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.


And Finally ………………

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

Happy Christmas, everyone!

About Fearnan Village Association

Fearnan Village Association was formed in 2007 to provide a means through which those who live in the village can come together to discuss and respond to issues of importance to the village, particularly those that will have an impact on our quality of life. We also organise social events, such as the very popular Pudding Night in February, Strawberry TeaZ in July, and other events and coffee mornings throughout the year.
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1 Response to Of Candles, Witches and Snowmen

  1. Kristien Massie says:

    Have a lovely Christmas everyone! I’ve been in touch with Julia Lane who isn’t too well but putting a very brave face on it. All the best, we also live in Hope for 2022 Kris Massie

    On Sun, 19 Dec 2021 at 16:31, Fearnan Village Association wrote:

    > Fearnan Village Association posted: ” 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 ” >

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