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.

Ghost story, fishy story

March 22nd, 2008

LAST TUESDAY dawned bright and sunny and it seemed just the morning to drive up the coast to Inverbervie.

Bervie, as it is better known locally, is one of the early Scottish Royal Burghs and received its charter from King David II in gratitude for assistance he received from the villagers when his ship was wrecked on rocks known as Craig David. Several cottages in the village were roofed with timbers salvaged from the wreck. There's a story that one of them was haunted by the ship's cat which had drowned when the King's ship foundered, and mewed and cried in the attic space whenever the weather was stormy.

I parked down by the shingle beach but wasn't tempted to get out of the car. The weather had turned and it was cold and sleeting. I took my lead from Macbeth and decided I would be a fair weather walker. I listened to the constant rumble of the pebbles sliding up and down the beach with the movement of the waves. Several hundred years ago there was a harbour here, but the sea and the shingle closed up its entrance and the fishermen moved a couple of miles down the coast to Gourdon.

Gurdon, as it is better known locally, was the last fishing village on the east coast, and possibly anywhere in Scotland, to catch fish with handlines. Fishermen from the fishing communities married fishermen's daughters who had been born into the lifestyle and grown up used to  sheelin and baitin' the lines. It was a wearisome and dirty job shelling mussels harvested from Montrose Basin, and baiting 1200 hooks on a long line that paradoxically was called a  sma' (small) line'.

It was always said that line-caught haddock was firmer fleshed and tasted sweeter than fish caught in the great purse and seine nets, for those fish were dragged through the sea and drowned (which may seem another contradiction). When I brought the Doyenne home as a bride to Logie Pert she had never eaten line-caught fish and she bought it in preference to any other. Sadly, from the consumers' point of view, the line fishing stopped altogether in the early 1990s because the wives could no longer be persuaded to carry on the  sheelin and baitin' – hardly surprising, really!

Last stop was Johnshaven which I'm very fond of, and where for a short time I kept a boat. Lobster pots, or creels, were piled up on the side of the harbour in  fleets' – traditionally roped together in lines of twenty. I passed the time of day with a retired builder who was restoring a boat which has been laid up for several years. He told me he'd have her in the water again within a couple of months and he'll keep her down at Ferryden. I'll be looking out for her.

Written on Saturday, March 22nd, 2008 at 11:22 am for Weekly.