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.

Speech is silver

July 17th, 2010

THE CORRESPONDENCE which appeared in Craigie Column following mention in my article several weeks back of St Skae's kirk and graveyard at Usan, has been interesting   If it's not tempting fate I'll mention another graveyard this week.

Edzell Old Church was demolished in 1818 and replaced by the present church in the village   The graveyard of the Old Church continued, and continues, to be the destination of the final journey for Edzell folk and the local farming community   Some of them travelled the world before returning to their roots – British Vice Consul in the Portuguese Territories, Imperial Bank of India, tea and rubber planters   Soldiers who fell in both World Wars are remembered.

At Edzell Muir take the road to Glen Lethnot, passing the church and carry on past Edzell Castle   You're in the ancient land of the Lindsays when you reach the cemetery, which is confirmed by the Lindsay Aisle – all that remains of more extensive fourteenth century church buildings   The kirk wasn't immune from scandal – one minister had to be dismissed for keeping a concubine!

There used to be a branks or bridle fixed to the wall beside the gate   It was a mediaeval instrument of ecclesiastical punishment for female scolds or nags. Men and religion dominated all aspects of family life then, and women who were considered fractious could be condemned to wear it by the church or their husbands.

Jamieson in his Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language wrote –  €œThe Scold wore an iron engine, called the branks, in the form of a crown; it covered the head, but left the face exposed; and having a tongue of iron which went into the mouth, constrained silence from the most violent brawler €

I can remember being threatened with it – in jest, of course – when I was a noisy youngster and it was certainly there, hanging from the wall, when our own children were much the same age   But then it disappeared   Was it pinched, or removed for safety?   I'd like to be able to show it to my grandchildren to demonstrate what much more liberal lives we lead today.

Last Saturday the Doyenne and I spent an entertaining evening at the traditional sport of ferret racing   Ferrets are not naturally inclined to race each other and after each race start you could see anticipation on the punters' faces turn to doubt, and then to anguish with the realisation that ambitious bets placed on broken-winded hacks had been imprudent investments. I gambled my shirt on Dear Liza – the Doyenne's name being Elizabeth – which was beaten to second place by a short snout, so I know all about it.

The event was in aid of Help for Heroes, and everyone was happy to support this organisation which uses so effectively all the money which evenings like this raise for our wounded service men and women.

Written on Saturday, July 17th, 2010 at 9:34 am for Weekly.