Salute to Archie and Crannog

Last week, two local lads, born and bred in Fearnan, set off on the next stage of adventure in their lives.

Archie and Crannog (a.k.a. Noggie) were held in much affection by many in the village, and even had their own devoted fan base, ensuring a regular supply of crunchy carrot and apple treats were brought and served over the fence.

Archie and Crannog

Who better to tell their story than Hazel, who bred and raised them?

Hazel writes:

“Crannog was born 10 days earlier than expected, in Graham Leighton’s field on 28th March 2010, whilst I was in India. His mother was Beauty, and he was her first foal. She was in the field with Debbie who had not held in foal that year. Debbie had been a brood mare before I bought her and was very maternal, so unfortunately she kidnapped Crannog and tried to mother him.

 Julie McKendry was looking after the mares at the time and did a totally amazing job of splitting them up and getting Crannog reunited with his real mum. Julie and Ian McGregor had to milk Beauty and feed Crannog for a day or so before Beauty got the hang of feeding her own foal.

He was a friendly foal and grew into a very canny pony who was extremely easy to back and start riding. As you’ll see from the photos, he went from silver as a foal, to dark, to grey, and will probably turn pure white in the end.

After I had backed him, I met Pernille and she started riding out with us, giving Crannog an amazing training in dressage movements, which turned him into the most incredible horse to ride. On him, you felt like you were really floating and at one with him. He had a strong preference for her over me!!

 Crannog has gone to livery at Tullochville, owned by a lady who has come back to horse ownership after a break of 4 years. She is also a dressage rider and so will be able to get the absolute best out of him.

Archie, on the other hand, was born to Debbie in the Log House field in May 2011, two weeks later than expected. He was the polar opposite of Crannog – suspicious and wary, just like his mother. He would scoot under her tummy and out on the opposite side whenever I tried to get close to him. But, gradually, he came to realise that no harm was going to come to him and he started to gain confidence.

 When the time came to back him, he was also easy and ready for his new job as a ridden pony. It was like riding his mother all over again – he was so like her in many ways.

One of the funniest moments with Archie came when we rode up to the picnic tables on Drummond Hill, where we usually gave the ponies a little breather. Dismounting, we sat at one of the tables allowing the ponies to graze. A couple from the village, Ian and Ashley Shannon, were walking out that day and had also stopped at the picnic tables. They said that there was an apple in their rucksack, and they would like to give it to the horses, if that was OK? It was certainly OK with me, but I didn’t realise that Archie had his eye on a bigger prize. Just as they opened the rucksack, Archie shot over, stuck his head in, pulled out two bananas and scoffed them both, skin and all! He had certainly grown into a cheeky young horse!

 Archie has headed off to Achnamara, Lochgilphead where he will live on his new owner’s farm with another horse for company. He will have his own sandy beach! His new owner is a gentle lady, who sadly lost her own elderly highland pony this spring.

 I think both ponies will miss the village where they had such a great start. They will miss Susan Wagland with whom they had a lovely relationship, and also Julie who did so much for them, and without whom Crannog would have had an extremely short life. And they will miss Pernille’s careful training which was shaping them into wonderful riding horses.”


……………. and without question, they will both miss Hazel, whose devotion and dedication (in all weathers) turned them both into the most wonderful Highland ponies – ‘best in breed’ in every sense.

But we shall all miss the clip-clop of hooves announcing the start or end of another ride out on the hills, and the occasional whinny echoing across the village.

Good luck, boys!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Making Connections

The number and range of people that this little blog reaches is a constant source interest. On a single day recently, people in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Germany, New Zealand and China all read items on the blog. Most of the people who find it have some family, or personal, connection with Fearnan – but every so often something comes completely out-of-the-blue.

Last week, the following message dropped into The Blog’s inbox, causing it to sit up straight and pay attention:

‘Hello, your article about the hand knitted poppies sent in by Alistair Barnett, that were knitted by Cynthia ‘Rusty’ Barnard. We are searching for this lady. Last known residence in Kamloops BC. We are very hopeful you have a contact for Mr Alistair Barnett that will lead us to her. She is a dear family friend of Angela Hashka of Victoria BC. We cannot express our thanks for any help for this reunion.’

