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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Fearnan Marks Remembrance Day

This year’s Remembrance Sunday Service in Fearnan was very different from previous years, as was the case through out the country. With restrictions on the number of people allowed to congregate and organised gatherings not permitted, the Tay Lyon Churches pre-recorded an act of remembrance which featured each of the memorials in the parish and was available on YouTube.

Those who gathered at the Fearnan Memorial did so in a personal capacity and wreaths were laid just after the two minute silence. Lisle Pattison laid the church wreath, Alistair Grier laid the PKC wreath, and Linda Milne laid the wreath from the Russian Consulate to remember the airmen who died at Fearnan in the WW2 crash.

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the first use of poppies as a symbol of remembrance, and Cath is already planning a spectacular display using the hundreds of poppies knitted for the 2018 anniversary.

There was another spectacular display further down the loch this year, with the Crannog lit up in red against the night sky on Remembrance weekend and also on the 11th November itself.

Photo copyright to the Scottish Crannog Centre

Hold Tight!

Jenny would like to thank all those who responded to her recent appeal for old tights to use as supports for the trees in the recently planted wood at Clach an Tuirc.

She would particularly like to thank those who left bags of tights hanging on door handles or in the front porch anonymously – thank you, whoever you are!

Jenny even had a phone call from someone in another part of Scotland asking if she could post some to her!

They have all been used, but Jenny has 1,340 trees to tend to, and each tree needs one pair so she needs heaps more! All donations, anonymous or not, will be much appreciated.

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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Arrangements for Fearnan Remembrance Day Service 2020

This year, it will not be possible to have the usual Remembrance Day Service at the Fearnan War Memorial as outdoor gatherings are not permitted due to the pandemic.

Instead, this Sunday morning Taylyon Churches will be broadcasting an act of remembrance which has been pre-recorded at the Fearnan Memorial.

You will be able to find the recording tomorrow morning on the Upper Tay Churches YouTube Channel  https://youtu.be/eNnnB0Wi-DU and you can watch it in your own home on your screen or iPad.

The service is led by Shirley Shearer and you should start watching the service at 10.45 if you want to observe the silence at 11.00.

As well as the pre-recording, there will be a laying of wreaths at the Fearnan War Memorial in real time just after the 2-minute silence on Sunday morning, and if you choose to go to the memorial, please do ensure that you observe social distancing of 2 metres.

As we are not gathering together this year, we will not be able to make the usual collection for Help for Heroes.  Like so many charities, they have seen their income plummet this year – just at the time that many ex-servicemen are needing additional help to cope with the challenges presented by the pandemic.  If you would like to make your usual contribution, please go to https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/ where you can make an on-line donation.

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It’s Halloween! That time of the year when the veil between the physical world and the plane inhabited by ghosts and demons thins, and sometimes spirits slip through to our world. So, if tonight you hear a soft tap on the door, or a whispering sound at the window, just move in closer to the fire.  And do take care – we know for a fact that these spooky guys are in the village right now!

Photo: Doug Law

Book Club Review

Linda writes:

The book reviewed in October was ‘Women of the Dunes’ by Sarah Maine. It was the Waterstones Scottish book of the month In March 2019.

This was considered an easy, gentle read, both a mystery and a love story, which was enjoyed by all.  A few of the group, who aren’t too keen on a picaresque style, did however enjoy this one. It was very similar to her previous book ‘The House between Two Tides’ which many of the group had read previously (or subsequently) and in both stories, the author links the eras, centuries and characters together with plausible historical detail.

Some readers enjoyed the archaeological aspect and some would have preferred more of the Pagan story rather than the other two timelines, which were considered predictable with melodramatic overtures. The way Sarah Maine mirrored the Victorian saga with the Pagan one, and with a similar unhappy ending was clever. The atmospheric setting around a headland on Scotland’s west coast, which held many of the secrets, was beautifully portrayed. 

