February – Photos and Diary Dates

Fearnan Seventy Five Years in Pictures

In the last Blog, we were able to share these 2 views of Fearnan from the south bank of the loch – one from the 1940s and one from the 1970s:

Since publishing these images, we have received four more which let us chart the development of Fearnan (as seen from the other side of the Loch) from the 1940s to the present day:

Fearnan 1989 – Courtesy of Niall Munro
Fearnan 2003 – Courtesy of Peter McKenzie
Fearnan 2007 – Courtesy of Peter McKenzie
Fearnan 2019 – Courtesy of Peter McKenzie

Many thanks to Peter and to Niall Munro of Shoreside for sharing their pictures.

Pop-Up Coffee Shop and Other Dates for 2020

After a seasonal break, the Pop Up Coffee Shop will be back in March to tempt you with all sorts of goodies – sweet and savoury – and a chance to catch up with friends and neighbours.

The dates are below, but please note that starting in March, we will be popping up in the village hall at the slightly different time of 11.00 – 12.30. So we’re open for elevenses – or an early lunch, should you so prefer.

  • 17th March
  • 14th April
  • 12th May
  • 16th June
  • 8th September
  • 27th October

In addition, we have a number of seasonal events.  These are:

  • Saturday 25th July at 3pm: Strawberry TeaZ: Cakes, tarts, scones, ice cream and more – all made or served with strawberries. Live music.
  • Sunday 8th November: Remembrance Sunday 10.50 at the War Memorial and afterwards in the village hall for tea and coffee.
  • Saturday 5th DecemberMulled Wine & Mince Pies 4 – 6pm: Enjoy seasonal goodies and good company.

These dates are all up on the Blog’s What’s On page and available at anytime throughout the year.

Our next event is our leap year Winter Pudding Night on Saturday February 29th, starting at 6pm. It will be another 28 years before February 29th next falls on a Saturday – and by extension, 28 years before the Fearnan Pudding Night next falls on February 29th. That’s a long time to wait – come this year.

Big Shed Concert

On Saturday 4th April at 7.30pm, The Carrivick sisters will perform at the Big Shed – and hopefully they’ll bring the spring sunshine with them!

One of the UK’s top bluegrass and folk acts,  Laura and Charlotte perform original songs and instrumentals, plus carefully chosen covers on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, dobro, and claw-hammer banjo. They have released six albums and performed at festivals across the UK, including Glastonbury.

They also perform internationally together and with all-female bluegrass five piece Midnight Sky-racer. http://www.thecarrivicksisters.co.uk/

Tickets are £10 (£5 if in full time education:  under-5s ) and are available via wegottickets via www.wegottickets.com/event/495600/ Some tickets will be available at the door on the night

Remember to BYOB – tea, coffee and soft drinks will be available.

FVA Annual General Meeting

The FVA’s Annual General Meeting will take place on Saturday 28th March in the village hall at 16.00. All members welcome.

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A bit of Nostalgia, a Book Review and Stay Safe Online

Nostalgia Corner

This week we start with two fabulous views of Fearnan, one from about 70 years ago and one from 50 years ago. Both are taken from the other side of the loch.

Fearnan from Achianich late 1940’s

The wonderful image above was taken from Achianich, and is thought to date from the late 1940s to early 1950s.

The Bartholomew’s map on the left dates from the same period and Achianich can be seen just under the ‘Y’ of Tay.

It looks like it was taken in late Spring, and the hill behind Fearnan is completely bare of the forestry plantations that are so familiar today, although it looks like the lower slopes are cultivated for crops or grazing. Many thanks to Aberfeldy Museum for this visual treat.

In early Autumn around 25 years later, a member of the Brace family took the photo below, also from the loch side but a bit closer to Acharn.

Fearnan 1972 (Courtesy of Frances Brace)

The forestry plantation now looks well established and the Blog might be getting a little over-excited here, but is that a bird flying over the loch (location marked on in-set photo on the left)? An osprey, perhaps?

Let us know what you think by ‘Replying’ to the Blog below.

What’s On?

If the nostalgic Spring and Autumn images above have left you with a nice warm feeling, don’t forget that you can continue to beat the winter blues by coming to the FVA’s Pudding Night on Saturday 29th February starting at 6pm. From steamed and baked family favourites to sophisticated desserts and tarts, there’s something for every taste. This year, we will also be introducing a limited range of savoury treats for those who are more piquantly inclined. There will be live music and all you can eat for £7.50.

Come hungry and it’s BYOB!

Fearnan Book Club

At our first meeting of 2020, we discussed Old Baggage written by Lissa Evans and described as a funny and bittersweet portrait of a woman, previously a militant suffragette, who has never, ever given up the fight. We found it an easy read, both entertaining and witty, and which held our interest as it progressed. Our discussion revolved round some of the themes explored in the book.

The book opened in 1928, when we’re introduced to Mattie Simpkins, an interesting, strong character to whom we warmed and identified as “a jolly hockey sticks” type. We enjoyed the references to her militant suffragette days and the introduction of other, well presented, characters that had shared her passion and actions during that period.

