A Very Musical June

We have an abundance of local talent in the Blog this week, from the Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir and the Highland Perthshire Ukulele Group (both groups have members from Fearnan) to our own music maestro, Doug Law, and also some delightful craft work.

More Silverware for Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir!

Alan Brown of the Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir writes:

A semblance of normality returned to Highland Perthshire last Saturday when the 99th Perthshire & Angus Provincial Mod came home to Aberfeldy.

The weekend of the Mod has changed much since the days when coachloads of primary and secondary school pupils would descend on the town on the Friday morning to take part in Junior competitions involving music and song, prose and poetry, art and drama. The Saturday would see the Senior piping and fiddling and – the main attraction – the solo, duet, quartet and choral singing.

Unfortunately, the curse of Covid saw this year’s Junior Mod wiped out yet again but, as in 2021, there will be a Virtual Mod later this month.

The good news, however, was the return of a live Mod Saturday. It was heartening to welcome members of visiting choirs who expressed delight at being back in Aberfeldy after three years, meeting old friends and making new ones in keeping with the spirit of Gaeldom.

The competitive side is important, of course, and there were some excellent performances. Covid has reduced preparation time for all, but hardest hit have been the choirs, unable to meet other than virtually by courtesy of Zoom.

From a personal point of view as a member of Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir, our practices were affected negatively by unforeseen circumstances such as poor wi-fi coverage for the Zoom meetings and actual absence through Covid. When we did manage to sing together in person – as recently as February – safety measures such as open windows, sanitised seats, safe distances between participants and wearing masks meant that a ‘choir sound’ was impossible.

A positive reaction, however, was a determination to show that the Host Choir would be there on the day to give of their best. And didn’t we just!

We were victorious in the Seinn Choisirean: Puirt-a-Beul competition, winning the May Mitchell and Frances Matheson Cuach. We also earned a very creditable 3rd place in the Westcroft Trophy behind Cumbernauld and Lothian Gaelic Choirs.

The victorious Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir, with Fearnan’s Fran Donovan on the far left

One of the highlights of any Aberfeldy Mod Saturday is when the Massed Choirs relax after the rigours of competition by performing in the Square to a very appreciative audience and this one was again a great success and miraculously rain- free. Music from Junior pipers and accordion selections even had spectators and competitors tripping the light fantastic to round off a very satisfactory day.

So, what next? Plans are already being formulated to mark next year’s event because it will be the ONE-HUNDREDTH Perthshire & Angus Provincial Mod! And to emphasise further the importance of the Gaelic tradition in this part of the world, the Royal National Mod is taking place in PERTH in October for the first time since 2004.

Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir under Musical Director May Brown and Gaelic Tutor Gilliain Macdonald are well into rehearsals but will always welcome anyone interested in joining through a love of Gaelic music. We meet on Wednesdays in Aberfeldy Town Hall at 7.30 pm. Look out for our monthly news column in The Quair.

Mains of Taymouth for Ukraine

This weekend (18th and 19th June), Mains of Taymouth Country Estate and Golf Course ran a special fundraising effort to support Highland Perthshire Welcomes Ukraine. On Saturday, the event included live music, some of which was provided by our own Highland Perthshire Ukulele Band.

The rain managed to hold off, but the strong wind made it quite difficult for the players. However, they did well and were pleased to be able to be back performing after nearly 2 and a half years away from the stage, due to the pandemic restrictions.

Also on stage at the event was Fearnan’s Doug Law:

Jubilee Coffee Morning

The Jubilee Coffee Morning held on Saturday 4th June was a great success and described as “a glorious and special day”.

Approximately 50 adults and around 12 children all enjoyed the sunshine, cake, coffee, tea, juice and crown making etc. The sunny weather was a bonus, enabling outdoor seating and a relaxed atmosphere. After Covid restrictions, reconnections and new friendships were made.

With the balloons and bunting, it had a real vintage feel reminiscent of the 1950s. There was an extensive array of amazing cakes and assorted goodies including Polish treats.

It was especially great to see so many children enjoying the food, the art and craft table and having fun in the play park whilst forging international friendships with Ukrainian guests. 

Craft Group

This month the Craft Group tried their hand at some felting work and spent a productive afternoon on Cath’s patio, trying not to be distracted by the view of the loch.

Cath had devised an excellent project for the afternoon and, in the space of a couple of hours, we had all completed a miniature felt picture, perfect for a brooch or lapel badge.

We were joined by Jackie from Strathtay.

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Fearnan Book Club Review

Linda writes:

A recent Book Club read was ‘The Miseducation Evie Epworth’ by Matson Taylor. 

It is the summer of 1962 and sixteen-year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she be?

Up until now, Evie’s life has been nothing special: a patchwork of school, Guides, cows, lost mothers, lacrosse and village fetes.

The group overwhelmingly enjoyed this light-hearted, laugh-out-loud book, with its larger than life, melodramatic characters. It was a refreshing tale of just the right length and moved at a good pace. It captured the spirit of Yorkshire and its people, with mentions of trips to Betty’s Tearooms and rural village life. It was written from the perspective of Evie, about to leave school and perhaps acquire a stepmother. 

Those of us of a certain age found it evoked memories of life in the 1960s with references to Adam Faith, then the Beatles, with posters on bedroom walls. References to Babycham, old ladies with hair nets, Izal toilet paper, Dansette record players and TV shows such as Take Your Pick took us back. 

The book featured motherless Evie living with her hard working, busy and taciturn father on their farm and the money grabbing, wicked stepmother-to-be, Christine who, of course, was not liked by Evie. Evie’s kindly next-door neighbour gradually provided information to Evie and the reader about her mother and her parents’ back story. The story of her mother unfolded through reading her French recipe book. 

Satisfyingly for the reader, Christine was revealed as a schemer, and all ended happily for Evie and her father. 

Much of our discussion revolved round the differences between job and life opportunities and expectations for girls like Evie in the 1960’s and young people now.

Our next read, Dark Waters by GR Halliday is described as dark, gripping, and as atmospheric as the Scottish scenery it inhabits.

And Finally – Tackling Japanese Knotweed

This is a reminder about the meeting on Monday 20 June in the McLean Hall.  It is an opportunity to hear the Project Officer for the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI), Mark Purrman-Charles discuss why Japanese Knotweed growth must be tackled and how free support can be made available.  This is a Community Initiative which we hope will be well supported.

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May 2022

The Miracle Cure at your Fingertips

The Blog doesn’t often stray into health matters, but after 2+ years of the pandemic and lockdowns, most of us are in need of a little tonic or pick-me-up. So, when Music Tutor Edis Bowden got in touch about his wonder cure, the Blog’s ears pricked up.

Edis writes:

As I write this, I am laid low by my old Demon: the bad back. I got a bit carried away with the gardening. I’ve had to cancel all my engagements but there is one that I’m not going to cancel: I am booked on a session of the “wonder cure“ for this very afternoon!

I am not alone in finding that this cure produces almost miraculous results on sore backs and a number of other ailments. As well as being a brilliant mood enhancer, it gives the old grey matter a good workout (much better than Sudoku, it is said) and it is very social which, in our post Covid era, is a huge benefit to so many people.