The characters were engaging and the story, though at times predictable, held our readers‘ interest. One of the group described the women as fragile, but independent and the men dark, damaged and sexy, reminiscent of Mills and Boon style!

Our next read has been very aptly chosen to be read around Halloween. Continuing on the theme of “spirits of the past”, the choice for next month is the House on Cold Hill by Peter James. The book is described as a chilling and suspenseful ghost story about a family who move from the city to the Sussex countryside to a dilapidated Georgian mansion.  Within a short time, it becomes apparent that they aren’t the only residents in the house!

More Halloween Reading

If, dear reader, you fancy some other scary reading or watching, there’s always The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and The Signal Man by Charles Dickens.  Or you could watch Stanley Kubrick’s unnerving The Shining, or The Blair Witch Project by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Alternatively, you could just take a walk down to the lochside after dark and just check that the characters in Doug Law’s spooky sand sculpture are still where he put them and they haven’t gone walk-abouts ……….

Arrangements for Remembrance Sunday

This year, the arrangements for Remembrance Sunday have been adapted to allow for the restrictions placed on outdoor gatherings and the need for social distancing.

A video recording of a service at Fearnan War Memorial is to be made ahead of time and put on YouTube so people can access it in their own home at 11.00 on Sunday 8th.

We will put more info and a link to the service on the Blog once it is available.

In normal times, the FVA offers tea and coffee in the hall after the service and makes a collection on behalf of Help for Heroes – and people have always been very generous with their donations.  If you would like to make a contribution this year, you can do so through the Help for Heroes website https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk

Charities have seen a huge drop in their incomes in recent months as the pandemic has put a stop to most of their fundraising activities, and they will be particularly appreciative of any help you can give.

And Finally……….

Recent research has shown that watching nature films greatly reduces feelings of stress and anxiety and increases the viewer’s sense of well being. So, in these troubled times, what better excuse to take a little time out and watch this RSPB film about ospreys and other Scottish wildlife? Produced by the RSPB Film Unit in 1979 the film provides a glimpse of Scotland 4 decades ago.


Beautifully filmed and directed by Hugh Miles, with music by Carl Davis and commentary by Robert Powell, “Osprey” shows a year in the life of the Osprey; its hatching in the Scottish Highlands and its migration to Africa.

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Appeals Edition – Squirrels……. and Tights!

Tights for Trees Appeal!

The Blog has received this slightly odd, but absolutely serious, appeal from Jenny Penfold.

Jenny writes:

The Woodland Trust advisor paid us a visit in late August to see how we were managing with our small, newly planted, native woodland. And one of his recommendations was to take the tree guards off once a tree had reached about 3m+. However, as they’ve been grown in tree guards which act like mini greenhouses, the trees have shot up in height without developing sufficient root systems to support them properly – some being really floppy when you remove the guard.

So, he has suggested tying them between 2 stakes using something stretchy enough to support them, but also with enough ‘give’ to allow movement to encourage strong root growth. And tights are the perfect material!

I’ve now used up all available old tights from the family and am in desperate need of hundreds more – we have over a thousand trees!! So, if you have any old tights/stockings/’pop socks’ (clean ones, please 😊) I’d love to repurpose them… and save them from landfill, too.

If you can drop them off to me when passing our house (Clach an Tuirc – by the Boar Stone), I’ll leave a box in the front porch for donations, or if you’d like me to collect them please phone me on 07917 685626.

The photo of the smaller tree on the left shows how most will be staked, though the dog roses and blackthorn will probably just need one stake and tie. The photo of the larger tree (on the right) was the first one out of its tube and I’ve used 3 stakes and lots of ties as it has so many branches and lots of foliage and will catch the wind over winter.

Many thanks in advance for all donations – much appreciated!


You can read more about Jenny and Trevor’s newly-planted native woodland in this Blog article from earlier in the year (see Life Under Lockdown at Clach an Tuirc).