It was clear that after her exciting past, that Mattie was now seeking further action and purpose. All through the book we acknowledged the well-written characterisation and excellent use of vocabulary and word choices.

A wealthy lady who shared her home with her companion and fellow activist, Florrie (Flea), the contrasting characters acted as a foil for each other. We discussed the high proportion of women who were single during this period in history due to the loss of husbands, fiancés or potential husbands who were killed or badly injured during WW1.

We were reminded of the social history of this period, the worrying rise of fascist groups gaining in popularity and the dreadful living conditions, disease and poverty that existed pre-NHS. The perfect period detail was accurately portrayed and the book was lightly woven with feminist history.

However, we all agreed that the ending, which did provide Mattie with a project, lacked plausibility and was unsatisfactory in comparison to the rest of the well-crafted novel.

Our book for discussion in February is The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, and described as “A riveting, murder mystery – wily as Agatha Christie – charged with real menace.” It is a murder mystery set in a remote hunting lodge in Scotland, an update on the classic country house mystery – a murder among friends!

Stay Safe Online

From time to time, we publish information about staying safe online and avoiding scams. Perth & Kinross Community Watch recently published the following advice on avoiding online shopping scams and we’re passing it on here. It was compiled by Neighbourhood Watch Scotland and is worth a quick look, even if you are a regular online shopper – or perhaps, particularly if you are a regular online shopper! As the first section says ‘Trust Your Gut’. If it doesn’t feel right, it most likely isn’t right.

Trust Your Gut: Just as you wouldn’t go into a shop that you don’t recognise and seems a little off to you, don’t shop at stores online that give you a bad feeling and appear shady. If at any time during the shopping or checkout process you feel like the site is asking for too much personal information, just quit the transaction and leave the site. You may hate to leave behind a really good deal, but the money and time you could lose if someone gets your credit card information will definitely cancel out the benefits of a sale price. If the site looks like it was designed in the 90’s, has a weird address, fills your screen with pop-ups, just forget about it.

Be Extra Careful If You Are Using A Mobile Device: Smartphones can basically do everything a computer can do nowadays, but that doesn’t mean they are as protected against threats as your desktop. Most phones aren’t equipped with the anti-virus software that you have on your computer, so it’s easier for criminals to get malware on your mobile device that could help them steal information you enter. There’s also the risk of your phone being stolen, so make sure it’s password protected so any information you may have stored on it isn’t easily accessed.

Don’t Use Public Wi-fi To Shop: Anytime you enter personal information using a public network, you’re setting yourself up for identity theft. Most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt your data, so any hacker can basically just pluck your identity out of the air if he has the right software. This applies to mobile phones, too, since you’re often using nearby Wi-Fi. Be aware when you’re using a hotspot that any information you send through the Internet could be picked up by strangers; if it’s information that could make you vulnerable, wait until you get home to your protected network. It may be less convenient, but it’s much safer.

Check Your Credit Card Statement Regularly: Using a credit card is really the only smart way to shop online. If you buy something from a scam site using a debit card, check, or cash, there’s no way to get your money back. If you use a credit card, the card companies have to reimburse you for fraudulent charges. But they can’t always catch purchases you didn’t make or receive, so it’s up to you to keep an eye on your statements. If you see something fishy on your statement, just contact your credit card company to dispute the charge and possibly get a new card so the charges won’t continue.

Change Your Passwords Regularly: We know, we know. It’s a pain to go through and change the passwords on all your online accounts, not to mention the trouble it’ll take to try to remember them all. But if you really want to keep your information (and bank account) safe while you’re shopping via the Internet, it’s essential to mix up your account passwords every three to six months. This puts the kibosh on any hackers who have managed to break into your account. You should also make sure that you don’t have the same password across all your accounts, since that makes them all vulnerable if one is hacked.

Look For HTTPS On Link Rather Than HTTP: The Internet has a thousand different acronyms and it’s impossible for those who aren’t tech savvy to keep track of them all. One you really need to know if you’re going to make online purchases, though, is HTTPS. The added “S” means that the way your information is being sent is secure. HTTPS using SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, which encrypts the information flying through the wires so that only the intended recipient can see it. If you’re considering buying from a site whose URL starts with HTTP, be careful with the information you share. Other signs of a secure site are a closed lock or unbroken key at the bottom of the screen.

Don’t Click On Email Links: Instead, type out the address in your browser to make sure you’re going to the site you think you’re visiting. Many phishing scams involve emails from what seem like legitimate sites — banks, online stores, anything you might trust — and then send you to a phoney site where they can gather your information to steal your identity. If you get an email from a site where you’ve shopped before, make sure you don’t follow the links and don’t provide any financial or personal information the email requests. Real sites won’t ask for important information over email. If you have any doubts about an email’s authenticity, go to the company’s website and get in contact with them.