So, if I have piqued your curiosity and you’re wondering what this miracle cure is and where you can sign up, then now is the time for the big reveal: It is your local ukulele club!

When my back is sore, I play standing up and gently sway backwards and forwards which is wonderful for loosening up those tense muscles and bringing them out of spasm. 

When I feel blue and devoid of any motivation – particularly in the long dark days of winter – I find the lively, cheerful ukulele vibe and the social aspect are like bottled sunshine. After a couple of songs, I am restored. 

We are not the first people to notice the health benefits of the ukulele and, indeed, of music in general. In fact, the team that is dedicated to making Aberfeldy Scotland’s Healthiest Town (https://www.healthiesttown.org/ ) invited us to their launch party so that we could tell people about all the positive ways it improves your health and well-being. There is also a Scotland-wide ukulele project dedicated to spreading the benefits. 

Now, I realise, many of you will be thinking that you couldn’t possibly participate in such a musical activity – perhaps because you’ve never done it before, or perhaps because you have been told you are tone deaf, or perhaps a teacher told you to leave the school choir. These are very common reactions, but one by one we have proved that they are all completely erroneous. A few short years ago many of the club members were in exactly that position, never having played a musical instrument in their lives yet wishing to do so. Over those few short years, we have taught them the skills that they need and now not only are they confident and joyful players but many of them have played in a number of public performances. 

All human beings are natural musicians, it is wired into our heartbeat and the way we walk. Singing is very natural to all humans and although some of us may find it difficult to control the tuning of the notes to start with, with practice and a bit of guidance it becomes easier and easier. 

The ukulele produces a wonderful joyful sound and is cheap and easy to get to grips with. 

So, what are you waiting for? I have extolled the therapeutic benefits of the ukulele but please don’t let me give the impression that you have to have an ailment to come to the club. No! Prevention is far better than cure. In fact, I have left the most important reason for joining the club till last…….

…… because it’s fun!!!!

Your local ukulele club is Highland Perthshire Ukulele Club, which currently meets at the Kenmore Sports Pavilion on Mondays at 13.30 and Thursdays at 19.00. We can help with the loan of instruments to get you started and all training is provided.

We look forward to welcoming you soon. Contact HPUC via Edis.bowden@gmail.c

Scottish Crannog Centre Trust

Many in our local community were devastated when the iconic Crannog structure was destroyed by fire last year.  Since then, the Crannog Community has worked hard to bring forward plans for a new centre on a new site and now, almost exactly a year from the fire, those plans have been formally submitted to Perth and Kinross Council for planning consent.

Given the importance of the new Centre to our local area, we are pleased to reproduce an Open Letter from Nick Grant, the Chair of the Scottish Crannog Centre Trust. The letter recently went out to Members of the Trust, Friends of the Crannog, its neighbours, supporters, visitors and to the residents of Kenmore, Loch Tay, Highland Perthshire and beyond.

Nick writes:

You will all know something of our long-held dreams and ambitions to re-vitalise and re- energise the iconic Scottish Crannog Centre, built nearly three decades ago, after the pioneering archaeological research of Dr Nicholas Dixon and others.

Well, now, here we are, one year on from last June’s devastating fire, with our application for planning consent now under final consideration by Perth and Kinross Council. After the amazing support shown by the local community, our visitors from around the world, major charitable trusts, the Scottish Government and many others, that same dream is about to become the reality.

Just like the original crannog dwellers would have done after a fire, we have rallied, packed up our stuff, looked for a new site and prepared a new beginning. The personal belongings of those same crannog dwellers – all safe in the museum collection – will come with us, to a new museum, a bigger and better Iron Age village, and a new and improved visitor centre at Dalerb.

We will be taking our time to build several crannogs, so that you and everybody else can come and see us, to watch, learn and take part in all the ancient crafts and skills our predecessors developed.

We aim to be Scotland’s most sustainable museum, a national treasure admired by all with social justice firmly at our heart. We will be a world-class centre for learning, social action, research and education, attracting new interest from all over Britain, Ireland and beyond, honouring the story of our predecessors and the national heritage of Scotland. In full, this will be a £12m scheme leading the way in bringing many more jobs, opportunities and visitors to Highland Perthshire.

But to do all this, we must have the first phase of our development open and ready to go by next spring, so there is a tough challenge ahead. We will continue to build on all our previous work as we look to do the things we do best – community engagement with our collections, immersive and hands-on experiences in our recreated archaeological ‘village’ buildings, multi-media activities, and embracing the individuals and communities, from near and far, that we are here to serve.

We will continue to develop our innovative and award-winning training programmes for our apprentices and others. We will continue to work with our local schools, including Breadalbane Academy, and with the voluntary and social support sector in Perth, Glasgow and elsewhere, to build new ideas for accomplishment and achievement.

Crannog Apprentice and Fearnan resident, Isobelle,
teaching visitors to spin with a drop spindle.

We will research our collections and enable our objects to sing their own stories in many different ways to many different people. We will work in partnership with all those organisations and people who share our values and our ambitions. We will strive to be a museum in which everyone can take pride, a museum that matters, a museum that justifies our recent Museums Change Lives award as Best UK Small Museum.

Jason with the Deputy First Minister and the former Culture Minister

All the support you have given us has been truly humbling. We respect and appreciate that trust placed in us, and we will work as hard as we can to repay that confidence and commitment. We are guardians of an incredibly special story with local, national and international significance. Together we can create a place that will tell the story of the crannog dwellers for generations to come.

Crannog Story Teller, Graham

We are fully committed to maintaining public access to the loch and picnic area at Dalerb and we look forward to working sustainably within our natural environments and considerately with everyone locally. I very much welcome your questions and your active involvement. We have an exciting time ahead of us working together to achieve these objectives and to really put Kenmore on the map of Iron Age history in Scotland!

(Contact Nick or other Crannog staff at info@crannog.co.uk )

Book Club Review

Linda writes:

The book group recently reviewed was The Hangman’s Daughter, a novel by Oliver Potzch. It was first published in Germany and then translated into English. It is the first book in a series of historical mysteries. It is a plot driven story with clear heroes and villains and triumph of good over evil. 

The atmospheric sights, sounds and smells of Schongau in 17th century Bavaria were vividly described.

It is set in the days of witchcraft and herbs, where coffee was an exotic drink, dried toads were a remedy for the plague and the devil was believed to be real.

For some, this was a genre that they may have avoided if not a member of a book group. One, however, described it as being “right up her street.” As always there was a wide range of opinions. Some found it very dark, with scenes of torture and the deaths of children upsetting. Others loved the references to witchcraft, potions, and herbs. One struggled to take it seriously, conjuring up images of Blackadder/Benny Hill. This all added to our varied discussion! 

The group recognised Jakob, the Hangman, as a compassionate, level-headed and intelligent man with a strong sense of justice and a determination to seek the truth. His occupations were in sharp contrast as he was also a healer with a range of medical textbooks and an extensive knowledge of the use of herbal medicine. Due to his despised profession, he lived outside the village walls with his family almost as outcasts. His daughter, as was traditional, was due to be married to another hangman but had a romance with Simon, the educated son of a physician. 