Who could resist such a request? After a brief exchange of emails, the message came through that Rusty and Angela are ‘thrilled’ to be back in touch again.

Rusty moved to Canada from Derbyshire in 1954 and settled in Kamloops, British Columbia. She met Angela while working as a nurse in Kamloops but Angela now lives in Victoria BC and, somewhere along the line, they lost touch with each other.

They are now exchanging photos of bygone days and plan to meet up in the near future. (The Blog might need a photo of the reunion!)

When Rusty agreed to help Alastair by knitting some poppies for Fearnan, a small village some 4,000 miles away, she probably didn’t think that her kindness would result in a reunion with a long lost friend!


 This week, there is an update on another out-of-the-blue connection – this one, previously reported on the Blog, was an email from Anna Belorusova, who wrote to us from Russia in 2016. Anna had started to try to unravel the mystery of her grandfather’s WW2 service and her research uncovered the forgotten story of The Moscow Special Assignment Air Group based at RAF Errol near Dundee, and part of a joint British/Russian secret operation in 1943.

Her research inspired her to write a book about this wartime group of airmen, and in particular about one of her grandfather’s fellow officers at Errol, a Hero of the Soviet Union, who was also the pilot of the Russian plane that crashed in the Fearnan Cow Park on 29th May 1943. (Read the full story of the crash, published on the Fearnan Blog in 2016, here.)

Anna’s Book

Anna’s book was launched in Sevastopol on the 4th July this year and received considerable media attention in Russia. Anna has visited Fearnan twice since that initial contact, and our village features in the book in some detail as the site of the fatal crash.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Fearnan air crash and we hope to be able to mark the event with some of the descendants of the airmen later in the year.


Book Club

Linda writes:

At our June meeting we were a smaller group than usual but the discussion was just as robust. We discussed Force of Nature by Jane Harper whose previous novel The Dry had been a book group favourite.

This book did not disappoint in terms of the author’s ability to evoke an atmosphere. In general we felt that the claustrophobia, the on going tensions between the group of women and the descriptions of the Australian bush were portrayed very well. However, we questioned the plausibility and realism of some of the events and actions. Why was the role of map-reader given to an amateur? Why didn’t the organisers of the corporate team-building event have a back up plan? Of course, these apparent failings then enabled the author to develop the plot!

We do like red herrings and end of chapter hooks in stories, and enjoyed teasing out what we thought might have happened before all was revealed. As always, all the various strands were pulled together at the end, which gave clarity to many of the actions and events.

As the story progressed, the pressures of the characters’ private lives were revealed and a love interest was introduced between the detective Aaron Falk and his (engaged) colleague Carmen. We felt this was unnecessary and didn’t add anything. However it may be a link followed up in her next novel.

In conclusion, we felt that this book was a good read but not such a page-turner as The Dry. 

 Our next session is on July 11th and the book selected is H for Hawk by Helen McDonald, which was a winner of the Costa Book of the Year in 2015. It was described as a “soaring triumph” by the Telegraph. Will it be a triumph with the Fearnan Book Club? Watch this space!


Fearnan Crannog

 More crannog activity is underway on the loch front.

The Living on Water Project is an archaeological research project being carried out by a team at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in conjunction with a number of partners, including the Scottish Crannog Centre. They are conducting underwater investigation of crannogs in Loch Tay and the first target for their 2018 fieldwork season is Fearnan Crannog, which is just 200m to the west of Oakbank Crannog – the most extensively excavated underwater crannog in Scotland. (Read more about Oakbank Crannog here.)

The Living on Water Team

Living on Water is hoping to uncover more information about the actual period of occupation of Fearnan Crannog. Were the residents of Oakbank and Fearnan crannogs concurrent neighbours? Or was one or other a ghostly, abandoned crannog (perhaps with just a few timber piles protruding from the water) during the occupation of the other? Improved dating methodologies will help to sort out the answers to these and a range of other questions.

Nature Notes

The first orchids have been out for a little while now and, although some are starting to go over, there are still plenty nestling amongst the long grasses at the edges of local paths and in meadows.