Update Your Browser: Each new version of your Internet browser, especially if you use one of the more popular browsers, gets a boost in security. Older browsers, besides not working as well with some websites, often have holes in their security that hackers have discovered and can exploit. The same goes for your operating system and anti-virus software. Updates will keep you ahead of would-be identity thieves and keep your credit safe.

Looking for advice? Call Consumer Advice Scotland 0800 316 1442. If you have been a victim of this type of crime call Police Scotland on 101.

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Study Trip to Cyprus

In this cold, wet week, the Blog is delighted to be able to transport you to sunnier climes and blue skies through Jason Oliver’s account of his recent study trip to Cyprus.

Before coming to Fearnan, Jason worked as a Junior Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Art in London and it was there that he became interested in how people connect to their heritage using traditional art and skills.

He now works at the Scottish Crannog Centre, where part of his work involves coming to understand the methodology, limitations and resources available to the crannog dwellers who lived circa 400 BC, on Loch Tay.

Inspired by a small textile fragment found in the remains of the crannog in Fearnan Bay and preserved by the cold, peaty water, Jason has been trying to recreate the skills and techniques that would have been available to the Iron Age people who made it, along with the dyes that would have been available to them from local plants and berries.

In September 2019, Jason was invited to join a study visit to Cyprus to learn about the sustainable development of cultural and natural assets in two mountain villages. The visit was organised by the ARCHnetwork in Scotland, which is funded by the EU Erasmus+ scheme, and aims to promote European diversity in cultural and natural heritage. The Network facilitates visits to many countries, such as Poland, Iceland, Latvia and Romania among others, and by connecting people to the tangible and intangible* crafts, arts and traditions of those countries, encourages the sharing of ideas and skills.

*(Intangible crafts are those that are intellectual rather than physical, such as the skills and knowledge needed to produce something, as opposed to the craft item itself.)

Jason writes:

We travelled in a small group of five, seen on the left with the Course Co-ordinator.

The next seven days were spent meeting and connecting with a variety of crafters, forestry workers and local people who are building and maintaining communities in rural areas.

The visit went past very quickly, so I’m going to share some of my personal highlights.

We stayed in a small village called Lefkara, on the south coast of the island, with blue skies and temperatures hitting 30C most days, so it was welcome relief from the dreich weather with the ever-present mizzle, of Perthshire!

On the first couple of days, we had the opportunity to learn about the reforestation of the local area. Many oak trees are being planted, and we had a go at making small clay acorns, which were to be sold in a local shop, to raise awareness about the planting project. The acorns were fired in a handmade clay kiln, with bricks made from mud and straw, and held together with cow manure and mushed up clay. It did the trick; we got the kiln up to 1000C to fire our clay objects using a small fire inside the kiln, which was slowly built up, the clay added, and then the kiln was sealed for 24 hours.

We also visited a local silversmith in Lefkara. As happens in so many rural villages that are some distance from towns, the young people have left to find their fortunes in the city.  This means that not only is it difficult for the silversmiths to find apprentices but also that their skills are not being passed on, and consequently the number of people skilled silversmiths is sadly waning.

The studio was tiny and extremely hot because of the method of creating silver. They use the lost wax method, which involves making a mould out of resin, which is then injected with wax and left to cool. The objects are then put into a flask, covered in silica, which is held in a liquid, and then through a few other processes, the wax is melted out to create a mould for the liquid silver, which is poured in. It was incredible to see the craftspeople at work at a very laboured process.

They are hoping that these traditional skills will be kept alive, with foreign craftspeople coming to learn the processes. They are also being encouraged to get an online presence, so they can sell their work worldwide.

Lefkara is also a world-renowned centre for lacemaking. Leonardo DaVinci met his wife in the village, and the lace inspired the tablecloth on the Last Supper painting. Again, there has been a problem with young people taking up this craft as it doesn’t pay well; the people who still make lace can only earn 10 euros per day. It is also a time-consuming occupation and takes years to learn.

So, to counter this, The Green Village Shop has been set up as a community-led cooperative. Vintage clothes from the 1950s are bought from all over Cyprus, including north of the border in Nicosia, and small sections of Lefkara lace are sewn into the garments, making them fresh and relevant and creating a local fashion that is distinct. People from all over Cyprus come to buy ‘Lefkara Fashion’ and it contributes to a very specific regional look.

The shop has been a great success and has meant that the traditional craft of lacemaking is being kept alive, and a lot of younger people are working at the shop, sourcing clothes and sewing the lace into the garments. The shop has a very ‘Audrey Hepburn’ feel and it’s remarkable how community effort can reinvigorate a craft that appeared to be dying out. The north and south of Cyprus are markedly different, and this project has built a bridge between the two communities.

One striking thing that we noticed in southern Cyprus is the historical religious divide between Catholics and Muslims, evidenced by the colour of people’s front doors; blue for Catholics and green for Muslims. The barriers are slowly breaking down, and the Green Village shop is one step further in this direction.

Another impressive community-led project is the creation of a large number of mosaics that brighten up the streets of the local area, and beyond. Many students and visitors from around the world, come to Lefkara to learn traditional mural making skills and help with the installations in the surrounding villages and towns. This provides further income for the town, jobs for the local people, and has created a thriving community atmosphere.