We enjoyed the portrayal of Magdalena, the Hangman’s daughter, an intelligent, strong woman, a feisty heroine who knew her own mind and could look after herself. We warmed to Simon and how he worked with Jakob and Magdalena to solve the murders, expose villains, and reveal the evil in their society. 

As an antidote, our next read was The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor a witty, funny and uplifting book set in the summer of 1962, an era that many of us could relate to! The review of this will appear in the next Blog.

For Your Diary

The McLean Hall, Fearnan, Committee invites everyone to come to the Hall for coffee and cakes on SATURDAY 4TH JUNE at any time between 10am – 12noon.  Drop in to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and liberation from formal Covid restrictions! There is no charge at the door, but donations to Hall funds are always welcome.

Thrift Shop

The hall has the Thrift Shop from the 19th June to the 25th.  This is a vital fundraiser for the Hall and help is needed. If anyone can spare a morning or afternoon to help in the shop, it would be very much appreciated.  The contact for the rota is Elaine (elainebmelrose@btinternet.com) and Karen for any donations of stock for the shop (karenbennett764@gmail.com).

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Spring ’22

Spring has arrived! The spring flowers are out, the lambs are gamboling in the fields, and the Easter visitors are with us.

Among the visitors last week was the Russian author and historian, Anna Belorusova, paying a personal, friendship, visit.  Anna has researched and written extensively about the group of Russian airmen who were based at Errol as part of the Allied effort during WW2, and about how 3 of them died, along with a Czech colleague, in a plane crash in the Cow Park (read the story here).

Through Anna’s research, the full story of the wartime crash was able to be told for the first time, and this led to the installation of the memorial stone and the tree of remembrance at an inauguration ceremony in 2019.

The Fearnan stone now has a sister stone in Errol Churchyard.  It is formed from a single piece of Shoksha crimson quartzite, shipped from Russia in 2020, and it commemorates the Russian personnel who were based at Errol.  Anna took some Fearnan daffodils to lay at the Errol stone and is seen here with Brigadier Sir Melville Stewart Jameson, who officiated at the Fearnan inauguration ceremony in his role as lord-lieutenant of Perth and Kinross.

Whilst at Errol, Anna was gifted a memento of her visit to the Loch Tay area by one of the people she met.

And the gift? It was a piece of pottery from the Loch Tay Pottery – made some years ago in Fearnan, by the late Andy Burt.

Anna has been very moved by the welcome she has received and the kindness shown by the people she has met in Scotland.

Going Pottie

Spring always feels like a good time to try something new and some members of the Art Group decided to see if their artistic skills would transfer from painting on paper and board to painting on pottery, and took a trip to Going Pottie in Dunkeld.

Fortunately, they didn’t have to ‘throw’ the pottery first, and were able to get straight down to decorating their chosen pieces with all materials provided by the venue.

Looks like they are doing rather well.  (By the way, the FVA could do with a new set of coffee mugs, nicely decorated with Fearnan scenes.  No rush, just in your own time ……..)

The group were much encouraged for their next venture: decorating eggs, Fabergé-style. Sounds like a bit of bling could be on the cards.

It’s always good to hear about new facilities and there is a new studio in Strathtay running courses for local and visiting amateur artists.  The first planned course is on printmaking techniques on the 4th and 5th June. If you are interested, please contact Jackie Forbes on Jackie.forbes@drawntolearn.co.uk

Music to the Ears (sort of)

Over the years, we have been able to feature red squirrels, deer, eagles, spring lambs, otters, osprey and much more, thanks to various wildlife watchers around the village. This time, thanks to Iain Ferguson, we are able to bring you a world premiere – a recording of a live performance by the Fearnan Frogs’ Chorus.

(It starts quite quietly so you may need to adjust your volume)

Fearnan Frogs’ Chorus

The Seat on the Hill

Many thanks to Jenny Penfold for providing the transport to bring the damaged seat off the hill.  We have decided that it is best replaced as the repairs needed are extensive.  The FVA will fund a replacement and are looking into alternative materials that may cope better with the exposed position, and the wind and rain. We will transfer the plaque remembering Ann McGregor to the new seat.  

Book Review

Linda writes:

A smaller group than usual enjoyed and reviewed Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce. It was described as “a tale of following your dreams regardless of the cost and the beauty of true friendship.” The story starts in 1950s England and takes us to French-run New Caledonia in a search for the golden beetle. 

The main characters are two women on a life-changing adventure. They were well drawn, vibrant and loved by the group. Despite totally opposite personalities, Joyce and Enid developed a firm friendship. Joyce’s protective shell slowly peeled away as she warmed to Enid, while everyone loved Mrs Pope and the other ex-pat ladies. The group’s opinion was divided over the character Mundic. How important or essential to the story was he?

The environment and weather were vividly described. Some felt it became rather repetitive and long winded going up and down the mountain seeking the elusive beetle. In fact, some felt it was immaterial whether she found the beetle or not, the personal journey being more important.

The last chapter provided a satisfying full circle (we like a good ending!) and the postscript about the real-life women on whom the author had based her chapters was fascinating.

And Finally…………..

In case you missed it, BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme on the morning of Saturday 9th April followed the River Tay from Killin to Dunkeld.  Although a repeat from last year, it is an excellent, well researched programme that explored the subject though local voices. It’s available on catch up on BBC Sounds (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds)

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March 2022

Upper Tay Transport – Community Lifts

Ros Grant writes:

The Upper Tay Transport Group started Community Lifts during the Covid pandemic, operating within the recommended health guidelines.  Now well established the scheme covers the Upper Tay community with over 30 volunteer drivers across the area (www.uppertaytransport.org). 

Based in Aberfeldy, the scheme which incorporated volunteer hospital lifts, aims to help people who do not have access to transport either regularly or occasionally, for example if your car is out of action, to get to appointments, social events or to the shops.  To use the scheme, you need to register by phoning or texting 07388 236 233 or emailing info@uppertaytransport.org and then you can start to request lifts.  

The Scheme’s Co-ordinator, Eileen Merry runs the day-to-day requests for lifts and then seeks drivers via a dedicated WhatsApp Group.  When requesting a lift, you should give as much notice as possible, at least 48 hours before a journey so that a volunteer driver can be found.   Your journey should then be confirmed at least 24 hours beforehand.   Passengers pay expenses for the lift at 40p/mile and any parking charges.  Lifts are not limited to the Upper Tay area, for example a lift to Edinburgh or Glasgow can be requested but would depend on finding a volunteer driver.

Anyone who would like to volunteer as a driver must be 18 years and over, although no upper age limit applies.  The requirements are that you must have a full UK driving licence, be fully insured, and have a vehicle with a valid MOT certificate and undertake a Disclosure check.  Other basic training, e.g. first aid can also be undertaken.   One volunteer driver lives in the Fearnan area and can be booked for local journeys via the Co-ordinator. 

The Seat on the Hill

The wooden seat perched high on the hill in the Cow Park has suffered during the recent storms and bad weather.  We would like to bring it down so that it can be repaired, but it needs a 4×4 Truck or a quadbike and trailer to get up there and transport it to the village.