A recent evening walk in Balchroich Meadow at Keltneyburn was a delight. The species-rich Meadow is noted for the number of different orchids and its colourful display of wildflowers.

Strawberry TeaZ

IMG_3539And finally……………don’t forget that it is nearly time for the FVA’s strawberry extravaganza! A feast for the eyes, as well as the tastebuds. From strawberry sandwiches to strawberry fizz, by way of strawberry tarts, flans, sponges, mousses, pavlovas and much more. (And if none of those tempt you, you can always have good old strawberries and cream.)

Strawberry TeaZ is on Saturday 21st July, from 3 – 5pm. £7.00 pp at the door; children half price; pre-schoolers free.

Let’s hope the sun continues to shine for our strawberry celebration here on the Costa del Fearnan!


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

It’s Sunny June!

Art Club Open Day

Last Monday, Fearnan Art Club held an Open Day in the Hall.  Not only were there examples of the Club’s own work on display, but there was also an opportunity for visitors to have a little ’dabble’ in a range of media, including charcoal, water colours, acrylics, and pastels.

Felting seemed to be the most popular, and there was soon a little production line of felt pictures being made, guided and encouraged by Cath McGregor.

The Art Club may be small, but it is very productive and is keen to expand its membership.  Any creative souls, residents or visitors, who would like to join them on one of their outdoor or indoor sessions will be more than welcome.  The Club’s programme for the next few weeks is on the What’s On page of this blog here.

June Coffee Morning

Last Tuesday was another lovely sunny day and the warmth outside was reflected in the friendly, happy atmosphere inside the Hall. There was a lovely mix of people (and one dog), and some of the regulars had brought their friends, visitors, or relatives along.

As ever, there was a great selection of sweet and savoury goodies and pancakes, fresh from the griddle.


The Poppy Box got a boost as well, with at least 2 people dropping off significant contributions, and the total is creeping up towards 500 hand-knitted poppies. That’s impressive!

Book Club

Linda writes:

Fran and Elaine kindly hosted the May Book Club meeting in their house as the hall was in use. It was quite a focussed session, but very relaxed – so relaxed, in fact, that one of the group contributed whilst almost horizontal on a recliner (a testament to the comforts provided by our hosts!).

We discussed The Other Hoffman Sister, by Ben Fergusson. The general consensus was that the setting provided an interesting historical context for the events that transpired. We were transported from SW Africa to Berlin during the era of German Imperialism, a time of snobbery, status and aristocratic hierarchy. As the story progresses, the old order crumbles and the characters’ lives change as socialism develops in post-WW1 Germany.

The story grew stronger towards the end as lots of threads and strands were pulled together. The lives of the two sisters turned out to be very different and one member of the group commented “it was a murder mystery without a murder!” (Don’t want to give too much away as you may be inspired to read it!)

shoppingOur choice of book for June is Force of Nature by Jane Harper, which will be discussed on June 13th. We enjoyed her debut novel The Dry, which became an international bestseller. We are keen to read this much-awaited second novel and follow the trials and tribulations of the detective, Aaron Falk. The synopsis is that five people go on a corporate hike in the bush, but only 4 return ….……. so, how well do you really know your colleagues?


Coming Soon – Strawberry TeaZ!


All this and more!

There isn’t a coffee morning in July, but there is that strawberry fest to beat all strawberry fests, Fearnan Strawberry TeaZ on Saturday 21st July, 15.00 -17.00

It’s afternoon tea with a difference and everyone is welcome (residents, visitors and passers-by) to join us for this feast of strawberry delicious-ness.  We would be delighted if you would like to make or bake a contribution, but please let Sue know by email here (it helps with the planning).

We’ll have live music and it’s pay at the door as usual, £7 pp for as much as you can eat, school age children are half price and under 5’s get a free pass.



(The copyright of all text on this website is held by the writer, and the copyright of all photos is in the ownership of the person that took them, unless otherwise stated.)



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

May Update

This month, Fearnan Art Club has been getting out and about and members paid a visit to Highland Safaris at Dull for the first of this year’s outdoor sketching and painting sessions. It was a glorious day with wonderful blue skies and, after a brief consideration of where in the world they should go next, they got down to some serious work.