Just outside Lefkara is a smallholding that creates halloumi cheese from scratch. The goats, which are looked after very well, are kept outside in the yard and their milk is used straight from source. It is heated and goes through a number of labour-intensive processes, including stirring the milk for 8 hours straight, to create the halloumi.

It doesn’t taste anything like the shop bought version we buy in this country; it is very creamy and doesn’t have a high salt content. It is perfect when grilled and served with freshly baked crusty bread, olives, cucumber and tomatoes fresh from the plant, drizzled with locally made extra virgin olive oil.

The trip really demonstrated the power of collaborative community effort, the importance of traditional skills and how by adding a small modern twist, they can be kept relevant and in line with modern tastes and fashions. I returned from the trip feeling inspired and it will definitely inform both my own personal artwork and my work focusing on ancient textile production, at the Crannog Centre.

I have really only scratched the surface of our 7 days in Cyprus. I haven’t mentioned the Ottoman period churches; the Roman splendour of Kourion; the beautiful mosques and architecture of Nicosia; the rope making from palm leaves or the visit to the olive forest to learn about how climate change has impacted the trees, but I hope that I have given a brief taster of the experience!

Please also enjoy these photos, taken from a photo-blog I kept during the trip.

If anyone would like to read the report submitted by the group to the Archnetwork website, it can be found here:-https://archnetwork.org/sustainable-development-of-cultural-natural-assets-in-2-cypriot-mountain-villages/

If you would like to know more about Jason’s work at the Scottish Crannog Centre, and all the other interesting things that are happening on the site, it re-opens full-time in March this year.

Perth & Kinross Remembers

Culture Perth & Kinross are running a project called Perth & Kinross Remembers, the aim of which is to create a First World War Legacy Collection that will be housed in the Perth & Kinross Archive at the AK Bell Library, where it will be preserved and made accessible for future generations of researchers.

The FVA is going to put the research from our project to commemorate WW1, through which we traced information about the 8 men who are commemorated on our war memorial, into the Archive. We succeeded in finding not only family and war service information about all the men, but also found photographs of 7 of them.  We also traced some of their descendants.

In addition, we will add photos and information about the Fearnan Poppy Project which produced over 900 poppies (knitted by Fearnan-connected people on several continents) that we used to decorate the war memorial on the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.

Perth & Kinross Remembers is also running a series of talks and there is one on January 31st at the AK Bell Library. It is called ‘Not Just Flanders: Scotland during  First World War’. There is more information here: https://www.culturepk.org.uk/whats-on/not-just-flanders-scotland-during-the-first-world-war/

Big Shed Yoga Workshop

On Saturday 22rd  February, Sadhita returns to the Big Shed  for a one day yoga workshop priced £50, including a vegetarian lunch. 

The workshop sounds great for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting and staring at a computer screen as it will consist of two practices:  one based on remedial back work and the other  shoulder work. Some meditation will be included.

Sadhita originally trained as a physiotherapist and has an incredible understanding of the structure of the human body. You can get more background about him from his website https://www.bodhiyoga.es

To book your place, email: http://websitecontact@bigshed.org.uk, or text/phone 07508 645453

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Photo Retrospective 2010 – 2020

As we enter 2020, retrospectives of the past 10 years are all over the press – so let’s have one for Fearnan!

Over the past decade, we have taken hundreds of photos at FVA events, and we are using these as the basis of our retrospective. They are not in exact chronological order, as they are grouped by subject, rather than date.

Given the number of photos in this post, it will probably be easier to look at it on a computer or iPad, rather than a smart phone screen. If you suffer from a really slow internet connection, The Blog can only apologise for putting up so many photos at once.


Way back in 2010, and again in 2011, we produced calendars which showcased our wonderful scenery and wildlife. For the 2011 calendar, a photo competition (based on a theme of ‘the seasons’) produced a high number of entries from which a final selection of 12 was made by members of the community. Here’s a small selection:

In 2012, we had our own Fearnan Christmas card – thanks to our resident artist Keith Brockie – and in the same year, Ian McGregor published his book Fearnan, The Story of a Highland Village of Northern Perthshire. Copies of the book are still available to purchase from the FVA – click here to get in touch about it.

Social Events

The FVA’s social events provide a chance to touch base with friends and neighbours across the whole village. Here’s a selection of events from the past 10 years:

Coffee Mornings? We’ve had a few ………

Over the last 10 years, some friends and neighbours have moved away or, sadly, are no longer with us, but they remain in our hearts for ever.

Over the decade, the annual Pudding Night has brought cheer to the dark days of winter, along with the best selection of puddings, desserts and good company that you will find anywhere, ever.

And come the summer, Strawberry TeaZ provides a strawberry extravaganza! A feast for the eyes, as well as the tastebuds and one that tempts not only residents but also some of the many visitors to the village.

