ comment on this Planning Application:

  • On-line by clicking ‘Viewing and Commenting on Planning Applications’ then following the links.
  • By email or a letter attached to an email to  developmentmanagement@pkc.gov.uk
  • By  post to Planning and Development, Pullar House, Kinnoull Street, Perth  PH1 5GD

Please include the Planning Application number 19/00657/FLL , your name and postal address and clearly state if it is an Objection or Comment.
Closing date for Objections/Comments is MAY 24th.

Bluebell Time

Our third item in this ‘campaign issue’ is about the threat to our native bluebells. Ros Grant has been looking into the threat posed by the invasive Spanish Bluebells and has provided this article for the Blog.

Roadside between Fearnan and Kenmore

At this time of the year the bluebells are spectacular, especially in the woods along the Fearnan to Kenmore road.  But are they under threat from the non-native invader, the Spanish bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica

Introduced to the UK in the 1600s as a garden plant, the Spanish bluebell has gradually spread throughout the UK, particularly in Victorian times, cross-pollinating with our native bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, and changing the native’s characteristics to an intermediate hybrid form.  From a distance the two plants may look similar, particularly as the hybrid bluebell is now very common, but also variable, for example in colour (pink and white).  So, what’s the difference between our dainty native bluebell and the Spanish one?

Dr Trevor Dines, Botanical Specialist with Plantlife, a British conservation charity working nationally and internationally to save threatened wild flowers, plants and fungi, published a blog comparing the two plants.  This is an extract, but you can read the full blog at https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/blog/whats-the-difference-between-spanish-bluebells-and-english-bluebells

Native bluebells (on the right)

  • have narrow leaves, usually about 1cm or 1.5cm (about half an inch) wide
  • have deep blue (sometimes white, rarely pink), narrow, tube-like flowers, with the very tips curled right back
  • have flowers mostly on one side of the stem only, and distinctly drooping, or nodding, at the top
  • have a distinct sweet, fruity scent
  • inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen are usually cream.

Spanish bluebells (on the left)

  • have broad leaves often 3cm (over an inch) wide
  • have paler blue (quite often pink and white), conical or bell-shaped flowers that have spread-out tips
  • have flowers all around the upright stem
  • have almost no scent or an unpleasant onion scent
  • inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen usually blue (although this may vary a little).

A Plantlife survey found that one in six broadleaved woodlands across the UK contained a Spanish bluebell or a hybrid between the two.

So, does it matter if we lose our native bluebell?  Isn’t it just one more example of the loss of a British species and further degradation in biodiversity?  As a non-native invasive species, the Spanish bluebell can be identified and removed either by digging up the bulbs early in the season or by picking the flower heads before they are pollinated and, later on by removing the seed heads.  Avoid putting the bulbs and seeds in compost, otherwise they will return. 

Spanish Bluebell

Scottish Natural Heritage say that the law in Scotland makes it an offence to plant or cause Spanish bluebells to grow in the wild.  However, a householder is legally entitled to plant non-native species in a garden, providing they are responsible and do not allow the non-native species to escape. Unfortunately, bees, insects and butterflies don’t stick to gardens and spread is inevitable if the Spanish bluebell continues to grow in gardens.  Pollinating insects can fly for several miles and will therefore have an impact on the whole of Fearnan village and the surrounding landscape.

Organisations such as Plantlife and the Woodland Trust encourage consumers to buy the native H. non-scripta bulbs, which are now licensed and obtainable from a reliable source, such as Plantlife, as it is a better option and of value to our native flora.   Scottish Natural Heritage promote a Bulb Collection Code https://www.nature.scot/sites/default/files/2017-06/scottishbulbcollflyer.pdf

There is growing concern about the spread of non-native invasive species including the potential threat to the UK’s native bluebell by the Spanish bluebell and its hybrids.  A joint project with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Natural History Museum is underway.  Early results show that the native bluebell may have a genetic advantage over the Spanish, but until all the results are published it’s too early to be sure.

Sources:

https://www.plantlife.org.uk

Peter McPhail, Scottish Natural Heritage. Personal correspondence: 8 April 2019

Alistair Whyte, Head of Plantlife Scotland. Personal correspondence: 7 May 2019

It’s Bracken Bashing Time of Year

Bracken Bashing has resumed in the area around Ann’s Seat to keep it clear of ferns. Although it is early in the season, there is some evidence that the growth of bracken in the immediate area around the seat is reducing as a result of the efforts made in previous years.

If you feel like a little light exercise (!) the tools are in the bin close to the seat, and your contribution will be much appreciated.

Coffee Time

The FVA’s Pop-Up Coffee Shop will be back in action on 21st May at 10.30 in the Hall. Join us for freshly made coffee and some delicious home baking – and a chance to chat with friends and neighbours.

Copyright: the copyright of all text on this website is held by the person who wrote it and the copyright of all photographs is held by the person who took them.

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Ceremony of Commemoration for the Fearnan Air Crash

A Ceremony of Commemoration for the Fearnan Air Crash was held in the village on 6th May – almost exactly 76 years after the crash in which 3 members of the Moscow Special Assignment Air Group and a Czechoslovakian colleague died when their plane came down in the Cow Park on the edge of Fearnan.