Squirrel Appeal

Staying at Clach an Tuirc, Jenny has been interviewed by STV News about the recent sightings of grey squirrels in the Aberfeldy area and the threat that this poses to our native red squirrel population.

Jenny recently posted an article on the Aberfeldy Community Facebook page about the fact that greys have broken through the Highland Line for the first time and have been spotted in this area.  So, this is the crucial time to monitor their numbers and locations in order that targeted containment measures can be most effectively used by the Scottish Squirrel Organisation and Scottish Wildlife Trust who are working to protect the reds.

Jenny says “I think that people who have lived up here for a while have got very used to seeing reds around and may take them for granted, but where I grew up in Hampshire, I remember lots of reds and a few greys in the woods around us, but within about 10 – 15 years there were only greys – reds having been totally wiped out 😦 .

So I guess that’s the key message: if you leave them here, they will eventually spread and out-compete the reds for food and living space (and maybe infect them with Squirrel Pox – a nasty way to die) and we will be left with only greys.

So, all sightings of grey squirrels need to be reported to the Scottish Squirrel Organisation (https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/) so they can be monitored and hopefully removed from this area.”

Jenny’s interview will be on the STV news this week (we don’t know exactly when).

SOS – Save Our Squirrels!

Picture Gallery

We have some fabulous pictures of the area this week from Stuart Brain (on water) and Peter McKenzie (on land).  Many thanks to both.

Meanwhile, up the Glen and beyond …..


All text on this site is the copyright of the person that wrote it, and the copyright of all photographs is owned by the people who took them.  

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Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

Tighter Covid restrictions meant that we couldn’t invite Ian McGregor to the village for a special celebratory tea for his 90th birthday, but Peter and Sheila were able to visit Ian and his dog, Fern, bearing birthday wishes and, most importantly, cake!

Ukulele Club

After months of solo playing, the Ukulele group were happy when they were able to get back together for some socially distanced (outside) playing in August when the Covid regulations allowed (see below).  A change in the weather in September didn’t dampen their enthusiasm – but did drive them under a tarpaulin.

Another change in regulations has now reduced the group to playing duets out of doors – let’s hope things don’t get worse and require a return to solo playing once again.

Book Club

Like the Ukulele Club, most of the other village clubs and classes, along with the regular events in the Hall, have been affected by the pandemic.  One group, the Book Club, have been able to continue with their programme of selected books and feeding back their reviews virtually.  Linda collates their thoughts and opinions, and we have 2 Book Reviews to catch up with this time.

Linda writes:

The book reviewed in August was ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama. It was an honest and inspiring memoir written in three sections: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, Becoming More.

This layout enabled the book to be dipped into, and most of the group finished reading the book.

A few found that, although it was a chunky book and perhaps over detailed, it was well written and could be read quite quickly.

The American/English style of writing may have been off-putting initially.

Michelle Obama presents as a feisty, well-grounded, strong individual who speaks warmly of her humble upbringing on the South side of Chicago and the strong love of her very supportive extended family. She was hardworking, focussed and ambitious throughout her education and into the workplace. It was fascinating to follow both the early careers and private and political lives of Michelle and Barack Obama and this also provided an interesting sight into American politics.

Their time in the White House was described as the most welcoming and inclusive in history and their arrival as the first African American family had a global resonance. The ethos that they brought to the White House was refreshing as they tried to balance the stifling, claustrophobic atmosphere with family life. We were appalled to hear they couldn’t even open a window (for security reasons) and it was refreshing to hear how much she and the girls valued incognito shopping trips.

Michelle went to great lengths to ensure as much normality as possible for her daughters and reached out to school children with gardening projects and healthy eating etc. Despite this, some of our group felt that her girls had lost the simplicity of their childhood.

She was a very powerful advocate for women and girls both in the US and around the world as we learnt from her projects and global visits. She didn’t let being First Lady change her priorities, indeed she used her role to highlight and progress them.