Mulled Wine and Mince Pies

Over the years, the Mulled Wine and Mince Pies event has provided the first opportunity of the year for folk (normally shy and retiring folk, it has to be said) to don Christmassy gear – and in some cases, to sport a range of seasonal decorations. All in the best possible taste, of course.

Wild (and not so wild) Life

A selection of some of the visitors to our skies and gardens, along with Archie and Crannog, who trotted off to new horizons.

Many thanks to all those who have contributed pics to the wildlife gallery:

Sadly, Fearnan the eagle (pictured here with Keith), met an untimely end through poison.

Special Events

Two extra special events stand out:

In 2015, Fearnan Hall celebrated it’s 60th birthday. The Hall is a fantastic asset for the village. Without it we would not be able to run the number of social and community events that take place in Fearnan. We have a previous generation of villagers to thank for their efforts (over many years) to raise the funds and, in post-WW2 Scotland, to source the materials to build it. You can read the story of how the Hall came into being here on our Blog.

And in 2019, we had a ceremony to commemorate the 1943 Fearnan Aircrash in the Cow Park and welcomed 3 generations of the Drahozval family who are descended from one of those who died in the crash.

The story of the air crash itself is on the Blog, here.

WW1 Armistice 2018

Every year we mark Remembrance Sunday in November with a service at the war memorial but 2018 was a special year, being the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1.

Two projects were associated with this event. The first was a quest to identify the men commemorated on the memorial and to understand something of their family connections and wartime service. This we succeeded in doing, as well as tracing some of their descendants, and the Blog article Remembering WW1 summarises their stories

The second was the Poppy Project, which resulted in over 900 knitted poppies being produced, not just by the local community but with contributions coming in from all over the world.

The project itself was a wonderful community project. It linked present-day residents with former residents, re-united long-lost friends and stirred a forgotten (but not altogether happy) memory of learning to knit in Fearnan School during the war years.

Much work went into not only knitting the poppies but also into the decoration of the war memorial for Armistice Day – and with impressive results. An exhibition of WW1 memorabilia was mounted in the Hall on the day.

Clubs and Local Activities

Whatever your interests, there are clubs and activities to suit. Since the Hall was built, there have been choirs, country dancing and even line dancing. Some of the current activities (Art Club, Book Club, Bowling Club, Tai-Chi) that we’ve covered on the Blog of late are represented below:

These photos are just a small selection of those we have featured on the Blog over the years. Here’s to the next decade – and lots more pics!

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Christmas Edition

Mulled Wine and Mince Pies

There were plentiful supplies of mulled wine and mince pies on offer in the Hall last week, along with a selection of traditional home baking, including ginger bread and a veritable forest of shortbread Christmas trees. As far as the Blog is concerned, it was Frances who won Star Baker for her puff pastry mince pies – pies made in heaven!

Some villages have traditional figures like the Burry Man in South Queensferry, others have their Straw Men, but Fearnan can now boast its own Christmas Tree Lady after Julia arrived lit up like ……… well, lit up like a Christmas tree, truth be told.

We were joined by our local ‘Ukes’, aka the Highland Perthshire Ukulele Club, starring several villagers and other well-kent faces, who played a selection of Christmas carols and songs. Audience participation in the singing, although not obligatory, was good and given the rate at which the ukulele is being taken up by locals, we anticipate an even bigger band next year.

Next Event: It’s Pudding Night on Saturday 29th February – get it in the diary now, and tell your friends – there’s always plenty to go round, from traditional winter puddings to delicate desserts. This year, in addition, we will trialling a small selection of savoury goodies to cater for all tastes.

A Big Cheque for Fearnan Hall

Last month we reported that Fearnan Hall’s Christmas dreams had come true, with the award of a cheque for an amazing £6,824.86 from the Co-op’s Community Fund for local good causes.

Elaine and Karen were presented with the cheque by the local Co-op manager, Martin.

Fearnan Art Club

Fearnan Art Club (below) met for their Christmas lunch – no painting, no drawing, just eating and talking:

Fearnan Book Club

The Book Club also had their Christmas Lunch recently – at Ciro’s, at Loch Tay Highland lodges. No photos? We’re wondering why not!

It’s Book Club catch-up this month, with 2 reports.  Linda wrote the November report, and Lesley provided the December one.  The Club’s Book of the Year is revealed at the end of the report – take note if you are looking for some Christmas reading.

November: The Club reviewed The Strings of Murder, a debut novel by Oscar de Muriel. The book, an easier read than the previous month’s, was set in Victorian Edinburgh in 1888 with a storyline cleverly written, although gory and gruesome. Those of us familiar with Edinburgh enjoyed the descriptions of the locations and the historical references. 

The interaction and banter between the main characters met with a mixed reaction from the group. The characters were portrayed almost as caricatures – the archetypal tough Scots Detective, and the disgraced, dandyish, London-based Inspector sent up to assist with the case. Jack the Ripper is on the loose in London and there are fears that this is a copycat crime. 

As rivals, they dislike each other from the outset and insults are exchanged throughout the book. A dysfunctional duo but, as the book progresses, they begin to respect each other’s strengths. This was the first book in the series featuring these two complex characters and there were aspects that could be developed in subsequent books. 

