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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin
1977 - October


2. Captain Slater's Monument on Holborn Head

G. Watson

A fortune teller once forecast that Captain Slater would meet his end at 2 p.m. Over the years this prediction preyed on the Captain's mind and for a few weeks before his final accident, Thurso Town Clock was stopped each day after striking one and restarted just before three. This extraordinary measure was instigated by Dr. Laing who was the Captain's physician and an influential member of the Town Council.

Captain Slater was the leader of a team conducting a hydrographic survey of the north coast. The day after the accident the other officers reported the tragedy in the following letter to the John o' Groat Journal.

Thurso, 3rd February, 1842


It is our painful duty to acquaint you that a most lamentable and fatal accident has just occurred to one of Her Majesty's distinguished and most valued officers, whose professional services will be difficult to replace, and whose private worth, as it was well appreciated by those who knew him, will be deservedly remembered and deeply lamented. On the afternoon of the 2nd inst. Captain Slater, R.N. the principal officer conducting the survey on this coast, having had occasion to visit certain points in the neighbourhood of Holborn Head, unfortunately approached on horseback too near to the edge of the cliff (for the purpose of examining more minutely the set of the tide, and the general features of the rock) from whence it appears that the horse, by a sudden start, precipitated the unfortunate gentleman over the precipice, the great height of which (between 200 and 300 feet, as well known to those acquainted with the locality) precluded the most remote chance of his escape, and by his being alone we were only apprised of his distressing fate by the return of the horse. We have this morning visited the spot, and are of the opinion that such a fate must have been inevitable, from the overhanging position of the rock from whence the animal started, clearly indicated by the track on the soft and slippery ground.

Further comment is unnecessary, but for your satisfaction we think it adviseable to authenticate this statement by giving our names.

We are, Sir

Your obedient Servants,

P. D. H. Hay, Captain, R.N.

A. Kortright, Lieutenant, R.N.

George Williams, Lieutenant, R.N.


Stephen Gleanings in the North Sinclair 1891

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