It is interesting that, although she has claimed not to be interested in going into politics, of all the recent American First Ladies, she is the one who has gained a world-wide audience regardless of political affiliation. She is possibly now as famous and globally influential as her husband.

In September we reviewed Sunburn by Laura Lippman. This book has had lots of good reviews and was described as “tantalising” and a perfect summer thriller. However, it didn’t tantalise many of our Fearnan book group! 

Some didn’t like the American style of writing and found it took a while to get going. Although most of us found it hard to like, empathise or engage with the characters, we were keen to read on and follow the clues to find out what the conclusion would be.

Some did feel some sympathy with Polly, the main character who lost, through death, possibly her only supporter and recognised that despite her nefarious actions, she was trying to do her best for her children.

The book recommended for review in October is Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine. This book is set on the west coast of Scotland and links 3 stages in history – 800 AD, the late 19th century and 2012, and unravels a myth with which the book starts.  The main protagonist is Libby, an archaeologist, who has personal links to Ullaness where the story is set.  According the reviews ‘Maine adroitly weaves together the novel’s three strands.’

Commemoration at Errol

In May last year, there was a joint Russian/Scottish Ceremony of Commemoration for the aircrew and their colleague who died in a wartime air crash just outside the village.  Our focus at that time was the story of the 4 men who died at Fearnan but their story links to a much bigger story and one that reflects the degree of co-operation between the Russian and British allies during the war.

Fearnan Commemoration Ceremony

The crewmen were part of an elite group of airmen who were based at Errol and this year, being the 75th Anniversary of the end of the war, plans were made to install a commemoration stone at Errol. Sadly, the pandemic has meant that it is not possible for the Russian delegation to travel to Scotland, but the chosen commemoration stone is able to come, and will be installed at Errol Church on Remembrance Day.  In fact, it will be on its way shortly.

Once travel becomes possible again, there will be a joint ceremony between the Russians and the people of Errol.

Following that, the intention is that the Russian group will travel to Fearnan to pay their respects at the commemoration site here in the Cowpark.

Wartime posters underline the closeness of the reltionhip between the Allies. The one on the right says: From the British people. To victory! We are with you!

Anna Belorusova, who was instrumental in the Fearnan Commemoration and is the granddaughter of one of the Errol airmen, has provided this explanation of the need for the Russian base at Errol.

From the very start of the invasion by Nazi Germany, the Russian Air Force suffered a severe shortage of aircraft. On the first day of the war alone, 1200 airplanes were lost, of which 900 were destroyed on the ground. With the enemy’s rapid advance to the east, the aircraft factories were evacuated to the Urals and time was required to rebuild the disrupted production.  

Russia’s ally, Britain, was quick to respond: in less than two months , the first Arctic Convoy left for the Russian North carrying 24 Hurricanes, with a further 7,000 fighter planes to be delivered by sea before the end of the war.  

But Russia was in critical need of large transport planes (which could not be carried on the convoy ships) to supply the armies with ammunition and tank fuel, to deploy the airborne troops, to evacuate the wounded and to support the guerilla resistance hiding in the dense forests in the occupied territories.

However, the UK had no transport aircraft production of its own. The solution was to identify and modify a number of medium-range bombers and then fly them for use by their Russian allies at the Eastern Front.  

By autumn 1942, Churchill informed Stalin that a new twin-engine Albemarle bomber had been identified as suitable for the task and that 100 modified planes were to be made available. The only means of delivery was to ferry them to Russia at night across a dangerous air-route controlled by enemy fighter planes.  To achieve this, a group of very experienced first-class pilots was needed. 

The allied ferrying was classified as top-secret, with all reports going straight to the desks of the two Heads of State. RAF Command designed a special training course for the Russian aircrews, who would fly the Albemarles, each comprising a pilot-commander, navigator, flight-engineer and radio-operator. RAF Errol in Perthshire was designated as the base for the operation.

