Johnshaven Jottings - My final Jottings

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Stirrings at the Mill

It will be remembered that things began to go awry at the Mill of Benholm towards the end of March this year when it was announced that the Miller’s Byre Tearoom was to close for refurbishment and roadside signs advertising the visitor centre were removed. When this was followed by the resignation of the project manager, Mike Burleigh, concerns began to be raised locally surrounding the lack of activity at the Mill.

Towards the end of April the Mill of Benholm Board of Trustees issued a statement explaining that various audits had identified a number of health and safety issues both around the Mill and in the kitchen and tearoom. Those concerns, they wrote, were passed on to the site owners Aberdeenshire Council, responsible for maintaining the site, who decided temporarily to suspend operations in the kitchen and tearoom and requested that the trainees be allocated as best possible to other activities at the site. Shortly after that the two parties agreed temporarily to suspend all trainee activities on the site until a decision could be made as to how the various concerns could be resolved. The Board of Trustees apologised for any inconvenience caused and hoped with the required support from Aberdeenshire Council that the site would be safe for all and suitable to re-open for trainees and visitors alike.

On May 27 a very well attended EGM of the Board of Trustees was held in the Johnshaven Village Hall and, following a frank exchange of views, the Board went on to thank all who were there for their “ overwhelming support for the Mill of Benholm Project”. Later, preceding a public meeting, the Board of Trustees intimated on a Facebook post that they had been informed that there would be no local authority funds made available to complete essential remedial works. At the same time it was suggested that the best solution would be “for a full operational lease be granted to the Trust who would then be responsible for the site”. Although this might give the Trust greater access to funding opportunities they felt that they would be taking on a financial undertaking “with no guarantee that a Service Level Agreement would be forthcoming” and concluded the post by announcing that because of the ongoing legal position with Aberdeenshire Council they had been forced to make the remaining three members of staff redundant.

Unsurprisingly then, although the Community Council were informed at their June meeting that serious work was going on behind the scenes to resolve the impasse, one of the warmest summers on record, came and went with the Mill of Benholm visitor centre, an important community asset, still closed.

Recently, however, there has been movement at the Mill. The strimmers have been busy and the semi-circular path along the top of the brae from close to the main entrance and down to the burn has been cleared as has the area round the Benholm Bikes shed.

Work is also progressing on repairs to the river containment wall. Fallen trees and floods had breached the wall some time ago and there were serious worries that the structural integrity of the mill building itself would be threatened but soon those fears will be removed and the future of the Category A Listed Building secured.

Despite the continuing and unfortunate wrangles between Aberdeenshire Council and the Mill of Benholm Trust there has also been a degree of confidence expressed by some that the Mill of Benholm would be fully open to the public in spring next year.

The recent designation of the hamlet of Benholm as a Conservation Area should surely be a boost to that confidence.

Mearns Coastal Parish Church

Since the minister, the Rev Colin Dempster, revealed at an open meeting in Johnshaven Church in February that in the 15 years since the union of the parishes of Benholm and Johnshaven and St Cyrus/Garvock attendances and income have fallen and that Mearns Coastal Parish, now being “aid receiving”, it has been generally known that its finances are under severe financial pressure. Now, in the autumn parish newsletter the Rev Dempster emphasises to the congregation that “we are in dire straits regarding our church finances” and indicates that if anyone has any suggestions for fundraising to let him know and they will be considered at the next meeting of the Kirk Session. He reminds them, too that as the heart of the Church is the Lord and people, it is worth bearing in mind that fundraising is more than raising money, it is an opportunity to have times of fellowship. To this end the Kirk Session have agreed to start a special fundraising effort with an evening of light entertainment comprising a Mr and Mrs Competition and a short Film Show.

Among the films will be part of “For those in Peril” which was filmed in St Cyrus Church. Also on screen will be a short film showing the work being done by Mearns Coastal’s Missionary Partner among some of the poorest people in the world in Nepal and the evening will end with the nostalgic “Last train from Inverbervie to Montrose”

The event will take place in St Cyrus Church on Friday, October 31 beginning at 7.15 pm. Admission is by donation and the proceeds will shared equally between the Church and Medical Camps in Nepal.

In the absence of the minister, Sunday morning’s service in Johnshaven Church was conducted by Mr Steven Coles, Church of Scotland Lay Reader from Laurencekirk..

This Sunday’s services will be held at the usual times of 10 am in St Cyrus Church and 11.30 am in Johnshaven Church. The following Sunday, October 19, Harvest Thanksgiving services will be held in St Cyrus Church at 10 am and in Johnshaven Church at 11.30 am.

Praise, Prayer, Bible Study and Fellowship meetings resume in the manse on Monday, October 13 . These informal meetings begin at 7.15pm and end around 9 pm with a cuppa somewhere in between and all are welcome. The next Vestry Hour is on Monday, November 3: Johnshaven Church between 6 and 6.25pm and St Cyrus Church between 6.35 and 7pm.

The congregation and, indeed, the community as a whole, are reminded that the last date for boxes for the annual Blythswood Shoe Box Appeal for gifts and essential items for Eastern Europe and Asia is Sunday, November 14. Boxes may be left in the Church or, if anyone cannot fill a shoe box, individual items listed on the leaflet may be left in the box provided in the foyer. Anyone who wishes further information should contact either Heather Jenkins on 0167485053 or Kirsteen Hourston on 01674850313.

Table Top Sale

It rained all night and it rained all morning but the ladies of Mearns Coastal Church Guild were encouraged by the numbers who turned out for their table top sale in the Church Hall on Saturday. Although there might not have been a Wedgewood bowl or a River Tay pearl on the tables there were enough interesting items and bargains to raise £118 for the funds of the Guild and the committee wish to thank all who came along to support the event on such a miserable morning.

The Guild gets into full swing in the Church Hall on Monday, October 20 at 2.30 pm when the speaker will be former minister of Mearns Coastal Parish Church, the Rev George Hastie.

Film Show

The first of the film shows planned for the Village Hall will be “Sunshine on Leith” on Saturday, November 15.

Memories

Twenty five years ago there was seething anger among Johnshaven residents when they discovered by chance that a short row of four trees on Station Place was about to fall victim to the chain saws of an Aberdeen contractor.

Only prompt action by neighbours stopped the destruction and led to a chase to find out who had ordered the tree felling – and why. Although it soon turned out that the tree fellers were operating on behalf of the North of Scotland Hydro Electricity Board it proved more difficult to determine who had given the necessary permission.

The ire of the whole village was roused and phone calls to the District Council offices at Viewmount jammed the lines.

Different authorities were contacted before it emerged that due to a breakdown in communications the Hydro had not received permission from the owners, Kincardine and Deeside District Council and, therefore, agreed to stop work and carry out any necessary repairs to the threatened trees and peace was restored.

*Johnshaven Jottings first appeared in the Mearns Leader on January 18 1982, and appeared at first as a sporadic column written by our correspondent’s wife.

Our correspondent soon took over and a regular half page column began, which soon expanded to what it is today. It was among several coastal villages to submit columns to our pages, but while the others gradually came to an end, Johnshaven Jottings has endured.

The column will be missed by staff and readers alike, and we would welcome any willing contributors who may wish to carry it on.

If anyone is interested in taking up the role of our Johnshaven correspondent, please get in touch with Mike Rankin, Editor, for more information. Email mike.rankin@jpress.co.uk or phone (01569) 762859.