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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin

Two in a Boat (by Geoff Leet)

These three accounts, heard by me from the people involved, are unconnected but give the atmosphere of events long past.

Before the first war, and before dawn, John Sinclair, known as Long John Sinclair and his sister Annie B. Sinclair went sea angling in Thurso Bay. The water was mirror flat and as the sun rose off Dunnet Head they rowed into one of the caves into Holborn Head to eat their breakfast. The sun, reflecting from the calm sea, illuminated the whole cave, and was remembered as a magic moment. Both were strong supporters of the Salvation Army. John became a Provost of Thurso and Lord-Lieutenant of Caithness, and Annie B., also tall, a teacher.

Also before the first war, in high Summer, Robert Sutherland and a fellow junior in a bank in Wick camped beside the loch used as Wick's reservoir. They would fish for trout from the bank and cycle to the Bank each morning. They noticed a rowing boat securely chained to a lump of concrete. By lifting the lump into the boat the boat was free and they were able to fish the loch. But not for long. The boat was depressed further into the water than usual and filled before they could reach the bank. Dried, and in their bank clothes, they cycled into Wick to be greeted with "Home are the sailors, home from the sea"! Robert served through the whole first war, became a London banker, and after he retired helped Dan Munro, of John Munro & Son, joiner and undertaker, in Thurso.

In August 1939, Jim Patterson and his sister Jane, were sea angling in the Cromarty Firth. The day was peaceful, still and hazy. Quietly out of the mist came a huge grey battleship, followed by all the large ships of the Royal Navy, moving to their war stations at Scapa Flow, and soon the world was again at in conflict, and some of those great ships were sunk. Jim Patterson became a Councillor. Jane married Phil Outran, a sub-mariner and author, and Jane became a fierce guardian angel of traditional buildings.

Traditional salmon netting at Thurso River mouth
Photo : Ken Butler

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