June Blog

Miss Lizzie McLaren Roberts, Head Teacher, Fearnan School, 1903-1928

It’s always a pleasure to receive an email from someone with Fearnan connections who has found our little website and, inevitably, they add a little bit to our knowledge of Fearnan’s history.

Recently, just such an email came in from Bev Bayda, who lives in Edmonton in Canada. Bev had found the article about Fearnan School on our website and wrote to us about one of the teachers, Lizzie Roberts who taught in the school from 1903 to 1928.

“Thank you for all the work you have done on the Fearnan School web page.  My mother’s aunt was Miss Lizzie McLaren Roberts.  My mother lived with Lizzie from 1947-1949 in Old Polmont.  When Lizzie passed away in 1955 my mother received the tea service (tea pot, cream & sugar bowls, tray) that Lizzie received from Fearnan School when she retired.

I was wondering if you had any pictures with Lizzie in them or any other information about her that is not posted on the website.”

Bev sent this picture of the teapot from Lizzie’s Fearnan School tea service.

Miss Robert’s tenure at the school covered an important period in history, and it was she who wrote touchingly in the School Log Books about some of the Fearnan men who fell in WW1 (some of the men were pupils whom she would have taught).  You can read her words in this article from the Blog in 2018.

The School Log Book was one of the few written records of life and major events in Fearnan during the 19th and early 20th century, and it is thanks to Miss Roberts that we have an account of the news of the end of WW1 arriving in Fearnan, when Captain Thistle (he of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps) and Peter Dewar (after whom Peter’s Pool is named) arrived at the school to tell the children that the war had ended.  You can read her account in this Armistice 2018 article from the blog. (Peter Dewar’s own son, James, was one of those who died in the war and is remembered on our war memorial.)

Some of the topics covered by Miss Roberts in the school record book have a strong resonance today.  In 1914, there are references to the flu epidemic, described as the Belgian Flu (no concerns about cultural stigma in those days!) and the fact that it had taken a powerful hold with many sufferers in the village.

She also writes of receiving a telegram that will resonate with today’s teachers:

“It stated that the Medical Officer of Health, Dr Graham, had ordered the school to be closed for one week from the 22nd to the 26th of February.

Two very serious cases of pneumonia are reported, the victims being two of the pupils.”

And, with Covid jabs to the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment, we can all feel extra empathy for the pupils of Fearnan School during the 1920 School Vaccination Programme (probably for smallpox, although it is not specified), which Miss Roberts recorded :

“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 Miss Roberts 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.”

Miss Roberts retired after 25 years teaching at the school, and although we can’t know exactly what was said at her leaving presentation, we do know that the school inspector wrote the following in the School Log Book on the 25th January 1925:

“Visited the school this day, and it is with feelings of extreme regret that I record this entry is the last under the regime of the capable, efficient teacher who for 25 years ably and successfully acted as teacher here.”

Bev is researching her family history, and would love to know if anyone has any family memorabilia, photos or even stories passed down by previous generations who were taught by Lizzie Roberts.  Please get in touch with Fiona@fearnanvillageassociation.com if you can help.

Otterly Amazing!

Jenny Penfold had an unusual visitor to her garden recently. She writes:

“I had just popped round to move the sprinkler on the newly re-seeded lawn by the cottage, when I was stopped in my tracks by an animal on the path. I was totally taken by surprise and at first had no idea what it was…my first thought was a pine martin, come for a cool-off under the sprinkler?? But then it noticed me, so I took a quick photo to show Amelia and Trevor and beat a hasty retreat in case I spooked it.

As it didn’t move when it saw me, I thought it must be injured or sick, so I sent the photos to Trevor and we agreed to leave it until he came home in case we needed to catch it and take it to the SPCA.

And it was only after sharing the photos that I realised what it was – an otter in our garden – unbelievable!

Unfortunately for Trevor (who would have taken a MUCH better photo than me!) it wasn’t there by the time he got home and we couldn’t find it anywhere – so good for the otter, as it must have been OK after all. But we did also find some disturbance in the mud around the pond, so it looks like it was there too.

Now it’s gone it’s just sinking in what an amazing opportunity I had. I’ve always been on the look-out for otters and have only seen them once before in Skye – and that was from quite a distance. So now I’m just totally blown away that I actually saw one so close, if only for a moment or two. Fingers crossed it will make our garden a regular stopping point on whatever journey it was taking.”

Does anyone have any more information or stories about otters in our area?  Please get in touch if you have, either through the comments page of this blog or in an email to fiona@fearnanvillageassociation.com

Interpreting the Weather

Adrian got in touch with a handy little guide to interpreting the official weather forecast for Fearnan which, as he points out, has a unique micro-climate due to its location and the surrounding hills.  This means official weather forecasts on the BBC or STV need to be adjusted for local conditions. 

The table below shows the official forecast alongside what to expect locally. We have added some photos purely for illustrative purposes:

“Today will be mainly dry in the East / mainly dry in the West.”

Fearnan ……heavy rain all day.

“Clear skies and bright sunshine all day.”

Fearnan …….. thick cloud all day.

Mild for the time of year.”

Fearnan ……. freezing

“Light breeze from the South West.”

Fearnan ………. gale force winds.

There will be scattered showers.

Fearnan …… heavy rain all day.

“A few light wintry showers.”

Fearnan …… blizzards.

