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.

The Last Leerie

March 10th, 2012

THE FIRST real adventure stories I read were Kidnapped and Treasure Island and Robert Louis Stevenson was one of my earliest literary heroes. He was a remarkable writer, not just for the output he crammed into his twenty-year writing career but for the range of genres he mastered – novels, plays, essays, musical composition and poetry.

I don’t know when I first became aware of his children’s poetry – my mother certainly never read any to me – and despite my best intentions to introduce our children to it, and read some to them at bedtime, I’m afraid I failed. But following a conversation, a kind reader has lent me a copy of RLS’s “A Child’s Garden of Verse”.

A poem from it that one of my Loanhead aunties used to quote to me is “The Lamplighter”.

When gas lighting was introduced to our town streets in the nineteenth century the lamps were lit each evening by a lamplighter, traditionally called the Leerie. At dusk he did his round of streets lighting the lamps and went round again in the morning turning them off.

I’m frustrated to realise that I can’t remember the Leerie in Montrose where I grew up. I remember the gas works at the foot of Lower Hall Street, and its distinctive pong. I must have regularly seen the Leerie, but I just can’t picture him. I do remember, however, meeting Dundee’s last working Leerie.

RLS grew up at 17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh and his childhood memories were a lot clearer than mine, for in the poem he writes – “For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door, And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more.”

There’s still a street lamp outside that house but it’s lit by electricity now.

Shortly after we got engaged the Doyenne and I bought an original Edinburgh copper gas lamp for £5 when the corporation was replacing the gas with electric lighting. It was the second thing we bought for our first home and we had ideas of converting it to electricity. It turned out to be a rather impractical investment but, in the face of strong opposition, I hung onto it for forty seven years and only recently sold it.

Luckily retired Montrose blacksmith, John Macpherson, has a better recall than me. He could tell me that the last two gas street lamps in the town, in Traill Drive where the Glaxo complex is now, were finally replaced with electricity in 1961.

We both remembered the Provost’s lamp which had the town’s coat of arms painted on its glass panes. It stood outside the Provost of the day’s house and was moved every time a new Provost was elected. Latterly it stood outside the Town House in the centre of the town but was knocked down by a runaway car. Whatever happened to this piece of Montrose’s street history – was it completely destroyed or is it lying in a dusty corner of a council yard waiting to be reinstated?

Crooner Frank Sinatra’s nickname was Ol’ Blue Eyes but it’s interesting to discover that in certain situations Inka’s eyes appear blue too. I’m attending a digital photography course at Angus College and one of the first things we learned about was the effect known as red-eye which occurs when someone is photographed in low light with a flash, creating the appearance of red devil eyes.

In a burst of originality I decided to use Inka as my photographic model. What a mistake – every time I pointed the camera at him he thought it was a weapon of mass destruction and cowered on the floor. After much lower deck fluency I managed to get a couple of shots of him face-on and his eyes appear a spooky blue. Thankfully he doesn’t croon!

Last week I wrote about walking with the dogs from Clova cemetery and Piper’s Hill. A native of the glen called to point out that the Clova cemetery is beside Glen Clova Kirk at the head of the glen. I should of course have known that my walk started at the Cortachy cemetery and Pipers’ Hillock.

It’s not the first time I’ve been taken to task for failing to do my homework. I’m pleased to be able to set the record straight.

Written on Saturday, March 10th, 2012 at 12:15 pm for Weekly.