Professionally repainted and refreshed, the Miller’s Tearoom at the Mill of Benholm is now back in business.
The tearoom staff always enjoy a well-deserved break over the festive period but this time it was extended to allow a number of volunteers to get busy with mops and paint brushes and give the interior of the building a good going-over.
Volunteers are always needed at the Mill, whether it be in the tearoom or gardens or just lending a hand generally and Project Manager, Mike Burleigh is very grateful to all those who helped out during the first week of the new year including a journeyman painter who had often passed “the bottom of the road” but, never having fulfilled a promise to himself to “look up by the Mill”, decided to offer his more than welcome services.
The ovens were switched on again on Monday and for the rest of January the tea room will be offering a special deal of home made soup and bread for only £1.50. Not only that but Fiona has a number of new cake recipes all typed up and is just desperate to get them on the menu. And, of course, while fresh scones are baked every day, there is always a bright flame coming from the wood burning stove.
The early months of the year are more often than not cold and dreich but a warm welcome can always be guaranteed at the Miller’s Tearoom both for individuals and groups. One point to bear in mind, though: baking is a daily business and demand unpredictable so the staff do find it helpful to know in advance if there is to be a large group passing through.
The tearoom is currently open from Monday to Friday from 10 am to 2 pm. and information on the Mill of Benholm may be obtained on its website http://millofbenholm.org.uk, by email: email@example.com or by telephone on 01561 362466. Group bookings may be made on 01561 361969.
Benholm’s Vanished Farms
The Miller’s Tearoom was, of course, originally the miller’s house: perhaps not that of the first recorded miller, Archibald Brown, in 1696 but certainly that of later millers until the Dallas family moved to a new house at the top of the brae, built by Hercules Scott of Brotherton Castle, in the late 1870s. Over the years the old house became a home for cattle, pigs and poultry until converted into a tearoom when bought, along with the other buildings and croft by Kincardine and Deeside District Council in 1984.
Although traditional meal milling was already under increasing pressure from modern methods of mechanisation when the mill was bought by Lindsay Watson, a third generation miller, in 1929 there would still have been 30 or so farms in the Parish of Benholm from which he could have resourced his raw material. Very few of those remain as independent units.
Mains of Benholm, Nether Benholm, Greenleys and Anniston are freehold: Brotherton Mains, Stone of Benholm and Nether Birnie are tenanted and, while the land of the others has been amalgamated into larger units, the farm houses and in some cases the steadings and cottar houses remain, though converted into private dwellings or, in the case of Brawliemuir and Anniston outbuildings, to holiday accommodation.
Some, though, have disappeared from the face of the earth.
It’s almost 150 years now since farmer James Duthie yoked his horse to plough his twenty three acres for the last time at Craigstack. Owned by the Rt Hon Lord Cranstoun of Benholm Castle and situated on a slight slope behind Lady’s Plantation and roughly half-way between the Bronze Age Kenshot and Philla Cairns, the farm land was divided up between the adjacent farms of Forgie, Haremuir and Greenleys in the 1880s and the buildings eventually demolished, although scraggy trees and ground make it not too difficult to identify where they once stood.
Not so, however, with the picturesquely named Blinkbonnie. Although still a tenanted farm well within living memory it is now impossible, however, to locate on the ground the site of Blinkie’s, known at one time also as Nether Muirton.
Accessed by a track just past the Muirton road end which continues in a semi-circle round Paul Mathew Hill to exit below the disused Forth Hill Quarry, Blinkbonnie was on the Brotherton Estate and was worked as a farm until the mid 1950s, when its land was incorporated directly into that of the Mains farm, although it was some time after that before its two houses and steading were demolished. Now there is no sign of them at all.
Less than a mile to the south as the crow flies from Blinkbonnie, but separated from it by Muirton wood, Whitefield sat 150 feet above sea level at the end of a track which passes through and beyond the Muirton. Also on the Brotherton Estate, it was tenanted by the Mitchell family for many years in the 1940s and 50s, until the march of time finally caught up with it, too, its fields integrated with those of the Mains and the buildings demolished. Today, only a rickle of stones provides any clue as to the existence of the former farm of Whitefield.
The commercial or business links between the millers and farmers of Benholm were broken a very long time ago. When the last miller, Lindsay Watson, took over from his father in 1951 the Mill’s custom base had already dwindled considerably and by the time Mr Watson retired in 1982 he and his family had managed to keep the Mill alive by diversifying into contracting and working the croft.
On the other hand the working farms which have remained contribute, as part of a fertile Mearns, to a strong agricultural economy in southern Aberdeenshire.
Craigstack, Blinkbonnie and Whitefield play no independent part in that and, although their names no longer appear as reminders on present day maps, the role of those Vanished Farms and the men and women who worked on them should not be forgotten for the contribution they made to the overall agricultural history of the Parish of Benholm.
Mearns Coastal Parish
Continuing his study of the birth of Christ in Johnshaven Church on Sunday morning the minister, the Rev Colin Dempster, dealt with the controversial issue of the role, or even the very existence of the angels in the unfolding drama. Commenting that there are some groups which worship angels as Gods, the Rev Dempster emphasised that angels seek no godly powers for themselves but are always messengers to or from God through Jesus Christ.
Earlier the Rev Dempster intimated that Sunday School would be restarting again in Johnshaven Church Hall this Sunday, 15 January at 11.30 am and that full details would be available nearer the time or on Mearns Coastal’s website www.mearnscoastalparish.co.uk The organist was Ms Doreen Paterson.
This Sunday’s services will be held at the now usual times of 10 am in St Cyrus Church and 11.30 am in Johnshaven Church. There will also be a short time for fellowship after the service in Johnshaven Church..
A hands on flower arranging workshop will be held in the Church Hall on Friday, January 20 between 11 am and 4 pm.
This four hour fast-track course in flower arranging is suitable for complete beginners or for those who wish to refresh their skills and, in learning several designs, those attending will be able to take their arrangements home with them.
A packed lunch should be taken and the cost is £35 which includes tea, coffee and all materials and the event will also help to raise funds for work with children in the community. Booking is essential and for further details contact Beatriz on 01561 362559.
Mearns Coastal Guild
President, Mrs Jean Cook welcomed members of the Guild to their first meeting of the New Year in the Church Hall on Monday afternoon and introduced guest speaker, Miss Annie Thompson from Carnoustie. A former teacher and journalist, Miss Thompson gave a very interesting and often amusing talk on the life and loves of Robert Burns, from his early childhood through to his death.
Miss Thompson was thanked by Mrs Isabel Blease and Mrs Maureen James gave the bible reading.
The next meeting of the Guild will be a Scottish afternoon in the Church Hall on Monday, January 23 at 2.30 pm.