Do you know someone who could help? If so, please contact fiona@fearnanvillageassociation.com

The seat was placed in memory of Ann McGregor.  It was one of her favourite spots and since 2017 it has provided a welcome rest – and a fantastic view – for many walkers. Please help us find a way of bringing it down, so that it can be repaired – or replaced if necessary.

Kenmore Bakery

Kenmore Bakery are competing in the Scottish Baker of the Year Awards 2022-23.  They have served our community well over the past 2 years, bringing essential supplies to the village, along with their more usual fare of bread and baking, during the long months when the pandemic meant that we weren’t able to go to the shops in the normal way.

And Jackie and Steven are still providing an important service, seen here after battling snow and winds to bring fresh goodies to the village.

If you would like to vote for them in the Customer Choice part of the Award, visit this link before 6th April and cast your vote:

https://bakeroftheyear.scot/vote/2022/kenmore-bakery

Book Review

Our review of The Thursday Murder Club, the debut novel by Richard Osman, had a mixed reception. 

It was an amusing, easy read enjoyed more by some than others. Some thought it had been over hyped due to its well known author.

The style was intentionally simplistic, with short chapters and for some, aspects were ridiculous and of course not to be taken too seriously.

The dialogue was realistic and helped develop the characters and their interactions. 

 It was agreed that the interesting characters, residents of an affluent retirement complex, were well portrayed and complemented each other. They were trying to feel valued with a shared  purpose ie. solving murders and perhaps escaping from their inevitability and reality.

The following quote resonated with some of the group. 

“After a certain age, you can do what you want. Nobody tells you off except your doctor or your children.

In typical Agatha Christie style, there were lots of red herrings and it was perhaps slightly confusing at the end with multiple bodies. As always, all was revealed and explained. 

It was felt that it would make a good film and we identified a few well known actors who we thought would be suitable for the key roles.

As this was the first book in a series, some are keen to see what the four characters get up to in the next book “The Man who Died Twice.”

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang once again catch the killer before it’s too late?

And Finally…….

The FVA had hoped to restart the regular Pop-Up Coffee Shop as well as hold an AGM before Easter but, in view of the record (and continually rising) number of Covid cases in Scotland, we have decided to put this on hold and will review the situation after Easter.

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February 2022

Victor Logan

Last month, we were saddened to hear of the passing of Victor Logan, who lived in Fearnan for many years.

Victor is remembered as a kind and generous man who was never too busy to help his friends and neighbours, be it helping Alastair Kininmonth build a polytunnel to protect his lambs, or some emergency plumbing for a neighbour in need.

He had a talent for entertaining us by composing and reciting stories about Fearnan and its inhabitants in verse.

In later years, his time was consumed by his devoted care for his wife, Betty, when she became ill. Initially he cared for her at home but later she moved into care in Pitlochry and Victor travelled almost every day to visit her. He had 4 daughters and they were a great comfort to him when Betty died and, after a short while, he moved away to be closer to his family.

And so we lost his recitations and poems. But he continued to visit Fearnan until the distance became too much for him to drive. On one such visit, he came to a coffee morning that coincided with his visit and before leaving, he told the tale of Sam the Plumber, of his sad demise, and the curious circumstances of the empty coffin!  A salutary tale for any funeral cortege that might be tempted to stop off at the pub on the way to the burial!

Storm Arwen – The Aftermath

Storm Arwen brought devastating winds that wreaked havoc on our forests, both locally and across wider southern and eastern areas, with many, many trees blown over, branches torn off, and hazards created by fallen trees hung up on other standing trees. The highest recorded gust was an extraordinary 110mph. There were 3 deaths and 9,000 people were left without power, some for a week or more.

Storm Arwen had a disproportionate impact on trees because it came from the north, rather than the usual south-west direction. Trees are adapted to withstand winds coming from the prevailing wind direction by anchoring their roots in a particular way

Smaller, more aerodynamic trees, tend to grow on the south-west side of woodlands – but this means they are ill-prepared when the wind switches direction and they are hit on their weaker side.

Scotland lost some 8 million trees between the 25th and 29th November 2021. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) describe the impact in the following terms:

  • Around 4,000 hectares of Scottish forests were affected by storm damage (an area a bit less than the size of Dundee).
  • About 1 million m³ of fallen trees (roughly 1/3 of what FLS would fell nationally in a given year and equal to about 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of timber).

In addition, there are hundreds of miles of trails closed for inspection and repair.

Scotland’s national forests are popular places for recreation, home to many businesses, and provide benefits to mental health. Even more fundamentally, trees have always played an important role in Celtic culture, representing both spirituality and wisdom. They were perceived to have life-giving properties, longevity, power, and practicality (shelter and warmth). Gaelic folktales are full of stories about them, and the damage caused by Arwen to our local forests really strikes at the heart.

Much of the responsibility for clearing up falls to Forestry and Land Scotland.

After the storm, their first considerations were to lives and livelihoods, such as making key areas safe, and working in collaboration with other parties to repair utilities (including Fearnan’s transformer, seen on the right), repair damage to public roads and other public infrastructure, and clear up issues on adjoining land.

After fixing these headline issues, they moved onto timber and trails and a huge amount of planning and re-planning is going to be needed. Almost all of our forests have 10-year plans, which may need to be heavily revised in the wake of the damage sustained from the storm. Existing harvesting operations may need to be re-scheduled or cancelled, and resources diverted to try and recover fallen trees.

One positive benefit is that after clearing, FLS will start to think about establishing a new generation of trees, one that is more diversified, mixing up species to create a more rounded environment, and which will help our forests fight off diseases and pests. In some areas, the destruction caused by Storm Arwen may, in time, provide an opportunity to create new woodland with more benefits for the climate, environment, and future timber production. It will also expand the provision of wildlife-rich dead wood.

FLS say that Storm Arwen has caused more damage to Scotland’s forests than any other weather event for many years. They are working hard to get things cleared up and they hope to be able to open more forests and trails in the near future, but some badly affected areas may take months to repair.

Fearnan Recycling Community Collection Point

Jenny Penfold writes:

The recycling community collection point based at Clach an Tuirc in Fearnan has been doing well, with heaps more medicine blister packs coming in meaning another HUGE bag of them being dropped off in Perth recently (please note it is just the blister packs that are needed, other medicine packaging is usually recyclable through the Council collection), plus some dental products, printer cartridges and tights for trees! So, a big thank you to everyone for their efforts to ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle’!

Another bumper bundle of blister packs off for recycling

However, I’ve had some feedback that it’s sometimes hard for folk to get here to drop things off. So, what I propose is to set up a ‘daisy-chain’ of collection points, run by other keen recyclers, in some of the other areas in our widespread Community Council area – or even beyond! They would be their local drop-off point for their community and would then drop it in to me in Fearnan whenever they’re passing, and I can collect things together and then send them on from here. This would mean we could divert even more recyclables from landfill.

I’m thinking perhaps one or two drop-off points in the Glen, plus Fortingall, Coshieville and Ben Lawers, for starters. Volunteers are needed! I can provide posters for you, and even boxes if required! And as you know your areas best, you can suggest the best places for your drop-off point – either at your house, or at a community space, like the school or village hall?