From early January 1943 Russians started to arrive in Errol, covertly flown by a British Liberator or the Russian four engine bomber PE-8 from Moscow to Scotland. The Russian strength at RAF Errol was 50 – 80 people – all of them high ranking officers decorated for their bravery in action. 

The airmen, who were handpicked for this highly important mission, were part of the elite Moscow Special Assignment Airgroup – a legendary air-division formed in the first days of the war from the best civilian airmen to undertake critical tasks for High Command. They had experienced what must have been hell-on-earth during the hardest phase of war – a period of huge losses and retreat, before the turning point at Stalingrad. Flying passenger DC-3 Douglas aircraft armed with gun-turrets, they had delivered food to besieged Leningrad and evacuated the starving people; dropped thousands of paratroopers behind enemy lines, delivered ammunition to those defending Moscow from the enemy’s encircling armies, evacuated the wounded under barrage fire in the last days of the defense of Sevastopol and landed on improvised airstrips in the woods to supply the Resistance.   

Coming straight from the heat of war and still in their combat dress, the battle-hardened Russian airmen arrived in Errol – which seemed another, gentler world to them. For the ordinary British people, the Russian allies represented the embodiment of hope that the brutal war would be over soon. A Dundee tailor made new Soviet uniform for them. They took English grammar lessons and made good friends with the RAF airmen. They watched Rangers FC winning the Scottish Cup Final and were entertained by the aristocracy. They came to local dances at Errol Mason Hall and bought groceries from Elsie Simon’s shop to carry with them on the ferried planes to Russia.

Eleven Russian airmen were to die in the Albemarle operation. Two aircrews were lost ferrying planes to Moscow over the North Sea. The third crew was killed during a training flight, which crashed just outside Fearnan village on Loch Tay but they managed, in the last seconds of their lives, to steer clear of the village itself. In May 2019 a memorial stone was installed at a joint ceremony with the present day villagers, and a tree planted at the site.

This year, on the 75th Victory Anniversary, the Airmen are being commemorated in Russia. A week ago a memorial stone was unveiled at Khovoinaya village to honour their heroism during the Siege of Leningrad.

In autumn 1941, the Nazi forces had closed a circle around Leningrad, cutting off all supply routes to the city. The shortage of food became critical. The daily bread ration was reduced to mere 125 grams – the size of a matchbox -and famine began. Thousands of people were dying of starvation. The only remaining link to the city was by air. The same Air Group relocated to the aerodrome hidden in the dense pine forest near Khvoinaya village east of Leningrad. Every day wedge shaped formations of nine Douglas planes loaded with high calorie food – frozen meat, butter, concentrates – performed 3-4 shuttle flights to Leningrad. On the way back along the dangerous air-route, controlled by the German fighter-planes, they evacuated the civilians who were dying of starvation. The Siege of Leningrad lasted for 900 days and claimed 1.5 million lives. 

The rock of crimson quartzite installed in front of Khvoinaya village history museum carries a plaque with a dedication cast at Petrozavodsk Foundry in Karelia after the design by a grandson of one of the Airmen. These are the same people who also made the plaque for the ‘sister’ stone to be unveiled in Errol.

The Errol Stone is a piece of the famous crimson quartzite named ‘Shoksha’ which has also been used for the decoration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow.

The sculptor Aleksandr Kim carefully selected it at the Karelian quarry and worked on the surface to bring out the richness of the colour, while maintaining the natural shape, which suggests a range of symbolic interpretations – from a ‘wing’ to the ‘eternal flame’.

The Errol Stone will start its sea journey to Scotland in about a week and will be installed beside Errol Church on Remembrance Day.

There will be a proper ceremony later, when the overall pandemic situation improves, as we all very much hope.

And Finally……..

Is this the equivalent of another end of Lockdown haircut?

