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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin
1978 - October

Vol. 2 No. 4 October 1978

Chairman's Remarks

The summer programme seemed to offer a satisfactory range of different things and most of the events were well attended. One innovation was the July outing with a mountain walk for the more energetic and a low level walk in the same area. Please let your committee members know what you would like to have included in the programme for next year.

The high cost of being accommodated by the Highland Region has prompted the committee to reduce the number of winter meetings which are repeated in both Wick and Thurso, and we hope that members will make the effort to travel to events on the 'other side'. We will of course be reviewing the success of this policy at the end of the season because it is not seen as a satisfactory long-term solution to our problem.

After a long stint as Bulletin Editor Leslie Myatt has relinquished the post. He deserves our sincere thanks for all he has done to establish the journal, which is by any standards successful and widely read. He is giving interim assistance to Peter Chare who takes over the leading editorial role with the help of George Watson and Janet Ryrie.

There is still an encouraging steady flow of articles for the Bulletin from members, and I am gratified to note that there is a wide spectrum of topics and a good number of different authors. More members could yet, I feel sure, make a contribution, and I hope will do so. It doesn't have to be a long article, or yet too learned a topic, and if any assistance is needed the Editor would be pleased to lend a hand.

The Club Management

This year's office bearers are as follows:

Honorary Vice Presidents:

Miss M. McCallum-Webster; Mr. J. I. Bramman; Mr. D. B. Miller; Mr. D. Omand; Mr. J. Saxon; Mr. E. Talbot.

Chairman: J. K. Butler, 15 Brims Road Thurso. Thurso 3549
Vice Chairman: N. Izzett, Fairfield, Broadhaven, Wick.
Secretary: D. Oliver, Westerdale, Hood Street, Wick. Wick 2730
Treasurer: B. Hughes, 101 Pennyland Drive, Thurso. Thurso 3411

Committee Members: J. Ramsay; J. Ryrie; G. Watson; G. Leet; P. Chare.
Publications Management: J. K. Butler; J. Ramsay; J. Ryrie
Bulletin editorial: P. Chare; G. Watson; J. Ryrie
Publicity: B. Hughes; D. Oliver
Press writer: J. Ryrie

Buildings and Settlements Group

The group held two indoor meetings and one outdoors during the year, and has laid out a work programme of fact gathering on the Broubster settlement. This mainly involves making contact with people who lived in the area, preparing and collecting maps and placenames, and searching records such as the census for details of past inhabitants. Meetings are planned for 30 0ctober, 11 December and 5 February. Contact Ken Butler for further details.

Botany Group

The group held three outdoor meetings, all three of which were in dreadful weather, and it says much for the keenness of the members that they turned up at all. The outings were to places where a range of different sorts of plants could be seen and compared, so that the differences between species and the similarities within families could be observed. A small amount of speciality work was done on wild roses.


In July the latest in our series of booklets became available. Entitled 'John Gow, the Orkney Pirate', written by George Watson, it tells the story of Wick-born John Gow who took to piracy and eventually brought his ship to Orkney, where, after various strange adventures he was captured. He ended his days on a gallows-tree at Wapping Dock. The booklet is illustrated by Lyndall Leet and is selling at 50p. It got good reviews and has sold well in Orkney during the summer.

The other two booklets currently in print are:

Visits to Ancient Caithness 45p
Wild Flowers of Caithness 50p

The work of Miss Ramsay and Miss Ryrie in seeing to the distribution of booklets to the shops during the summer should be acknowledged; it has been particularly busy this year with the demand from Orkney to satisfy as well as the local business. It brings a very useful income to the club.


On 15 November in the Pentland Hotel, Thurso the Caithness Group of Scottish Ornithologists Club will hold a bookstall and slide show. In previous years the bookstall has been a very comprehensive exhibition and sale of books on natural history and related topics. This year it arrives just in time for your Christmas present troubles to be solved.

RSPB Filmshow

The RSPB film show in Thurso is a popular event which is this year scheduled for Friday 1st December. Further details will appear in the local press.

Field Club Dinner

This year's annual dinner will be held in the Pentland Hotel, Thurso on Saturday, 2nd December. There will be a bus from Wick provided. Tickets will be on sale from members of the committee.

Where do we put the posters?

Some time ago the committee decided that it was not worth putting adverts in the press because the cost/benefit was not good. So information about the club's activities is passed around by inclusion in the Bulletin and putting out posters. The posters are displayed as follows:

Shearer, Drapers Shop at the Cliff
Turners, Drapers Shop in Bridge Street
Camps Bookshop

Collett's Shop in Castlegreen Road
Corner Shop in Trail! Street
Ferrier's Newsagents in Princes Street

Recent Publications
lan Grimble: Highland History: George Philip in association with the Highlands and Islands Development Board, 1978, 1.25. This is one of four maps in the series The Highlands Observed. It includes a map of the Highland area produced to a scale of 10 miles to 1 inch. The map is printed in two parts on each side of the sheet. Surrounding it is a very well illustrated text, in excellent colour, which gives an account of Highland history from early times up to the 1745 rebellion. The text is generally very informative, although it seems strange to classify Class III sculptured stones as Pictish. Also one wonders on what evidence the standing stones of Stenness and Brodgar can be described as "temples" and "religious structures".

It is however, the accuracy with which sites are shown and described on the map itself that one may take issue. For the visitor north of Bonar Bridge a certain amount of fruitless searching could be carried out in looking for sites such as St. Mary's chapel at Lybster on the east coast and Kilphedir wheelhouse at Kildonan. The latter site appears to have been misplaced some 150 miles from its true site at Kilphedir in South Uist. In Thurso is indicated a runic cross in St. John's churchyard. Apart from the fact that the dedication should be to St. Peter, this cross has now resided for many years in the Thurso museum. Dunnet Church is described as reformation. Surely this should be pre-Reformation; and there is no indication that Canisbay church is pre-Reformation also. The cross slabs at both Farr and Reay are described as Pictish and on Stroma is indicated a "renaissance pigeon house". Keiss west broch has been displaced to the south of Staxigoe. Although one of the most spectacular castle ruins in Caithness, Girnigoe is not indicated.

It is unfortunate that the accuracy of such an attractive publication could not have been better checked before publication.

Winter Programme

October 18th October 19th Wick Assembly Rooms) Thurso) Old Prints of Caithness - L. J. Myatt
November 8th Wick Assembly Rooms Images of a Vanished Era
- A. Johnston
Wild Flowers of North Scotland
- J. K. Butler
December 2nd Thurso Pentland Hotel Annual Dinner
December 14th Thurso Pentland Hotel A Fireside Chat
January 17th Wick Assembly Rooms Pirates of the Pentland Firth
- M. Gunn
February 7th Thurso Joint Meeting with SOC
Is Shooting Compatible with Conservation?
- J.G. Young
March 14th
March 15th
Wick Assembly Rooms)
Thurso Pentland Hotel)
The Seaweed Eaters
- G. MacLachlan
April Wick A. G. M. to be arranged.
All the meetings begin at 7.30 p.m.

In addition Field Club members may also be interested in two lectures to be held by the University of Aberdeen Department of Adult Education and Extra-Mural Studies.

22nd February - Thurso - Scottish Country life - A. Fenton
15th March - Thurso - The Crofting Landscape - Professor J. Caird.

The following amendments to "Notes on three Caithness Doocots" by Mrs. E Beaton, published in the Bulletin Vol. 1 No. 7 pp. 110-111 have been requested by the author:
1 . The Ackergill doocots are both the same size.
2 . Dale House cote has about 350 nesting boxes not approximately 700.


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