At our meeting of November 4, Dave Ramsay gave a talk on the Maritime Heritage from St Cyrus to Stonehaven, relaying some little known facts on the way.
He started his journey in St Cyrus with an interesting tale of George Beattie, the son of a salmon fisher and crofter born in 1786. He received a good education at St Cyrus and went on to Edinburgh and qualified as an attorney. On returning to Montrose he fell for Ms William Gibson, daughter of his friend Robert Gibson, squire of Stone of Morphie. Beattie was considered unsuitable as a suitor due to his lower rank in life and Ms Gibson eventually rejected him. On his rejection Beattie acquired a pistol from Aberdeen and at his sister Marys’ grave at the Auld Nether Kirkyard in St Cyrus shot himself. Milton Haven, to the north of St Cyrus, was a prolific lime producing area until 1795 when the sea claimed the village due to the land being undermined by the digging. The remains of some lime kilns are still visible but the best examples are at Usan, two miles south of Montrose.
A little further north lies Johnshaven, another fishing village which suffered most at the hands of the press gangs in the 1770s’. A small boat, in which some Norwegian escapees from WW2 made the voyage to Johnshaven, was recently returned to Norway where it is being restored.
In 1890 the fishermen of Gourdon decided to provide their own solution to the loss of life in the area by commissioning James Mowatt to build the Maggie Law life boat, financing the build themselves. They also contributed a penny of every £ they earned for the maintenance and during its’ working life 36 lives were saved. James Mowatt also built several vessels designed by Hercules Linton of Inverbervie, famous for the design of the Cutty Sark which was captained by Richard Woodget for 10 years, the most successful captain.
Unknown to many, in the vicinity of Tod Head lighthouse during the 18th century, there apparently stood a small settlement of around 40 dwellings by the name of Gopal. During the latter part of the century the village was visited by the press gangs and all the men were taken. The woman and children were relocated to Auchenblae and the village eventually succumbed to the forces of the sea.
Final stop on the journey was Stonehaven which is known for many things but also for the discovery, in 2004, of a fossil of a millipede estimated to be 420MM years old.