“Tonight should be frost-free.”

Fearnan ……. no chance!

Many thanks to Adrian, who was possibly inspired by the Michael Fish (there-isn’t-a-hurricane-on-the-way) School of Forecasting.

The Crannog

The Crannog on Loch Tay, which was destroyed by fire on Friday night, was not only an iconic building, but also an important local employer and economic generator.

While its loss is keenly felt by the Loch Tay community, the number of messages, kindness and support that have been received show it has touched the hearts of many in Scotland and far beyond. An appeal fund has been set up to help deal with the immediate aftermath and ensure that the Crannog Centre is able to continue to offer visitors a unique experience of Scottish history.

If you would like to support this effort, please donate through this Just Giving page:


The Crannog Centre is launching a programme of fundraising events to support its future, starting this Thursday with a ‘Crannog Craic’ Music and Storytelling event from 7pm-9pm.  Crannog Craic will continue every Thursday throughout the Summer featuring live music and performances from local artists and storytellers each week. Tickets are available to book on www.crannog.co.uk

 Fearnan Book Club Review                                                          

The book reviewed in May was The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett. This is an original and imaginative series of books in which the Queen turns super sleuth, and some of the group would happily read more. This is the first book in the series ‘Her Majesty The Queen Investigates’. Some wondered if the queen had read it.

The consensus was that this book was an enjoyable, delightful read and was light and airy. Compared to some of the recent books read, it delivered much needed relief! 

The portrayal of the queen was well written and we could imagine her instigating her own investigation into the death of Brodsky in her home, dropping hints while letting others take the credit. Her concern for others throughout was endearing. 

Prince Philips appearances and contributions were realistic, amusing, delicious fun and also tender. This fitted in with recent anecdotes about his forthright character. Some would have liked more input from him. It was poignant to be reading it so close to his death. 

The descriptions of Windsor Castle appeared to capture the essence of life there and were believable and interesting. Palace protocols seemed well researched, as were the host of topical references to people and events we know, including David Attenborough at the Dine and Sleep!

After various twists and turns, the mystery was solved and the deceased guest’s body was interred at Frogmore in a carefully chosen woodland spot. 

The book to be reviewed in June is The Language of Flowers,  a debut novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  

A great summer choice when gardens are again coming to life and flowers are blooming.

And Finally ………

The bluebells in Taymouth Castle grounds were, once again, fab-u-lous this year!

Copyright: Please note that the copyright of all images on this site lies with the person who took them, and the copyright of text belongs to the person who wrote it.

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Recycling, Reading and Remembering

Recycling Update

We have news of two new recycling initiatives in the villlage:

Jenny Penfold has started recycling medicine blister packs. She drops them off in Perth on a regular basis, and is happy to act as a collection point for other people’s empty packs.

These days, heaps (literally) of blister packs are being put into landfill every month so, from now on, once you’ve popped your pills, pop the packs into the box that Jenny will put up at Clach an Tuirc.

Look out for the poster on the left.

Jenny is also waiting for a collection box for recycling ink cartridges.  She has signed up for an ink cartridge recycling scheme with the Recycling Factory:(https://www.therecyclingfactory.com/charity)

Currently she has opted to give all proceeds from the Fearnan box to the SSPCA. The Recycling Factory take almost all types of cartridge and the box will go up with the other ones in her front porch at Clach an Tuirc.

The Library Bus is back!

The Mobile Library will be back in Fearnan on Tuesday 11th May between 16.00 and 16.30.  It comes every 2 weeks at the same time, so it will be back on the 25th May, 8th June, 22nd June and so on.  There is more info on https://www.culturepk.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Mobile-3-May-Aug-2021-including-Fridays.pub_.pdf

Fearnan Book Club

The book reviewed in April was The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, who worked in camps with Syrian refugees and witnessed, at first hand, the inevitable suffering that such conflicts inflict. This was an insightful and informative book. The descriptions of life before the war/troubles softened the story as you relaxed into the descriptions of the flower meadows and beekeeping. The story’s authenticity was reflected throughout her writing and through the portrayal of settings, characters and their trauma at seeing killings, fleeing danger and suffering in refugee camps as they tried to reach the UK. 

The privations of the journey, as well as those once they reached the UK and were awaiting the result of their asylum application, were spelled out quite clearly.  

Some found this a difficult, moving book to read and heartbreakingly sad, while at the same time it was also described as compelling and having the right amount of light and shade. 

We wondered at their continuing resilience in the face of so many traumas. It is so well written that we could imagine the horrors of the well-described journey and the exploitation of people when they were at their most vulnerable. The human spirit is an amazing thing. They demonstrated great resilience in completing their journey, but were not immune from underlying high levels of anxiety and depression experienced not only on the way but also once they reached the UK. 

The brutality (Afra’s rape) and corruption (Nuri’s participation in murder and illicit drug distribution) which refugees face on their journeys were highlighted. 

We hoped that they might eventually find some happiness with the return of Afra’s sight and the resumption of the activities that had been a huge part of their life.

The book to be reviewed in May is The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett.

This is her first book in a whodunnit series. It is set in 2016. An intriguing, original concept for a series with an unusual sleuth!  

PKC Visitor Action Plan

A letter with information about the Visitor Action Plan that PKC are implementing over the summer to deter dirty camping and to promote responsible tourism throughout the season has been delivered to houses in the village.

