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.

Give him an inch and he’ll tak an ell

February 27th, 2010

A FISHER of fish was casting his flee on the waters of the River Tay at Dunkeld, just opposite a building dedicated to a Fisher of Men   In all the times we've visited the ancient ecclesiastical capital of Scotland we've never taken the opportunity to look round Dunkeld Cathedral   But that was remedied last Saturday.


The famous Dunkeld ell is attached to the corner of a building on the corner of Cathedral Street, leading to the church   The ell is an iron rod, measuring 37 inches, which was the seventeenth century standard Scottish measurement of cloth and supposedly based on the length of an average Scotsman's arm   You well might ask what an average Scotsman is!

From the shelter of rather senior trees ringing the old building, and warmed by welcome sunshine, we – dogs, Doyenne, son Robert and his family – watched the fisherman patiently casting from the bow of a river coble anchored in the middle of the pool, just below the junction where the River Braan joins the Tay.

Several grilse (young salmon weighing up to about 6lbs) leapt provocatively within casting distance, the sun catching their fresh-run silver flanks before they fell back into the river    Springers' they are called, after the season, rather than their ability to spring from the water   We offered vocal encouragement but our fisherman failed to hook one.

Despite the sunshine it was perishing cold and I felt some sympathy for the ghillie looking after the fisher, who could only sit in the stern of the boat until his guest caught a fish.

It took nearly 250 years to build the cathedral which was completed in 1501 but the site has been an ecclesiastical centre since the sixth century. Churches cast a bit of a spell on me – they reflect not just the community they serve today but summon up echoes of the communities that have gone before   I'm always drawn to read the memorial tablets on the walls and learn about the ordinary folk who left their native soil and achieved great things in far flung parts of the world.

Some memories are poignant   A  €œtribute of the Respect, Affection, Gratitude and Sorrow of his deeply afflicted friends and flock is erected to the memory of the Rev. John Robb €¦.. who, in a voyage for the benefit of his health, perished in the wreck of the  Forfarshire' steam-ship €¦ €, linked together several strands from the past.

As a born and bred Angus (originally Forfarshire) loon and having been involved with the RNLI for more than thirty years, the story of Grace Darling's heroic part in saving the few survivors of that shipwreck has always engaged me   I never knew, and likely never should have known about the connection between the Cathedral and the ill-fated ship if it hadn't been for our fascination with old churches.

Written on Saturday, February 27th, 2010 at 11:02 am for Weekly.