The Art Club are running an Open Day on the 4th June 1pm – 4pm in Fearnan Hall.  It’s a chance to come along and try different media and experiment with charcoal, watercolours, acrylics, or pastels.  You can even try felting and have a cup of tea.

The Art Club are keen to stress that it’s not about being “good” at whatever you choose to do, but about enjoying it, along with other people who just enjoy making marks on paper!

The Club has a forward programme of outdoor painting and sketching sessions which is now on the What’s On page of the blog. The next few dates and venues are listed below:

Monday 14th May 1-4 pm: Sketching around Fearnan.  The Club has permission to sketch on Shoreside’s private beach.

Monday 21st May 1-4 pm:  Taymouth Castle – meet at the far entrance to Taymouth on the Aberfeldy road.  Bluebells should be out.

Monday 4th June 1-4pm: Art Club Open Day at the hall.

Monday 11th June 1-4pm – trip to Bolfracks Gardens.

Monday 18th June 1-4pm: trip to Castle Menzies.

Monday 25th June 1-4 pm:  Keltneyburn Meadow.  The orchids should be out.

Monday 2nd July 1-4 pm – meet at Fearnan Hall. Subject: Sketching from Photographs.

The Club would be delighted to be joined by anyone who would like to come and explore their untapped artistic potential, or to rediscover skills they haven’t used for years. Materials can be provided, so no need to come fully equipped. Why not come along?  More info (and encouragement) from Cath McGregor (contact email on the Art Club section of the What’s On page), or Jo Millar.

May Coffee Morning

The May Coffee Morning was a delightful mix of regulars, holiday visitors, members’ friends and relatives, and the walking group. It was very sociable and fun and, as ever, there was an excellent spread of both sweet and savoury goodies.



It all ran smoothly, apart from a near-miss when the chocolate cake was accidently left on a hot griddle while the hall was being set up ………

Poppy Brigade

The Poppy Brigade has been busy, and we now have some 400 knitted Fearnan Poppies (Papaver fearnanea, for the horticulturists).  Many thanks to all who have contributed so far. We were delighted to receive the first of our international poppy contributions from Canada (Papaver b. columbia).  Many thanks to Alastair Barnett and Rusty Barnard for their beautifully knitted contributions which are much appreciated.


Part of our first international poppy consignment!

Cath has started to sketch some designs for using the poppies at the War Memorial in November and to work out how many we will need in total. It has become apparent that some black poppies (same pattern, but in black) would be very helpful.  They will be used to help define the numbers in the dates 1914 – 1918 and ‘100 years’ which will be part of the display.  More red poppies needed as well!


Coming Shortly……..

There’s a concert on Sunday 20th May at 7.30pm in the Big Shed. Tickets £10 on the door.

Sophie Ramsay and Sarah Smout are returning to the Big Shed by popular request. Perthshire born and bred, Sophie Ramsay combines old and new, singing Scots folk songs alongside new ones with fresh poetic lyrics and European folk influences. Sarah Smout is a cellist, singer and songwriter from Yorkshire.


The next Fearnan Coffee Morning is on Tuesday 5th June in the village hall at 10.30 – 12.00, and on Saturday 21st July it’s Strawberry Tea Time 15.00 -17.00. Cakes, tarts, scones, sandwiches, ice cream and more – all made or served with strawberries. Live music.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April Update

This week we have news from Fraser and Tricia about their recent move, a tale of ‘derring-do’ by Peter in aid of the Birks Cinema refurbishment fund, and the latest from the Book Club.

First of all, Fraser gave the Blog this lovely reflection on the stresses and strains (and rewards) of moving house……

“Everything came together very quickly near the end of our stay in the village and really, before we knew it, we were away to Perth still thinking we had loads of time for farewells to friends.

The trauma of the move is not something we will undertake again, thank goodness. We had accumulated so much ‘junk’ (well my wife and daughter thought it junk) that we readily lost count of trips to the municipal dump and charity shops, and I anguished over decisions outside my control when articles and artifacts were destined for places anew. Perhaps I was being optimistic, and in reality they were being buried, burnt or recycled – but I like to think that some of my old bits and pieces were found to be useful.

