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Mearns 50+ Group

“Come back, Dave, all is forgiven!” may well have been the thoughts of many of the walkers on the last outing of the Mearns 50+ Group. Our usual walk leader, Dave Shaw, was not on this latest walk, and we were led instead by Denis Bell. By no stretch of the imagination could this have been described as a level walk: it was uphill all the way until lunchtime, then downhill most of the way thereafter. To be fair, this was not Denis’s fault, but I digress. On Tuesday, April 12, 34 of us met in the car park at the Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre at Arbuthnott. It was a cold day but dry as 24 of us set off on the longer walk. We walked a little way along the B967 (Fordoun to Bervie road), then turned left towards Arbuthnott Home Farm. It was on this part of the road, that several of us saw two deer cross a field and disappear. After crossing a bridge, we started the uphill trek: it wasn’t terribly steep but it was continuously uphill. On the way, I’m fairly sure I heard and saw a lark. When we came to a T junction, we turned left and crossed the Bervie Water on another road to Bervie. We continued climbing, past Whitefield and almost as far as Banff Farm. Just before there, we stopped for lunch at the side of the road. On a clear day the views would have been terrific, however it was overcast and cloudy but people were still able to make out places that they could recognise. Next, we followed a very muddy track downhill, at the edge of a field and later bordered by Birniehill Wood. Soon we could see Arbuthnott House through the trees over on our left. Continuing on, at the abandoned Banff Croft, we turned very sharply left on to a steep, rocky path by a stream. It was here that we found some primroses in bloom. At the bottom of this path, there was a field, with a footbridge over the Bervie Water, then it was uphill again until we emerged opposite Arbuthnott Church. From there it is again uphill until you reach the B967 and the Grassic Gibbon Centre. We had covered 5.3 miles. The other group, 12 in all, walked down to the Home Farm then back to the Centre and from there down to the church where they had lunch. They then took the long way back to the Centre. They were led on this occasion by Ian Davidson. Finally we all finished off with tea and scones in the Centre. Our next walk will be on Tuesday, April 26, around Newtyle. The minibus will leave the Burgh Buildings in Laurencekirk at 10 am.

Auchenblae Heritage Society

The next meeting will be a guided tour of the many ‘closies’ which criss-cross Montrose, each one with a story to tell of historic significance. We’re fortunate in having secured the company of local historian Sandy Munro who will share his considerable knowledge of these ancient passageways. The walk will commence from outside The Pavilion at Mid Links at 11am and will take approximately one and a half hours. For details contact Jenny Thomson on 01561 320245.

Inverbervie Probus Club

The speaker at the recent meeting of Inverbervie Probus Club was member Nigel Simpson who gave a very interesting and informative presentation on ‘The Mearns Flax Industry’ and the effect it had on the communities of Bervie, Gourdon and Johnshaven during the rise and decline of the industry. It had grown from small spinning wheels to fully mechanised mills which could achieve 400 times the output of one hand spinner. At its peak in 1900 there were nine mills in the area employing c600 people. At that time the population of Inverbervie had risen to around 2000. In all, flax milling in the Mearns lasted for over 200 years from 1788, with the opening of the Old Mill in the Haugh’s – the first water powered mill in Scotland for the spinning of flax – to May 1997 with the closure of Selbie Works in Gourdon.To enable the work on his presentation to be improved, Nigel appealed for any photographs, Heritage Society pamphlets or information on the mills, gas works or the area and, in particular, any information on the Klondyke Mill. Founder president Peter MacInnes expressed the gratitude of Probus for a well-illustrated and informative talk. Nigel can be contacted on 01561 362 153 or email

Maryculter WRI meeting

Maryculter Church Hall was again the venue for the April meeting. President J. Thomas welcomed the company and, after the singing of the Rural song and reminders of several up coming events, she introduced our guest speaker for the evening, Fiona Imlach.Flower arrangment was Fiona’s remit and while she produced a beautiful display she passed on many tricks of her trade on how to produce a floral arrangement fit for any situation. Everyone was then invited to make their own arrangement with Fiona on hand to help and a fun time was had by all and some wonderful displays created. The evening concluded with tea and raffle and J. Thomas thanked Fiona and the tea hostesses before members left for home with their own floral art efforts. Competition results for small spring posy: 1 S. Pike, 2 S Donald, 3 K Paterson; flower of the month – 1 S. Donald, 2 K. Donald, 3 P. Paterson.

