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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin
Vol. 1 No. 5 April 1975

The Antiquities of Caithness
Held under the auspices of Caithness Education Committee, Thurso Technical College will hold its eighth Summer School from June 28th - July 4th 1975. The theme this year will be The Antiquities of Caithness and as usual, lectures will be held in the mornings followed by coach outings to places of interest. Lecturers will be drawn from members of the Field Club who will also organise the Sunday outing on June 29th. This year it is hoped to visit the clearance village at Rosal. It is expected that the Field Club will also have its annual Caithness Night" on Thursday 3rcl July in the Pentland Hotel, Thurso. The fee for the course is 10 which includes the cost of outings and packed lunches. Further details may be obtained from Mr. L. Myatt at the College.

Teaching Dig at Clow Chapel Watten
The archaeology of the Church is still a neglected aspect of Medieval Archaeology. In many areas of the British Isles (including Caithness), lie ruined churches about which we know virtually nothing. Such a case is the small ruined chapel at the Clow Watten.

Unavoidably postponed from last year, an archaeological investigation will be carried out on this site under the auspices of the University of Aberdeen in association with Caithness Education Committee. This "teaching dig", led by Mr. E. Talbot of Glasgow University, will comprise a small group of people, and will enable personal training to be given in excavating techniques and surveying methods.

The fee for the course is 9.50 and it will be held 2nd - 8th August 1975, Further details may be obtained from Mr. D. Omand, Braal, Halkirk, or the Field Club secretary.

The Geological Evolution of the Moray Firth Area
Instituted in 1875, Inverness Field Club is marking its centenary this year, and in association with the University of Aberdeen is holding a one-week seminar on the Geological Evolution of the Moray Firth area. It will be held in Tarradale House, Muir of Ord, Ross-shire from Saturday 5th July, to Friday 11th July 1975.

The programme will consist of lectures, discussion periods and field excursions. Transport will be by private car and motor coach. The fee of 30 will include residential accommodation for a single room, or 25.50 for a shared room. For people not wishing accommodation the fees will be 50p per lecture, 1.80 per field excursion, or 9.50 for the full programme. Further details may be obtained from Mr. G. Gill, Department of Adult Education and Extra-Mural Studies, University of Aberdeen, 23A High Street, Inverness. Tel. 30492.

BADBEA Village
Mr. M.R.M. Leslie, factor, of Berriedale estate is interested in compiling information on the history of the vi1llage of Badbea. The Field Club has, so far, been able to provide him with a copy of an article which appeared in the Scots Magazine some years ago. More information, however, is required and if any member can help we would be pleased to pass it on if it can be fowarded to the secretary.

Orkney Jacobites
In the past year or two, Mr. R. P. Fereday of Orkney has been collecting information about the Orkney Jacobites and the rebellion of 1745-6. There are, of course, links with Caithness. The particular point on which Mr. Fereday is curious is the hiding place of John Sinclair (John the Rebel) of Scotscalder in the months following the defeat of the Jacobites. The information on this at the moment is somewhat sparse. Quoted in Calder's History on page 200 we have:-

". . . After the battle (Culloden) a party of soldiers was sent to apprehend Sinclair of Scotscalder, who had rendered himself particularly obnoxious to the Government. Having got notice of their approach, he withdrew, and hid himself in the hills of Dorrery. When the party made their appearance at his house, his lady courteously invited them in, and regaled them with plenty of meat and drink. They seemed much pleased with their reception and after a brief search they departed. The visit, happily for the laird, was not renewed; and his "meditation" among the hills is said to have cured him of his Jacobitism."

In the appendix to his book, page 333, Calder gives a further reference to the hiding place:-

"Wm. Gordon Forbes, schoolmaster of Reay, afterwards in America, says in his report, in the "New Statistical Account", that in a cave 25 feet by 16p in Ben Frectan, or Hill of the Watch, Shurrery, two families disaffected to the Hanoverian Government, took asylum in 1745. They were Sinclair of Scotscalder and Sinclair of Assery, the latter family having changed politics since 166o....."

A third reference is made in a letter to the Northern Ensign, written by Alexander Gunn of Braehour, and believed to be dated 15th October 1895. In this letter he states:-

"...... on Scotscalder's escape through the Sutherland and Caithness hills and on his arrival at the southmost bounds of his own estate in the Highlands of Caithness accompanied by Benjamin Sinclair of Barrock and a few more, they built a hut or bothy in a secluded place, the work of which is still to be seen. In this turf bothy they remained in concealment for a period of at least six or seven months.