Some found the use of language inaccurate for the period and peppered with Americanisms, but for most this didn’t detract.

This was a challenging set of murders to solve and for us to predict who the killer was!

December: Our book this month was The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell.

A staring, malevolent eye on the book cover gives you a presentiment of fear and danger. This is a Gothic ghost story with a dual timeline moving between 1635 and the 1860s. 

It starts in the 1860s, with Elsie who is badly scarred by fire and so traumatised she cannot speak. She is confined to an asylum on a murder charge and a sympathetic doctor encourages her to write her story. Thus we learn that newly widowed, and pregnant, Elsie travelled to her late husband’s country house accompanied by his cousin, Sarah. There the scene was set, a gloomy house, sullen servants and hostile villagers who refused to come near. The appearance of ‘The Silent Companions’ and the discovery of a diary from 1635 presages subsequent, unsettling events. 

This book evoked a variety of reactions in our group: either it was a rational murder plot, a portrayal of paranoia, or a very scary ghost story that you wouldn’t want to read alone at night!  It was agreed it was very atmospheric especially around the appearances of ‘The Silent Companions’. We discussed the subservient role of the central female in both timelines and how this impacted on their lives. The ending was open to interpretation with several theories being aired. 

Our Book of the Year for 2019 was judged to be a draw between ‘Magpie Murders’ (Anthony Horowitz) and ‘The Lost Man’ (Jane Harper). 

We look forward to a new year of reading and discussion. 

Happy Christmas, Everyone!

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November Update

Remembrance Sunday

Last Sunday was a fine bright autumnal day and group of around 40 locals and visitors gathered at the war memorial for our Remembrance Day Service.  The memorial had been decorated for 2019 with some of the poppies that were knitted last year to mark the centenary of the end of the war.

Shirley Shearer led the service and the 2-minute silence after which wreaths were laid on behalf of the church (by Lisle Pattison) and for the community (by Alistair Grier).  The third (laid by Fiona Ballantyne) was provided by the Russian Consulate on behalf of the 3 Russian airmen who died in the plane crash in 1943.  The community’s wreath carried a dedication to Czech František Drahovzal, who also died in the plane crash.

Tea and coffee were served in the hall after the ceremony.

Larch Tree Disease – Drummond Hill Land Management Plan

A few weeks ago, we featured an article about the disease phytopthora ramorum that is threatening the larches on Drummond Hill. At this time of year, as they turn a glorious golden yellow, the larches are particularly prominent and the impact that this disease could have on our landscape becomes more evident.  

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) are keen to interact with our community as they develop their plans for dealing with this devastating disease.

Robin Almond, who is the Planning Forester with FLS, has provided us with this update on the local situation:

As part of Forestry and Land Scotland’s role in managing Drummond Hill, we are now in the process of reviewing our management plan and we are interested in hearing your views. We want to know how you use the site, what you think is important and what you may like to see.

For example, one of the most important aspects of the site is its visual impact, particularly in the autumn when the reds, golds and yellows of the Beech, Sycamore and Larch trees on the south facing slope rising from the loch are illuminated and enhanced by the sun.

Unfortunately, a plant pathogen that rapidly kills Larch – Phytopthora ramorum – is making itself felt at locations across Scotland and we anticipate that the Larch on Drummond Hill will succumb to Phytopthora in the coming decade.

One of the driving forces behind the proposed management plan is the need to manage the removal of the Drummond Hill larch in a planned manner.  Due to the gradient being so steep our options for working the site will be limited, as such it is inevitable that there will be significant change in the landscape. 

On a brighter note, this provides an opportunity to return these steeper slopes to native woodland. Once converted, the thought would be that they would be left to naturalise and not require further felling, thereby securing the backdrop to Kenmore and Loch Tay into the future.

We are also taking this opportunity to assess options for recreation and access.  We would be interested in hearing thoughts on the creation of an off-road walking and cycling route between Kenmore and Fearnan.

We aim to provide more background and information as to the development of this plan in due course as well as a number of drop in events for people to ask questions.  In the meantime, should you wish to know more please see our website at: https://forestryandland.gov.scot/what-we-do/planning/consultations/drummond-hill-land-management-plan

The website provides a link to contribute to the plans, and we hope to be able to organise a drop-in event, or similar, in Fearnan in the near future so that you can learn more about the plans and talk to Forestry and Land Scotland about the aspects of the hill that you think are most important.

Hey, Big Spenders …………….

If you are a Co-op customer, you will know that when you shop in the Co-op, a percentage of your spend goes to the Co-op’s Local Community Fund. Thanks to those of you who nominated the McLean Hall Fearnan as their local good cause, the Hall Committee was delighted to be able to announce that, this year, the Hall has received an amazing payment of £6,824.86.

Wow! Many thanks to everyone. The money will be put to the continuing renovation of the Hall.

Keep on shopping!