Although most visitors behave responsibly, last year a number of communities suffered from anti-social behaviour such as littering and vandalism as well as from drivers who parked their cars inconsiderately, making it difficult for other traffic, including emergency vehicles to pass.

This year the resources of the key agencies are being channelled through the Perth & Kinross Council-led Visitor Management Group, which includes Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue as well as Forestry and Land Scotland. Hopefully, this co-ordinated approach, along with the appointment of 3 Visitor Management Rangers for Highland Perthshire will mean greater support  (and more boots on the ground) for the communities that have suffered from irresponsible tourism in recent years.  The Management Group say they will be increasing patrols to help prevent anti-social behaviour.

If you want to report any incidents, you can phone 101, or email the dedicated email address visitormanagement@pkc.gov.uk Reporting incidents is important, not just to get assistance but to help establish a picture of the scale of the problem.

Cameron Thomson

On Thursday, the funeral of Cameron Thomson was held in Kenmore. Cameron, who lived in this area for many years, was a true countryman, as well as being a mole catcher, gardener, fencer, school bus driver, and fiddle-maker – but perhaps he was best known as the original Horn Carver of Lawers.

Back in 2014, when Cameron was approaching his 90th birthday but still employed cutting grass for a number of residents, The Blog wrote a profile of him, which can be read here.

(The photo of Cameron was taken by Polly Pullar.)

Russian Airmen Commemoration

The 9th May is Victory Day in Russia, when they mark the end of the war against nazism and remember those who died in that war. The Russian Vice Consul from Edinburgh came to lay a wreath at the Fearnan Stone which commemorates those who died in the wartime air crash in the Cow Park.

Sue also laid a small posy of spring flowers on behalf of the FVA.

And Finally……..

It’s bluebell time!

Copyright: Please note that the copyright of all images on this site lies with the person who took them, and the copyright of text belongs to the person who wrote it.

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Community Consultation

Community Consultation by the Scottish Crannog Centre Trust – Zoom Meeting 7pm on 22nd April.

The Scottish Crannog Centre Trust has recently acquired the Dalerb picnic site from Forestry and Land Scotland in order to create a dynamic new Crannog Centre, replacing the existing site at Croft-na-Caber.  The Trust would like to share their ideas, to listen to, and to work alongside the community as they develop their plans.

As a first step, the Kenmore and District Community Council has organised a special consultation meeting to support this process, and you are invited to join the following scheduled Zoom Meeting:

Topic: The Scottish Crannog Centre Trust

Time: Apr 22, 2021 19:00 London

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 893 6866 3917

Passcode: 095235

The agenda for the meeting includes a presentation from the Scottish Crannog Centre Trust followed by a Question and Answer session.

Everyone is welcome and it is hoped that as many people as possible will join the meeting.  Logging in 5 – 10 minutes beforehand is recommended so that the meeting can start as promptly as possible.

Book Club

From Zoom consultations to socially-distanced Book Club Meetings, by way of some topical titles for your bedside reading, recommended by the Fearnan Book Club:

Linda writes:

Over this last year, the Book Club has been operating through e-mails, phone calls and socially distanced chats, often on the hall car park when shopping from the local bakery or fish van. 

This has not diminished our enthusiasm and the depth of the reviews which have been, as always, thoughtful with issues and personal opinions honestly and articulately expressed (without the enthusiastic interruptions as happens in live meetings!). We have, however, missed those face-to-face extended discussions and the sharing of personal experiences related to the books – accompanied by tea, treats, the occasional glass of wine and, of course, the latest Fearnan gossip. We are also pleased to have gained two new members, which will add to the range of future book choices.

The book reviewed in March was 10 minutes, 38 seconds in this Strange World by Eliz Shafa. It was the unusual story of Leila, a Turkish woman, now a prostitute living in Istanbul, who was reflecting on her life immediately after her brutal death. 

This was a great choice that some of us may have never read had we not been part of the group. What an imagination to write it from the point of view of a dead person and how their brain function would diminish over 10 minutes and 38 seconds!

The  use of  smell  to trigger memories is something everybody can relate to and can invoke powerful feelings, which was felt to be a great way to introduce Leila’s memories. Although some found the darker aspects of this book uncomfortable reading, it was generally well received by the Fearnan Book Group for many reasons. Under normal circumstances, it would have engaged us in a lengthy, lively debate of the many controversial issues raised by the author. The beautifully written, multi-layered book explored and shone a light on this varied range of difficult and topical issues.

The setting portrayed the bustling vibrancy and ruthlessness of cosmopolitan Istanbul while the story followed a group of interesting and clearly portrayed characters – social outcasts, from a range of nationalities and religions, who found themselves living on the edge of society. The five unique friends demonstrated strength of personality and provided love, advice and a supportive safety net for each other through thick and thin. Their unique differences, and the reactions that they received from others, is what galvanised the group.

Most of us found the ending of the book light-hearted and uplifting around the hysterical antics of the friends in the Cemetery of the Companionless*, which lightened the narrative. Some found this laugh-out-loud humour and enjoyed the comedy at the end of this sad, beautiful and, at times, disturbing book. 

Our book for review in April is The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, which is about Syrian war refugees making the treacherous journey to the UK where they seek asylum. 

While a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience over two summers volunteering in Athens at a refugee centre.

