Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Montrose History

October 22nd, 2005

I SPENT a fascinating morning with Councillor Bob Spink, retired Arbroath fish merchant and encyclopaedic authority on Arbroath, in particular the fishing community.

Bob has a wonderful collection of old photographic plates recording the fishermen's lives in the northeast of Scotland fishing villages. They are the work of John Fraser, of the well-known Arbroath engineering family, and cover a period from 1885-1915. As well as a historical record they are a social record too, of work and dress, and of old buildings and their interiors.

It was the photos of Montrose that specially interested me. I recognised much of Montrose Harbour and the north bank of the River South Esk as it nears the sea, which seemed little changed in the 1950s when I was growing up. And I recall well the fishermen's black tarry net sheds that lined the riverside at Ferryden.

One of the biggest changes is the new road bridge linking Montrose and Rossie Island, which has just opened to traffic. In the photographs, I was looking at the bridge two before it.

Many of the fishermen have strong faces, old before their time, lined with the hardships of their occupation. It's a temptation to look back from the comfort of life today and think there was a romance about life then. But it was open sailing boats then, out in all weathers, and you rowed if the wind was against you.

They say that fishermen are the last of the hunters, and Bob says there's salt in his blood and that, even now, he could go to the fishing. I reckon that if he ever feels the temptation getting too strong for him, he just needs to turn to his photographs to knock the wild fancy out of his head!

On the way home I took the familiar wee road from Rossie Braes over Maryton Hill. I stopped on the brow of the hill because the view was just magic.

Montrose Basin was full; the sun sparkling on the water and on Montrose too. East of the town I saw the grey line of the North Sea where the old fishermen, whose photographs I'd been looking at, had toiled to catch their silver harvest.

To the west, the Angus hills looked fair and peaceful. And the strath that runs from Stonehaven to Perth was chequered with golden stubble fields, the fresh green shoots of winter barley, and brown where the tatties had been lifted.

There's been building going on next door, and I wondered how it would affect our bird life. I needn't have worried; the birds have ignored all the extra activity. Even the woodpeckers, which are normally very timid, didn't stay away for long.

And at night when I go out last thing with the dogs, the tawny owls have returned to serenade us with their  kee-wick, kee-wick' calls.

Written on Saturday, October 22nd, 2005 at 3:33 pm for Weekly.