Living on Water Project

In June this year Dr Michael Stratigos, who is one of the archaeologists working on the Living on Water project around Loch Tay, gave a group of us a very insightful talk about iron age occupants of this area during a visit to the site of their dig at Easter Croftintygan.

Michael has been in touch to say that he will be giving a talk about the Living on Water project, and the digs they undertook this summer, to the Killin Heritage Society on 24th November at 14:30, and to which all are welcome.

Book Club

Linda writes:

Our October read was The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, a 2018 Costa Book First Novel Award winner.  

As a child, the author’s next door neighbour, Doris, would bring him stacks of Agatha Christie novels from car boot sales so, by the age of ten, he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Agatha Christie and her country house settings filled with secrets and lies.

This novel, initially appeared to be in the style of Agatha Christie but proved to be a very intricate, quirky whodunnit, a page turner for some and a slightly torturous, frustrating read for others. Some found the first half plodding, challenging and difficult to follow but all agreed that the descriptions were amazing and a strong sense of atmosphere was created.

It certainly kept us guessing but it was necessary to suspend belief, go with the twists and turns, and enjoy the writing to reach the satisfying (for some) ending.

The setting was a 1920s estate where Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once!

Until such time as Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Each time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

Aiden, to his dismay, finds that his hosts’ personalities threaten to overrule his own at times, and some of them are nasty pieces of work, making him do things he would never normally countenance. “Every man is in a cage of his own making,” a character sagely remarks. 

It is almost impossible to summarise the plot with body swaps, time travel  and a Groundhog Day similarity and if the murder is not solved in eight days, the plot will start again. An on-line review states :

“There is a twist on nearly every page, and there are more than 500 pages. It’s a rare reader who won’t be hopelessly flummoxed well before the halfway point. And what a pleasure it is to give oneself up to the book, to be met with discoveries and thrilling upsets at every turn in the labyrinth. Not only is nothing what it seems, it’s not even what it seems after it’s been revealed to be not what it seems. “

Confused? So were we!

Our book for a November is The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel.
It is described as  “A spellbinding concoction of crime, history and horror – perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes and Jonathan Creek.  Edinburgh, 1888: A virtuoso violinist is brutally killed in his home. Black magic symbols cover the walls. The dead man’s maid swears she heard three musicians playing before the murder……..”

Mulled Wine and Mince Pies

Join us for Mulled Wine, Mince Pies and good company on Saturday 7th December from 3 – 5pm in Fearnan Hall. The cost is £6 pp.

Local talent (very local!) will be on display towards the end of the afternoon, with the twinkly-fingered Highland Perthshire Ukulele Club playing a selection of Christmas carols.

Joining in to sing a few carols is not mandatory – but is encouraged. Those of the Bah-Humbug frame of mind can pour themselves another glass!

And finally……..something from the Archive

Have you had a flu jab or another inoculation recently? If so, be relieved (very relieved) that things have moved on from the 1920s when the introduction of whooping cough vaccinations, although a life-saver, were not an unalloyed blessing for the children of Fearnan. The School Log Book records:

“The doctor visited the school on Tuesday and vaccinated all the children.  Two scholars absent today, their arms much swollen.”

A week later the teacher reports:

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

You can read more about life in Fearnan School here: https://fearnanvillageassociation.com/2019/07/24/fearnan-school-1785-1968/

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October Blog

October Coffee Shop

The Coffee Shop popped up again last week to celebrate the approach of Halloween and attracted a number of villagers, a trio of witchy women and enough pretend-y spiders to have even those with the mildest form of arachnophobia lying down in a darkened room.  Themed goodies included pumpkin cake, chocolate spiders, Halloween-decorated biscuits and Julia’s pièce de rèsistance, Coffin and Walnut Cake.

This was the last time the Coffee Shop will be open this year, but there are plenty of other events on the horizon:

Sunday 10th November – Remembrance Service at the War Memorial at 10.50 am prompt, with teas and coffees served in the Hall immediately afterwards. If anyone would like a lift down the hill, please meet in the hall car park no later than 10.45.

Saturday 7th December – Mulled Wine and Mince Pies, 3 – 5pm in the Hall.  Christmas sweaters (tasteful or tacky) may be worn.

And one for next year’s diary………. Saturday 29th February – Winter Pudding Night, from 6pm, until it’s all gone.

More Silverware for Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir

We have blogged before about Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir’s competition successes, but this month it was the big one, as told by Alan Brown of the Choir:

So, it’s our ultimate goal after a whole year’s practice; it occupies our thoughts and actions for almost twelve months … and is over in around 15 minutes.

Got it? Yes, it’s Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir’s contribution to the Royal National Mod, the world’s largest festival of Gaelic culture.

Held each year in a different location, this year’s event took us to the grandeur of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall where we took part in two competitions. The first of these was for Puirt a Beul, or Mouth Music, with each of the 13 competing choirs performing the same prescribed piece. The tunes are deceptively simple, as are the words, but it’s all to do with pronunciation as well as memory and musical ability. We finished in a very creditable eighth place against the native Gaelic speakers of the various Glasgow choirs, Inverness, Dingwall, Portree etc, beating some of them with an excellent Gaelic mark of 93 out of 100. 