*Historical Footnote: The Cemetery of the Companionless in Kilyos is a real place, as is the street of brothels, and historical events such as the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam in 1968 and the Massacre in Istanbul on International Workers’ Day in 1977, where snipers from the roof of the Intercontinental Hotel opened fire on the crowds – which today is the Marmara Hotel. 

And Finally ……..

It’s April, so no excuse needed to publish some pics of lambs.

Many thanks to peter McKenzie for the photos.

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Community Resilience

This edition of the Blog features several items highlighting the strength of our local community and the fantastic way people come together to deal with problems and threats. And there’s another fabulous walk to enjoy!

A Hard Day’s Night

In February, you never know quite what the weather is going to throw at a small Highland village like Fearnan. This year, towards the end of that month, several days of heavy rain, combined with snow melt, put a huge strain on the infrastructure of burns, pipes and drains that normally carry surplus water safely away.

Several parts of the village were affected by surplus water on the 19th February.  In Dalchairan, the alarm was raised around 7pm because the culvert was starting to overflow and for the next 2 or 3 hours a steadily increasing number of villagers (along with the guys from Gigaloch and from Boreland) worked hard trying to manage the situation but, despite a huge effort, they were fighting a losing battle, with the drains blocking and the water steadily rising. 

Around 10 pm the water breached the culvert, which created an immediate need for sandbags – or rather, an immediate need for the community to improvise its own sandbags. 

Fortunately, both the Brockies and the Brains have stoves that are fuelled with wood pellets, and even more fortunately, Stuart is a hoarder of the empty bags, ‘just in case they come in  useful one day.’ They certainly did come in useful – being the perfect size and shape for sandbags! While one team set about filling the hoppers for the two stoves to release even more bags, another team (some say a small army) was going round looking for sand and material to fill the bags – and all at around midnight.

By midnight, the water was running down the pavement in Dalchiaran and was seriously threatening one of the houses.  Using the home-made sandbags and other barriers, it was diverted along the footpath to the rear of the play park.

Finally, the Fire Brigade were able to attend, much to the relief of everyone.  They worked to pump water away to the play park and back into the burn. They were also able to authorise the issue of ‘official’ sandbags and some  80-odd arrived ……. at 2.45 am!  All the way from Blair Atholl. Fortunately, Stuart, Alastair and Gavin were still about and finally finished placing them at 3.30am.

Fire Brigade in Action

Stuart takes up the story:

On Saturday, even more people than on the previous night were out lending a hand to move the next batch of 120 sandbags that had arrived. These additional sandbags were used to slow the overflow to allow us to place a herring bone series of bags down the main road to displace the water down the road. The drains on the road were overwhelmed. Reducing the flow allowed the drains to catch up, and subsequently to start to move more water and eventually we were able to divert it back to where it should be, in the burn.

“On Sunday the water had dropped around 50% which allowed for a better inspection of the problems. With Iain and Charlie’s help, we managed to dig a fair bit of silt out of the culvert and eventually got down to a level where I could get into the tunnel, and between us we pulled out a significant blockage (see picture). This released the water and the rest of the blockage.”

The culprit that was blocking the culvert!

“After that, came the big clean up, and once again, everyone just got stuck in with brushes and shovels. So, many thanks to them and a really big thank you to everyone who turned out to help the evening before. It was great to see the community spirit that weekend, just like old times! And let’s not forget the Gigaloch guys who, by the way, were brilliant, bringing wood, sandbags and other materials to barricade Gavin’s house and lending some welcome muscle and light-heartedness. Grateful thanks as well to Gary, Ross and the other firefighters. “

The Flood Team from the Council have been out, and we need to keep on the case to make sure, whatever the weather and whatever gets stuck in the culvert, it can’t happen again.

Friends of Fortingall Hotel

Friends of Fortingall Hotel held a meeting on Friday 26 February and were delighted with the encouraging response from the 60 people who attended and with the level of interest in the Hotel and its future.

At the meeting, it was decided that the Friends of Fortingall Hotel should apply to the Scottish Land Fund for a Technical Assistance Grant to cover the costs of the investigations required, such as a valuation of the building, a feasibility study to assess the viability of a range of possible business models, etc.

Volunteers were recruited to form a Project Steering Group, which met on 9th March to start the process of applying for funding. The Scottish Land Fund will appoint an Adviser to help prepare the application.

A number of people volunteered to become Members of the Breadalbane Development Trust – the body which will apply for the Technical Assistance Grant.  They will soon join the Trust and support the Project Steering Group.

The future of the hotel and its place in the community is as relevant to Fearnan and other nearby areas as it is to Fortingall itself, and if  you would like to join the mailing list to be kept in touch, please contact fortingallvillage@outlook.com

Warm Connections

Warm Connections is a new project under the umbrella of Aberfeldy Parish Church.They provide free, impartial advice to support people in the community to live in warm, healthy, affordable-to-run and environmentally sustainable homes. At the same time they want to help people save money and reduce their carbon footprint at home. Their service is available in the Rannoch, Lyon, Upper Tay and Braan areas.

Warm Connections would be delighted if readers of the Blog who live in these areas could complete this short survey https://forms.gle/GMZGGKX9Q1i2AWZK8 so that they can better understand and meet the home energy needs of our communities. (It’s very quick and only takes a few moments.)