So if anyone is interested, please get in touch with me on 07917 685626 or jcpenfold@hotmail.com and we can take it from there.

(Just a quick reminder where to drop off your recyclables in Fearnan: we’re right next to the Boar Stone, the last white cottage on your right when you leave Fearnan, going towards Fortingall. All collection boxes are in the front porch which faces the road, and the front door is always open! So, no need to wait for us to be in, or to ring the doorbell – although we love to see you – it’s fine to just ‘drop and run’!

Fearnan Book Club

Linda writes:

The book read over the festive period and reviewed at the January meeting was Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021.

Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape.

When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud.

As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness. 

Most described it as an easy, gentle read for this time of the year and the subject matter related to a possible virgin birth seemed to fit the season. It began with reference to a train crash disaster which some of us forgot about until it impacted on the outcome of the story. 

Set in the suburbs of SE London in 1957, there was unanimous agreement that the atmosphere and attitudes of the 1950s were very well depicted. Some of us could relate to aspects of this period! The role of the female journalist then was to write household tips and recipes and leave investigative journalism to the male reporters. The narrow-minded morality and snobbery of the times, repressed feelings and sense of duty were all very well portrayed. The topic of parthenogenesis was fascinating, and the detective work undertaken by the journalist was interesting.

Some found the premise of a possible virgin birth quirky but the outcome predictable. A few commented on how things seemed to slow down in the second half of the book.

A few of us didn’t like the twist at the end and had hoped for a happier outcome for Jean after so much bleakness in her life.

Sadly, due to Covid, once again we didn’t meet in person. This book would have provided endless opportunities for discussion and for some, memories of the 1950s and post war life and attitudes. 

The book for review in February is The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, the first book in the bestselling Thursday Murder Club series. This was chosen as a humorous book to lift the spirits in the long winter days. We hope to be able to discuss this in person.

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

And Finally …….

The Big Shed is holding its AGM on 23rd February at 7pm in The Big Shed.

They are planning to hold it in person, but if the Covid situation worsens again, they will hold it on Zoom. 

If you plan to attend, please let Wendy know (websitecontact@bigshed.org.uk),  so that she can either print enough agendas (if it’s in person), or send the link (if it’s a virtual meeting). 

Please note that the copyright of all photos published on this site belongs to the person who took the picture and the copyright of all text lies with the person who wrote it.

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Of Candles, Witches and Snowmen

Lighting up the Darkness

Events such as Storm Arwen and the associated loss of electricity and water can have you digging deep – not just to find inner levels of resilience but digging deep in cupboards and drawers to find torches, candles and other useful things. It was during just such a search that Sheena and Donnie found a rather special box of candles.  Not only were they manufactured By Appointment to Her Majesty, but these Price’s candles cost 2 shillings and 6 pence (12.5p in decimal money) and were purchased at McKerchar and MacNaughton in Aberfeldy.

The fact they were priced in pre-decimal currency means they must have been bought before 1971 – making them at least 50 years old! 

Sheena thinks they came from Nick and Jim’s house, when it was cleared, but as they pre-date Nick and Jim coming to Fearnan, they must either have been in the house when they bought it, or possibly come from the Thrift Shop. (Nick and Jim volunteered in the Thrift Shop on a regular basis.)

It’s quite something that this box of candles had never been opened, given the number of power cuts there have been in the last 50 years – to say nothing of the 1973 three-day week during the Miners’ Strike and the mass blackouts around the country (hands up if you remember that!). But they’ve been used now – called into service by Storm Arwen!

Telling Stories – The Witches of Drummond Hill

There’s no shortage of old folk tales from this area and usually they come to us either by having been handed down as part of our oral history, or by having been found in dusty archives by researchers. But these days, it’s not surprising to find they arrive via Facebook.

The following appeared recently on the Scotland’s Scenery FB page, authored by one Andy Vale;

Well, I was walking up Drummond Hill near Kenmore and I bumped into a local old man (80s+). He was dressed in a long black trench coat, black hat and had a twisted wooden walking pole. We spoke, and he told me to look out for the Witches’ Trees and that if I followed a certain path, I would be watched by these Witches as I passed by.

Apparently, a local coven of Witches had been cursed and turned into gnarly old trees. For most of the year they can’t move and are only able to watch jealously those who are walking freely. However, if you stop and look at them, they will remember you and, on the days they are released from their spell, they re-gather in their Coven and seek vengeance on those who have gazed upon them.

The old man told me a poem, but I can only recall the first and last lines, something like:

The witches’ trees of Drummond Hill
As you pass by, they wish you ill.
So ne’er stop and ne’er stand still
By the witches’ trees of Drummond Hill.

I have to be honest my skin tingled, and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I walked by the trees. And yes, I stopped, I looked and took the pictures!

Andy even provided pictures and a map, so you can go and test your own nerves – it’s not far. However, should you, like Andy, be worried about the witches’ vengeance, be assured that a small twig of rowan wrapped in red thread will see them off.

Many thanks to Tim and Dan for passing it on to The Blog.

Storm Arwen Compensation Payments

Following the power outages caused by Storm Arwen, those households that qualify for a compensation payment from SSEN (i.e. loss of power for 48 hours or more) will be pleased to hear that SSEN has announced a 20% enhancement on the statutory payment that the regulator Ofgem requires them to make to consumers. This means that customers who were without power for 48 hours will receive £84 and those who were without electricity for longer than 48 hours will receive an additional £84 for each 12-hour period that they did not have power. SSEN will issue the payments to customers automatically by cheque.

You can check out the details here: https://www.ssen.co.uk/storm-arwen-compensation/

Fearnan Village Hall: Yoga Classes Starting 7th January

Emma Burtles, an experienced yoga teacher will lead a regular yoga class in Fearnan Village Hall on Friday mornings, starting at 10.15am and finishing at 11.30am.  New members are invited to join the class which is transferring from The Big Shed at Tombreck.   Yoga experience is not essential, and Beginners are welcome.

As Covid-19 restrictions continue to apply, ideally you should bring your own mat or rug, but equipment can be provided. 

The class is run on a sessional, pay-as-you-attend basis and so if you can’t come on a particular Friday, you don’t need to pay.  The charge per class is £7/person. 

To sign up for classes or for further information, please contact Ros Grant by email rosgrant1808@gmail.com  or mobile 07802 874 867.

Fearnan Book Club Review

The seasonal choice of book for our last review of the year was The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, described as a fairy tale for adults. It was a well-written former Pulitzer Prize finalist that took its inspiration from a Russian fairy tale where a snow girl came alive. It was set in Alaska in the 1920’s and well suited to this time of the year. The descriptions of the harsh Alaskan wilderness and the cold, snowy landscapes were so clearly and vividly portrayed that you could almost feel the cold.

One of the group, reading it by candlelight during the power cut, said it made her feel even colder! This was in stark contrast to one of our previous books ‘The Dry’ which was set in the scorching heat of the Australian outback. There were multiple themes to be explored and discussed e.g. grief, loss, hope, love, possession, joy, relationships and friendships etc.