We are well ensconced in our new home, and many of the packing boxes have now been returned to the removers. The first day in our new home was not without its distractions. I managed to break the front door key inside the lock with us locked in, and the heating boiler decided to pack in – but this was solved by new fuse in the thermostat.  

We have a fine elevated view over Perth with the hills melting into the mist in the distance, so it is not too bad. I knew I would miss the magnificent views from Fearnan, but this is fine, and the neighbours are especially nice and welcoming.

Do call in and say ‘hello’ if you are around.”

Thank you, Fraser and Tricia!  Do keep in touch and we hope you’ll also come back and visit us in Fearnan – you will always be welcome at any of our events or get-togethers.


Meanwhile, Peter has been risking life and limb by abseiling to help raise funds for the refurbishment of the Birks Cinema auditorium and cafe bar. Once he had both feet firmly back on the ground, he wrote this great piece for the Blog.

“Well folks – I’ve been and gone and done it ! On behalf of the Birks Cinema a BIG thank you to all of you who generously sponsored me in this fund raising stunt ( basically everyone who was at the April FVA Coffee Morning!).

I’m minded to comment that my abseil from the roof of the Birks Cinema was a positive experience in a number of ways; the support  I received through your sponsorship definitely being one such. Thank you all very much indeed.

As a complete novice to abseiling, I’d admit that I was a tad timorous (of the dry-mouthed variety) about the whole malarkey. As such, I would really like to pay tribute to the absolutely superb work done by the local Wee Adventures company. To a person, they were all calmly and encouragingly supportive.

As a fund-raising exercise for the Birks Cinema, I can only imagine it has been a total success. The sum total of donations I have received currently stands in the region of £600 (before Gift Aid ).

Thanks again to all of you for your input.

A number of you had given me cash donation in respect of your sponsorship at the Coffee Morning.  For those of you who have still to make your donations, I would be very grateful if I could “collect” from you at the upcoming Coffee Morning on Tuesday, 8th May.”

Unusually, Peter left his camera behind on this occasion  – which was good news for us, as it meant that Sheila was able to use it to snap away and provide us with this action replay.

Well done, Peter! A great achievement and a tidy sum of money raised for the Birks Cinema.

As Peter says, the next Coffee Morning is on Tuesday 8th May at 10.30 in the village hall, and the next one after that is on the 5th June.


Fearnan Book Club

Many thanks to Linda for the following summary of the discussion at this month’s Book Club:
At our April meeting, we discussed The Witchfinder’s Sister. The general feeling was that it was not one of our favourite books and we won’t look out for this author again. It was described as a slow burn but one of the group felt that it was so slow that “the candle went out”!

However, it certainly promoted a wide range of lively discussion covering a range of related subjects. It was felt that it was not particularly well written and lacked detail that would have evoked a feeling for the historical context and atmosphere and there were missed opportunities to develop characters. We wanted to feel what it might have been like to be there. 

We discussed the characters of the Witchfinder and his sister in greater detail bearing in mind the historical period and the chaos of the civil war. We concluded that the Witchfinder definitely had sadistic tendencies and was obsessed by his role. He appeared to be a self-appointed megalomaniac who enjoyed his power and sought to extend it. His sister, a widow, was restricted by the role and position of women in that historical period. We understood why she perhaps wasn’t as feisty as we would have liked her to be. 

The lively discussion extended to historical witch hunting in Scotland and the Salem witch trials in America. We discussed how a witch was defined in this period and light-heartedly considered which of us might fit into the category!

Conversation then digressed to the topic of hanging trees and ghosts in Fearnan. This was fuelled by chocolate and tea! Considering this was not one of our favourite books and the gravity of the subject, there was lots of laughter and light-hearted banter. 

It has to be said that a highlight of the meetings is that you never know where the discussion will end up! 

The chosen book for May is The Other Hoffmann Sister by Ben Fergusson described as a gripping evocative read about two sisters set in pre-WW1 Germany.  For Ingrid Hoffmann the story of her sister’s disappearance began in their first weeks in Southwest Africa… … The meeting will be on May 9th

For our discussion in June, we are returning to Jane Harper, an author we have previously enjoyed, and her new book Force of Nature

The Mobile Library will visit Fearnan next on the 1st May, and thereafter on the 15th and 29th May.  It will be in the hall car park between 16.00 and 16.30 on those days.






Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Spring at Last?

Bowls Club News

The Carpet Bowls Club celebrated the end of a very enjoyable – and successful – bowls year with a final toast to the 2017/18 season.  An exciting Singles Final between club stalwarts Alastair Kininmonth & Jardine Robertson resulted in Alastair lifting the Cup this year.

Fearnan is part of a local league and, although Acharn Bowling Club won the Local League Competition, there was success for Fearnan players with Alastair & Angela Kininmonth winning the Camserney Doubles Open Competition, and John & Lesley Raeburn winning the Croft Na Caber Doubles Competition.

If the idea of helping the club carry off even more prizes next year appeals, why not join them when bowling restarts on the first Monday in October? New members are always welcome.

Quiz Night

The annual Fearnan Quiz Night took place in March and was as popular as ever this year, with over 40 participants competing in teams of 3 or 4. This included a strong contingent from the Molteno Hall Committee in Fortingall.

The event was held as a fund-raiser for the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance and for McLean Hall funds.  The ticket price included an excellent supper which was quickly consumed before the quizzing began.

Elaine had prepared 6 rounds of tricksy questions to stretch everyone’s brains – two rounds of general knowledge, and one each of music, geography, literature & books, and a picture round.

The winning team was Dolan and Sue Dolan-Betney and Brian and the Rev Anne Brennan. Well done to them!

The evening raised £320, which was divided equally between the SCAA and Hall funds.  A really good result for all those put in the hard work to make it happen. (The Hall Committee plan to put their share towards the cost of the kitchen renovation.)

If you missed the event but would like to try your hand at a few questions, here’s a Quick Quiz taken from the questions on the night (answers at the end of the blog, but no prizes this time round).

  1. Trapdoor, false violin and funnel-web are all types of what?
  2. Who was the mother of Queen Elizabeth I of England?
  3. Which modern city started life as New Amsterdam?
  4. Which English town was nicknamed ‘Little Scotland”?
  5. Who created the aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey?
  6. In the early days of Penguin paperback books, mystery and crime novels were associated with what sleeve colour?


Coffee Morning

The April Coffee Morning fell in Easter week and, not surprisingly, there was something of an Easter theme going on.  (Slightly less seasonal was the overnight fall of snow but the rather quirky, grinning snowmen who popped up as a result gave us something to smile at on the way to the hall.)



As is often the case, Sheila had an appropriate pair of socks for the occasion.

If the Blog might be permitted an observation, it is that it’s one thing to wear your heart on your sleeve, but wearing your chicks on your socks is quite another.

Also attending the Coffee Morning was Jill Davies, who is a Rural Wisdom Development Worker for Aberfeldy and the surrounding areas.

IMG_5317Jill (seen on the left with Jo and Pat) is organising an event to promote networking between different village organisations to showcase examples of some of the things that are happening in communities.

Our Chair, Sue Dolan-Betney, has been invited to speak about the FVA at the event.

The next Coffee Mornings are on Tuesday 8th May and Tuesday 5th June at 10.30 in the village hall.


Some news on the Broadband front is that Bogons, who provide a wireless internet service to some customers in the village, have announced that they are upgrading the service to run up to 10 times faster than at present (currently around 9Mb/s).

At the moment, the network is fed from Pitlochry, some 40km away, which imposes distance and power limits on the service in Loch Tay.  The new link, which will come from a site in Killin, should be operational this summer.

In addition, Bogons are working on a new site at Acharn which will extend coverage to the north side of the loch from Fearnan to Kenmore, and the south side from Kenmore to Acharn.

Spring Time in Fearnan

It’s becoming a bit of a Spring tradition that Fearnan Blog readers get a quick peek into the lambing sheds at Ewetopia, courtesy of Peter and his camera (and, of course, with the kind permission of sheep farmer, Alastair Kininmonth).  This year is no exception and here is a little selection to gladden your heart!