Armchair Walking Club

From the comfort of your own home, you can join Stuart way up on Boreland Hill on a fabulous day.  See the views, count the hills, watch the deer and crunch across one of the remaining patches of snow.

Copyright Stuart Brain

And Finally……

In the last edition we were trying to reunite two long-lost friends, and I’m glad to say that within a few hours of the blog being published, Maureen and Wendy were back in touch after 40 years!  We’re hoping for a photo once they manage to meet in person!

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Looking for a Long Lost Friend ….. and Fearnan Snowdrops

One of the great pleasures of publishing this little Blog comes from the contacts we make with people from all over the world who have a link to, or a connection with, our village.

In the past, we have achieved success in reuniting long lost friends, thanks to the connectivity of the Internet and the lovely people who read this blog.

This week, we have another such request.

A couple of years ago we published the story of Fearnan School on the Blog, from its construction in 1785 to its closure in 1968. Towards the end of the article, there is a photograph of some of the last pupils to attend the school before it was absorbed into Kenmore Primary School.

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

Last week, we received an email from Maureen Hall who wrote, “ I came across your blog page recently and was fascinated to see the school photo from 1965 with the last pupils of Fearnan School.  They include my friend Wendy Jackson and her brother Royston.  Wendy and I met at Edinburgh University, but we lost touch after she moved to Manchester in the 1980s.”

Maureen went on to explain that during a lockdown-inspired clear out, she had come across lots of old letters from Wendy and she would love to get back in touch with her friend. Does anybody who reads this blog have any information or suggestions as to how Wendy or another family member might be reached?

If you can help in anyway, please get in touch with Fiona@fearnanvillageassociation.com

Snowdrops for Nan

It’s always lovely to see the carpets of snowdrops at this time of year, reminding us that spring is on its way.

Last year, during the first Lockdown, we were asked if we could help to find, not a person this time, but a particular type of snowdrop – the Fearnan Snowdrop.

An email from Janetta Maguire of Dunfermline explained that her mum (Nan) who had recently passed away, had requested that ‘Fearnan Snowdrops’ be planted at the spot where her ashes were to be scattered. Assuming this was a particular type of snowdrop (like, for example, Jersey Lilies), Jeanetta had looked everywhere and contacted local garden centres, but no one had heard of them.

She knew that her mum had a visited Fearnan and had loved the village and clearly the snowdrops had made an impact on her.   The pandemic has made it very difficult for people to say goodbye to those they love in the way that they might wish and so it was particularly important for Janetta to be able carry out this specific request made by her mother. She asked if we could help.

 Sue and Fiona puzzled a bit over Fearnan Snowdrops, and quickly concluded that whilst we couldn’t provide a Fearnan Snowdrop variety, we could provide Snowdrops from Fearnan.  In fact, Sue had a nice clump that she had been planning to move and they would fit the bill nicely.

The snowdrops were duly dispatched to Dunfermline and planted by Janetta and her sister.

Snowdrops take a while to naturalise after being moved, but we were delighted to receive this photo of the first of the ‘Fearnan Snowdrops’ to show after the snow had cleared.

And we hope to be able to welcome Janetta and her sister to Fearnan once the restrictions are lifted and travel is again possible.

Paddle Boarding on the Loch

The Armchair Walking Club has morphed into Paddle Boarding at Home, courtesy of Stuart Brain. This is a chance to experience a winter trip by paddle board around the Loch in bright sunshine and with snow on the hills. Fabulous!

(n.b. This is the real-deal, so take your Kwells if you think you might need them!)

Fearnan Book Club

Well, here’s a rare thing! A book that the Book Club appears to have approved of unanimously!

Linda writes:

The book reviewed in February was Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior, and it not only lived up to the publisher’s reviews, but also received enthusiastic reviews from the Fearnan Book Club.

This was a great book to lift the spirits and to provide a tonic during the dark days of January. It was considered easy to read – sweet, delightful, charming, quirky, feel good and life affirming.

It seemed appropriate to be reading about Antarctic snowstorms while experiencing one here in Fearnan. We were transported from a snowy Highland Perthshire to the Antarctic, from the ducks of Loch Tay to the Adélie penguins of the South Shetland Islands.

It was generally agreed that the characterisation was good. We liked the range of beautifully portrayed, contrasting characters (even the grumpy ones) and enjoyed how they developed and adapted to the events and situations in the story.

Veronica, the main character who lived in Ayrshire, was an eccentric, feisty and interesting 85 year-old living life on her own terms and not wanting to ‘go gentle into that goodnight’. We accompanied her on her travels and witnessed the loosening of her emotional constraints as she developed relationships with those around her. We could imagine why she was the way she was following her childhood/motherhood traumas. It was touching that she found her long lost grandson and poignant that she kept wisps of hair from the important people in her life in her locket.

The descriptions of the penguins and the Antarctic environment were great as were the portrayals of the scientists. They were obviously committed to their work with the penguins.  We learned a lot and loved all the detailed information about Adélie penguins and agreed that any book that promotes conservation can’t be bad. A baby penguin dozing in your bin is just too sweet not to love.

Perhaps the moral of this story was that life can be turned around no matter how old or entrenched in your ways you are. One reader described it as “A fairy story for adults where granny goes from a bit of a wolf to a nice granny.” 

The book chosen to be reviewed in March  is 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafa. It’s darker than ‘Away with the Penguins’ and set somewhere warmer: Istanbul.