The afternoon found us competing for the Margrat Duncan Trophy, confined to choirs with fewer native Gaelic speakers (we have none!). We fielded 26 members, all of whom had learned the two songs – one prescribed, one own choice – from scratch, thanks to the musical prowess of conductor May Brown and Gaelic tutor Gilliain MacDonald, and lots of hard work and determination from all the Choir.

We sang really well in front of the live TV cameras but were pipped by just 2 marks (out of 400) by the eventual overall winners, Stirling Gaelic Choir. We did enough, however, to finish in first place for Music, beating Stirling and winning the prestigious Staffinders Quaich, setting the seal on a very successful competitive year for Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir.

No time for resting on our laurels, however, with other appearances lined up to finish our year. As ever, new recruits will be warmly welcomed and no knowledge of Gaelic or music is required.  

Fran and Charlotte looking pretty happy with the result!

Road Restrictions and Closures

First of all, a reminder that there will be speed restrictions (10 mph) on the A827 heading west between Fearnan and Killin, starting on the 28th October.

We have also just been advised that Fearnan Brae will be closed between the War Memorial and the junction with Quarry Road for 2 days, starting on the 26th November.

Vehicles will be temporarily prohibited from driving, parking or loading on that stretch of road. Pedestrian and emergency vehicular access to premises will be maintained.

Heart 200 Update

Fiona Ballantyne writes:

Last month, we had a meeting between community representative and Heart 200 directors, Robbie Cairns and Gordon Riddler. Those attending on behalf of the community were Sue Dolan-Betney (GL&LT Community Council), Peter Ely (Kenmore & Acharn CC), Fiona Ballantyne (FVA) and Jenny Penfold (local resident/general coordinator for H200 issues).

We covered a wide range of issues, many with a local emphasis and some with wider implications. Overall the meeting was friendly and constructive, and we came away with the impression that the directors wish to promote Heart 200 as a sustainable, slow tourism initiative, and that they are keen to have community input.

 We were pleased to hear that the intention is not to emulate the North Coast 500 with its associated problems, and that the directors are open to the Heart 200 website being used as a platform to provide information that will not only improve the tourist experience but will also help to manage negative impacts on local residents.

We discussed:

  • adding pins on the H200 map to show the sites of all toilets, waste dump points, recycling centres for rubbish, camp sites, legitimate overnight parking places and rubbish bins on the route;
  • adding information to the site about known ‘pinch points’ – for example Kenmore Bridge and the loch front road in Kenmore on sunny days – and encouraging alternative routes during busy periods;
  • helping to protect vulnerable areas, such as Glen Lyon, by not actively promoting them;
  • indicating where roads are not suitable for vehicles over a certain size;
  • making information about driving on Scotland’s roads more prominent on the site and more accessible to people whose first language is not English.  This should include tips about driving on the left;
  • encouraging green tourism.  For example, promoting local bus routes such as the hail-and-ride 91 bus that covers a circular route between Aberfeldy and Fearnan. 

We also had a discussion about the fact that routes with a number attached automatically attract the racers (there is a Facebook page on which motorcyclists share their times for ‘doing’ the Heart 200) and the implicit objective for anyone following the route is to complete the 200 or 500 miles, rather than spend time exploring an area in depth. It also encourages unofficial car/motorbike rallies that use circular routes.

We suggested breaking the map of the route into more clearly defined sections so that it looks less like a 200 mile linear route and, given that speeding is an increasing problem around the Lochside and through villages, we asked the directors to consider removing the number (200) from their brand. 

Following the meeting, we received an email confirming that they would be taking on board all the points we had made, and although the Heart 200 brand name would stay the same, importantly, the 200 will be used to point to visitor attractions rather than length – for example: 200 castles, 200 trails or 200 hotels and a new strap line will be introduced to underline this change.  There will be no special emphasis on the 200-mile circular route. It will be used primarily as the key to access a Heart network of 200 plus trails, sub routes and family day out trips.

We have also been invited to have representation on the Heart 200 Website Steering Group, which is to be established soon.

In summary, we were pleased with the positive and receptive response to our concerns and to our proposed solutions, and with the proposal to maintain on-going contact through the Steering Group. As with all things, there is a balance to be struck, and if Heart 200 is able to promote sustainable tourism whilst also promoting courteous use of the roads, and respect for the local environment, it would mean a lot to local residents. 

Meeting with Pete Wishart MP and Cllr Mike Williamson

Pete Wishart MP would like to discuss with the community Audit Scotland’s rejection of his application to them to investigate the process of PKC’s allocation of £50,000 of public monies to Heart 200. He will look at how to progress this issue and would value your input.

Also, Councillor Mike Williamson has progressed many items from the Road Safety Meeting in July. He will give an update on these issues and discuss priorities to ensure action is taken. He will also give updates on other Heart 200 related issues.

The meeting will be in the Hall at 2pm on the 8th November.

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