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Happy 90th Birthday to Ian McGregor!

This is a special edition of the Blog to wish a very Happy 90th Birthday to Fearnan’s good friend and former resident, Ian McGregor.

In pre-covid times, we would have invited Ian to a special birthday tea in the village hall, but things being as they are, we are toasting him with our teacups in digital style!

Many have fond memories of Ian and Ann’s time in the village. Ian is an enthusiast and was involved in many aspects of village life.  It might have been afternoons spent painting and sketching with the Art Club, or the rather more energetic Friday evening Country Dancing after which Ian, along with Fraser Mcleod, Andy Burt and a dram or three, would put the world to rights. Other claims to fame include skiing through the village one snowy winter’s day and, of course, his book!

Ian researched and wrote Fearnan, the Story of a Highland Village of Northern Perthshire – the definitive history of Fearnan, from the Iron Age to the present day.

He has always been a great supporter of village events, regularly bringing several generations of the family to our annual Strawberry Tea in July.

The McGregor Family

Since moving to Auchterarder, Ian has continued his research – this time into his own family’s history – and has unearthed an amazing coincidence!

 He had got as far as establishing that his family in Ayrshire went back to the birth of John McGregor in 1740 at Gillhead Farm near Tarbolton, but was unable to get further back – one possibility being that perhaps his family had travelled down from the north, having been cast out of their highland home in the Clearances.

Recently he decided to have his DNA tested, which opened up the opportunity to contact other researchers of family history and who shared his DNA. There were many connections, mainly from Australia, USA and U.K.  However, two arrived recently with their earliest known ancestor Duncan McGregor, from Stronfearnan, born 1760, and John Dubh, no born date given. 

 Ian said: “Clearly I need to attempt to connect these names to my family tree. If I succeed I should perhaps be able to identify the Croft where my early family lived. That would be special for me, having chosen to retire to Fearnan with no idea that my family had lived there two and a half centuries before.”

That’s a story we will certainly keep in touch with but, in the meantime, have a wonderful 90th birthday, Ian!

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Observations on the County or Sheriffdom of Perth 1783 …….

One if the most interesting early maps of this area is James Stobie’s Map of Perthshire and Clackmannan of 1783. The scale of an inch to the mile is sufficiently detailed to show individual parish boundaries, farm names, roads etc.

If you zoom into the Loch Tay area, you can see the 11 crofts that together made up Fernan (as it was then), from Lagfern (towards Lawers in the west), through Tommantymore, Ballemeanoch, Ballinarn, Corrycherrow, Tyanloan, Boreland, Croftinaloin and Stronfearn, to Kinyellans in the east (near Duneaves).

A contemporary survey (1769) of the Breadalbane Estates lying on the north and south sides of Loch Tay provides some details of these crofts. In places the survey refers to the crofts as farms, but it also refers to them as the ‘ towns of Fernan’ which gives an indication of their likely size, some housing several generations of different families.

Going back to James Stobie’s map, he includes some ‘Observations’ about the different areas in the County of Perth at that time – mainly geographical and economic – but he becomes quite poetic when describing the area we now know as Highland Perthshire.

“The Highland Country, viewed from an eminence, appears a wild and barren Tract, swelled with almost inaccefsible Mountains, but these are only to conceal from view those populous, beautiful and romantic Vallies which lye betwixt them, decorated with the Seats of their Proprietors. The Air is pure & wholesome, so that Agues are seldom known & the inhabitants live to a great age.

The County abounds with Game, as Black game, Grous, Ptarmigan, Partridges, Snipes, Plovers, Woodcocks, Roebucks, Stags, Hares, Rabbits, &c. Eagles, Kites, Hawks, Foxes, Badgers and Otters are also numerous. In the Lakes and Rivers are Pikes, Pearch, Eels, Salmon and Trout and Pearl Mufsels.”

James Stobie 1783

We can count ourselves lucky that this very Eden that he describes is still so recognisable today, nearly 240 years later.