Described by Waterstones as “Capturing the evocative recollections of Tequila Leila in the ten minutes after her death, Shafak’s spellbinding novel extracts the value of a fully-lived life from its untimely ending.”

Kenmore Shop and PO

Just a reminder from Pat that the Kenmore Post Office and Shop will be open in the mornings only until the refurbishment is finished.

The PO is open Monday – Saturday 9-12pm, and the shop is open Monday to Saturday 8 – 12pm and Sunday 8.30 – 12.00.

Copyright: Please note that the copyright of all images on this site lies with the person who took them, and the copyright of text belongs to the person who wrote it.

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Taymouth Carving and Another Virtual Walk

First of all, we have a question from Fran Gillespie of Fortingall.

She is wondering if anyone can shed further light on a carving which she and a friend came across recently on a tree in Taymouth Castle grounds on the north bank of the Tay.

It is dated 1943 and it looks like it could have been made by a member of the Polish Forces recuperating at Taymouth during WWII.

During the Second World War, the War Office requisitioned many country houses for the war effort and, from 1940, Taymouth Castle housed a military hospital – Polish Hospital No 1.  It soon had 1200 beds, around 200 staff and some 75 Nissen huts were erected in the grounds to increase capacity.

The carving appears to be Poland’s emblem – a white-tailed eagle, its wings spread out, with a crown, golden beak and claws on a red emblem shield backdrop.

There is more information about the Polish soldiers at Taymouth Castle on sites such as https://swoopingeagle.com and on Aberfeldy Museum’s Facebook page.  The following photos from the wartime appear on the Polish Resettlement Camps in the UK 1946 – 1969 website.

Perhaps one of the people who joined the discussion on the Aberfeldy Museum Facebook page about the Polish soldiers will be able to shed further light on this carving?

The Armchair Walking Club

Stuart has provided us with second walk to take from the comfort of our own armchairs.  This time it’s an icy stroll along the side of the River Lyon, taken at the end of January.

Book Club Review

Linda writes:

The book which was reviewed in January ( ‘Twas the Nightshift before Christmas’ by Adam Kay) was chosen as a light-hearted, quick read but for our group, sadly, it did not live up to its initial promise as suggested by reviews and the success of his previous book. 

Perhaps as ‘This is Going to Hurt‘ was so successful, his publisher/agent suggested this Christmas version. 

Most felt the gratuitous use of bad language was unnecessary as was the obsession with sex and graphic details of procedures. Making fun of the misfortunes of patients, although perhaps amusing, was generally considered insensitive and cheap humour. Some of the patient issues may have been more acceptable as confidential banter for professionals but not for public consumption.

Another viewpoint was that, underneath the bluff and bluster, was a man who loved his job and cared about his patients and the NHS who using black humour to cope. Some found the book mildly amusing and others found that there were laugh out loud moments alongside being reduced to tears. It was an insight into the life of a junior doctor working over the festive season and a reminder of the NHS as a 24/7 and 365 days of the year service. His frustration with NHS became obvious and there is a heartbreaking story as to why he gave up working in medicine.

To end on a lighter note, we were introduced to the anaesthetist wearing a festive badge saying, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake!”

The book to be reviewed in February is “Away with the Penguins” by Hazel Prior.

It was chosen as another light-hearted, lockdown read. The author was interviewed recently on the Radio 2 book club and the book has been described as this year’s “Eleanor Oliphant.”

Reviewers say:

‘Readers are falling in love with “Away with the Penguins”’

‘Without a doubt the most delightful, joyous and uplifting book I’ve read so far this year . . A gloriously quirky and life affirming story of hope.’

‘Oh, how I loved this absolute gem of a book. Both heart-breaking and heart-warming.’ 

It is far-fetched, but if you keep that in mind, hopefully enjoyable. What will be the verdict of the Fearnan Book Club?

Copyright: Please note that the copyright of all images on this site lies with the person who took them, or with the current holder of the copyright.

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A Virtual Walk

The snowy pictures that we put up last week seemed to go down quite well, so this week we are going one stage further with a walk (from your own armchair) up on Drummond Hill. This is especially for those who aren’t able to get up on the hill, or who aren’t in Fearnan at the moment and are desperately wishing they were!

Many thanks to Stuart Brain for sharing his walk!

A Walk on Drummond Hill in Winter

Wildlife Appeal

We couldn’t resist this plea for help from The Littlest Wildlife Hotel as we know we have lots of knitters in the Fearnan Community and perhaps some of them are looking for a new project as lockdown drags on.

“If anyone crochets or knits and feels like being industrious for the baby season ahead…. could you possibly make some nests for the rescued babies please?

Up to now I’ve made all the nests but I’m just a bit busy with the rescue having double the number of hedgehogs than last year, so I’m not finding the time to make any.

We need a whole variety of sizes from teeny tiny to quite large and everything in between as gawd knows what babies will need them. The photos illustrate some of the various uses:

Patterns are available for free…





Thank you. Could items be sent to:

Treglasta Farm, Treglasta, Nr Launceston, Cornwall, PL15 8PY

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A Snowy Retrospective

Snow always looks best when it first falls, and happily that’s when most of us get our cameras out. Here’s a little montage of some of the ones that were taken in the last week.  Angela reported 20 inches up at Kinnighallen Farm (first picture).