Residents, both past and present, gathered at the village hall along with our guests – the Lord-Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross, the Consul General of Russia, the Provost of Perth and Kinross, representatives of the Russian families, and 3 generations of the Drahovzal family from the Czech Republic, who had travelled here especially for the ceremony. So, we formed quite a crowd as we made our way to the site of the ceremony, led by the Provost’s piper. 

As we gathered round the newly-installed memorial stone, the Rev Anne Brennan welcomed everyone and a minute’s silence was held. It was punctuated, on this Spring morning, by birdsong and bleating lambs calling to their mothers – sounds which felt like an affirmation of life going forward.

The piper’s Lament signalled the end of the silence and as the notes softly faded to a close, Father Alexandr the Russian Orthodox Priest, blessed the stone and offered prayers. Wreaths and red roses were laid, not just by the official party but by many of those attending.  Fearnan’s wreath was laid by Isobel Johnstone, who grew up in the village in the cottage now known as Arcady. Isobel was carried to the crash site as a baby by her mother, who ran from their cottage to see if there were any survivors.

The speeches that followed were all moving, but particularly those from the descendants of the men who had died in the crash.  Anna Belorusova, who has written about the crash in her recently published book about the Moscow Special Assignment Air Group, read an address and poem written by Yuri, the grandson of flight engineer Aleksandr Alekseev:

This is a very special occasion for my family and for me.

I never met my grandfather, Aleksandr Alekseev. But his story has always been part of our family lore. My father Lev, a teenager during the war, could remember Aleksandr going to the most dangerous sorties behind enemy lines and always safely coming home. One day, however, he left on a top-secret mission, never to return.

Some months later sad news arrived. Then came a solemn funeral in Moscow with speeches by the High Command, a military band, and guns fired in memory of the fallen heroes Aleksandr Gruzdin, Aleksandr Alekseev and Vasily Drjamin. But their families were never told how the tragedy happened.

Much later my father attempted to find out what had happened in the UK, but the files were classified. Eight years ago, he died without having ever learned the truth and is buried now next to his father in Moscow’s Novodevitchie cemetery.

It was just three weeks ago that my family learned what had happened in May 1943 in Perthshire. Now our family feels reconnected with my grandfather, it is as though he has finally come home. I am deeply grateful to you for what you have done to commemorate those brave men and hope to visit Fearnan sometime soon to pay my own tribute and to say thank you to all.

Fearnan, you'll not forget that flight, 
The struggling crew, the dreadful sight
  Of their sad end, that springtime day.
And I not born… What was it for?
I need an answer from that war…
It cannot say, it cannot say, it cannot say.

Michal Nyvit, the great-grandson of Frantisek Drahovzal, spoke on behalf of his family.  Speaking initially in English and then in Czech, he said:

I am the great grandson of Frantisek Antonin Drahovzal.  Frantisek was employed as a chef by President Benes but in 1940, after Czechoslovakia was invaded, he left to come to England with the President. In 1943, he died here in this tragic crash. The circumstances of his death are still unexplained.
 
I would like to thank Anna Belorusova who has been researching how this crash came about. Thank you also to Joe Vochyan of Czech RAF for tracing our family in the Czech Republic, and to Fiona and Bradley who kept in touch with me during the planning of our visit. Thanks to them all we are here with you today.

This month, Europe is commemorating the 74th anniversary of World War II and the horrors that people had to endure in the course of the war. They are also remembering those who died fighting for our freedom and who should not be forgotten. Therefore, I thank all those who have organised this Act of Remembrance.

We, the descendants, also pay tribute to those who died in the war and thank them for enabling us to live in relative peace without pain and suffering.

The pictures below show the Consul General addressing the gathering; the Provost; Anna Belorusova; and Michal Nyvit.

The final part of the ceremony was the planting of a tree – a Golden Alder – as gesture of friendship and unity going forward. The tree was chosen because the name Fearnan means ‘the Place of the Alder’. All the participants in the ceremony helped to plant the tree, as well as Frantisek Drahovzal’s son (also Frantisek and now aged 85) and his grandson (standing behind his father in the picture), and Sue Dolan-Betney on behalf of Fearnan Village Association.

After the ceremony, a number of people walked up the hill to where the actual crash site was marked with both the Russian and Czech flags, while others made their way back to the village hall for tea. 

The new story-board panels, a gift from the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre can be seen in the picture. Doug and Hilary provided music, and John Duff joined them to sing The Loch Tay Boat Song.

Whilst in the hall, the Drahovzal family were able to meet and talk with Alex and Billy McEwen. Their father, John McEwen, witnessed the crash as the stricken plane passed overhead at Lawers View, with the pilot struggling to miss the village. John McEwen appeared as a witness at the subsequent Inquiry. The McEwen’s are seen below on the left with the Drahovzals.

The easy flow of conversation between our Scottish and Czech guests was made possible by Miranda, who lives in Aberfeldy, and acted as a very able interpreter.

She is seen below with Sue and Fiona.

Many, many thanks to everyone in the village who helped the event run smoothly, from planning and organising the event, to preparing the site, managing the traffic, looking after our visitors and preparing and serving the tea.  And a particularly big thank you to all our visitors who joined us from all parts of Scotland.

Fearnan in the Media!

The TV station, Channel One Russia had a film crew at the Ceremony, and at Errol and Montrose. Here is their report – the pictures of Fearnan start at 0.30min and again at 3.14 min. https://www.1tv.ru/news/issue/2019-05-10/21:00#12

Fearnan Air Crash Memorial
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