Back to Work

Slowly, slowly, we’ve eased out of Lockdown and are now slipping into Autumn.  As restrictions have eased, those who were on furlough have been able to restart their jobs.

The Scottish Crannog Centre re-opened at the beginning of August, with safety precautions for staff and visitors alike, which meant that Graham and Jason and the rest of the Crannog team could get back to work, masks and all.  And they look pretty happy about it………

Graham commented: “It has been great to get back to work albeit with the challenges faced by working during a pandemic. The Crannog has been praised by many people as being the most Covid-aware place they have been to. Wearing masks on Crannog tours is interesting as you cannot really gauge people’s reactions, but the feedback so far has been incredible.

There is a comparison to be made between then and now in that, every winter, the people of the Crannog would go into a lockdown protecting themselves from the threats of predators and the ravages of winter – as opposed to staying at home watching Netflix and rearranging cupboards.”

The Crannog has taken on 5 Apprentices, and over the next year they will be working towards a Scottish Vocational Qualification while learning all about life on a crannog. 

Apprentice Izzie learns the skill of drop spinning from Jason.

For some it was back to work, for others it was back to volunteering, and when a touch of the USA – in the form of the Drive-in-Movies – came to Wades Park in Aberfeldy, Peter was able to resume his duties as a cinema steward – except this time he was stewarding cars into their spaces – and sanitising, sanitising, sanitising everything, including the loos.

A big perk for the volunteer stewards is that they get to watch the film, in between carrying out their duties.  However, Peter quickly discovered that at the drive-in, the soundtrack is relayed through car radios – so if you’re on duty (ie not in a car) then you are effectively watching a silent movie. 

Happily, an old transistor radio was produced by one of the other stewards and quickly tuned to the right wavelength.  Not exactly Dolby sound, but better than trying to lip read for 90 minutes.

Book Club

Linda writes:

The book reviewed in July was Conclave by Robert Harris. Previously, many of the group had not read any books by this author and some also had thought that the subject wouldn’t appeal. However, the general consensus was that it was impressively well researched, informative, enjoyable and an engaging-a page turner!  

Initially some found it confusing, with so many characters and so much description, but as the main characters developed it was easier to follow. Behind the locked doors of the Sistine chapel we followed 72 hours of mounting tension as the election of a new pope was revealed.

It took us into the process of papal elections beyond the familiar indications of black or white smoke and enlightened us as to how the Conclave operates. There were similarities with political elections, in that there were rival factions supporting various papal candidates. The strategies employed by potential candidates before and during the conclave was reminiscent of the Whips Office in the House of Commons. There was intrigue, mounting tension, underhand plotting and ambitious manoeuvring. The digging up of past misdemeanours by the front runners shows how the past can catch up with you.

At a face to face book club session, this book would have probably lead our group discussion down numerous paths as there were lots of issues to explore. 
Many didn’t see the final twists coming although some of the clues were clearly there. Apart from being a great story, the reader gains some real insights into the Vatican and the workings of the Conclave. 

Here are some more reading and watching suggestions from book club members:


On the same theme as our August book are two films about the Catholic church: 

  • The Two Popes with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathon Pryce Netflix 2019.
  • Spotlight 2015, named after the Boston Globe’s investigative journalist team uncovering child abuse committed by 83 RC parish priests in the Boston area.


  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.
  • The Silent Sleep by Robert Graves
  • Circe by Madeline Miller. A modern reimagining of the witch from The Odyssey into a fascinating heroine who won’t be bossed about. Very readable. 
  • Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner. The fascinating autobiography of a lost world. The long-suffering widow of Colin Tennant( of Mustique fame). She was lady -in -waiting  and friend to Princess Margaret. A very resilient woman! 
  • Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly. Full of his stage routines, and his ‘wee stories’. If you like him (and are not bothered by his colourful language! ) you will enjoy this book. 