...... He (Captain Munro) also made a pretended search about the premises of the laird, but John (Sinclair) was then in his hiding place, eight miles away in the hills. Captain Munro accepted Lady Sinclair's hospitality and commenced their march homewards ..... "

This last reference links John the Rebel with Benjamin Sinclair of Barrock, rather than with Sinclair of Assery.

The clue about the bothy being eight miles away in the hills could easily have been twisted in the course of time. Still, if it is true, then it does not fit the cave on Ben Freiceadain and the bothy site remains to be located.

Mr. Fereday would be pleased to receive any comments on the above, together with any further information which members may be able to offer

Changes of Address
The following new addresses of officers of the Field Club are to be noted:-

Vice-Chairman - Mr. D. Oliver, Westerdale, Hood Street, Wick.

Secretary and Bulletin Editor - Mr. L. Myatt, 5 Trostan Road, Thurso.

The Hub of The Highlands
To be published in early summer as the centenary volume of Inverness Field Club is a new book The Hub of the Highlands; The Book of Inverness and District. With approximately 464 pages it will include thirty one articles written by a wide range of writers. The subjects covered will include Geology, Wild Life, Botany, Pre-history etc.

With twenty-four pages of illustrations, we look forward to seeing this new book priced at 4.50.

Copies may be ordered from the Secretary, Inverness Field Club, Seafield House, by Inverness.

Bird Notes
Early November was notable for the appearance of an unusually large number of warblers in late passage. They were seen in several parts of the county.

A firecrest was seen in Wick in December.

Several sightings of waxwings were made during the late autumn, indicating that there had been a dispersal from their normal home in the woods of north Europe.

The heavy rainfall of late autumn caused some crops to be left lying in the fields. Perhaps this accounts for the more frequent sightings of geese this winter - especially Greylags, but several other species too. Large flocks of Snow Buntings are to be seen too. The flock at Glengolly was estimated to be about 1000 birds, and another at Murkle about half the size.

The Mammal Society is organising a National Badger survey and records are needed of any badger sets in Caithness. Please give any information to Mr. J. Gunn, 2 The Terrace, Reay (Tel. 205).

Alexander Bain Centenary
Alexander Bain, the inventor of the Electric Clock and the Printing Telegraph was born at Leanmore on Backlass Hill in the parish of Watten in 1810. He died at Kirkintilloch on January 2nd 1877. The centenary of his death will thus occur in a little over eighteen months time. In the meantime it is the intention of the Field Club committee to investigate the possibility of some form of commemoration of the work of Bain. Amongst other things, it is hoped that perhaps a booklet could be produced about him, and the Bulletin editor requests any information which members may have on his life and work. Any publications, letters, or photographs relating to him would be of considerable interest, and if these could be seen or borrowed for a short time they may add to the knowledge already available.

Summer Programme
Below is given the proposed programme of outings for the summer, subject where necessary to permission being given by various landowners.

Sunday 27th April Coach outing: sites of interest between Wick and Thurso. (Geology, botany, antiquities etc.) Organiser - L. Myatt.
Saturday 3rd May Small party to Island Nan Ron &- Neave Island (geology, botany) Organiser - M. MacKenzie
Wednesday 14th May Birdsong evening at Reay Organizer - J. Gunn.
Sunday 18th May Dunbeath Water. (Geology, botany antiquities) Organiser - M. Norman.
Sunday 15th June Scaraben. (Geology, botany) Organiser - D. Oliver.
Sunday 29th June Coach outing: Rosal clearance village (Geology, botany, antiquities). Organiser - J. Bramman
Thursday 3rd July Caithness Night, Pentland Hotel. Organiser - B. Hughes
Sunday 13th July Walk along Forss Water. (Botany, antiquities) Organiser - K. Butler
Wednesday 23rd July Evening walk Thurso River, (Botany) Organiser - K. Butler
Sunday 17th August Coastal walk, Reay - Bighouse (Botany) Organiser - L. Myatt
Weekend 12-14 Sept Weekend excursion, possibly to Kintail Organizer - Secretary
Saturday 27th Sept Berriedale Organiser - J Campbell
Saturday 4th October Coach outing: Brora woollen mill and distillery Organiser D. Oliver

Where outings are by private car lifts are usually available for members not having their own transport. All outings will be fully advertised in the usual places.