Quick Quiz Answers

Spiders, Anne Boleyn, New York, Corby, Dorothy L Sayers, Green.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Brydones in Fearnan circa 1905-1946

We are delighted to be able to publish this article by Val Chapman about her grandfather, James Brydone, who lived in Fearnan in the first half of the 20th century. Importantly, in this year that marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1, it provides insight into the war-time service of one of the Fearnan men who fought and lived to tell the tale, as well as providing glimpses of life in the village at the time.

Val writes:

My grandfather, James Brydone, was one of the Perthshire Brydones.

James was born in 1883 on South Harris, where his father was a factor on Lord Dunmore’s estate. The family later moved back to Blair Atholl, where James was schooled. He also attended Perth Academy and was a great reader all his life.

In 1902, aged nineteen and working as a shepherd, he married my grandmother, Jessie Robertson Crerar. Jessie had been born at her grandparent’s farm, Stix, to a comfortably off farming family and was raised on Kynachan Farm, Foss. James and Jessie’s first child, Thomas, was born at Stix.

By 1905, James was employed as a deerstalker on the Breadalbane Estate and they lived in the Keeper’s house at Cromrar, on the Fearnan to Fortingall road. Here they had four daughters, Detta, Myra, Ishbel, Evelyn (my mother), and a second son, Peter. Sadly, they lost premature stillborn twin boys after a horse kicked Jessie. The children were all christened in Fortingall Church.

In 1915, the family moved to the Rustic Lodge, Taymouth, on the road to Kenmore, also owned by Breadalbane Estate. It was here in 1917, that Jessie bore their last child, a son, Hamish.

James Brydone

James Brydone

In WW1, James enlisted initially with the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch). The exact date is unknown, as his was one of the Scottish records partially destroyed in WW2 and only his first regimental number remains. However, his discharge paper shows that on the 13th June 1917, shortly before Jessie gave birth to Hamish, he was transferred to the Lovat Scouts, a sub-unit of the Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line.

Prompted by the success of German snipers, Lord Lovat was recruiting “glassmen” and sharpshooters (many of whom were former gamekeepers), for his Lovat Scouts. He needed men who were experienced in stalking and in using a telescope, for sniping and observing, so he combed the Highland regiments for ghillies and stalkers.

In May 1917, Lt Colonel Donald Cameron of Lochiel took over command of these men. James was transferred to the 10th Battalion Cameron Highlanders, given an Enfield rifle and trained in every branch of Observation and Artillery, probably at Beauly and St Andrews. The Scouts needed to be able to pinpoint map references accurately and to be signallers.

Men were formed into groups of nine, along with one Officer and twenty-one Other Ranks, and worked in pairs of four men and two reliefs. One man spotted while his partner sniped. They were sent 24 hours ahead of their battalion to familiarise themselves with enemy positions, and with a specific job – either for a reconnaissance of enemy wire before a raid, or to watch parts of the line which might be threatened. They hid in shell holes, or rubble, or camouflaged themselves amongst greenery. When in the trenches, the snipers used a curtain to keep the light out of loopholes*. As the men usually spoke to each other in Gaelic, they were often mistaken for Germans!

(*Loopholes were originally arrow slits in castle walls, and a sniper’s loophole is an aperture made for observation and firing under concealment.)

James served in France as an Observer and was at the third battle of Ypres on the Somme.

He recounted to my mother how, one day, when he was up a tree forward of the line observing the enemy, a German soldier, doing a similar job, crept by. He walked right under James who felt that this man, too, probably had a wife and children waiting for him at home and was fighting a war he did not want. He could not shoot a man in the back (which also would have given his position away) so he remained still, and eventually the soldier returned to his own lines, without ever knowing his life had been spared.

At the end of the war the Lovat Scouts remained at Merlimont in France for several months whilst being demobbed. Each of them was interviewed and assisted, if needed, to find a job in civilian life. James was demobbed on 31st January 1919, his reference stating that he was “an excellent glassman and proved himself a sober, trustworthy and willing soldier during the period that he served.”

