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.

You can’t choose your relations

July 11th, 2009

THE INTERNET is an information resource of staggering dimension but it is unbelievable, sometimes, the nonsense that is put up on it for decent folk to read. Researching a totally unrelated matter I came across the phrase “in troth, Mr Whitson €¦”, and sensed instantly that here was a human interest tale that deserved investigation.

The trail took me to a book titled “Scottish life and character in anecdote and story” by William Harvey, which is a treasure trove of character sketches of meenisters, dominies, lawyers and other like miscreants, collected from all corners of Scotland.

Daft Willie Dawson from Brechin (that's how they wrote in those days) was described as a jolly beggar “half-crazed and half-droll” who sold trumps (jaws/Jew's harps) from his hardware box, ” €¦tormented with a restless spirit, which would not allow him either to sit or stand still, or even go ten paces straight forward. He jerked and cut all the gesticulations conceivable.”

When Willie was to get married, the minister he asked to officiate got into a rage, saying, “Who would marry you sir, to fill the country full of beggars?” “In troth, Mr. Whitson,” said Willie, “you have not filled it full of gentry either.” The minister had no family.

My ancestor Rev. George Whitson was Minister of the Second Charge at Brechin Cathedral from 1804 till 1835 and as Daft Willie was a Brechiner it looks embarrassingly likely that it was the Rev. George who so scandalously rebuked him. Willie may have been daft but he was shrewd with it, too. He knew just how to hit back at his persecutor in a way that would wound – by calling attention to the fact that the minister and his wife had “no issue” – as the family tree records.

It seems likely that the Rev. George died in office for the family tree also shows that he died in 1835, the last year of his ministry.

It's funny what shakes the memories out. Rev. George's wife was Mary Mollison. I have a memory from way back of Mollison's Potato Crisps whose factory, from recollection, was somewhere about Dyce, near Aberdeen. The salt came in the bag separately, in a twist of waxed paper, and you had to shake it over the crisps yourself.

I bought them at the fish and chip shop in Montrose at the junction of Rosehill Road and North Esk Road. It's called the The Grove now, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was called in the 1940s and 1950s. You could get thruppeny, fourpenny, sixpenny and shilling (or was it ninepenny?) bags of chips in those glory days.

Another season of food from the wild has started. I've picked the first of the wild strawberries, had two good fry-ups of chanterelle mushrooms and the Doyenne's elderflower cordial is waiting to be bottled.

Written on Saturday, July 11th, 2009 at 1:07 pm for Weekly.