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.

Local links

December 17th, 2011

LAST SATURDAY the name of Peter Anson popped out at me from the centre pages of the Daily Telegraph. It was unexpected because he died in 1975 but he had strong connections with the east coast of Scotland and Montrose. Beneath a reserved exterior was an unconventional character and I wish I could have met him more than the two times I did.

He came from a distinguished naval family, son of a Rear Admiral and descendent of Admiral Anson who played a part in the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Being an eldest son he might have been expected to follow the family tradition and join the Royal Navy, but he chose a contemplative life and became a monk, artist and prolific writer.

In contrast to what one imagines must have been the privileged background he grew up in, he spent a large part of his life amongst the fishing families of the north east, especially Macduff. My all too fleeting memories are of a modest man who would have been welcomed wherever he settled.

I first discovered him as a teenager when I borrowed his classic Fishing Boats & Fisher Folk On the East Coast of Scotland from an uncle’s bookshelves. From Berwick-on-Tweed to the Pentland Firth he describes the lives of the fisher folk, illustrating the text with fine pen and ink sketches of the different types of fishing craft and the gear they used.

It’s not just the major fishing centres, all the tiny fishing communities are recorded too, providing a graphic account of fishing life nearly a century ago. For me, much interest lies in the local harbours – Arbroath, Auchmithie, Ethie Haven, Usan, Ferryden. And north of Montrose, near-forgotten Milton, on to Johnshaven, Gourdon, Bervie – places I visited and walked with my father and then with the Doyenne and our children.

Other fishing ports are familiar from family holidays spent in the Borders near Eyemouth. From my schooldays in Musselburgh – Port Seton, Cockenzie, Fisherrow. And yet more holidays spent on the Moray Firth and in Sutherland and Caithness too.

Peter had naval connections on both sides of his family. His mother Evelyn Ross, was daughter of Horatio Ross of Rossie Castle, just on the outskirts of Montrose overlooking the Montrose Basin. His mother’s great-grandfather, Hercules Ross, was a close friend of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson who was also godfather to his Anson great-grandfather.

I remember my father taking me through the roofless, empty shell of Rossie Castle about 1948 before it was blown up and razed to the ground. Perhaps it was this family connection that drew Peter, towards the end of his life, to live for a number of years in Ferryden. The feu charter for his
fisherman’s cottage had been granted by a Ross ancestor in 1841 which may have contributed to a sense of homecoming.

Written on Saturday, December 17th, 2011 at 10:17 pm for Weekly.