And finally – how to make an Angel ………

Many thanks to Angela Kininmonth, Stuart Brain, Linda Milne, Hazel Brockie, Liz Paterson, Peter McKenzie and Ivan Watson (and a special mention for Pamela and her angel!)

Vaccine Scam Warning

There are reports that a fake NHS text message is circulating, telling people that they are eligible to apply for the COVID-19 vaccine.

When you click on the link, you are taken to a convincing fake NHS website that asks for personal details including bank account information. Any text message containing a link should be treated with caution. The best way to find information from GOV.UK, or any other agency, is to visit that particular website via a trusted source (such as through Google or Bing) and do not click on links in unsolicited texts or emails.

There have also been reports of criminals making telephone calls and asking for payment over the phone before you can attend your vaccine appointment. The vaccine is free. If you receive such a call, please hang up immediately.

These scams appear very convincing so please be alert and make sure that anyone you know who might be vulnerable to such scam is aware of the problem. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, please let your bank know immediately and contact Police Scotland on 101 or contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000

For information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit:
https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/immunisation/vaccines/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine or call 0800 030 8013

Heartland Radio

Heartland Radio provide an important community radio service for Highland Perthshire with the latest local news and entertainment – which is even more important at the moment during the pandemic.

At the same time, COVID-19 has caused a huge drop in their advertising revenue and they do not receive License or subscription fees, or any regular public funding, nor do they expect their income from advertising to increase significantly in the short term. The result is that they may have to come off air.

They are currently seeking crowd funding for their running costs, including transmission fees, broadcast licenses and fees. Regular listeners might be interested in helping secure the future of our Community Radio and Keep the Voice of Highland Perthshire broadcasting. Even small amounts would be very warmly welcomed!

You can find out more information here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/heartland?utm_source=www.heartland.scot&utm_medium=widget&utm_content=click&utm_campaign=Join%20together%20to%20keep%20Heartland%20FM%20alive

Copyright: Please note that the copyright of all photographs is held by the people that took the image.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year, and to quote John Lennon “let’s hope it’s a good one!”

Hogmanay 2021 was a quiet celebration for most of us, bringing in the New Year with members of our own households.  However, shortly after The Bells, a few local people made their debut on BBC Alba as members of a (virtual) choir made up from 300 singers from 32 Gaelic choirs from around the world, singing Thoir Dhomh do Lamh (trans: Give Me Your Hand) and conducted by Mary Ann Kennedy. According to the BBC presenter, this was a Gathering of Gaelic Choirs on a scale never before seen or heard.

And why are we mentioning this? Because among the singers was Fearnan’s own Fran Donovan!

Fran tells us:

It was a serious joint undertaking between the singers and the BBC – ‘though l suspect for those clever techies at the BBC that it was all in a day’s work. For us, however, it was difficult, not least because we to learn it in only 3 weeks, and 3 x 40-minute Zoom music and Gaelic sessions. Then we each had to submit separate audio and video files to May Brown (Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir’s Music Director) for vetting before they were sent to the BBC. 

For me this was a serious learning curve! We had a very small window of good weather for outdoor filming and we had 2 trips to the loch shore, just managing to catch the setting sun. It was absolutely freezing, and Elaine had to hold the music stand (on which was perched the iPad) to stop it from blowing away!  She said that motorists were slowing down to watch, but l was completely oblivious to this audience.

The audio recording was more straightforward (but l am not prepared to admit how many l recorded before deciding it was ok!).  Then came the difficult bit – both recordings had to be converted into an appropriate file format and compressed so that they could be sent by email. I think l spent a whole afternoon watching YouTube trying to learn how to achieve that.”

The Blog thinks the result was undoubtedly worth getting frozen singing beside the Loch and struggling with the technology!  

Those who missed it first time round can watch the performance here (and see how many other local people you can spot. Your starter for 10 is: Cllr John Duff): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gFSrksDyR0

Mary Ann Kennedy arranged this version of the traditional song and wrote 2 additional verses for this strange, socially distanced  year. The chorus translates as:

“Give me your hand, give me your hand, / Although the world is so off course / What is missing is more love. / Give me your hand, give me your hand.”

The final verse, especially written, seems particularly appropriate for the start of 2021:

“Though uncertain when we’ll meet again / A new dawn will surely rise. / Love fixes everything. / Give me your hand, give me your hand.”

Book Club Review and Book of the Year

Linda writes:

The book reviewed in December was Pine by Francine Toon.

The author portrayed the setting of the Scottish rural countryside beautifully and described childhood and life in a small, insular community very accurately. We felt the remoteness and haunting atmosphere in the evocative images of the spooky oppressive forest surrounding the village.

Many of the group could relate to the experiences of Lauren’s everyday life reminding them of their own childhood such as ‘guising’, building dens in the woods and the snap, crack and pop of Rice Crispies. 

There were varied reactions to the book as a whole.  Some considered it a good read and liked the author’s style, while others found the pace too slow until the end where much of the action took place.  

Some didn’t engage with the complex characters, but all agreed that Lauren, the 10-year-old protagonist, was extremely resilient as she had so much to deal with in her young life with little support and lack of proper parenting, which meant she missed out on her childhood. Her interest in Tarot, folklore, and elements of witchcraft and the supernatural gave a sense of unease and was variously considered either unsettling or fascinating. 