 An older couple Jack and Mabel had come to Alaska for a fresh start after the earlier loss of a child, a little boy. They are homesteaders, clearing land and hoping to farm it in order to claim the land as their own. The couple struggled with the harsh environment and, without supportive neighbours, would not have been able to go on. We agreed that you would want a neighbour like capable Esther who lived a busy, messy chaotic family life in sharp contrast to Jack and Mabel. We cared about the characters, feeling Mabel’s pain, loneliness and sadness and loving Esther’s ‘can do’ attitude. Jack’s anxieties and feelings of loss were also acknowledged and how less focus and understanding is given to men and their need to also explore their feelings.

After the first snowfall the couple build a girl out of snow and, the next morning, they glimpse a young blonde girl wearing the same scarf and mittens, running through the trees. Is she the snow girl come to life? This little girl Faina seems to be a child of the woods apparently surviving alone in the Alaskan wilderness, hunting with a red fox at her side. (Her spirit guide?) We enjoyed the ethereal writing describing Faina and the joy her presence brought to the couple as she grew up, giving them a purpose. However, was she real, supernatural, or a figment of their imagination? Cabin fever perhaps?

Following Faina through her world in the forest, we were enthralled by the detailed descriptions of the natural world particularly the animals and their habitats.

Mabel’s son later has a relationship with the grown up Faina and this results in a child, a little boy who is embraced in Jack and Mabel’s life. 

The short chapters and few characters made it an easy book to read and even those of us who prefer plot driven texts, enjoyed the detailed descriptions and character development. A few felt the story, although well written, slowed down in the middle and some aspects were predictable

We spent time describing and interpreting the ending and agreed that the snow child could be anything you wanted her to be. Is she magical or flesh and blood? The author leaves it for the reader to decide. Some of us wanted logical explanations for events and confirmation of what was real and what wasn’t. It was agreed that Mabel came to terms with the loss of her own baby through Faina and her child becoming such a part of their lives. As Mabel’s sister asked “Are we not allowed to invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow? “

Related to the theme of a snow child, one of our group, a professional cook, gave us the recipe for a perfect snowman, based on a university experiment.

Recipe for a perfect snowman.

You will need 3 perfect spheres of good quality snow:

Base 80cm, Middle 50cm, Head 30cm.

This golden ratio ensures stability as well as a strong base to support the structure. Spheres also melt more slowly increasing the life of your snow person.

At this time of year, the book group also nominates our favourite book of the past year. This year our responses were mixed and there was no clear favourite. However, the top four with two votes each were:

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elie Shafak.

Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The book to be reviewed in January is Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers. This book has been Longlisted for the Woman’s Prize for fiction 2021 and has been Book of the Year for The Times, Daily Telegraph and other newspapers and magazines. 

It’s 1957, in the suburbs of Southeast London Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape. When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness.  But there will, inevitably, be a price to pay.

.

Minutes of the Mclean Hall Committee Meeting, Thursday 25th November 2021

1. Rosalind Grant welcomed all to the meeting.

Present:  Rosalind Grant (Chairperson), Karen Bennet (Treasurer), Elaine Melrose (Secretary), Tom Alexander (Trustee), Nicholas Grant, Jo Miller and Linda Milne.

2. Apologies:  George Mitchell.

3. Minutes:  The Minutes from the Business meeting at the AGM on 23rd August, which had been circulated, were approved.

4. Matters Arising:

4.1 Events in the Hall

Karen reported that bookings were recovering.  This week there had been Bowls, Tai Chi, the Masons and the Hall Committee meeting.  The Book Group meets in person monthly.  Each group seemed to have developed their stance as regards to Covid security arrangements.

Ros intimated that there was a new group wishing to rent the Hall on a weekly basis.  The Yoga class, which had been held previously in the Big Shed, was seeking a more central location on a bus route.  The group was likely to consist of 8 people plus Emma Burtles, the teacher.  Ros herself is a member of the group as is Angela.  Some other members of the committee expressed an interest.  The Big Shed stores equipment which could be lent out to the Yoga Class.  However, it was thought prudent in the current situation with Covid to suggest that people should provide and bring their own mats.  The Yoga Class would like to meet on a Friday morning from 10.15 – 11.30 am.    Karen raised the fact Friday was previously the slot for the Table Tennis Group.  Elaine confirmed that it was unlikely that this class would recommence in the near future.

All being well, the first Yoga Class will take place on Friday 7th January 2022.

Jo intimated that the Art Club was no longer active, although members met for coffee instead of art.  She hoped to canvass people in the Spring in the hope that the club might reform. Karen suggested some taster sessions which would be free of charge for the Art Club.

Jo also proposed a Fringe Event in the Hall during Fortingall Art Exhibition.  She was aware that Fortingall Art was oversubscribed with too many artists wishing to display their work.  She had some ideas and thought that this type of event could raise money for the Hall, as it had done previously when there was an Art Exhibition/Craft Exhibition in the Hall.

The committee thought that this idea was worth exploring.  Jo will arrange with Cindy Brooks from Fortingall Art to liaise with Karen.

4.2 Entrance Area Refurbishment

Steve Bennett has tidied up the outside area.  Karen has still to liaise with Colin Menzies regarding an update on his previous estimate, given the changes being considered. The paving used in the refurbishment requires to be non-slip.  Jenny Penfold had approached Karen regarding the possibility of a Recycling Area being created outside the Hall at the Bin area.  To effect this, the Bin area would require to be a covered area for shelter with appropriate containers for the recycling items. Jenny expressed willingness to assist with the arrangements.  Karen has already obtained a grant of £3500 towards the refurbishment but felt confident that she could attract further funding since recycling is very topical at present.

4.3 Thrift Shop

There was discussion about the feasibility of working in the Thrift Shop in 2022.  Karen had entered the draw for Thrift Shop slots but recognised that we could cancel should that be the preference at the time.  Rosalind commented on a Thrift shop shift that she had done this year with regard to Covid security and Elaine offered to enquire of a friend who has visited the Thrift Shop regularly since it opened this year.

5. Financial Update

At the end of October, there was £44,313.18 in the account, of which £36,000 is earmarked for the roof repairs.   Karen pointed out that the electricity provider for the Hall, Bulb, had been placed in Special Administration.  The Hall pays £63 per month and had built up a surplus which would be a winter buffer.  However, the tariff is a business tariff which has gone up significantly.  Karen had been trying the reduce unnecessary electricity use.

6. Update on Progress with Roof Repairs

Karen reported that the leak has been fixed.  The buckets have been removed from the roof space and the hatch in the kitchen has now been closed.  This should reduce heat loss.  Karen produced a sample of the tape material used to tape the seams and the bolts.  A coating was applied after the taping but, due to heavy rain, some of the coating flaked off.  Skyform, the company doing the work, came to inspect the problem and decided to reapply the coating.  Unfortunately, this coating proved to be a slightly different shade which made the overall look patchy.  Skyform contacted Polyroof, the company supplying the product.  The Polyroof representative came to inspect the site and decided that it would be better to recoat the whole roof for a more even finish.  There is no timescale for this work and the guttering still has to be finished.  If this is still weather dependent there are issues about the work being completed at this time of year.  Karen intended to wait for 2 weeks and then contact Skyform about removing the scaffolding meantime.

