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.

Charlie is my darling ….

September 5th, 2009

BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE has been on my mind lately   In this Year of Homecoming I've heard no mention of him – one of Scotland's symbolic historical figures   I suppose the principal objective always was to celebrate the birth of Rabbie Burns, and Scotland's success in the quarter millennium since   Success was something that evaded  €œthe Prince in the Heather €.  


The Doyenne and I arranged to meet friends in the pretty Perthshire village of Meikleour (pronounced McLure)   Several minutes early, we drove the extra mile to take a look at the Meikleour Beech Hedge which stands alongside the A93 road from Blairgowrie to Perth   At more than a hundred feet tall and half a mile long it holds the record in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest and highest hedge in the world.

Its story is that it was planted in 1745 by Robert Murray Nairne and his wife Jean Mercer of Meikleour to mark a boundary on their estate   A year later Robert fell on Culloden battlefield fighting for the Prince, and his grieving widow left the hedge to grow freely as a living monument to her husband's memory.

Another landmark associated with the Bonny Prince are the  €œSteekit Yetts € (Closed Gates) at Traquair House at Innerleithen, between Selkirk and Peebles   Forced to abandon his march on London to claim his throne, Prince Charlie made a tactical retreat back to Scotland and spent a night at Traquair  

Tradition says that the following morning he bade farewell to his hosts and marched down the main avenue from the house to continue his fateful journey to Inverness   He passed between two imposing gateposts each surmounted by a bear – hence the more popular name of the Bear Gates   As an act of defiance towards Hanoverian George II, the fervent Jacobite 5th

Earl of Traquair locked the gates, vowing they should not reopen until a Stuart king once more sat upon the British throne   And so the yetts remain steekit yet!

Do bairns still play  €œsodgers € with Carl Doddies?   Their weapon is the ribwort plant which has a brown spiked head (like an arrow or lance head) on a long, leafless stalk and the aim is to knock off your opponent's flower head   The plant's improbable name is said to originate from the '45 Uprising – Carl is Charlie, and Doddie is our Scotch nickname for George i.e. King George II.

After Culloden the English complimented William Augustus Butcher Cumberland, commander of the government army, by naming the Sweet William flower in his honour   The Jacobite response to this horticultural flattery was to rename the rank smelling and noxious weed, Common Ragwort, calling it  €œStinking Willie €.

After an excellent lunch at the Meikleour Hotel, a former posting house for the Inverness stage coach, we said our farewells to our friends and hurried home   We had two dogs to walk.

Written on Saturday, September 5th, 2009 at 8:18 am for Weekly.