As always, at the end of the year, we vote on our favourite book.

For 2020, eight out of nine of us chose Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens as the first choice, with Conclave by Robert Harris and The Salt Path by Raynor Winn more or less in joint second place. 

Our light-hearted festive read which will be reviewed in January is T’was the Night Shift before Christmas by Adam Kay. This was released in October 2019. Kay’s first book This is Going to Hurt, based on diaries from his former career as a doctor, was published by Picador in September 2017 and became an instant Sunday Times best seller. 

And Finally……….

It’s good to see Alistair getting out and about again, seen here with Linda on her birthday.

Only exercise bikes allowed for the foreseeable future!

(Please note there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that Linda surreptitiously put Alistair’s bike(s) on eBay while he was out of action!)

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Use …… Recycle …… Repeat ……

After a year of extreme weather events, the World Meteorological Organisation has said that 2020 is very likely to be one of the warmest years on record globally. Recycling, which helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is one way in which we can all play a small part in tackling climate change, but a number of items cannot be recycled through the normal channels and end up in landfill. 

Step forward TerraCycle!

TerraCycle partner with individual, local collectors and are able to divert millions of pounds of waste from landfills and incinerators each month. They are committed to recycling the non-recyclable. Whether it’s coffee capsules from your home, pens from a school, or plastic gloves from a manufacturing facility, TerraCycle can collect and recycle almost any form of waste.

Jenny Penfold has signed up to provide a collection point for all makes of (certain) dental products. She has a collection box in her front porch at Clach an Tuirc where you can drop off your dental care products, including any brand of electric toothbrush head, electric flosser nozzle, interdental brush and dental floss container, as shown below.

The nearest location for recycling all other dental products is: Smile Design Dental Practice, 11 Main Street, Perth, PH2 7HD.

(NB Jenny is also still in the market for your old pairs of tights which she will re-cycle into tree ties for her wood.)

Book Club Review

Linda writes:

The book reviewed in November was read in a wet and windy autumn, over the Halloween period and was, appropriately, a supernatural and chilling ghost story, The House on Cold Hill by Peter James. The story was based on a house that the author had lived in during the 1980s and around which, some of the strange events had actually occurred. This was a very different style and genre from his detective series featuring Roy Grace.

Some of the group were spooked and left feeling uneasy by the ghostly happenings and could only read it during the daytime. One of the group stopped reading altogether! Others felt they were sucked into the story and were keen to read on to see what happened next. Some criticised the story as being far-fetched and possibly too ridiculous to be really scary – mainly due to a very computer literate ghost which sent implausible texts, screen messages and emails. There was also an over emphasis on product placement and use of brand names, perhaps to maintain the modern twist. 

The idea that no male resident would live past 40 was intriguing. ‘No-one leaves the house’ was the outcome for every owner – and the next family are going to be haunted by the Harcourt family! The concept of linear existence was fascinating and provided clues to later events.

The final message OVER MY DEAD BODY encouraged the reader to read the sequel ‘The Secret of Cold Hill’ which a few of the group did.  Under different circumstances, this would have been an interesting film for the braver members of group to watch and make comparisons with the book. 

The book being reviewed in December is Pine by Francine Toon. The winner of the The McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year, it has been described as:

“A ghostly, atmospheric, original and unsettling debut.”

“Drenched in sinister rural gothic, Francine Toon’s eerie debut makes superbly unsettling use of the Scottish Highlands to infuse the continuing aftershocks of a decade-old mystery with slowly encroaching dread.”

You have been warned!!

Road Closure

Just a reminder that the A827 is scheduled to be closed between the junction at the bottom of the Brae and Balnearn for 2 weeks from the 9th December. The closure is to allow work that will result in the removal of the traffic lights (Hurrah!).

The Community Council tell us that will probably not be as bad as it sounds. Applicants for a road closure always ask for longer than they think they will need in case problems occur and the job overruns. It is the CC’s understanding that the work will only take five days. The road will be closed from 9.30a.m – noon and 12.30 – 3p.m. This allows children to get to and from school.

Picture Corner

Another selection from Peter’s ‘tootles’ around the area:

The images are (from the top):

Sunset on Loch Tay;

Late afternoon light reflected in flood water on Poplar Avenue;

First snow on Strathtay;

And 2 farmyard friends on the left

Better than Talking to Yourself

Pat sent this little contribution, which came via her Mum:

Be careful please! People are going crazy from being locked down at home.

I was talking it over with the microwave and the toaster while drinking my coffee, and we all agreed that things are getting serious. I didn’t mention it to the washing machine, because she puts a different spin on everything. Certainly, I could not share it with the fridge. He has been so cold and distant.

In the end, the iron straightened me out. She said the situation is not all that pressing and all the wrinkles will soon get ironed out. The vacuum, however, was unsympathetic. Told me to just suck it up, Buttercup! But the fan was optimistic. Gave me hope it would all blow over soon. The toilet looked a bit flushed but did not respond when I asked its opinion. The front door said I was becoming unhinged, and the doorknob told me to get a grip. You can guess what the curtains said….’Just pull yourself together’!

(The Blog thinks this is the sort of thing that happens when you start buying ‘smart’ appliances for your home……….)

Please note that the copyright of all photographs on this blog belongs to the person who took them and the copyright of all text belongs to the person who wrote it.

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