She intended to withhold monies should the job not be finished and would not pay until the 15-year guarantee was provided.

Rosalind proposed a vote of thanks for all the work that Karen has done regarding the roof repairs, grant applications and finance.

7. Covid Secure Arrangements for the Hall

The chairperson intimated that the Hall committee had received communications from the Scottish Community Development Centre and Public Health Scotland, reiterating what we know about the arrangements to prevent the spread of Covid-19.  She indicated that, although the leader of each group is required to take responsibility for Covid-19 arrangements in their own group, it was useful to have a reminder notice at various points in the Hall summarising the guidance.

Hall ventilation was discussed – several of the windows have been left on the latch and can be easily opened, if needed.

8. Publishing of Minutes on the Noticeboard and FVA Blog

There have been no adverse comments received.  Elaine raised whether this should apply to all committee meetings as well as to the public meetings.  Committee members agreed that there were no issues with publishing Committee Minutes.

9. Any other Business

There was none raised.

10. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will take place at the end of March/beginning of April and the date will be announced nearer the time.

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And Finally ………………

You always know Christmas is on its way when Doug makes a seasonal sand sculpture, and here it is!

Happy Christmas, everyone!

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Claiming Compensation for Storm Arwen

This is a shorter blog than usual, with only two items. The main reason for putting it out now is to make sure that everyone has the right information about claiming compensation following the loss of electricity supplies in Fearnan during Storm Arwen.

The Ofgem site states that consumers can claim £70 after 48 hours without electricity and a further £70 for each additional 12 hour period, up to a maximum of £700.

You can find the information here: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/check-compensation-rules-power-cut-or-supply-problem After clicking the link, click Information for Consumers, then go into Energy Advice for Households and scroll down to the section on Compensation Rules where you will get more information, including how to claim.

Fearnan Book Club Review

Nothing deters the bibliophiles in the Fearnan Book Club, and despite the storm, the lack of electricity, and generally unfavourable reading conditions, we have another book club review.

Linda Writes:

The book reviewed in November was Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart which was a great book club choice for stimulating lively discussion and exploring differing opinions. This is a story with multiple themes of poverty, abuse, addiction and revolves around the relationship between Agnes and her son, Shuggie.

It received very polarised responses from our group but general acknowledgement that it was an amazing book for a first novel. It was beautifully written, evocative, with vivid descriptions that indicated that, although not autobiographical, the author had lived these experiences. 

Some found it a difficult read – too raw and depressing – and didn’t finish the book. Others liked the dark humour and became involved with the characters. They admired Shuggie’s resilience, loyalty and love for his alcoholic mother and were glad they had read it. All agreed that he had a lot to cope with, not only his life with an alcoholic mother and absent father but also being gay in a mining community in the 1980s. It provided a social commentary on life and deprivation in that part of Scotland at that time, which was sadly well portrayed. One described it as a book that would stay with her.

Shuggie’s mum, Agnes, was full of contradictions. She was an outsider in her community who always tried to put on her best face in public and at one point had the strength to give up alcohol. Sadly, this was short lived and with it her opportunity to find happiness and stability also disappeared. Some felt angry with Agnes who had been brought up well but was self-destructive and made the wrong choices in life. We admired characters who showed her kindness and recognised the strength in her two older children, who left to make better lives for themselves. 

Others felt it was more complex than that, with many factors resulting in her situation. We all brought our own personal experiences into our interpretation of the novel either from a personal or professional viewpoint. Whilst not being an easy or perhaps enjoyable read, this book was certainly powerful and thought provoking. A book, that once read, is not easily forgotten.

For our December review, something completely different! 

Our book is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. This was her first novel and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and an international bestseller.

This story is set in the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920’s where a couple are living a tough life as homesteaders.  Then when they are in their 50’s, a child unexpectedly comes into their life.

It is based on a Russian fairy tale and explores many issues which will be discussed at our next session.

The Book Club’s To Do List ……..
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Remembrance Sunday (and more).

Remembrance Sunday

A short service was held at the Fearnan War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday and attended by a number of people from the local community.  The service was led by Shirley Shearer, and wreaths were laid by Lisle Pattison, Alistair Grier and Fiona Ballantyne. Once again, the memorial had been decked out in the hundreds of poppies that were knitted for the centenary of the WW1 Armistice by both Fearnan residents and our friends from far and wide.  Many thanks to Cath McGregor for creating and putting up the display.

There is something very special and touching about the Fearnan service. Whilst those who gathered would have had their own thoughts and personal remembrances, we are remembering also the 8 Fearnan men who died in the Great War and who are commemorated on the memorial.  They walked the paths and roads that we now walk, and knew well the very spot where we stood. They would have heard the birdsong and the water in the burn as it rushed towards the foot of the Brae, just as we heard it during the two-minute silence.

After the service, the Village Association served tea and coffee in the Hall – our first social event for nearly 2 years! Sixteen or so people attended, which meant we had plenty of space for social distancing and the ability to get together and chat in a relaxed environment seemed to be much appreciated by everyone.

A total of £71 was collected for Help for Heroes.

Warm Connections

With the winter months approaching and fuel prices simultaneously rising, it was very timely to hear from Anna and Tom Sibbald of Aberfeldy about their project, Warm Connections.

Anna writes:

Warm Connections is a free, impartial home energy advice project. We began in August 2021, are part of Aberfeldy Parish Church and funded by the Energy Redress Scheme. We cover the Braan, Upper Tay and Rannoch area, with our focus on helping folk reduce their carbon footprint at home at the same time as lowering their energy bills.

Our help and advice includes:

Suggesting no-cost and low-cost solutions to keep bills down and comfort levels up. This might include: tips such as turning standby switches off, using LED light bulbs, and many more ideas; insulation and draught proofing; the most efficient use of your current heating system; and reducing the likelihood of condensation or damp patches.

Accessing financial support to help pay fuel bills, such as help through the Fuel Bank Foundation with whom we are referral partners (https://www.fuelbankfoundation.org), and through short-term government schemes.

Accessing government support to make improvements to your home, by increasing its energy efficiency and making it warmer and cheaper to run. For example: loft insulation, wall insulation (inside or outside), and double glazing.Warm Connections is a referral partner with Home Energy Scotland, who have access to several interest-free cash-back loans and means-tested grants (https://www.homeenergyscotland.org/ )

Assessing and promoting the possibility and affordability of renewable green energy technology (including interest-free government loans).

Fearnan resident, Pat Menzies, who is a member of Warm Connection’s Steering Group, said:

“I am really pleased to endorse the work of Warm Connections. Throughout my professional career, I have witnessed the potential harm that cold, damp housing has on a person’s health and wellbeing, the potential for inequality of provision in rural areas compared to urban, and the need for impartial advice and guidance. This is an invaluable service being offered free in our community.” 

If you would like advice on reducing your carbon footprint and your energy bills, or if you know someone who would benefit from being able to make their home warmer and more efficient to run, please visit our website www.warmconnections.net or email advice@warmconnections.net  Most importantly please don’t struggle alone – phone or email and we can explore options with you, or arrange a visit.