In August, we will review Becoming by Michelle Obama described as “An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.’

Guest Blog – Perth & Kinross Remembers.

Perth & Kinross Remembers has been set up to preserve the First World War memorial work undertaken by local community groups and individuals during the commemorative period (2014-2018) and make the work accessible for future generations by creating a Legacy Collection.

A few weeks ago, the FVA provided the Perth & Kinross Remembers project with copies of the information and pictures we gathered together whilst researching the 8 men named on Fearnan’s War Memorial. We also provided information about our Poppy Project that resulted in over 900 knitted by the Fearnan community both at home and abroad.

Glasgow Tramways Battalion. Duncan Mathieson of Fearnan is 3rd from left, back row.
Picture Courtesy of Marilyn Ward

As a result, we were asked to write a Guest Blog for their site, and this appeared in August. You can read it here: https://www.culturepk.org.uk/archive-local-family-history/projects/perth-and-kinross-remembers/blog/remembering-fearnans-fallen/

Beware of the ASDA Scam

ASDA is used by quite a few people in our area, so be warned that there is another fraudulent promotion on social media that has been reported this week – this time, women born in October are being offered a ‘free ASDA gift card worth £1,000 if they complete a survey on Facebook. Clicking on the link leads to a fake ASDA website which asks for personal and banking details.

ASDA have confirmed that the promotion is not genuine.

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland offer the following advice:

  • Be wary of surveys or competitions on social media which ask for personal details – think carefully about what information you are putting online. You don’t know who is accessing the information you enter and what they could use it for;
  • Read the terms and conditions before entering any competition – many fraudulent prize draws or offers do not list basic terms and conditions such as deadline dates or details on how winners will be selected; 
  • Check the spelling and grammar in the post. Fake surveys/competitions often contain small mistakes and unusual wording;
  • Before taking part in a survey/competition which is supposedly being run by a well known company or big brand, look at their official website or social media channels to see if it is genuine.

Report scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000. If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101.

Anti-Social Behaviour

After Lockdown started to ease, Loch Tay became a ‘hot spot’ for dirty camping – the inconsiderate and, some might say, uncivilised cousin of wild camping.  Instead of respecting the countryside, dirty campers not only make a complete mess of the site they have chosen to spend the night in, they leave behind anything they can’t be bothered packing up – tents, chairs, lilos, empty bottles and cans, food packaging and other rubbish and waste, including human waste.  All left for somebody else to clear up. (Thank you, Stuart!).

As a result, there has been extra police activity in the area and over busy periods, such as weekends, joint visits have been co-ordinated by Scottish Fire and Rescue staff, Countryside Rangers and Community Wardens.  If communities have further information to assist, they are asked by these services to contact the Council’s Safer Communities Team on SCT@pkc.gov.uk

There are also other forms of anti-social behaviour by noisy groups who fail to respect the tranquil nature of the village and the right of residents and other holiday visitors to enjoy that tranquillity. If there are problems with unreasonable noise or trespass, the police have asked us to feed back concerns as they happen, by phoning 101 so that they can attend at the time of the complaint.

We know that people are often reluctant to complain, but if we don’t complain, we can’t get things put right. Another way to register inappropriate or anti-social behaviour is by using the police service’s Contact Us email at https://www.scotland.police.uk/secureforms/contact/ 

If the problem is emanating from Boreland, the Duty Manager’s number is 07368 414455 although you may just have to leave a message.

Bloomin’ Marvellous!

Let’s finish on a happy note!  Going back to that wonderful description of the landscape around us from 240 years ago at the beginning of this Blog, here’s an up-to-date representation of it through these a-ma-zing pics of the heather on the hills and moorlands around us, shared by Peter.

Copyrights. Unless otherwise stated, the copyright of each image on this blog is owned by the person who took or made the image. The copyright of all text is held in each instance by the person who wrote it.

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