Stonehaven Probus Club

Stonehaven harbour is a big attraction, not only for tourists but for many working and pleasure craft, large and small and, as such, it easily merits the cover of an inshore lifeboat station. Tuesday’s speaker, Kenny Jones, has based his own boat here and, with a lifetime’s involvement with the sea and water sport, became a volunteer with our local RNLI lifeboat in 2013. He told us that the first RNLI station in the town was established in 1867 though there had been another, manned by local fishermen, 13 years earlier. Today the station is operated entirely by volunteers, each chosen for the different skill sets needed – some have a professional marine background and invaluable local coastal knowledge while others are trained from scratch.
The change over from MRI to RNLI in 2013 caused a few problems. Delivery of the new boat – an ‘Atlantic 75’ capable of 35 knots – and kit was effected immediately but finding suitable accommodation at the harbour was difficult. Temporary accommodation kindly lent by the Sea Scouts and Scottish Water proved unsatisfactory due to difficulties in launching when large numbers of tourists were around in summer. A permanent home was sanctioned in 2014 and RNLI moved in in 2015. Kenny described a typical search and rescue mission. Starting with his pager (it is switched on in his surgery by day and he sleeps with it by his bed at night!) he will get down to the harbour as quickly as he can. The boat carries a crew of three so the helm will chose his two crewmen from the earlier arrivals. After briefing and kitting up the boat is launched by tractor. From then on their work is usually co-ordinated by the coastguard in Aberdeen or Montrose (but they have the capability to do this themselves). Kenny demonstrated the mountain of equipment that each crewman carries. Two hours is about the maximum anyone can effectively stare carefully for a casualty so the boat will then have to return for a change of personnel. The RNLI launched their UK boats 8462 times on search and rescue missions in 2015 and 460 lives were saved. A heartfelt vote of thanks was proposed by Geoffrey Lambton.

Rotary Club

The speaker at last Wednesday’s lunchtime meeting was Rotarian Gordon Ritchie who had chosen to speak himself as an alternative to inviting a speaker to fill his allocated speaker slot. Gordon told members that he had a range of different collections of items, such as Beatles records, books, car magazines, Hillman Imps (he has four of these!), matchbox toys, 10 years of editions of the New Musical Express and, his topic for his talk, newspapers. He said that he had found an essay in an old school exercise book entitled “20 years hence” which he had written in which he had stated that he was going to be a journalist. Although he had chosen a legal career, he had followed his father’s custom of keeping a newspaper when there was a family event and other significant events in history. He showed members newspapers from September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland; February 6, 1952, when King George VI died aged 56; December 18, 1959, when the Broughty Ferry lifeboat sank with the loss of the entire crew; November 22, 1963, when Kennedy was assassinated and December 8, 1980, when John Lennon was killed. Gordon also bought the first copies of new newspapers and showed a copy of the Scottish Daily News from May 5, 1975. Of course, he also had copies of the Mearns Leader. He recalled when people used to queue up on Thursday evenings waiting for it to come in to the newsagents. In the ‘60s and ‘70s it had contained a very full record of life in the town with weddings, court cases and other local news related almost entirely to the town of Stonehaven. Recently he had inherited a number of leather bound volumes of the Leader for the years 1930-1980. When the Leader office in Ann Street was being refurbished, there was no intention to keep these volumes on the Leader premises and he had received a call offering him these because of his involvement with the local heritage society. Of course he had accepted the offer. As this was a Rotary Club meeting, he read an entry about Fred Murray, a founder member of Stonehaven Rotary Club who was reported as having 25 years’ perfect attendance at Rotary meetings. He had attended 1303 meetings, including clubs when he was on holiday. None of the present members could equal that impressive record. Gordon ended his talk by saying that although he had not become a journalist, he had a keen interest in newspapers and their information about local heritage. The vote of thanks was by Rotarian Helen Smith. Rotarian Denis Daun is planning the club’s annual “golf extravaganza” for May 30 – June 1. The group will play rounds at three courses: Cathcart Castle, Milngavie and Montrose. He’s been gathering the names of Rotarians and their guests who want to participate in this year’s trip.