Fearnan Book Club Review

The book reviewed in October was ‘The Forgotten Garden’ by Kate Morton. This was a lengthy book and for one of us, the longest she’d ever read! It is hard to say too much about this novel’s storyline without giving away key elements of the mystery! 

The story is about a young woman who decides to uncover the secret of her grandmother’s strange arrival in Australia in 1913.

The overall response to this book was positive and stimulated a lively discussion. It was essentially a lengthy family saga with all the main characters related to each other over the generations. Most considered it well written, although perhaps wordy, but it could have been sharpened up to keep the reader engaged. We felt the story improved as it developed and reached an acceptable conclusion. 

We related to the believable, likeable, and well portrayed characters as we followed the twists and turns through the different time periods. Eliza from 1900-1913, Nell from 1975-76, and Cassandra in 2005. A family tree would have been useful but that would have resulted in a ‘spoiler’. It held our interest although some didn’t like the time changes and found that the ‘secret’ took too long to be revealed. 

We felt compassion for Nell who at 21 found out she was adopted when her father told her she was adopted as a 4-year-old in 1913, seemingly abandoned on an Australian wharf and unable to remember her name. She then lost her sense of identity, and this changed the course of her life. (Perhaps an overreaction?)  Some later felt disappointed in her and felt she could have been stronger when she had the opportunity to start a new life in Cornwall and perhaps find happiness.

The descriptions of the seascapes of Cornwall, the Manor and its beautiful garden, as well as the city scenes in Brisbane and London were very evocative. We also liked the use of historical events, such as a train crash, which were woven into the story and gave realism to the events. Also woven into the story were fairy tales written by the character described as “The Lady Author”. We had extraordinary respect for the author, who seemed to effortlessly make these links.

We discussed some of the issues raised in the book e.g. adoption and when to tell a child; related feelings of rejection; and also the historical references and attitudes associated with the different time periods.

The book reviewed in November was Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, the 2020 Booker Prize winning novel and the authors first. It has been described as: “A stunning debut novel by a masterful writer telling the heart wrenching story of a young boy and his alcoholic mother, whose love is only matched by her pride.”

The Review will be in the next Blog.

And Finally……..

The Big Shed has a new website  https://www.bigshed.org.uk/ – lots of pics and some familiar faces!

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Service of Remembrance

Just a reminder that there will be a short Service of Remembrance at the war memorial at 11.00 on Sunday morning.  If you would like to join us, please gather at the memorial five or ten minutes before the start.

After the service, the FVA will be serving teas and coffee in the village hall, and all are welcome to join us for a socially-distanced cuppa and chat. To comply with current regulations, please bring a mask to wear when entering or moving about the hall. As the service is outdoors, masks are not mandatory and are a matter of personal choice.

The small village of Fearnan lost a disproportionate number of its young men in the Great War, all of whom are commemorated on the war memorial. We have photos of seven of them (see below) and there is more information about them and the role they played in the war in this previous post: Remembering WW1 on the FVA website.

John Lauchlan Fraser

If you have photos, stories or info for the FVA blog, please get in touch with Fiona on fiona@fearnanvillageassociation.com.

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October

Local Recycling

We can’t compete with COP26, which is just getting going in Glasgow, but we are making our own small contribution. Here is a photo of the HUGE pile of medicine blister packs from Fearnan and which Jenny Penfold recently dropped off for recycling in Perth.

She sends a big thank you to all those who’ve taken the trouble to save and drop-off their empty blister packs at Clach an Tuirc.

Used packs can be dropped off any time at her front porch – either into the collection box or just left in a bag if that’s easier. Many thanks to everyone who has helped make a big difference, not just by diverting these from landfill, but by recycling them to be used again in new products. So much better!

Accident on the Brae

And here’s another ‘thank you’! This lovely bunch of flowers was sent to Pat Menzies from a cyclist who came a cropper on the Brae at the end of last month.

He was taking part in the Rotary Club’s Tayside Challenge but had missed the Duneaves turn off. However, his woes really started when he came off his bike on the bend, resulting in a broken collar bone and some injured ribs – and a trip to Ninewells Hospital.

Luckily for him that it was Pat (a trained First Responder) who happened to be coming up the Brae just after it happened.  An ambulance was called and a paramedic, who was on his way to a (non-emergency) call in Fortingall, was diverted to Fearnan and able to administer painkillers.

Pat, and Alan Douthwaite (who brought blankets), directed the traffic while waiting for the ambulance and Pat was able to contact the cyclist’s family, as well as the race organisers who promptly sent out a team to help manage the situation.  It’s good to know that local resources and the emergency services work so well together when something adverse happens.

And, while on the subject, we would all like to wish Liz Paterson a speedy recovery from her recent car accident. Hope you’re feeling better, Liz!

Fearnan Book Club Review

The book reviewed in September was The Glass House by Eve Chase.

The majority of the group enjoyed this well written and compelling book with its twisting plot. It was essentially about families and their deep, dark secrets. The book was written in two timelines, the 1970’s and present day. Initially some didn’t like the flitting backward and forward in time but noted that the tempo changed which then hooked the reader.

We reflected on the interesting characters and family dynamics which were well portrayed. The skilled, descriptive nature of the writing was also appreciated. The main setting was the remote Foxcote Manor situated down a long drive deep within the Forest of Dean. The denseness and secretive nature of the forest was like another character. It revealed an abandoned baby – and also a body. This was in stark contrast to the family’s life in their grand house in central London. 

Individual characters were discussed and Rita, the nanny, was well liked and much admired as someone who had no sense of her importance to the family and lacked self-esteem. We were delighted that she finally found happiness and there were a few surprises as her life experiences and secrets were revealed later in the book .

It took a long time for all the strands of the story to come together but all the links were finally made, and all the elements were brought together neatly. Some felt the ending was too smooth and would have preferred it to be darker but others thought it was drawn together well. It was described by one of the group in terms of chocolate: rocky road, dark chocolate then a milk chocolate ending! 

 Although there were difficult and serious issues raised, it was felt that it had a feel-good factor. As adults, the characters were able to meet up and form a blended family. Some of the subjects raised in the book were discussed further by the group e.g. change of attitudes over the decades to babies born to unmarried mothers, children born with deformities, mental health issues and dysfunctional families.

The book to be reviewed in October is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. 

A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.

Remembrance Day Service Sunday 14th November

There will be a short Service of Remembrance in Fearnan at the War Memorial on Sunday 14th November. If you would like to attend, please gather at the memorial at about 10.50.

After the service, the FVA will be serving teas and coffee in the village hall and all are welcome. To comply with current regulations, please bring a mask to wear when entering or moving about the hall. As the service is outdoors, masks are not mandatory and a matter of personal choice.

Peter’s Pics

Peter and Sheila have been on their travels, both in this area and further afield, and Peter has shared a little travelogue of pics. They really make you want to set off for a wee trip yourself! Enjoy!

And Finally……..

Today Halloween and the clocks changing have co-incided, which makes for an extra dark and scary evening! Take care, there may be ghosts and ghoules about………

Please note that the copyright of all photos on this website belongs to the person who took the photos, and the copyright of all text belongs to the person who wrote it.

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