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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin
1977 - October

Vol. 2 No. 2 October 1977

Inflation and the Field Club
Owing to rising costs, and in particular the charges we are now required to meet for room accommodation for lectures, it was agreed at the Annual General Meeting to increase the adult membership fee to 1.50. For this members receive two copies of the Bulletin per annum and attendance at lectures is free of charge. The cost of the Bulletin to non-members is 75p. per copy.

The Annual Dinner
The date of this year's annual dinner is Saturday, 12th November. It is timed 7.30 for 8.00 and the cost of tickets 3.75. It will be held in the Mercury Motor Inn, Wick and a bus will run from Thurso, leaving the railway station at 7.00. Tickets are available from members of the committee.

Field Club Publications
The second year of our scheme to publish a series of booklets looks like being just as successful as the first. The first publication was "Visits to Ancient Caithness" which came out in June 1976, and more than half the stock was sold during that summer season. It was helped in its launching by a gift from Thurso Rotary Club, and in the Spring of 1977 it was reprinted with the help of a grant from the Highlands and Islands Development Board. We should have sufficient stock now to last for a couple of years, and hope that it will make a modest profit to boost the publication fund.

Next to come along was "Alexander Bain of Watten" published to coincide with the centenary of Bain's death in January 1977. Copies are now almost sold out, thanks to good local sales and some national interest. The cost of publication was assisted by a donation from Wick Round Table. We were able to break even on this project but a reprint is unlikely.

In June 1977 "Wild Flowers of Caithness" became our latest publication. When used in conjunction with any of the popular wildflower books it allows the user to find out what grows in Caithness and which plants are common or rare. It has been selling steadily both in the county and nationally and should be available for about three years from present stock.

Much of the success of this enterprise is due to the freely given effort of authors, editors, illustrators, and distributors which allows costs to be kept low and to give a good return of cash to the fund to finance the next project.

Any suggestions for future projects would be welcomed. Please contact Ken Butler or any member of the committee.

Other Recent Publications
Alan Temperley and the pupils of Farr Secondary School: Tales of the North Coast: Research Publishing Co., 1977, 252 pp. illus., 3.20 (1.90 paperback). This is an excellent example of how, with suitable encouragement, children may be motivated to take a healthy interest in their locality. The book contains nearly sixty stories including historical tales, ghost stories, tales of the supernatural and many others all collected from North Sutherland and retold by Alan Temperley and his pupils. Now that other forms of entertainment are so readily available there has been a rapid decline in the highland tradition of story telling, and unless tales such as these are written down they will soon be lost among others already forgotten. It is a credit to Mr. Temperley and his pupils that such a collection of stories has been saved and also to Field Club member Mr. Elliot Rudie another teacher in the same school who has encouraged his pupils to illustrate the stories. The black and white illustrations are so beautifully primitive and uninhibited in their style and they are a pleasure in themselves.

Henrietta Munro: Legends of the Pentland Firth: Henrietta Munro, 55 Durness Street, Thurso, 1977, 64 pp., illus. by Barbara Myatt, 1.20 (1.40 post free). Partly as a result of a lecture given to the Field Club two years ago by Miss Munro two members have joined forces to produce this collection of local folk stories, many of which have not appeared in print before. Anyone who has heard Miss Munro tell these stories will realise that she has a style of her own, not only in her telling but also in her writing, and even the most ardent doubter would be persuaded to believe that they are all quite true. This is another valuable addition to our Caithness collection which helps to redress the balance for the past neglect of local folk tales.

Euan W. Mackie: Science and Society in Prehistoric Britain: Elek, 1977, 252 pp., 36 figs., 17 pls., 12.50. In recent years archaeological ideas have already undergone one revolution due to the introduction of carbon dating which has now shown a number of sites to be very much earlier than was previously thought. It may be that we are about to see a second revolution in that Dr. Mackie is one of the first archaeologists prepared to make a reassessment of the archaeological evidence from the Neolithic and Bronze ages in Britain in the light of the painstaking work of Professor Thom. Most of the papers of Professor Thom have had to be published elsewhere than in archaeological journals where they did not support the accepted theories of the prehistory of the period. It is gratifying indeed now to find an archaeologist in print who is prepared to seriously look at the work of Thom and to reconsider the archaeological evidence in the light of it. Part one of the book gives a lucid account of the work of Thom and others. It also demonstrates a strong possibility for the megalithic yard having been used as a measure for laying out the dimensions of the brochs based upon the work of the author. Part two takes a new look at the archaeological evidence.

C. H. Gimingham: The Ecology of Heathland: Professor Gimingham's book may interest a wide range of readers now that it is available in paperback. Those who know little of ecology will find the principles illustrated in a relatively simple situation where there is some hope of understanding what happens. It is dominated of course by a discussion of heather, its germination, growth, root and twig structure, response to its environment and the effect on its environment. Concepts such as biomass are explored and there is a detailed discussion on the effects of grazing and burning. The studies have been carried out mostly in northern Scotland with some Scandinavian and English examples for comparison, so it is all quite relevant to the most common type of habitat in Caithness.

J. B. Whittow: Geology and Scenery in Scotland: Penguin Books, 1977, 362 pp., 45 pls., 54 figs., 1.95. This publication is the final volume of a trilogy on the British Isles. The blurb states that the subject matter passes with ease from the hard facts of science to the beauties of the landscape and while the content should satisfy the geologist, "it will add fascination to any journey undertaken in this most beautiful of countries". That seems fair comment.

The style is free and fluent and the jargon (defined in a good glossary) will not inhibit the reader interested in the landscape evolution of Scotland.

A Working Group on Croft Settlements
It is proposed to set up a working group of members who are interested in croft settlements, especially abandoned ones such as Badryrie, Dirlot, and Broubster where the recording of presently known history and condition will be of value. No previous knowledge or experience is required, only enthusiasm. An inaugural meeting will be held at 15 Brims Road, Thurso on Friday, 25th November at 7.30 p.m. Please come along!

The Winter Programme
Below is given the winter programme of lectures which will be held in the Assembly Rooms, Wick on Wednesdays and the Technical College, Thurso on Thursdays at 7.30 p.m.

October 19th 1977 Wick only Kintyre in History. Mr. H. MacKenzie.
November 16th November 17th Wick


The National Trust Mr. I. Gibson.
December 14th

December 15th



The Highland Clearances Mrs. B. Gilmour
January 11th

January 12th



The Hebridean Islands Mr. D. Omand
February 8th

February 9th



Nature Conservation Problems and Pressures Mr. A. MacLennan.
March 8th Wick Genealogy, or Do it yourself Family History Mr. R. MacCallum.
April 27th Thurso A.G.M. (Details to be arranged)  

It is also hoped that there will be joint meetings with both the Wick Society and the Scottish Ornithology Club. Details of these are yet to be arranged.

The Thurso Society
The Thurso Society which has been rather dormant for the last year or two has now reformed a committee and it hopes to announce its plans for the future fairly soon.

The secretary is Mrs M. A. Spencer, 22 Barrock Street, Thurso.

Articles for the Bulletin
The next edition of the Bulletin is due to be published in April 1978. Articles and items of news for inclusion should be submitted to the editor not later than 15th January.

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