Whilst James returned to his family, Jessie’s youngest brother, Duncan Robertson Crerar, who had been a chauffeur for a doctor in Aberfeldy before emigrating to Sydney, Australia, enlisted early on as an ANZAC. In 1915, he went to his death at Gallipoli, where he lies at Lone Pine Cemetery. He is commemorated on the Memorial Arch in Aberfeldy and at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

During the period of James’ service, Jessie – like so many other women at the time – had coped single-handedly with a young family. In the course of the war, she and the children had moved again to another rustic lodge near Keltneyburn, beside the iron bridge over the River Lyon. On a later visit, my mother showed me where Granny did the washing (in the river below), and I have a postcard written by Grandpa from Rheims in France addressed to her there. The children walked across the fields to the school in Dull, which is now a private house.

On his return from France, James found employment as a gamekeeper for the Parker Nesses of Letterellen (by this time his former employer, the Breadalbane Estate, would have been in considerable financial difficulty). The family was tenanted in the croft of Tomdarroch in Fearnan, which Jessie later bought when the Breadalbane Estates were sold in 1922.

Outside Tom Darroch

Outside Tomdarroch: James, Jessie, Hamish and Detta Brydone,late 1930s

The children were schooled at Fearnan and Aberfeldy and the family were friends with many locals, including Chrissie Maclean and the Stewarts of the Tigh-an-Loan Hotel. Their oldest son, Tommy, emigrated to New Zealand.

Perthshire Picnic

John Grindlay (left), Jessie (centre) and John Stewart (Tigh-an-Loan). Rear far right, John and Chrissie McLean. Front Kathy Wilson.


James with his retriever

James with his retriever circa 1920

James and Jessie conversed in Gaelic, but insisted that all the children spoke English well, though they were able to take part in the Gaelic Mods. Morag the cow grazed in the Cow Park behind the house, and they kept chickens and bees, and sold honey. The dogs, usually retrievers, had kennels in the grounds and went hunting with Grandpa for rabbits.

Mum recounted how, one night, the younger children hid in the graveyard, waiting until the two older girls walked back at night from a dance. Wearing white sheets and rattling the dogs’ chains, they jumped up, howling! The older girls took off in fright and the ‘ghosts’ had to race back and jump into bed fully clothed before Granny could find out!

When the girls were old enough they found work in domestic service around the area. The remaining children gradually left home during the 1930s. By WW2, Myra and Mum were both registered nurses and Hamish served on HMS Ganges. Jessie was in the kitchen in Tomdarroch when the Russian plane flew low overhead and saw it crash and burn on Drummond Hill. (Reference:The Fearnan Air Crash 1943)

James’ unmarried sister, Jean Brydone, also lived in Fearnan, in Briar Cottage, and was joined by their brother Alec after WW2. Jean died in Aberfeldy Cottage Hospital, aged fifty-one, in 1949.

In 1945, James, who had cancer, died of a stroke in Dundee Royal Infirmary, aged sixty-one, followed a year later by Jessie, from heart failure. They lie together in Kenmore churchyard and some of their children now rest there, too. Tomdarroch was sold back to the Parker Nesses and then sold on to John Grindlay.

To this day many of the Brydone grandchildren and great-grandchildren, whether living in Scotland or abroad, continue to visit Fearnan. It will always hold a special place in our hearts.

About the Writer

Val was born in London, but raised from infancy in Southern Rhodesia, where her mother had nursed in WW2. After high school and then nurse training in England, she returned to live in Africa. Val subsequently worked around Europe for 3 years, nursed for 4 in Canada (including the Arctic), and then lived in Australia for 21 years. She is now retired and living near English cousins in Devon. Her Zimbabwe-born daughter, Fiona, is a scientist in America.

Other members of the family emigrated from Perthshire to New Zealand over the space of four generations, and Val regularly visits both her Perthshire cousins and the New Zealand Brydones.

She has visited Fearnan on a number of occasions, including a trip in 1960, two years before her mother, Eve, died.

Val has followed the Fearnan Blog for a number of years and we are delighted that she has now become a contributor.


Blog Editor’s Postscript: there is a link between the Brydones and present day Fearnan.  Val’s great Uncle Archie married Rose Liney – great aunt of Graham.



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments